As mentioned last week, my daughter and her husband are in Singapore this week, where Mike is in charge of tech for a large convention. On the way, they made a 3-hour stop in Japan, and Susie posted this photo of a toilet at the airport - which, to me, looks more like the cockpit of Cassidy's Cessna. No wonder they had to post a hint for foreign visitors. But, frankly, I'm really intrigued by what all those buttons are meant to do.
|The Conference hotel, Singapore 2023|
Grace note: nothing like getting paid to stay in a 5-star hotel!
readers will recall that Mike & Susie have been doing alternating
conferences in Singapore and London for some years now, including taking
the whole family to Singapore in 2019.)
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What is a "Traditional Regency"?
Grace Note 1: the comments in the following article do not include the requirements for Harlequin Regency novels, which are a whole 'nother kettle of fish.)
Grace Note 2: I have so many scribbled notes, I scarcely know where to begin, but as someone who's written ten Traditional Regencies, plus six more serious Regency Historicals, eleven Regency Gothics, and seven Regency novellas that range from comedy to scandalous, I'm going to give it a try.
A so-called Traditional Regency Romance is based on the early 19th century novels of Jane Austen. A style that was revived and augmented in the 1950s and 60s by the extensive works of Georgette Heyer, who is credited with bringing the genre back into vogue.
What does "Regency" mean?
"Regency" literally refers to the period between 1811 and 1820 when the Prince of Wales was named Regent in place of his father, King George III, who had gone mad. In Regency fiction, however, the "allowable" years are 1795-1820. To many, this will make more sense if it's noted this is the time period when Napoleon Bonaparte set out to conquer every country in sight, only meeting his final defeat in 1815 at the Battle of Waterloo. (Although most Trad Regencies are set in a London society seemingly oblivious to the war, I've always preferred to include, wherever possible, the war and its affects on my characters.)
Background on New York publishers and the Regency novel
For many years after the success of Georgette Heyer's novels, Traditional Regency Romances were published by Signet and Kensington. Then somewhere around 2008, SEX - the more graphic the better - swept the publishing world, and those of us writing pristine comedies of manners with nothing more than a kiss here and there were out, the lines shut down, all Trad Regency authors out of a job. Sigh. So what to do?
Most of us ended up in the burgeoning e-book market. Fortunately, our publishers were good about returning the titles to our earlier books, so most of us began by learning how to format our backlist for Amazon, Barnes & Noble, Smashwords, etc.
Below, a list of what I believe makes a Traditional Regency Romance:
1. Overall "feel." A Trad Regency is basically light-hearted, even though the plots sometimes get a bit out of hand.
2. Point of View. Trad Regencies frequently feature multiple Points of View. Not just the Hero and Heroine, but stray glimpses into other characters from relatives to the butler or even a street urchin.
3. Writing Style. Trad Regencies often feature long, involved sentences, with lots of commas, semi-colons, and colons.
4. Vocabulary. Trad Regencies have their own special vocabulary, based on the well-educated vocabularies of the protagonists in Austen and Heyer. The vocabulary also includes "cant" phrases of the period, most culled from Real Life in London by Pierce Egan (1821) and Dictionary of the Vulgar Tongue, by Francis Grose (1811). Any Trad Regency not using some of these phrases is not considered authentic by aficionados of the genre, although I have to admit if we used as many as Ms Heyer does, 21st c. readers would likely wrinkle their noses in disgust (or confusion).
5. Characters. The main characters must be from England's Upper Class, preferably titled. Yes, the sons or daughters of second sons of second sons may sometimes sneak in there, as does an occasional daughter of a wealthy "cit" (i.e., merchant class). But for the most part Trad Regencies stick to the upper echelons of society.
And just as important, characterizations must be diverse and well-delineated: the interesting, charming, challenging, infuriating, kindly, bombastic, classic busybody, etc. Heroines and secondary females range from shy, wilting, wouldn't-say-boo-to-a-goose to strong-willed, courageous, and willing to fight against male dominance. The heroes and secondary heroes range from titled rakes who vow they will never to marry to responsible gentlemen not averse to finding a wife and an occasional shy young man who thinks love unlikely to come his way.
6. Setting. The setting of a Trad Regency is most frequently London during the spring Season. This can be extended to other "socially acceptable" sites, such as Brighton, Bath, and/or an English country house and nearby village. There may be short scenes elsewhere, but the activities of the London ton (society) is a prime ingredient.
The London sites most frequently used: Mayfair, Bond Street, Hyde Park, Almack's, Tattersall's, Gentleman Jackson's, Manton's; and just out of town, Richmond Park. If you don't know what these places are, you should not attempt to write a Trad Regency.
7. Descriptions. Good descriptions of people and places are necessary, most particularly the details of gowns and hats, but not forgetting a nod to the austere garb for men dictated by Beau Brummel, in striking contrast to the elaborate male costumes of the 18th c. (I tend to short clothing description in favor of character delineation, but to each his own.)
8. Plot. You will note that Plot is last on the list. Plots in Trad Regencies tend to be thin, little more than a idea that allows the author to display the full panorama of British Upper Class society enjoying life on inherited money (never having worked a day in their lives). Yes, there is always a Romance, but on occasion it can be extremely sketchy. One Georgette Heyer comes to mind - definitely not one of my favorites - where the hero spends the entire book trying to rescue a foolish runaway female, while his supposed love interest languishes away, wondering where he is.
Summary. It could be said that a Traditional Regency Romance is everything that a Regency Gothic is not. No ghosts, no dead bodies, no paranormal, no dire threats or life-threatening moments. While Trads, even those with strong heroines, tend to be frothy, with numerous touches of comedy. Depictions of life at the very top of England's nobility. Of life in those few short years that saw a sharp change from the lavishness and licentiousness of the 18th century to a more refined, more polite, more conservatively-dressed society. An almost perfect moment before it all disintegrated under the austere disapproval of young Queen Victoria, who was so horrified by the society espoused by her uncle, George IV, that she tore down his palace in London and would have done the same for his summer home in Brighton if it hadn't been rescued by being purchased by the city. To this day, the Pavilion in Brighton is one of the "must sees" for tourists from all over the world.
Experts on the Regency period - which the Brits call "Late Georgian" - will undoubtedly note all the points I forgot. But this article was written for those who haven't the slightest idea what a Trad Regency is, and I hope it helped.
Regency Historical Romances are longer, more serious, more adventurous, and feature more action. But like all romances, no matter how much the Hero and Heroine have suffered, a Happily Ever After is required.
Regency Gothics, as previously stated, feature a lone heroine against the world - tales often embellished by ghosts, the paranormal, deadly threats, scary situations, a continuing sense of gloom and doom. But with the inevitable HEA ending.
Naughty Regencies. Yes, there are Regency novels that are far from squeaky clean. I ventured into that realm with my Aphrodite Academy series, though those four books are mild compared to some. These novels are at the opposite end of the spectrum from Traditional Regencies. They do, however, depict an aspect of the Regency that existed, though not as blatantly as in the 18th century. Again, HEA required.
Hopefully, if you've managed to plow through the above, you have a better idea of what you'll be getting if you choose a Traditional Regency Romance.
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My featured book this week is my first sale of a Trad Regency to the New York print market. I still remember the moment when I answered "the call" in my kitchen in Venice, Florida. After two lengthy Regency Historicals that had gone to the e-market, I disciplined myself to stick to the expected Trad Regency format and, lo and behold, the Regency editor at Signet (Penguin Putnam) was on the line telling me they wanted The Courtesan's Letters. Wow! Appallingly, however, the title would later be changed to The Indifferent Earl (which he most certainly was not) as the Marketing Department didn't think "courtesan" would play well in the hinterlands. Sigh. When, many years later, I got my rights back, the book went on Amazon and Smashwords under its original title.
Miss Abigail Todd, the very proper headmistress of an academy for young ladies in Boston, arrives in England to settle her grandmother’s estate, only to discover that her ancestor was la grande Clarisse, the most notorious courtesan of her day. And, to her even greater horror, she herself is the perfect image of her grandmother. Clarisse has left a series of letters detailing commissions Abby must carry out in order to obtain her inheritance (an amount far greater than anticipated). In order to do this, she must accept the assistance of Jared, Earl of Langley, grandson of the man who was Clarisse’s devoted lover for forty years. Has Clarisse created these letters because of love, nostalgia, mischief, vengeance . . . or is she perhaps more interested in matchmaking? The most likely answer: all of the above.
Author’s Note: The Courtesan’s Letters is suitable reading for Ages 14 & up. Under the Signet title of “The Indifferent Earl,” it was nominated for a RITA award by the Romance Writers of America and was awarded “Regency Romance of the Year” by Romantic Times magazine.