Regency Romances – One Category, Two Subgenres

Amazon.com often combines two main sub-genres intohearts one category: “Regency Romance.”

However, many readers are looking for a particular kind of romance set in the Regency (1811 – 1820).

Writing styles can separate regency romances into two broad camps. In fact, I’d consider them sub-genres.*

  • Many Regency romances are carefully patterned after Jane Austen’s stories. That’s especially true of Austen “sequels.”
  • Others are more like Georgette Heyer’s novels. In recent years, many of them have spun-off further in the direction of “comedies of manners” or erotica, or both.

Austen-ish Books

Jane Austen’s books are iconic. They’re set in her own time and place: Regency England. Her stories regularly include elements of romance and wit. They also cast a harsh light on the challenges and inequities of her time, especially for women.

Many “sequels” to Jane Austen’s books — the ones written in a style similar to hers — are in this category, as well.

However, some sequels are far more comedic. Others, such as “Pride and Prejudice and Zombies,” are closer to parodies.

Regency Revisited – Georgette Heyer

A second sub-genre from the Regency period include romantic “comedies of manners.” They may have subplots that involve mystery, intrigue, and suspense, but – first and foremost – wit and banter (especially between hero and heroine) are essential.

While sexual intimacy might be part of Heyer’s stories, it rarely occurred on center stage. Her books sometimes featured adult premises, but — in general — her Regency period romances were “clean” by today’s standards.

Georgette Heyer is the iconic author for this subgenre, and some fans insist that she invented it.

Other novelists were inspired by Georgette Heyer, including prolific author Barbara Cartland (723 novels).

It’s after those books, perhaps more than Austen’s, that many of today’s Regency romances are styled.

Heyer Revisited – Retro Regency Romances

Like most fiction, Regency romances are popular in waves, and each of those waves brings changes. Starting in the 1970s, some (not all) Regency romances included explicit sex. At the time, they were described as “spicy” regencies.

Chaste romances set in the Regency era were called “sweet.”

Those labels are still in use, but many publishers also use terms like “clean” or “sexy” to make differences clear.

What’s Your Style?

For some authors, the line blurs between Austen-ish books and Heyer-like romances.

Many authors struggle to define their works. For example, D. G. Rampton coined the phrase “Retro Regency Romance” to describe her historical romances, which lean more towards “the retro-esque Georgette Heyer part of the spectrum.”

While developing your own writing “voice,” decide your influences before putting virtual pen to paper.

Study them carefully, deciding what you like best about each. Read reviews of their books, especially at Amazon and Goodreads. Take notes, and use them when plotting and writing your own books.

Most successful Regency romances draw from both Austen’s inspiration and the more modern “comedy of manners” style, but lean heavily in one direction or the other.

If you have a clear, consistent, and reliable voice in your regency romances, you’ll attract readers who’ll buy everything you write.

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*Sub-genre, or Subgenre, per Wikipedia:

“A subgenre is a subordinate within a genre. Two stories being the same genre can still sometimes differ in subgenre.

“For example, if a fantasy story has darker and more frightening elements of fantasy, it would belong in the subgenre of dark fantasy; whereas another fantasy story that features magic swords and wizards would belong to the subgenre of sword and sorcery.”

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