If you search for a romance book, you are going to see a lot of “Regency Romances”. I come across the term ALL the time in my marketing work for independent authors. It is a hot subgenre of romance books, and it's not going anywhere anytime soon, especially now that series like Bridgerton have made it so popular.
It's easy enough to pinpoint the romance novels that can generally fall into the Regency Romance category, but I’ve been curious about what exactly is a true Regency romance novel. How does it differ from a Victorian romance or a “highlander” romance? And what is a traditional Regency romance versus the increasingly popular “steamy” Regency romance? I recently set out to find the answers to those questions, and I wanted to share with you some cool things I've learned.
What is the “Regency era”?
The Regency period of British history was from 1811-1820 when Prince Regent George IV reigned as proxy for his father, King George III, due to the King’s unstable mental and physical health. The Regency era has come to encompass the years 1797-1837 when Queen Victoria took the throne and ushered in the
Victorian era. Historically, it was a time of unrest and change, with events such as the American Revolution and the French revolution, and great advances in industry, women’s suffrage, and political rights. Regency romances, however, tend to focus mainly on the glamorous life and strict social codes of the upper aristocracy, which flourished under the Prince Regent’s reign. See this article from History Today and this article from Arapahoe Libraries for more information about the Regency period of British history.
What is a “Regency Romance”?
The modern Regency romance novel began with author Georgette Hyer in the 1930s, who wrote over two dozen romance novels set in the era and framework of Jane Austen’s beloved romances from the Regency Era. As librarians Wyatt, Olson, Ramsdell, Saricks, and Welch put so well, the traditional Regency romance novel comprises of “sparkling dialogue; intelligent, well-turned phrases; a glittering, though highly restrictive, social backdrop; and a
preoccupation with the importance of social consequence and behavior” [source].
A traditional Regency romance will be plenty romantic, but without any sex or
suggestive scenes--what we like to call “sweet romance”. Since the time of Georgette Hyer and other traditional Regency authors, the subgenre has expanded to include much more steamy content: historical romances set in the time period of Regency England, but with more modern characters and varying degrees of sexual content.
Check out these articles for great descriptions and information about the Regency romance style:
Similar Historical Romance Subgenres
There are a couple of other historical romance subgenres worth noting that are similar to Regency romances, but a little different:
A Victorian romance is a historical romance novel set in Great Britain during the reign of Queen Victoria from 1837-1901. This subgenre is a little more broad than Regency romance, and there is a little crossover between the two. Similar to the Regency era, the Victorian period was a time of prosperity and elegance for the upper class, and much change and upheaval in social class, industry, science, and the arts. See this article for a good description of the Victorian era. Check out this article for interesting tidbits of what romance in the Victorian era was like.
A “Highlander” romance, like it sounds, is set in the highlands of Scotland. The hero is typically a brawny, brave, alpha Scot clad in a kilt that is either forced to marry or kidnap a well-bred lady, and then romance ensues. There is room in this subgenre for violence, war, fighting, passion, and paranormal elements--things you don’t typically see in a traditional Regency romance. Check out this article from Media Medusa and this article from Write for Harlequin for more fun details of this exciting sister to Regency romance.
Lastly, this blog post is a fun read comparing readers’ and authors’ preferences between Regency and Victorian-era romances.
I hope you found this helpful and interesting! I love learning more about the context of stories I read. It helps them come to life and have greater meaning for me. And of course, I can’t leave without giving you a couple of Regency romance suggestions from our website! Happy reading!
"Second chances often come from surprising places. Will the Duke find another chance at love when everything seems to be combining against him? [read more]"
"Russian beauty Rusilla Charkova has no business sneaking into a London ball uninvited. Still, when the dashing Ned Danton, Duke of Wellbury, begs for her help, what can she do but comply? [read more]"
"The Honorable Roberta Talbot is tired of being the practical one in her family . . . When a chance-meeting brings an opportunity for adventure her way, Birdie grabs hold and takes it… all the way to a haunted castle in Scotland and into the domain of its beastly lord [read more]."