Did you all know that Regency romance novels are awesome? I just found out this summer, and haven't done much since besides make up for lost reading time. I haven't enjoyed romance novels this much since the time in sixth grade my best friend and I ransacked her grandmother's bookshelf and spent an afternoon skipping to the juicy parts (ha!).
Now I'm a little obsessed.
Set in early 19th century England and focused on the aristocracy, Regencies are mostly centered around the constraining social regulations of the time. According to Wikipedia, the books I like are specifically "Regency Historical Romances," which prioritize explicit sex scenes over historical accuracy. Hell, yeah.
One of the great comforts of genre fiction is the predictability. The familiarity of knowing roughly what to expect from a Reforming the Rake plot or a Napoleonic Spies plot makes it even more fun when authors play within stock plot devices.
As a long time fantasy reader, I'm fascinated by the intricately created fictional worlds in Regencies. Though set in real historical moments, authors create their own networks of families, political intrigue, and societal quirks. For example, Julia Quinn's fictional gossip columnist "Lady Whistledown" is basically the Gossip Girl of 1812, and runs through 10 different books.
Though each author constructs their own unique interpretation of Regency society, part of the fun is that they all operate within the same extremely rigid social structures. Breaking the strictly enforced social order seems impossible, which of course makes it delicious and sexy. The etiquette that characters must follow is complex and the smallest of indiscretions can easily lead to scandal -- a consequence that RUINS LIVES!
To avoid life-ruining-scandal, all sexytimes must occur clandestinely if the participants aren't married. That necessitates some creative maneuvering in order to make out, let alone get it on. Carriages, gardens, alcoves, and libraries all become fair game to host filthy boinkfests. The added pressure to conform to propriety heightens the sexual tension from start to finish. The act of slowly unbuttoning a glove is enough inspire boners for everyone in the vicinity.
Consumer porn, especially with the fashion and jewels, is also part of the package. Romanticizing wealth is a large factor in many romance genres, and Regencies are delightfully extravagant with estates, servants, and lives of pure luxury. If reading is your form of escapism, Regency romance novels offer whole worlds of unrepentant decadence.
Of course, the best part of romance novels is the witty banter, which I consider integral to any good love affair. I get vicariously giddy when reading a well-written flirtation, and occasionally attempt to borrow lines in my real life. I think trading insults with feigned disdain or disinterest can be the hottest form of foreplay. Thankfully, Regency authors seem to agree.
As Marianne recommends, I feel no shame about my growing romance habit. As a self-confessed fan of problematic stuff, I appreciate what the romance genre does for me and other readers without excusing its problems.
I fundamentally believe that enjoyable fiction is valuable to society and serves a vital purpose in my life. And I want to share that joy with everyone!
Jessie Nicole Sexytime Reads:
"Silk is For Seduction" by Loretta Chase -- Loretta Chase's entire back catalogue is really my top recommendation. Her work is consistently sharp and sexy. Her heroines are interesting, passionate, and hard-working. In a genre focused on ladies whose job is simply to be ladies, the majority of Chase's heroines have professions. "Silk is For Seduction" features Marcelline Noirot, an ambitious dressmaker with a dubious family history, chasing the Duke of Clevedon to convince him that his fiancee should buy all her dresses from the shop Marcelline runs with her sisters. The detailed accounts of Regency fashion are almost as mouthwatering as the romance!
"London's Perfect Scandal" by Suzanne Enoch -- If you can suspend your disbelief and go along with some ridiculous plot devices, this novel is unbelievably fun. When chronically tearful Evelyn Ruddick decides to improve an orphanage, she finds herself in the company of a notorious scoundrel with the ironic nickname "Saint." Enoch sets you up for a typical Reformed Rake story, but then gets wild and includes: a child criminal, skeevy brother, the Duke of Wellington, and basement imprisonment. I found it thoroughly entertaining.
"The Duchess War" by Courtney Milan -- Technically this is a Victorian novel, but it’s so good that I’m including it here anyway. Radical labor politics, references to chess strategy, and valuing chosen family would have been more than enough to capture my heart. But the sex scenes pushed it over the edge. Firstly, there’s masturbation. And masturbation is fantastic. Secondly, instead of a typical awful virginity cliché, the characters discover good sex together through actually communicating with each other. And that exploration is HOT.
For more, check out Smart Bitches Trashy Books. It’s my first stop when I need something new, and they haven’t steered me wrong yet!
Anyone else love historical romance? Tell me your favorites!