Regency Romance books dumbfound critics and irritate realists. Why, then, are they so popular today?
Consider that novels set in Regency England (1811-1820) feature a privileged world among royalty, where material needs are determined by birthright and romance flourishes in clandestine environments.
Much has changed since the days of Jane Austen, whose prim and proper courtships dragged on for hundreds of pages with no one giving it up. Today, daring exploits and push-the-envelope stylistic devices fill their pages with all the drama and tension typical of mainstream America. No writer is required to adhere to the stifling rules established by the time in which Austen penned her world-renowned words. Making characters behave in a manner prohibited in their long-ago realm may seem an anachronism, but audacious plots provide an innovative environment.
These exciting, independent titles for 2015 remain true to the genre yet deserve a high mark for originality.
The Duke’s Disaster by Grace Burrowes (Sourcebooks Casablanca)
In the Regency era, people had similar concerns when entering a new relationship—disaster, divorce, and loss of dignity. Impending doom lurks in the wings of this pragmatic tale of a duke who settles on his second choice for a wife. A courtship of convenience may lead to passion that neither party anticipates. Burrowes depicts a situation that will elicit empathy even today.
Alone with Mr. Darcy by Abigail Reynolds (White Soup Press)
In this creative Austen spinoff, Reynolds sequesters Elizabeth Bennet and Mr. Darcy alone together in a cabin for two nights during a blizzard. He promises to marry her if their interlude is ever revealed, but like many elusive Regency chaps, he disappears … like the guy who never calls again. Established customs pressure her to find a husband immediately. In those days a woman was disgraced if she did private time with anyone but her spouse.
The Unthinkable by Monica McCarty (Buccaneer Press)
Betrayed by the nobleman she loved, a once trusting woman scorns men and remains intent on independence when her former flame pursues her with gusto after a five-year hiatus. Coerced by his family not to marry beneath his social status, the duke regrets his compliance. This is a story of renewal and learning to follow that inner desire, as opposed to falling into a predetermined trap. McCarty’s perceptive novel examines class divisions, a problem that still plagues the twenty-first century.
The Duke’s Holiday by Maggie Fenton (Montlake Romance)
A power struggle ensues between an intelligent, headstrong businesswoman and an arrogant, compulsive duke in this humorous tale of sexual attraction and contractual obligation. This is book one of The Regency Romp Trilogy, a mature-content historical romance that steps beyond period restrictions to convey a modern sense of realism. Fenton’s style will appeal to an audience that loves the era but hates the prudish niceties.
A Heart Revealed by Josi S. Kilpack (Shadow Mountain Publishing)
Superficial and greedy may have been the norm during the Regency, but in Kilpack’s eye-opening story a snobbish socialite intent on marrying for title and money changes her outlook dramatically. She discovers she is losing her hair due to a rare disorder, which places her in imposed exile. Sincerity, love, and acceptance take on new meaning as she meets a man of lower status and finds romance for the first time—touching and believable.
Self-published authors compete with small presses and, especially, conglomerate publishers—companies with the financial ability to promote their books at an extraordinarily high level. The Regency bug is contagious and has spread to entrepreneurial souls who wish to market their own titles for the sake of maintaining artistic control. These adventurous spirits lack nothing next to their comrades.
While You Were Spying by Shana Galen, (CreateSpace)
Snubbed by a marquis and publicly humiliated, the beautiful and gentle daughter of a viscount gets another chance to seduce the incredible man who captured her heart. He must shield her from danger while he investigates a smuggling ring and finds himself attracted to a woman he should have only a professional interest in protecting. Think of a bodyguard on a mission with colliding interests in this latest addition to Galen’s Regency Spies series.
Her Unlikely Hero by Ginny Hartman (CreateSpace)
After losing a bet to his childhood friend—reminiscent of a college fraternity prank—a blueblood must seduce the lady he watches from afar with secret infatuation. She will be his bride, she just doesn’t know it yet. That’s the deal. Talk her into it. This approach usually fails at the traditional holiday party, and here too, it will be met with resistance in the second book of Hartman’s Unconventional Suitors series.
Julia Ann Charpentier