Friday, June 1, 2012

The Ever-Expanding Regency

The world of Regency romantic historical fiction has undergone quite a change in the last few years. While the traditional regency, which I consider that I write, continues to occupy (mainly in e-book form) a corner of the market, the large, sexy, duke-ridden romances have taken over the print market.

But there is a branching out in another direction altogether--the fantasy market. Jane Austen herself has been overtaken by rewrites incorporating zombies, vampires and all manner of fantastical creatures.

Time-travel, too, has become notable with visitors traveling to and from the Regency era and our current day. Laurie Viera Rigler's two books Confessions of a Jane Austen Addict and Rude Awakenings of a Jane Austen Addict are, in my opinion, among the best. Susanne Marie Knight is another author that delights in Regency time-travel romance--Lord Darver's Match comes to mind. Lost in Austen, a film mini-series, takes a different twist; time-travel to a fictional world that seems very, very real.

My own new book to be released on June 15, The Earl's Peculiar Burden, is a Regency time-travel romance. But in my book, there is no contemporary aspect to the time-travel. Rather, a young woman from the high middle ages, 1237 AD, is transported to 1813, a vastly modern and, to her mind, an astonishingly advanced world. You could say that I have succumbed to the trend for alternative-Regency.

If I have, I am in good company. One of the most entertaining books I have read in a long time is Mary Robinette Kowal's Shades of Milk and Honey. I should note that I have not been a fan of magic in fiction, or even of the fantasy genre, but Kowal's book delighted me. Her treatment of magic I found inventive and delightful, and her Regency voice is excellent. I'm looking forward to finding her second book, Glamour in Glass.

Another charming read in fantasy/Regency is Sorcery & Cecelia, now something of a classic in the genre, written in 1988 by Patricia C. Wrede and Caroline Stevermer. Magic is incorporated into ordinary Regency life with great skill and interesting results. The Grand Tour published in 2004 and The Mislaid Magician (2006) continue the story of Kate and Cecy.

Susannah Clarke's hugely popular Jonathan Strange and Mr. Norrell (2004) offers an alternative history of the Regency, with magic. This book was the first exposure of many readers to the Regency era. One hopes they sought out other stories about our favourite period in British history.

Naomi Novik's Temeraire series likewise offers an alternative history--this one naval--of Regency events. Nelson and Hornblower become Captain William Laurence, and there are dragons!

The final turn to the tale of Regency romance encompasses the 'fantasy of manners' or as it is sometimes known, 'mannerpunk'. It involves little or none of the history of the Regency period, but includes much of its 'comedy of manners' aspect, its social mores, class structure, and romantic adventure. Within fictional worlds come echoes of Jane Austen, Georgette Heyer, and the Brontes. Some of the books I've mentioned above fit within this subgenre of fantasy; other authors include Teresa Edgerton, Barbara Hambly and Paula Volsky.

So if you are looking for something a little different, try some of the authors I've listed. There's a whole other world out there, but it's still Regency. Forever Regency....

'Til next time,


Anne Gallagher said...

I loved the dress you shared yesterday via Twitter. I can't imagine how many hours it took to create it.

You know, Lesley-Anne, I am just so not into alternative Regency. I tried a few of them, but they just don't do anything for me. I don't know why. I like my Regency straightforward with all the manners and etiquette firmly in place.

However, I will say, Naomi Novik's books sounds like fun, there are dragons, and dragons are always interesting.

Lesley-Anne McLeod said...

Isn't that embroidery amazing? I always think of it being done in poor light also, a lot of the time.

I know what you mean about alternative Regency, Anne. I will always be a traditionalist. My idea for my new book though was to show what a modern and progressive world the Regency was, through the eyes of someone from a less-advanced period. Too often we tend to think of the Regency as quaint and old-fashioned, when it really was a 'brave new world'. I probably won't pursue alternative Regency any further in my writing, but it was fun. In my reading, I'll make an occasional excursion into fantasy :)

Theresa H. said...

My late husband said I was born in the wrong century. I read a lot about time travel. It would be so neat to be able to travel back but I'd probably be a servant and not a lady!

Lesley-Anne McLeod said...

I'm not going back if I can't be of the upper classes! :) The reality would be too harsh....