The official Regency Era lasted only between 1811 and 1820, when George IV served as Prince Regent of the United Kingdom. Novels that fall into the category of “Regency Romance” do not always take place in these 9 years. They can take place as early as the American Revolution and as late as the beginning of the Victorian Era. In short, Regency Romances take place in the late 18th century and the early 19th century.
The Regency Era was marked as a time when there was an enormous gap between the wealthy upper class and the working class. This was also around a time when printing technology improved and people started reading more novels. Members of the peerage would publish stories about their lives. To the working class, their lifestyle was so different that these stories read like fiction.
Regency romances follow the regular pattern of a romance novel. Two characters develop a relationship, and they end up together at the end. At least one of these characters must be a member of the peerage, but it is usually both characters. The peerage was the nobility, or the people who held titles. These titles were most often inherited. Men with a title had a seat in the House of Lords. The House of Lords is the highest chamber in Parliament. The peerage titles are ranked here from highest to lowest:
- Duke and Duchess
- Marquess and Marchioness
- Earl and Countess
- Viscount and Viscountess
- Baron and Baroness
All members of the peerage were listed in what is often referred to in novels as Debrett’s. Young women of wealthy families are often described as having to memorize from this publication before they are debuted to the ton.
The ton refers to British high society. It includes but is not limited to the peerage. When someone talks about the ton, they are usually referring to the etiquette of high society. The ton had strict rules of behavior, and the characters in regency romances are often trying to navigate through these rules in order to pursue their relationship. Sometimes they adhere to the rules, and sometimes they do not. It’s also common to talk about a season, which is the time spent in high society every year when social functions are frequent. The season usually takes place in London in the Spring. Members of the peerage will leave their country home that sits on the land that accompanies their title and move to their house in London for the duration of the season.
Regency Romances can vary greatly when it comes to how detailed the sexual interactions are, or whether they occur at all. Generally though, they stay away from explicit details. They can also vary on historical accuracy and how much they involve the working class.
Famous Regency Romance authors include Mary Balogh, Jo Beverley, Georgette Heyer, Eloisa James, Carla Kelly, Lisa Kleypas, Sarah MacLean, Mary Jo Putney, and Julia Quinn.
Some of my personal favorites are The Plumed Bonnet by Mary Balogh, The Fall of Lord Drayson by Rachael Anderson, Because of Miss Bridgerton by Julia Quinn, My American Duchess by Eloisa James, and A Man Above Reproach by Evelyn Pryce.