I wrote the following article for one of my blogs, to help my readers who may not be all that familiar with the time period.
What was the Regency?
King George III fell ill, his insanity making it impossible for him to rule. His heir, the Prince of Wales, was appointed as Regent in 1811, performing his father's duties until the king died in 1820.
While the Regency was technically between those years, the era is more aptly described by the characteristic trends in fashion, architecture, literature, politics, and culture. It is commonly held that these trends began some years before 1800 and continued on until Victoria ascended to the throne in 1837. Before that is referred to as Georgian and after as Victorian.
The Regency was a time of ladies and gentlemen, manners, breeding, Society, social upheaval, and war. The upper classes were aware of the recent revolution in France and nervous of the same thing happening in their own country. And yet, the hedonistic lifestyle persevered, many not allowing their fears to take root...or push them to improve the quality of life for the poor around them. Decadence abounded, gambling was nearly a requirement, drinking in excess was expected, prostitution flourished, adultery was overlooked and violence was the norm.
Upper-class women of the Regency really weren't allowed to be self-sufficient. A girl was raised to show respect, be submissive, run a household, and demonstrate a certain amount of efficiency in all the social accomplishments deemed necessary for success.
To go along with this training, ladies were taught how to cope with married life. She should not acknowledge her husband's amours, his drinking, his gambling or his spending. As the man, it was his right to say and do what he pleased. Even the Regent was known for his unfaithfulness to his wife, his lavish homes and entertainments, and excessive spending habits. He was the butt of many a Regency caricaturist's pen.
The war with Napoleon was going strong at the time of the prince's appointment as Regent. Wellington proved himself on the battlefield, rising in rank. By the end of the infamous Battle of Waterloo, he was a duke. Napoleon was officially defeated in 1815 but civil unrest continued.
So what is the draw for many to this era?
Despite all the depravity of the era there is still an element of absolute romance attached. The kissing of hands, the gentle courting, the manners and charm are all things that appeal to my shy nature. What woman would not want to be treated as a princess, her permission sought before being introduced to a gentleman, her every comfort seen to? It is in our nature to desire to be cherished and adored.
Perhaps this does not appeal to a more modern woman. Hence the reason for heroines who have opinions and even voice them occasionally. They know what they want and are willing to go after it, all the while retaining their femininity and poise, their grace and charm.
And people love the "Pretty Woman" scenario. While the heroine is rarely a prostitute, especially in a Regency, she often is a woman down on her luck, poor, lower class, or in dire straits by some other means. She often gets the lord, whether he be a duke, earl or baron. Even if he's a plain ole mister with a pile of money, the draw is there. The heroine is rescued from penury, able to rise above her birth, overcomes the obstacle of her upbringing and manages it all by simply falling in love.
Why do my books seem to focus on the negative aspects of this time period?
I am a hopeless believer in redemption. No matter how bad things get, how many mistakes one has made, there is hope and there is a way to come about. The majority of my characters have, in some way, hit rock bottom. My motto: There is always a silver lining. Some are just harder to find than others.
My focus is more on the attitudes, emotions and mental turmoil of the time rather than the fashions and outer appearance.
What modern authors do I recommend?
Georgette Heyer technically developed the genre. (Jane Austen did not write historical romance, per se. She wrote contemporary romances that are an excellent source for the manners and attitudes of the time.) It was Ms Heyer who saw the romantic value in the Regency and set many of her novels then. She is often attributed with having developed the historical romance genre as a whole. She would be an excellent start for this genre. Other well-known authors of the genre include Mary Balogh, Jo Beverley, Patricia Veryan, Marion Chesney, Elizabeth Mansfield, and Julia Quinn.