Over the last month I’ve read a bunch of Regency Romances. There are reasons for this.
- They are some of my favorite quick, fun, relaxing reads.
- I’m going to be writing one for NaNoWriMo in November and I wanted to get back into the world.
The problem is that I’ve DNFed as many as I’ve read.
In Regency romances there is an inherent power imbalance. Women have no rights during this time. They are at the mercy of the men in their lives. This can set up story lines that I don’t care to read. I don’t want to read about women being bullied by men they are supposed to eventually fall in love with.
I don’t care how you set it up.
- Aristocratic woman pretending to be a servant and bullied by an employer because he can? Nope.
- Poor relative sent to live off the mercy of a rich relative and then treated like dirt until he understands how much he needs her? Yuck.
This ties into the unequal power dynamic. Rich women during this time were treated as prized creatures to be sheltered from sexuality. They weren’t even supposed to have any knowledge of it. I don’t care. I don’t want to read about the hero grabbing the heroine and kissing her while she says, “No” over and over until she finally realizes how passionate this makes her feel and she opens up to the sexual being within. Nope, nope, nope – automatic DNF.
What would I like to see?
The other thing I noticed is that all the books that I have finished in the last month are about dukes. I’m to the point where I roll my eyes whenever I read that the main character is a duke. There are 20 dukes in the U.K. In Regency books they are all in want of a wife all the time. Let some of the other people have stories.
These books are also so white and so straight. I know, I know, we are discussing British aristocracy and that’s pretty much textbook white. But at the time in question in Regency books, slavery was still legal in British colonies. Even if there weren’t any peers that were not white, there were people of color working as servants or merchants. People were around if you look at the art of the time.
“In the 17th and 18th centuries black domestic servants in great houses were often seen as a conspicuous sign of wealth. Some were paid wages and could leave their employers, while others were treated as property. Portraits and inventories in great houses record many such lives.” from historicengland.org
What about a book about an arranged marriage because one or more of the participants is gay? You know it had to have happened.
So who is doing it right? I got into reading Regency books through my grandmother about 25 years ago. I never paid attention to authors. I just read what she got in her Harlequin subscription. Then I quit reading them for a long time. I had no idea who was writing good books now.
My favorite is still Courtney Milan. Her characters aren’t all Dukes. Her books show a good sense of humor in the courtships. She even writes sex scenes that I don’t mind.
I liked Callie Hutton’s book.
Lenora Bell writes good books too even if they all have Dukes.
So what have I learned that I’m going to apply to my NaNoWriMo book? My characters are lower down the social ladder for variety. There won’t be any forcing themselves on each other. There will be some black characters. Let’s see how it goes starting next week.