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I've been pondering this topic for a while, but then came across 5 Reasons why Regency is the Best Romance Sub-Genre and decided it was TIME.

So! I have seen many reasons given for why people enjoy regency romance and my response is usually somewhere between "eh" and "Noooooo".

(I'm not going to bother exploring why I enjoy romances in general because my reasons are pretty typical: Happy stories about women, getting a kick out of resolved romantic tension etc)

Reasons I've seen given that don't work for me at all:

  • Enjoying a chance to revel in racism/classism/homophobia etc (This generally comes from critics of the genre): Um. No.
  • Wanting more like Georgette Heyer: I think she was a racist, classist, sexist anti-semite with unlikeable heroes, an irritting writing style, anachronistic 1930s attitudes with a veneer of historical detail, and unromantic endings, and I despair at her lingering influence on the genre. (aside from the snark, which is great. But other romance genres have that too)
  • old fashioned men: Not really. I like the fantasy of well educated characters who care about Honour, but not the sexism (benevolent or otherwise) and Manliness.
  • the fantasy of getting married and Never Having To Work Again because a rich upper class man will take care of you: Nooo. I like the fantasy of getting rich, and a rich husband is certainly an efficient way for a romantic plot to acheive that, but have enough of sitting around doing nothing as it is. Being a regency Lady was lots of work anyway. I find the obsession with aristocrats a bit wearying, the novelty of imagining being engaged to a Duke has definitely worn off.

Reasons I've seen given that do work for me a bit:
  • The clothes: I do like the clothes, though not that much (note that they are three out of the five reasons given above) I tend to get bored and confused any time a book goes into extended descriptions, and if the characters care more about clothes than each other I dislike them.
  • Glamourous parties: Yeah ok I enjoy these.
  • 19th century England as a sort of fantasy world, with as little similarity to the real historical era as most "medieval" fantasy has to the real medieval era: to some extent. Though the bits I want to gloss over and the bits I want to keep the same don't always match what the genre gives me (I BLAME GEORGETTE HEYER), and I do actually have some interest in and knowledge of the actual time period. Though I'm still fairly ignorant which probably helps my enjoyment :) I enjoy regency-esque speculative settings like the Liaden and Vorkosigan universes too.

Reasons I like regency romance I have not seen discussed much by other fans of the genre:
  • Romance heroes tend to act pretty similarly regardless of setting. Behaviour I find unbearably old fashioned in a contemporary hero becomes feminist and enlightened from a regency one.
  • there is an inbuilt reason for all the characters to care about romantic relationships. If they can't find someone to marry their life may genuinely be ruined! It's much harder to tie a romantic plot to life or death problems in a contemporary setting.
  • I like stories about characters triumphing over social injustice, and the injustices of the 19th century seem soluble in retrospect, so it's easier to imagine the characters triumphing over them. I know on a deep level how hard it is to triumph over the social problems of today. (I know intellectually that 19th century problems were just as hard at the time, but can ignore that for the length of the novel) Also, we can generally all agree on what the right solutions were! A character can be anti slavery and pro votes for women etc and readers will find that sympathetic. Anything dealing with current questions has to either be wishy washy or alienate the chunk of the audience who have different political views.
  • I find 19th century England a really fascinating place. I've read a bunch of Jane Austen and Dickens and the Brontes and while I find old fashioned prose hard to read these days still enjoy adaptations of books from that era (yes even the ones by Andrew Davies :P)
  • the chance to explore the kinds of characters you don't tend to see in actual 19th century books. POC, queer characters, commoner heroes who don't die, women who enjoy sex without being punished for it etc. Though the only one of these regency romances tend to give me is the last one :/

So, fellow regency romance fans, why do YOU like the genre? And yeah, I know most of you do enjoy Georgette Heyer and that's FINE, I can forgive you. I GUESS.

n.b. To anyone who says the only characters who can have any fun in regency era England are rich white straight men (and maybe their wives) I give you The Reason Escapist Time Travel Doesn’t Star Women Is That We Haven’t Written It Yet and the works of Sarah Waters and Beverly Jenkins.
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