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Why Georgette Heyer Novels Define Regency Romance For Me!

Posted: December 30, 2020
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For me, Regency Romance usually means Georgette Heyer’s books. But I still haven’t found another writer like her. Let me tell you why.

Let me introduce myself. I am a self-confessed, unabashed Regency Romance aficionado. For the uninitiated, Regency Romance is a sub-genre of historical romance novels set during the period of the English Regency or early 19th century.

Since I read my first ever Georgette Heyer novel (The Grand Sophy), I have endlessly searched library shelves and scoured book lists to find more writers like her. Alas, my search is in vain.

Ms Heyer is considered the Grand Dame of Regency Romances, some people even consider her to be the rightful heir to Jane Austen. However, I cannot agree with since, in my opinion, they write about different things.

Anyway, back to Ms Heyer. You will rarely find a Regency Romance novelist with her wit and charm, though there is no dearth of novels in this sub-genre.

The women are feminists but…

Regency Romances are also called bodice rippers thanks to the high sexual content they contain which is absent in Ms Heyer’s books. However, my problem isn’t with the bodice-ripping. I am no prude neither can I point out any historical inaccuracy on the account of bodice-ripping. Well, I say, if you like it, rip the bodice away!

However, my real problem with the fresh crop of Regency Romance novels is with their depiction of the female protagonist or the ‘heroine.’ You would think they would be depicted in regressive or inferior roles. Far from it!

In fact, writers like Lisa Kleypas, Eloisa James and Julia Quinn introduce as many feminist tropes as possible in their books. According to the descriptions on the back covers of the books, the leading ladies are charming, intelligent, kind, generous and daring all rolled into one. But above everything else, they are closet feminists and can speak their minds and assert themselves.

I pick these books up with the singular hope that, in them, I will find a female character who will hopefully create a special place in my heart. You know like some heroines in Georgette Heyer’s books have. However, every single time I come away disappointed. This is mostly because, by the time I have read one-third of the book, the heroine has already started sounding annoying and silly.

Will I ever find a Regency Romance writer like Georgette Heyer?

The plot usually has her getting herself and the people around her in grave trouble. She has, in a bid to be assertive, failed to understand the logic of refraining from doing something foolishly adventurous.

Fortunately, since it’s fiction, everything ends in a ‘Happily Ever After.’ But if women in Regency England had, in reality, set out to do half the things these fictional women do, their population would seriously have dwindled.

I am a feminist and I am all for feminist based fiction. My only request is that let it sound reasonable, rather than preposterous! Give me another Arabella or Sophy or Fredrica – from Georgette Heyer’s novels. These women do nothing adventurous in life but still make me laugh. I refuse to believe there aren’t more writers like Ms Heyer, I’ll just have to dig deeper.

A version of this was earlier published here.

Picture credits: Photo by Gabby K from Pexels

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