Regency is NOT Victorian – which is NOT Edwardian!

Santos-Dumont_flight_around_the_Eiffel_TowerSanto Dumont circles the Eiffel Tower on 13 July 1901 in Dirigible No. 5 Paris 1901 airship zeppelin edwardian era.jpg

Paris in 1901 – a time of photography and airships.

All right, I’ve had it. If I see one more book or television show or movie about the Tudors or Marie Antoinette or World War One labelled as a “Regency romance”, I’m going to scream!

Even if you use a slightly extended version of the term “Regency” to describe historical romance books (say, 1800 to 1830), I think it should be made illegal to call stories set a full century before or after the era “Regency romances”.

A popular author’s new historical romance series is allegedly set in the early 1900s, and yet it’s being labelled “Regency” by readers and publishers alike, and fails to include any of the massive changes that happened in the world in those ninety years between one era and the other. I’m seeing this so often in historical fiction that it’s driving me bonkers!

Here’s how it works:

Regency era:

1811-1820

Jane Austen, skinny dresses, Napoleon, and a man too mentally unstable to rule on the British throne.

Mailcoach England 1827

Transport in 1827

First_electric_tram-_Siemens_1881_in_LichterfeldeFirst electric tram- Siemens 1881 in Lichterfelde

Transport in the 1880s

Victorian era:

1837-1901

Trains, photographs, telegrams, telephones, big sleeves and even bigger skirts, Christian morals hiding dirty lifestyles, and a short, (allegedly) grumpy lady on the British throne.

Flatiron_Building_under_construction_II,_New_York_City,_1902Flatiron Building (at the time still called the Fuller Building) in early stage of construction, Fifth Avenue and Broadway, New York City. edwardian era

New York City in 1902

Edwardian era:

1901-1910

Cars, airships, early feature films, and a large, sickly man on the British throne.

Labelling an Edwardian book set nearly a century after Jane Austen died as Regency is like setting a book in 2019 and including the first Academy Awards (with Emil Jannings – born 135 years ago – winning best actor), Stalin’s purges, the birth of Audrey Hepburn and Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis, and the death of Wyatt Earp. Oh, and while we’re at it, we might as well include the Wall Street Crash and the beginning of the Great Depression, and pretend the internet doesn’t exist. In 2019.

Absurd? Yes. So please, please stop it. The past is a little more complicated – and interesting – than that.

Dear Cover Designers…

temptmewithdiamonds28londonjewels23129byjanefeather

What’s wrong with this cover?, you might ask, and – at first glance, my answer would be: nothing.

The gown is one of my favourite colours, and the diamond theme makes it all sparkly and pretty. It’s in the same pseudo-Regency style as most historical romance covers these days, and it gets bonus points for skipping the waxed/oiled/mostly naked man to go with the woman.

However…

 

This book is set in the **twentieth century**.

 

As in: this book is set in the century we were born in.

 

It already drove me bonkers how all Victorian-era historical romances end up with Regency covers, because:

1811

(Regency era.)

fourth-position-feet-wilson-analysis-country-dancing-1811illustrationofawomanwithherfeetinthefourthpositionofdancing2cfromt.wilson27sanalysisofcountrydancinginstructionmanual2c1811.regen

1861

(Victorian era)

godey-april-1861daydresses18611860svictorianfashion

1881

(Victorian era.)

tennis_costyme1881costumevictorianerafashion1880s

And – here’s the era the book in question is set. She looks a little different to the woman in the blue dress!:

Lady_of_fashion_1919

Two things are at work here:

#1 “Regency” has become shorthand to indicate any book set in any century in the past.

Which is annoying because:

#2 Fans of the genre are treated like they’re stupid.

It’s such a pet hate of mine, if you failed to notice! 🙂

Recently Reread: Pride and Prejudice

Jane Austen’s most famous novel, Pride and Prejudice, was published on the 28th of January 1813. Here is the front page from a first edition copy of the book.

I reread Pride and Prejudice (and Persuasion) every so often, because why not?!

Unlike many people, who seem to have studied Jane Austen and the Brontë sisters at school or university, I never did. Even though I majored in English in college (the finally two years of high school) and in literature at university, I’ve had to discover some of these classics on my own.

I think I develop a greater appreciation for Austen every time I read her work. However, one thing I noticed in this reread is that Elizabeth Bennet considers herself an “I’m not like other women!” lady. She actually makes several statements to that effect, including directly to Mr Darcy near the end. Funny, that in 2019 we still can’t get authors to stop writing characters who think like that!

Anyway, other than that little discovery, I still liked it. 🙂