Now that we’re settling into our weekly WordWench routine, Monday will be my regular day for posting. I hope you’re all enjoying this first official weekend of summer, and won’t be near a computer to read this until tomorrow. And if you or any of your family members have served in the armed forces, I’m sending along a special “thank you” on Memorial Day for all you’ve done and the sacrifices you’ve made.
Jo’s entry about how Regency settings have nearly taken over the historical market was so exactly on target that I can’t help but add a few more reasons of my own. I’ve written my share of Regency-set historicals; I can relate.
1. The Regency era is a familiar place to visit. Thanks both to the long-established tradition of Regency-set books and to Hollywood, readers come to newer books with a pretty good idea of what this time period looks and feels like. They have an instant connection with Almack’s or an English country house that they wouldn’t necessarily have with a Renaissance palazzo or an ancient Roman villa. From the first page, readers know where they are, and can jump right into the story with the hero and heroine.
2. Not only are the women’s gowns appealing to modern sensibilities, but the men’s clothes are, too. Cropped hair, close-fitting trousers, tailored coats with padded shoulders, and riding boots all fit into current ideas of what’s dashingly “masculine.” While I agree with Jo that Georgian clothing is infinitely more seductive and elegant, most modern women just can’t bend their minds around a guy in high heeled shoes and a wig (though Johnny Depp in The Libertine could change a lot of minds.)
3. “Regency” is such a great concept that it knows no national boundries. In France, those high-waisted muslin gowns and classically-inspired chairs are called Empire; in America, they’re Federal. Truly Regency is a state of mind.
4. There’s a persistent rumor that Regencyland will soon be added to the Magic Kingdoms at Disneyland. No, not really, but from the version of early 19th century England that pops up in many (but certainly not all) historical romances, it does seem to be a charmed world. Everyone’s rich, witty, titled, handsome or beautiful, and lives in gorgeous houses with plenty of amusing servants who just can’t wait to be your confidant or go-between. There’s little mention of that unpleasant war with the French (unless, of course, you’re a spy), or of the unstable economy, or syphilis, or children working in the textile mills, or unemployment, or the fact that the king is mad and his regent-son is more than a little irresponsible. If you’re looking for a great place to escape from the twenty-first century for a few hours, Regencyland can’t be beat.
5. Despite feminist efforts to broaden literature curriculums, Jane Austen continues to be one of the very few woman writers to break into required reading lists. For many high school girls, Pride and Prejudice and Emma are a surprising, enjoyable breath of fresh country air. In other words, you never forget your first Mr. Darcy.
6. Keira Knightley, Matthew Macfadyen, Emma Thompson, Hugh Grant, Kate Winslet, Alan Rickman, Colin Firth, and Jennifer Ehle.