Regency Romances – One Category, Two Subgenres often combines two main sub-genres intohearts one category: “Regency Romance.”

However, many readers are looking for a particular kind of romance set in the Regency (1811 – 1820).

Writing styles can separate regency romances into two broad camps. In fact, I’d consider them sub-genres.*

  • Many Regency romances are carefully patterned after Jane Austen’s stories. That’s especially true of Austen “sequels.”
  • Others are more like Georgette Heyer’s novels. In recent years, many of them have spun-off further in the direction of “comedies of manners” or erotica, or both.

Austen-ish Books

Jane Austen’s books are iconic. They’re set in her own time and place: Regency England. Her stories regularly include elements of romance and wit. They also cast a harsh light on the challenges and inequities of her time, especially for women.

Many “sequels” to Jane Austen’s books — the ones written in a style similar to hers — are in this category, as well.

However, some sequels are far more comedic. Others, such as “Pride and Prejudice and Zombies,” are closer to parodies.

Regency Revisited – Georgette Heyer

A second sub-genre from the Regency period include romantic “comedies of manners.” They may have subplots that involve mystery, intrigue, and suspense, but – first and foremost – wit and banter (especially between hero and heroine) are essential.

While sexual intimacy might be part of Heyer’s stories, it rarely occurred on center stage. Her books sometimes featured adult premises, but — in general — her Regency period romances were “clean” by today’s standards.

Georgette Heyer is the iconic author for this subgenre, and some fans insist that she invented it.

Other novelists were inspired by Georgette Heyer, including prolific author Barbara Cartland (723 novels).

It’s after those books, perhaps more than Austen’s, that many of today’s Regency romances are styled.

Heyer Revisited – Retro Regency Romances

Like most fiction, Regency romances are popular in waves, and each of those waves brings changes. Starting in the 1970s, some (not all) Regency romances included explicit sex. At the time, they were described as “spicy” regencies.

Chaste romances set in the Regency era were called “sweet.”

Those labels are still in use, but many publishers also use terms like “clean” or “sexy” to make differences clear.

What’s Your Style?

For some authors, the line blurs between Austen-ish books and Heyer-like romances.

Many authors struggle to define their works. For example, D. G. Rampton coined the phrase “Retro Regency Romance” to describe her historical romances, which lean more towards “the retro-esque Georgette Heyer part of the spectrum.”

While developing your own writing “voice,” decide your influences before putting virtual pen to paper.

Study them carefully, deciding what you like best about each. Read reviews of their books, especially at Amazon and Goodreads. Take notes, and use them when plotting and writing your own books.

Most successful Regency romances draw from both Austen’s inspiration and the more modern “comedy of manners” style, but lean heavily in one direction or the other.

If you have a clear, consistent, and reliable voice in your regency romances, you’ll attract readers who’ll buy everything you write.

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*Sub-genre, or Subgenre, per Wikipedia:

“A subgenre is a subordinate within a genre. Two stories being the same genre can still sometimes differ in subgenre.

“For example, if a fantasy story has darker and more frightening elements of fantasy, it would belong in the subgenre of dark fantasy; whereas another fantasy story that features magic swords and wizards would belong to the subgenre of sword and sorcery.”

Heart graphic courtesy

Regency Romances – Fan Fiction and Expectations

Are Regency romances fan fiction? It’s a challenging question, but I believe regencies fit the definition.

Here’s how Wikipedia describes fan fiction:

Fan fiction or fanfiction (also abbreviated to fan fic, fanfic, or fic) is fiction about characters or settings from an original work of fiction, created by fans of that work rather than by its creator.

After Jane Austen, many Regency romances – perhaps most – could be called “fan fiction.” Well… maybe.

  • Most of us are fans of Austen’s stories and characters, if not her actual books.
  • Most Regency romances authors — including me — are using characters or settings based on the world created by Jane Austen’s novels.
  • Some of us are writing fan fiction that’s one part Jane Austen, two parts Georgette Heyer, and seasoned with inspiration from more recent Regency romance authors.

Successful fan fiction usually meets the expectations of existing fans.

That’s why – as an author – you should be aware of those expectations, and meet as many as possible.

  • If you’re already a fan of Regency romances — especially the kinds of romances you plan to write — you can list your own expectations in that subgenre.
  • If you’re new to this subgenre, or you need a quick review, you can see my own list of Regency romance conventions and obligatory scenes.
  • Or, you can read popular, award-winning, and well-reviewed Regency romances, and take notes.

What are your thoughts about Regency romances? Are they fan fiction or not? Leave a comment, below.

Regency Romances – Conventions & Obligatory Scenes

Fans of genre fiction – including Regency romances – have expectations. To be a successful Regency romance author, you should be aware of those expectations and meet them as much as you can.

Author Shawn Coyne (The Story Grid) describes two kinds of expectations: conventions and obligatory scenes.

Here’s my own, informal list of Regency romance expectations.


Conventions in Regency romances may include:

  • An aristocratic hero. He can be rich or poor, but he must be well-educated and at least aware of society’s expectations of the aristocracy, even if he doesn’t respect them. In most cases, he has an inherited title. In other words, he’s a duke, marquess, earl, viscount, or baron. (Today’s “Lords” also include appointed lords, such as some who sit in Parliament.)
  • A heroine – usually somewhat headstrong – who’s either artistocratic, or has been educated to blend seamlessly into the ton.*
  • Stock characters including a second romantic interest for the hero. She’s usually flighty, a gold-digger, or merely using the hero for other purposes. She may be a mistress he’s fond of, but without romantic entanglement. (If the heroine has an alternate romantic interest, he’s soon shown to be unsuited to her, often in appalling ways. By the end of the story, he’s likely to be exposed as a villain, or remove himself to a distant county.)
  • At least one social setting that is familiar to readers, such as a ball, a posting house (if they’re stranded for some reason, often weather), or a country estate (and house party).
  • Gambling between gentlemen. Often, it’s a bet that begins as something frivolous, but has an impact on the plot. Or, the heroine may be financial difficulty due to a father who’s lost everything through gambling. (Example: The Daughters of Mannerling series.) Also, an antagonistic woman may host card parties (for other women) and cheat to humiliate, blackmail, or ensnare her victims.
  • Social rules too numerous to list here. (I recommend Gayle Buck’s How to Write and Market The Regency Romance, or Emily Hendrickson’s The Regency Reference Book. Preferably both.)

*Ton is a Regency word, short for bon ton. Literally, it’s French for “good taste.” In Regency romances, the ton is the fashionable world, generally the realm of the aristocracy and those who socialize with them.

More Conventions: Intimacy

  • “Sweet” (aka clean) Regency romances have absolutely no sexually explicit scenes. The couple may covertly hold hands, and indulge in a few stolen kisses and brief embraces in private settings. However, in many “sweet” stories, the first kiss coincides with the marriage proposal.
  • Many “somewhat spicy” Regency romances suggest sexual intimacy without explicit descriptions past passionate kisses and exploratory caresses.
  • In traditional Regency romances, even “spicy” stories keep explicit sexual encounters to a minimum. They’re clearly secondary to the romance. (That is, a “spicy” regency romance is not erotica set in Regency England.)

Obligatory Scenes

  • A surprising meeting between the hero and heroine. If they’ve never met before, they either hate each other on sight, or there’s a startling flash of attraction between them, or both. If they knew each other in the past, their respective (internal) emotions are usually turbulent, mixing dislike (or even raging hatred), intense attraction, and perhaps wistful regrets.
  • Either the hero or heroine does something to annoy the other one, and the latter uses this as a springboard for resentment or outright disdain. In most books, this happens repeatedly. (Example: Darcy’s unfortunate snub when meeting Elizabeth Bennet results in her growing animosity towards him… while also finding him increasingly attractive.)
  • The difficult relative or friend.
  • The “save the cat” scene, where hero or heroine does something kind and usually unguarded, that causes the other person (hero or heroine) to look at that person in a new light. (Unlike traditional “save the cat” story beats, a Regency romance “save the cat” may appear late in the book.)
  • A happy ending. Unlike most romance subgenres, Regency romances rarely have a “happy for now” (HFN) ending.
  • Optional, but commonplace: The rescue scene. At some point, the hero will rescue the heroine from a difficult situation, or vice versa. The difficulty could be anything from a social faux pas to a runaway horse. In some stories, this is the scene that allows them to trust each other (or trust each other again), at least a little.

As a Regency romance fan, do those expectations match yours? Can you add more of your own?

Leave a comment. I’m interested in your opinions.