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Writing a Regency romance is a delight, but it’s also a challenge. Not only has the setting been explored by some of the very best modern writers, stories of love in the time of England’s Regency are the foundation of the entire romance genre. In taking on the Regency I felt I was daring to step up next to not just Julia Quinn and Stephanie Laurens, but Jane Austen and Georgette Heyer.
As if this wasn’t enough evidence of a pathological level of chutzpah, then I went and added magic and sex. Rather a lot of sex.
What on earth was I thinking?
To tell you the truth, I was thinking about history.
In addition to being the setting for a wonderful range of romantic stories, the Regency was a fascinating historical period. Probably living there was not as much fun as reading about it, because it was a dangerous and chaotic, filled with social and political upheaval. At the top, the king had gone mad. His sons and daughters had managed between them bring at least 50 children into the world, but only two were legitimate, and of those two, one died young. At the bottom, the people were rioting against the loss of jobs and the encroachment of technology, among other things. Then there was this Napoleon fellow kicking up all kinds of fuss. In some ways, it’s a wonder England survived as a nation.
What a time to try to navigate affairs of the heart.
The addition of the magic to this explosive social mix was actually a natural for me. I’m the kind of person who reads folklore and fairy tales for the fun of it. It’s a life-long vice and I should probably get professional help. But in the meantime, if you look at the old European fairy tales, you find that successful dealings with fairies and other mystical creatures depend heavily on displays of courtesy and honor. To gain a favor from a magical being in the old stories, what do you do? You show respect. You prove you are brave, clever, or kind, preferably all three. You share what you have, even if it’s your last crust. Especially if it’s your last crust. This is a code of honorable conduct that is perfectly at home in the Regency.
The sex was even easier to fit in. Let’s face it, sex was as popular a past-time in the Regency as it is in modern times. Writings survive from the period complaining about the amount of bed-hopping that went on at those country house parties, not to mention at the masked balls. All the sons of George III fell in and out of love with women they couldn’t or wouldn’t marry a lot, and very publicly. The demimonde was in the midst of a grand flowering, with courtesans like Harriet Wilson even writing their memoirs (and blackmailing men by offering to leave their names out of those memoirs).
The result is a feast for the writer; All that sex, freely available. All that change and chaos, all that beauty and wealth and glamor and ambition. It was impossible not to imagine what a challenge it would be to find love, and stay true to love and to oneself. This would be difficult enough, but then add the fairy tale obstacles of magical glamor and magical danger…
What on earth was I thinking? I was thinking this is going to be fun.
- Marissa Day
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