Man, Woman, Diplomat, Spy: The Chevalier d’Eon

Readers of historical romance have long assumed that the Georgian era, including the Regency, was a time of strict binary sexual identity. This view has been aided by romantic novelists from Heyer onward who rarely strayed from that perception. As a writer of Regency fiction, I am complicit. However, the last two decades have opened the door for a more realistic interpretation of the times: that the spectrum of human gender identity was no different then than it is now. No person of those times better reflects this reality than the Chevalier d’Éon.

Born Charles-Geneviève-Louis-Auguste-André-Timothée d’Éon de Beaumont in France, d’Éon defied limits from a young age. Though the son of a poor nobleman, he rose quickly to notice through his remarkable intelligence and insightful political writings. In 1756, he joined a network of spies called the Secret du Roi (the King’s secret), a clandestine organization reporting directly to King Louis XV and often subverting official French policy. Shortly thereafter, his androgynous features, skill at mimicry, and iron nerve allowed him to infiltrate the Russian court as a woman. Although this claim by his biographer cannot be absolutely substantiated, the remainder of d’Éon’s life provides ample evidence of its probability.

Upon his return from Russia to France, d’Éon resumed his male persona, joined the French dragoons, fought in the Seven Years War, and was wounded in battle. Not long after, he was dispatched to London to draft the treaty ending the war, a role that earned him the title of Chevalier – effectively knighthood. However, when the new French ambassador to Britain humiliated him on apparent orders from Louis XV, d’Éon fought back. He threatened to release publicly a slew of letters describing the Secret du Roi, a move that would have deeply hurt the king’s standing with an already disgruntled French public. The British people, meanwhile, supported d’Éon and ridiculed the French ambassador over his treatment of d’Éon.

In time, rumors began circulating in London that d’Éon was really a woman – a modern day Joan of Arc – despite the fact that he dressed in military uniform. A betting pool was begun and he was invited to settle the bet. d’Éon declined to participate, saying that the examination would prove dishonoring regardless of the result. In short, he left the question unanswered because he believed his gender should be of no consequence in how he was treated. In 1776, he returned to France after Louis XV’s death – as a man. However, soon after his arrival he claimed that he had been female at birth and was raised male so his father could inherit from his in-laws. He demanded to be recognized as female by the French court. The new king, Louis XVI, agreed but under one condition: that d’Éon dress according to the claimed gender. When the king offered significant funds for a new wardrobe, d’Éon agreed.

d’Éon returned to England in 1785 where she would spend the rest of her days. Identifying now as a woman, she reclaimed her popularity with British nobles and commoners alike. She participated in fencing tournaments until suffering a serious injury in 1796. Painter Charles Jean Robineau produced a remarkable painting showing d’Éon fencing in a gown against Monsieur de Saint-George at Carlton House in the presence of the Prince of Wales.

The chevalier’s fortunes waned when her stipend from the French government ended with the French Revolution. She slipped slowly into poverty and suffered partial paralysis after a fall before dying in 1810 at the age of 81. The surgeon who examined d’Éon post-mortem provided the long-awaited answer of d’Éon’s gender – but it was not what anyone of the time would have expected or understood. While possessing of fully-formed male organs, d’Éon had many feminine characteristics, including “breasts remarkably full.” As such, d’Éon was possibly intersex.

The Chevalier d’Éon teaches us many things in hindsight. She taught us that gender fluidity is nothing new, nor is the extent to which others willfully misunderstand it. She showed us that a society willing to label people as “other” risks losing contributions from some of its best and brightest. Mostly, however, d’Éon demonstrated that intelligence, courage, and accomplishment are not byproducts of gender or gender identity, but rather of the human spirit. As she might have said, gender and gender identity should be of no consequence in how we treat one another. We are all just human beings adrift on the sea of a boundless universe, and so should cling to one another with grateful appreciation for everyone’s unique story.

How Ross Poldark Left Me Clueless

I have a confession to make. I am writer, and yet have no clue what I am doing. Seriously. Not a clue.

Three years ago, I decided to become a writer of historical romance; Regency era in particular. I still can’t fully explain that decision, but blame Ross Poldark. A binge watch of the first season of Poldark followed by a binge read of twenty or so Regency era romance novels precipitated the event. I had no clue at the time what I was doing, but began the writing process anyway.

Since then, I have penned four manuscripts, entered a couple of dozen contests, queried perhaps twenty agents, and joined the RWA, the Austin RWA chapter, and the Beau Monde RWA chapter. During that time, I really had no clue what I was doing. I attended local RWA meetings, met some nice fellow writers, and gained much valuable insight. Each of my four manuscripts finaled in or won at least two contests. Every single agent said some variation of, “No, thank you. Best of luck.”

A couple of months ago, I entered one of my manuscripts in a pitch contest spnsored by my local RWA chapter. That led an editor at Entangled Publishing to request the full manuscript. She passed it along to another editor, who requested more information. At the end of a whirlwind three week period, Entangled Publishing offered me a contract on the manuscript. Now, ahead of me lies the laborious process of working with my editor and publisher to somehow transform the manscript into something worthy of reading. I’m a lot excited and a little intimidated.

Because, I still have no clue what I’m doing.

Saving Scotland: How a Regency-Era Writer Preserved Scotland As We Know It

When considering Scotland, one cannot help but imagine kilts, bagpipes, Highland games, and clan tartans. However, the Scotland as we know it nearly faded from history two centuries ago until a Regency-era writer saved it nearly singlehandedly.

To understand the context of Scotland’s fall and rise, we must travel back in time. Scotland warred with England for centuries, led by familiar heroes such as William Wallace and Robert the Bruce. During that period, Scotland devolved into effectively two cultures: Highland and Lowland. Highland culture featured the romanticized life of clans we associate with Scotland today. The more populous Lowlands largely reflected the culture of English cities, distinct from the Highland culture. During the 1500’s, Protestantism swept through England and the Scottish Lowlands. The Scottish Highlands remained staunchly Catholic. When young Mary Queen of Scots inherited the Scottish throne, the Lowlanders did not accept her Catholic roots. They eventually deposed her in favor of her infant son, James, who was raised Protestant.

When Queen Elizabeth I of England died in 1603 without heirs, James also inherited the English throne, making him the first king of England, Wales, Ireland, and Scotland. His great-grandson, James II, converted to Catholicism while exiled in France during the English Civil War. When he finally ascended the throne, Protestant England rebelled and he fled into exile once again. His Protestant daughter, Mary, and her Dutch husband, William, ruled jointly in his place. However, many in Scotland and England longed for the return of James II. Their reasons were diverse: religious, political, nationalistic, sexist, and economic. Regardless of reasons, this group called themselves Jacobites, taken from the Latin name for James. Over the course of the ensuing decades, Jacobites launched a series of unsuccessful rebellions to return James II or his male descendants to the throne. During that period, England and Scotland unified into the United Kingdom in 1707 under Queen Anne (of the recent film, The Favourite). This union further agitated Jacobites throughout the kingdom.

In 1745, the grandson of James II, Charles, arrived in Scotland to start a new Jacobite uprising. The charismatic “Bonnie Prince Charlie” amassed a loyal army and enjoyed surprising success. His army routed royal forces, invaded England, and drove to within 120 miles of London. However, expected Jacobite support in England never materialized, so the army retreated to Scotland. In 1746, Bonnie Prince Charlie’s army was utterly destroyed at the Battle of Culloden, recently made world famous by the Outlander novels and television series. Prince Charlie escaped and was smuggled to the island of Skye by Flora MacDonald, an event immortalized by the Skye Boat Song (the theme song for the Outlander series, incidentally). Regardless, the rebellion had ended in failure.

In the aftermath, the British government took a hard look at what had caused the Jacobite rebellions. Despite the complex reasons and Jacobite support in all corners of the kingdom, the government wanted a simple answer with a simple solution. They decided that the Scottish Highland way of life was to blame for all the kingdom’s ills, and passed laws effectively banning Highland culture. Concurrently, the government began the Highland Clearances, a depopulation of the Scottish Highlands. This latter practice lasted a century, reducing the population of the Highlands from 1.5 million to 300,000 through starvation, forced emigration, and transportation. Many Highland Scots ended up in America and Australia, playing critical roles in the founding of those nations. The net effect, though, was the near-extinction of the Highland culture in Scotland. By the Regency era, Highland culture was perhaps a generation away from disappearing from the collective memory, and Scotland was on its way to becoming merely Northern England.

Enter Walter Scott. Already a famous poet, Scott harbored higher ambitions as a writer. While growing up in the Scottish borderlands, he obsessively collected stories of Scottish lore and desired to somehow novelize them. In 1814, he published the first of his Waverley novels. The story follows an English soldier during the Jacobite rebellion who falls in love with the Highlands and switches loyalties to the Jacobite cause. The novel became a smash success across Britain and romanticized the public perception of the Scottish Highlands and its people. Among the book’s most ardent fans was Prinny himself, the Prince Regent. The prince demanded to meet the “author of Waverley” and thus became one of the few to know the author’s identity.

When the Prince Regent was crowned King George IV, he quickly called for a state visit to Scotland, driven largely by his love of Scott’s novels. No English monarch had visited Scotland in nearly two centuries, so this was an astonishing turn of events. George appointed none other than Walter Scott to prepare Edinburgh for his visit. However, Scott faced a serious problem. The Scotland of his novels no longer existed due to the aforementioned laws to erase Highland culture. Not to worry. With a royal carte blanche in hand, Scott pulled together a Highland pageant the likes of which Scotland had never seen before, complete with clans, kilts, bagpipes, and Highland games. King George was delighted by the display, and even appeared in public wearing the kilt of his Stuart ancestors (at Scott’s convincing). Although British media lampooned his appearance in a kilt, the grateful Scottish people went wild for it. George found in the Scots something he failed to find elsewhere in his kingdom: adoration.

The aftermath of King George’s visit proved dramatic. The royal house and the beau monde began adopting Scottish traditions, particularly kilts and bagpipes at formal events. The people of England began viewing Scotland as a romantic place rather than a backwater. Most importantly, the Scottish people rediscovered their national identity. Not only did Highlanders resurrect their traditions, but Scottish Lowlanders embraced the Highland traditions as their own. In short, the Highland culture came to define all of Scotland and influence the nobility of the rest of the kingdom.

George’s niece, Queen Victoria, followed in her uncle’s footsteps. Also an avid fan of Scott’s Waverley novels, she wasted little time in making Scotland her favorite holiday spot, and purchased Balmoral Castle as a royal family hideaway. She is even said to have given the order to raise soldiers’ kilts from below the knee to above the knee. She claimed it eased their movement in battle, but you decide her motives. Victoria’s embrace of Scotland created an explosion of tourism from other parts of the kingdom. Soon, all of the British empire became enamored with Highland culture, a culture that defines Scotland to this day.

In gratitude to Walter Scott, the Scots built him a striking monument in Edinburgh. At 210 feet in height, it is the tallest monument to a writer in the world. The monument is appropriate for a best-selling author of the Regency era who had rescued his homeland’s culture from oblivion. After centuries of war, Scotland was saved not by a sword and the fire of a cannon, but by a pen and the fire of imagination.

Why Men Should Read Romance

Men don’t read romance novels, and if they do, they don’t admit it.

That statement is both truth and fiction, reality and myth. I am living proof. For context, the primary arc of a romance story is the development of a romantic relationship between two characters (or more) where the characters achieve a Happily Ever After. According to 2018 survey results from Romance Writers of America, only 16 percent of romance readers are men. Although statistics show that the average woman reads more books per year than does the average man, the difference does not remotely account for the statistical imbalance.

Why, then? Why do men generally eschew reading romance in favor of other genres? I am no sociologist, but that won’t stop me from playing one on the internet. Given that disclaimer, let me offer a few untrained observations on the subject of “why”.

During early childhood, boys and girls are exposed to similar stories. Mice and cookies, brown bears, cats in hats, and so on. As their appreciation for “story” takes hold, they turn their attention to more sophisticated tales. Disney Corporation expertly taps into this next level of sophistication with a library of classic films. What is the common thread among these films? You guessed it. They are love stories, pure and simple. Even if what the story portrays is not traditional romance, they all send the same message: Love conquers all. The underlying theme is one of cooperation: we are better together than we are apart.

From this common base, however, boys begin to deviate. The prevailing Western male culture begins taking hold as boys age into society. Boys are taught to prize tactical traits over cooperative ones. These include physical strength, emotional guardedness, competitiveness, individuality, a willingness to fight, a desire to win. Thus, while girls continue developing a more cooperative and connected mesh of relationships, boys are thrust into the hierarchy of the male social ladder. Once on the ladder, boys are taught three lessons:

  • Your worth is dictated by your position on the ladder.
  • You must identify who is above you on the ladder so you may challenge them.
  • You must identify who is below you on the ladder so you may repress them.

Of course, this is a gross generalization, I know. However, it does express the world of adolescence experienced in some form by the bulk of Western males. The underlying message is, “Conquer or be conquered.” In this context, boys gravitate toward stories of adventure, battle, achievement, glory, and other themes that inform them how to survive on the ladder. Somewhere along the way, they all but abandon stories of romance. Why? As Leonard Cohen wrote, “Love is not a victory march, it’s a cold and it’s a broken Hallelujah.” Love means surrendering. Love means turning loose of those prized traits, trading conquest for connection, competition for cooperation, winning for the wonder. It means offering vulnerability in the give-and-take dance of two souls. None of this seems particularly useful on the male social ladder, particularly in light of the behavior of societal leaders who drag this insidious ladder onto the world stage.

These prized traits, however, hide a terrible truth. Achievement through conquest leaves the individual more isolated, paranoid, and hardened as a result. These prized traits exact a terrible price.

The remedy? A return to those days of childhood when achievement came through cooperation and when love could surmount any barrier. Romance stories tend to feature some common elements. In particular, most romance novels see the characters become willingly vulnerable, bend toward one another’s dreams and desires, sacrifice self to cherish the other, and overcome all obstacles between them, all in the name of love.

When surveyed about which traits they prize in a boss, most workers do not list “ability to win” or “emotional guardedness”. Instead, they identify honesty, emotional intelligence, willingness to admit fault, self-awareness, and ability to make a personal connection. In other words, the opposite of those traits so prized on the male social ladder. Not surprisingly, surveys of the most desirable traits in a romantic partner feature this same list in some form.

Why should men read romance, then? Romance stories present an alternative view of the world that directly contradicts the lie of the male social ladder. Reading romance novels allows men to reshape their thinking, to undo destructive societal training, to return to the notions implicitly understood in childhood. This reshaping, undoing, and returning allows a man to step off a two-dimensional ladder into a three-dimensional matrix of interconnectedness. It allows him to put the prized male traits in proper perspective and bring new prized traits into the mix. It allows him to become a better leader. It allows him to become a better follower. It allows him to become more attuned to the one he cherishes most. It makes him a more active participant in the give-and-take dance of love, opening depths of relationship previously hidden from view.

In short, reading romance makes a man a better man. We should all strive to be better men. Our world, our families, and our lovers are all counting on it.

Writing Regency Romance: Courage or Stupidity?

Compared to writers of other genres, writers of Regency romance as a breed are either more optimistically courageous or just plain stupider.

This is where I should mention that I formerly wrote science fiction novels. My initial thought was, “Hey, I write science fiction. How hard can writing regency romance be?” As it turns out, somewhere between incredibly difficult and ridiculously difficult. Why is that?

When writing science fiction, I started with an endless canvas on which to create a story. No idea was too odd. No scenario was too outlandish. No character was too unbelievable. The only cardinal rule was this: please attempt to adhere to plausible science. Failing this rule can cause science fiction readers to wrinkle their collective noses in disgust. However, the writer may break even this rule if she provides a reasoned explanation for why gravity causes one to fly away from the planet instead of toward it. The writer need only do a respectable job of not grossly violating the laws of physics. Everything else is forgivable.

When writing regency romance, I instead began within a very narrow framework of time, space, and acceptable rules. And maintenance of the rules is an immovable object! If a writer breaks the rules cavalierly, she will receive swift and deserved condemnation and correction from an audience that seems to know more about the social rigors of riding in Hyde Park during the year 1815 than how to talk to a modern teenager. To heighten the challenge, the list of rules is immense. This list includes rules for what to say, what not to say, how to eat, how to dress, how to dance, how to smile, how not to smile, how to address those of different social classes in the context of any other social class, and “how” just about everything imaginable. The rules mean knowing the difference between a chemise and a chemisette, a chaise and a curricle, a Quadrille and a Scotch Reel, a baron and a baronet, and … everything and everything else. The writer cannot, may not, must not break these rules. And, for the love of God, never, never refer to Jane Austen as Jane Austin. I nearly lost a hand once when I did so.

More difficult than abiding religiously by the rules of regency romance is maintaining the contract with the reader. With science fiction, the writer makes a contract with the reader to provide something sciencey and fictiony, and perhaps melt the reader’s brain in the process. The story may end however the writer deems fit. The protagonist may win, lose, or draw, live or die, change the world or move into a bunker, become enlightened or get eaten by aliens, find love or lose it forever. It’s all acceptable within the bounds of the science fiction contract.

The regency romance contract is much, much narrower. As in, keyhole narrow. In particular, the writer must provide the reader with a happily ever after. No. Matter. What. The implications of this contract are mind boggling. In particular, before the reader lays eyes on the first word of the first page, the reader knows how the story will end. Typically, within a few pages, the reader also knows which characters will experience that blessed happy ending. This means, then, that the strength of any regency romance novel is in the journey. The writer must take familiar characters through a familiar landscape and familiar situations to a familiar conclusion while keeping the reader on the edge of her chair wondering, “holy-cow-I-can’t-believe-that-just-happened-what-will-happen-next?”

How difficult is it, then, to create a captivating story inside this narrow framework where literally tens of thousands of stories have been written? Difficult enough that only very talented or very naive people attempt it. As a new writer of Regency novels, I’m definitely in the latter category, but with hopes for future glory regardless of my inherent stupidity.

A Guy’s Guide to Regency Romance

Just as grunting, inappropriate scratching, and endless sports trivia long have been the domain of the male of the species, so historical romance novels have belonged solidly to the realm of women. Female authors (mostly), female readers (mostly), and female bloggers (mostly). It is the “mostly” that brought me to a starling conclusion. Some men enjoy – and even write – historical romance. I’m talking about guys who run jackhammers, hunt wild boar, and perform their own plumbing repairs. Even more astonishing is that recently those thin but proud ranks welcomed me. I have fallen down the rabbit hole of historical romance novels and don’t yet know how deep it goes. As a newcomer to the genre, I feel it my solemn duty to leave a trail of breadcrumbs along the way, not so that I may return, but that others of my gender may follow. If they are man enough.

Types of Romance Novels in General

Historical romance aside, there are basically three types of romance novels. The primary delineator among them are questions of sexual acts:

  • Do they happen at all,
  • If so, do they happen outside of the marriage bed,
  • If so, do you get to watch when they do happen.

The first category of historical romance basically consists of novels about sex with a minimal plot painted over the surface to set them apart from the magazines your uncle kept hidden in the backyard shed. In short, the plot is simply a vehicle for repeated and graphic sex scenes. Think “Fifty Shades of Amorous Congress” here.

The second category consists of novels having an actual plot where sex occurs as part of the story. There are two sub-categories for this: “fade-to-black” and “Mabel! Cover the eyes of the children!” In the fade-to-black sub-category, sex happens off-screen, so to speak. The other sub-category looks remarkably like the first category above during the time when sex is occurring. Graphic. And detailed.

The third category consists of novels where sex does not happen outside of the marriage bed, and when it does, you aren’t invited to watch, thank you very much. The shades remain drawn. What happens in Vegas stays in Vegas.

The Regency Romance Novel in Particular

In general, good historical romance consists of categories two and three only. Why? Because the level of research needed to produce a reasonably accurate historical novel typically forces an actual plot. With all that time spent researching, why just have the characters mate continuously? Nevertheless, category two can produce some blush-inducing scenes. Often. And in graphic detail. The audience for this category is enormous, as you might imagine.

That brings us to category three, and the special relationship it enjoys with Regency romance. The modern romance novel was invented by Jane Austen in the early 1800s, or at least popularized by her. If you don’t know by now who Jane Austen is, then you either slept through high school literature or have never actually talked to a woman. If either is the case, I suggest you go now and find a monster truck to drive. Through an explosion. To get to a fight.

For those of you still here, I would remind you that Jane Austen wrote her novels around the Regency period about characters that lived around the Regency period. I would also remind you that the Regency period, which lasted from 1811 to 1820, was the time during which King George battled debilitating mental illness and therefore was unable to serve as king. Meanwhile, his heir, the Prince Regent, was busy attempting to personally bankrupt the British Empire with his spending habits. As a result, Parliament kept a tight rein on the prince, which allowed him to party, philander, and spend even further. In other words, Justin Bieber.

The upper echelons of society somewhat mirrored the behavior of the Prince Regent through lavish parties, endless social maneuvering, and forbidden trysts. However, the good and hypocritical people of society never admitted such impropriety, and roundly condemned anyone careless enough to get caught and too poor to sweep it under the rug. Given that society’s ideal was that wives bring their virginity intact to the marriage bed, and given that Jane Austen was the daughter of a church minister, and given that she never married, she wrote to the ideal of society in terms of male/female relationship. No sex outside the marriage bed. Ever. And for heaven sake’s, don’t even hint about it. Given that approach, Regency romance novels occupying the third category are the most direct heirs to Jane Austen’s work.

The Male Archetypes

Now, then. This entire guide thus far has been about sex. Given that this is a guide for guys, it only seems appropriate. We typically start off thinking about it, finish up thinking about it, and manage to squeeze out a few rational thoughts in between. On a good day. This brings us to a discussion of the male archetypes that occupy Regency romance novels. There are three basic male hero archetypes. If you don’t know what an archetype is, shouldn’t you be looking for a monster truck by now? Anyway, the three male archetypes are:

  • The unrepentant rake.
  • The brooding wounded man.
  • The iron but dying man.

Rakes are smooth-talking, overtly charming ladies’ men who move swiftly through society from one conquest to another. Only the heroine can save him from his wicked and self-destructive ways, and bring on repentance and monogamy.

The brooding wounded man is, as you might guess, a man who suffers deep hurt from a past incident (usually at the hands of a woman), and broods relentlessly as a result. Only the heroine can heal him and draw him from his wounded shell into the land of light.

The iron but dying man is one who lets no outside force penetrate his emotional armor, but is slowly dying inside from lack of emotional contact. Only the heroine can find a chink in his armor and pour into him the love that will save him.

Regardless, all of the above are typically tall, broad-shouldered, and fill out a pair of trousers like a Russian gymnast. In addition, they are usually wealthy, titled, adept at societal functions, and surprisingly good dancers. Oh, and they are quick to jump to incorrect conclusions regarding the heroine, which they do with alarming repetition. Most heroes have an antagonist or two, regardless of the hero’s archetype. His antagonist is usually a lesser man who has more money, more power, or a higher title than does the hero. The antagonist often sets his sights on the heroine, and often only wants her for shallow reasons such as social standing, more money, and more power. The undeserving lout!

The Female Archetypes

There is only one female archetype for the heroine, really. The under-appreciated woman with hidden talent, beauty, will, title, or a combination of those, who fights bravely against male-centric societal conventions to break the shackles while winning the eternal affections of the hero. To know her is to love her, but getting to know her can prove a torturous journey filled with maddening pitfalls.

The antagonist of every heroine usually comes in the form of a woman whom the heroine sees as more beautiful, cultured, and/or connected than the heroine is. Said antagonist usually sets her sights on the hero and tries to win him with her charms while simultaneously discrediting the heroine in a very passive-aggressive manner. The hero is often either too brainless or too honor-bound to just tell the antagonist to shove off.

The Story Arcs

Story arcs usually go one of three ways.

  • Love or lust at first sight, complicated by a barrier. That barrier could be title (e.g. one is beneath the other’s station), a prior agreement (e.g. a marriage promise to a less worthy woman), a damaging act (usually, either the hero doing something stupid or the heroine running away, or both). Most often, though, the barrier consists of a series of misunderstandings that cause significant strife between the would-be couple before they sort it out in the final pages. These misunderstandings are often fueled by the antagonists. In between, there is a lot of flirting, touching, and kissing even when the heroic couple are at odds. In the more carnal categories, there is often sex. “I hate you. Now let’s have sex.”
  • Animosity or apathy at first sight. Animosity or apathy is usually brought on by the fact that some societal rule or faux pas forces the couple together, that their families are at war with one another, or that they simply get the wrong impression of one another. This story arc is basically the same as the first, but skips past the societal barrier straight to the string of misunderstandings. From there, the two arcs progress very similarly.
  • The slow burn. The couple experiences an initial interest that slowly builds into passion. This is again like the first story arc, but the barriers only manifest after the couple begins to fall for one another and believes for a brief moment that all will be well. Then the full weight of society collapses on top of them.

In other words, virtually every Regency romance tells the same story under differing circumstances. The characters, the settings, the actions, the historical context – all of this can differ dramatically. However, a good Regency romance is ultimately about a man and woman navigating the mine field of the very class-conscious and rule-bound world of Regency England in an attempt to find love with one another.

Five Rules

If this is all too much to take in at one time, then consider my Five Regency Romance Rules of Inevitability for understanding a Regency romance novel.

  1. If it is possible for the hero and heroine to jump to the wrong conclusion about the words or actions of the other, they inevitably will.
  2. If the hero and heroine have the opportunity to provide enlightening information that will resolve the incorrect conclusion of the other, they inevitably will be interrupted just before sharing it.
  3. If the couple attempts to avoid one another, they instead will encounter one another inevitably, repeatedly, and with nobody else around.
  4. If society has the opportunity to squash the budding relationship, it inevitably will try in rather ingenious ways.
  5. No matter what happens, don’t sweat the details, because the stories all end with a “happily ever after” – inevitably.

If, by this guide, you believe that I am mocking Regency romance novels, then you are sorely mistaken, sir, and risk a duel by insinuating so. In reality, I can’t get enough of the stuff, much to my everlasting bewilderment. After I finish reading a Regency romance novel, I feel the overwhelming urge to grow a beard, chop down a tree with an axe, or drive a monster truck through an explosion. However, I also experience actual, dare I say, feelings. I catch brief glimpses into the feminine side of my soul, and it blinds me. Somewhere, Jane Austen is smiling and shaking her head while I search for sunglasses.