That would be England’s George IV, of course, who was dubbed “Prinny” by his subjects during his time as Prince Regent, from 1811 until 1820. But how, exactly, might poor Prinny be responsible for murdering an entire sub-genre of romance?
Obviously he’s not, but according to some commentators the Regency Period has helped do a pretty good job of killing historical romance. There’s been a discussion in the romance blogosphere that puts forward the case that Regency Romances are strangling the genre with a constant stream of dukes and earls who moonlight as spies/crime lords/gambling kings, and pert misses/courtesans/merry widows who involves themselves in all sorts of activities and professions that sometimes seem insanely anachronistic. Some bloggers and readers claim many of these books are derivative, repetitive, silly…well, you get the picture.
As a Regency writer myself, I tend to disagree. It is true that Regency Romances dominate this sub-genre of the industry, both in traditionally published and self-published books. It’s also true that sales numbers for historical romance—as far as they can be accurately ascertained—are lower than sub-genres like paranormal romance, New Adult and YA, and the phenomenally popular contemporary romance.
But does that mean historical romance is fading away like a be-capped spinster firmly on the shelf? I don’t think so. An admittedly unscientific perusal of various bestseller lists in historical romance shows a preponderance of Regencies, but also a fair number of Westerns (yay!), Medievals, Victorians, Scottish historicals set in various periods, some World War II romances, a few Celtic romances, and one set in Wales in 1280. A number of these are backlist books achieving new life through self-publishing, but the fact remains that readers are rediscovering those books and loving them.
Romance sub-genres all have their ups and downs. Several years ago romantic suspense was hot, hot, hot…until wasn’t. During the last few years you couldn’t sell a romantic suspense book or proposal to New York to save your life. But that’s also changing thanks to new players on the scene like Amazon’s Montlake imprint, and to indie publishing. Maybe romantic suspense isn’t quite off life support, but it certainly seems to be on the way to making a comeback.
As for historical romance, there are simply too many wonderful writers—Regency or otherwise—for it to be labelled as dead. Writers like Elizabeth Hoyt (gritty Georgian era romances), Jeannie Lin (Tang Dynasty China), Jo Goodman (Westerns), Pamela Clare (Colonial America) and talented Regency writers like Loretta Chase, Jo Bourne, and JQ’s own Shana Galen and Robyn DeHart.
Do I wish there was more breadth to the genre? Heck, yes. I’d love to see more romances set in far flung times and places, like Imperial Rome or ancient Egypt. I think those days are coming, especially with crossover books that straddle the line between historical fiction and historical romance.
But did Prinny and the Regency kill historical romance? To my mind, not even close.
Do you think historical romance is on life support? What settings and eras would you like to see more of?