The authors who pen historically accurate Regencies tend to follow a certain pattern. For one thing, they love Jane Austen. They’ve memorized her works, published, unpublished, and juvenilia. They’ve seen every movie based on those novels. They shun Billie Piper’s Mansfield Park, scoff at the last ten minutes of Sally Hawkins’ Persuasion, and swoon every time Colin Firth dives into the pond at Lyme Park.
These authors also read books about the period, learn English country dancing (at least virtually), and either scrounge the bucks to visit Bath and Lyme and Mayfair, or pore over old maps and images now online. Some even sew themselves period costumes and attend Jane Austen Society social events. Including balls.
Point is, these authors know what they’re writing about. Problem is, sometimes they neglect the romance while writing about the period. And the central element of a Regency is a romance. If that flops, what’s the point of the rest?
Star ratings for historically accurate Regencies tend to include lots of fours and fives, and a handful of twos and threes from general romance readers who wanted more than history. These books also tend to attract sockpuppet reviews from the competition. Hey, it’s a really rough field.
I’m sure you see where I’m going here. This second group of authors write beautiful love stories. But historically, they don’t get the Regency. The readers who love the era are turned off at the first inaccuracy. And because the Regency was such a very different era, there tend to be a lot of those.
It’s easy to spot these books on Amazon. They’re the ones with raving reviews from general romance readers, and sniffs and slams from historical ones. Their star ratings tend to be lower, with lots of fours and fives, lots of ones and twos, and a few threes.
But these books by general romance authors, those that aren’t slaves to historical accuracy, are not bad books. Often they have wonderful love stories, engaging characters, and delightfully intricate plotlines. They fulfill the general romance reader’s yearning for a good read. Unfortunately, they leave the historical reader irritated. At best.
Readers can figure out which category a book is in by looking at the ratings, and reading the reviews and sample chapters. But the poor writer must make a choice.
Which readers do you want to please?
More on this new topic later. For now, cheers.