If you were reading romance novels in the 1970’s or 80’s, you know what I mean by a traditional regency. These are books written in the tone of Jane Austen and Georgette Heyer. Emphasis was on the setting, manners, and foibles of upper class British society between 1811-20. As seen in a typical Jane Austen movie, the behavior of most characters is very proper and constrained. Activities seem limited to carriage rides, morning calls, dinner parties and balls. I think a large part of the appeal was that they were generally a safe read. They followed established conventions and the reader knew what they were going to get.
Enter the sensual regency romance, lead by writers such as Amanda Quick, Lisa Kleypas, Eloisa James, and Christina Dodd. The time period was the same, but these regencies featured seething emotions, turbulent affairs, and explicit sex. Some writers of traditional regencies (Mary Balogh, Jo Beverly) crossed over to the other side. These books sold like wildfire in the popular market, and publishers quickly saw the appeal. Many readers of traditional regency crossed over, but others were horrified. The new regencies paid scant attention to the exacting historical detail prized in the earlier version of the genre. The subtlety and restraint was often washed away in a sea of surging emotions.
Many publishers began dropping their traditional regency lines in the rush to produce the more popular, steamier versions. Those books still sell very well today, but what about the people who long for the return of the traditional regency?
The Inspirational fiction category is going gangbusters in this area. Fantastic new writers are delving into the genre with the same level of attention to historical detail. I believe these new writers have succeeded in freshening up the genre with more creative storylines while remaining true to the historical era. Writers who fall into this category include Julie Klassen, Laurie Alice Eakes, and Kaye Dacus. The genre is exploding with new talent, so I know there are scads of other great inspirational writers of regency romances out there.
I would invite those mainstream readers who mourn the loss of the traditional regency to cross over to dip your toe into the Inspirational fiction market. Most of these novels are very true to the spirit of the traditional regency values, manners, and storylines. I think you will be pleased!