Where did the Traditional Regency go?

Elizabeth Camden Ramblings about Romance 2 Comments

Answer: They have migrated into the Christian fiction world.

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!

Alpha or Beta?

Elizabeth Camden Ramblings about Romance 1 Comment

Ashley or Rhett? Healthcliff or Mr. Darcy?

In Romanceland, there are two types of heroes. The Alpha and the Beta. In the early years of genre romance (1970s-1980s) the Alpha male ruled supreme. He never saw a heaving bodice he didn’t want to tear asunder. He pillaged and plundered. He was always the corporate titan, the conquering Viking, the angry Duke.

Was it any wonder readers got weary of the Alpha Male, and turned to the kinder, gentler version in the 1990s? The beta hero is Mr. Nice Guy. He is responsible and kind. A great best friend. Think of Jimmy Stewart in A Wonderful Life or Tom Hanks in Sleepless in Seattle. Mainstream romances by Catherine Anderson, LaVyrle Spencer, and Pamela Morsi typically feature beta heroes. Heroes in Inspirational romances are usually betas. Despite the popularity of beta heroes in Inspirational, mainstream romance is still dominated by the Alpha.

In a recent Facebook party, I asked a group of women (mostly fans of inspirational romance) which they preferred. Of the 40 answers, about 35 were in favor of the beta heroes.

This kind of surprised me. I don’t think an Alpha male precludes the qualities of honor and decency inspirational readers expect in their heroes. For my own reading, I am an omnivore. So long as the hero and heroine have great romantic tension that crackles off the page, I don’t care if he is an Alpha or a Beta.

So….what’s your preference? Alpha or Beta?

My Favorite Romantic Movie Adaptations from Books

Elizabeth Camden Ramblings about Romance 4 Comments

For the most part, I don’t think books from the romance genre translate very well onto film. So much of what makes a romance novel enjoyable is the introspection and emotional growth of the characters, and those qualities are very difficult to translate well onto film. Many of the “romantic” movies that hit it big are really adaptations from mainstream novels that have a romantic thread.

Without further ado, here are my favorite adaptations of books into romantic movies. With the exception of Pride & Prejudice, I don’t consider any of these books to be romance novels… but they translated onto screen beautifully.

Shining Through (1992, based on the novel by Susan Isaacs) One of my all-time favorite movies, based on a book by Susan Isaacs. I loved it, even though I don’t generally appreciate Melanie Griffith. The heroine plays a translator during WWII who works for an American spymaster. She gets sent undercover into Germany to do a little digging around. She is a brave character, Michael Douglas was at his most attractive, and it has a spectacular ending. Highly recommended for romance fans.

Pride & Prejudice (2005, based on the novel by Jane Austen) I know most Austen aficionados prefer the BBC Colin Firth version, and I can appreciate that, but its just a little too long for me. I thought the casting of the 2005 movie was spectacular, the cinematography gorgeous, and Matthew Macfadyen? Well, he made the movie for me. 

Prince of Tides (1991, based on a novel by Pat Conroy.) I’m not a fan of Barbra Streisand, but I adore Nick Nolte, and he was terrific in this movie. This movie did a great job of capturing some of the introspective elements of a romantic relationship that are hard to capture on film without veering into schmaltz. It was beautifully photographed and celebrated manhood, fatherhood, and working through the struggles of life. I love the movie, although some of the themes in this movie might not be suitable for conservative folks. 

Bridget Jones’s Diary (2001, based on the novel by Helen Fielding) This was the book that launched the chick lit genre in 1996. I adored that book! At the time I first read it, I was a single woman and the themes of the book really resonated with me. I generally don’t care for movie adaptations of books I really enjoyed, but Renee Zellweger really pulled it off. Besides, a movie with Colin Firth and Hugh Grant? Sign me up!

Gone with the Wind (1939, based on the novel by Margaret Mitchell) Perhaps this is a predictable choice, but I couldn’t leave it off the list.

If you’ve missed any of these fantastic movies, Netflix is a wonderful thing!


Amish Vampires?

Elizabeth Camden The Book World Leave a Comment

Genre-blending that is so popular right now has finally seeped into the one genre I foolishly thought might remain pure: the Amish inspirationals. Such quiet, unassuming books! Such safe novels that transport the reader to a different, safer world.

It was not going to last. The vampires have found the Amish. Leanna Ellis has recently launched her Plain Fear series, about a young Amish man who goes to the big city, has an unfortunate encounter with a vampire….and poof, we’ve got an Amish vampire, who eventually returns to his community in search of the fiancé he left behind.

I haven’t read the series, so I can’t pass judgment…. I’ve got to confess to liking the cover. I always like a good gothic, and this certainly has that vibe.