The King is Dead

Monday, May 14, 2012

Regency/Gothic 1: What is Regency Romance?*

If I could be any fictional babe-magnet in the world, I would be Nightcrawler.  Mr. Darcy would rank pretty high, though.

Savage Worlds led me to Regency Romances.

Seriously.

I forget exactly how I hooked up with Regency Romances.  Some years ago, after watching "Fullmetal Alchemist" and its pseudo-European 19/20th Century setting (oddly enough), we got the idea to do a 19th Century Gothic romance for our annual Halloween RPG.  I did a little research and found myself intrigued by Byron, the Shelleys, and their era.  I think this inspired us to give the 1995 "Pride & Prejudice" with Colin Firth's wet t-shirt a try and then the interest lay dormant for a while -- until we started playing Savage Worlds.

I encountered Matt Borselli's Savage Jane Austen article from his e-zine One Thousand and One Nights and One Night (and I just realized Borselli is still on the web at Asshat Paladins) and various forum threads about how Savage Worlds would be a bad fit for Regency Romances and...  I guess I just got kind of ornery.  I talked Robin into trying to write a Regency supplement for Savage Worlds and we went out last summer and bought a ton of Regency Romances and history books.  And then I fell in love with Loretta Chase.

Loretta Chase doesn't write classic, Jane Austen-style Regencies.  She writes what TV Tropes calls "Regency Historicals;" they're not quite Jane Austen with the naughty bits left in, because Chase writes about far more shocking, scandalous people than Aunt Jane would have ever acknowledged.  The men  are witty yet masculine, decadent yet conscientious; the women are sensuous yet sensible, independent yet vulnerable.  There is nothing in these stories of adventure and seduction for a straight man to not like.  Now that George MacDonald Fraser has passed on, Loretta Chase is my favorite living author -- and trust me, Flashman would like her books too.

This new-found enthusiasm for the Regency led me back to Jane Austen and a greater appreciation for her works.  Impeccably-mannered, emotionally-reserved star-crossed lovers struggle against the barriers of class and society.  Biting social commentary hides beneath delicate muslin.  The modern romantic comedy springs fully-formed from Austen's brow.

Regency Romances are stories about damaged people trying to find love despite their own flaws and a society that makes women a commodity and marriage a commercial transaction.  They are set in an age that was both beautiful and repugnant -- a time of great pomp and spectacle, of refinement and gentility, of decadence and consumerism, of repression and fear -- and those stories make the era more beautiful by their presence.  They are stories about the greatest adventure of all: making yourself worthy of love.     


What's not to like?

* Yes, I decided this is the official beginning of the Regency/Gothic Design Journal.  So sue me.

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