A Regency Ramble
I’m pleased to welcome another guest this week – Heidi Ashworth. As is the case with so many of my writer friends, Heidi and I got to know each other via the internet. And I do feel that I know her, based on messages exchanged and her postings on Avaloners, a list shared by authors published by Avalon Books. (Most of the original books are now available from Montlake if they’re romances or Thomas & Mercer if they’re mysteries.) When a question is asked, Heidi is often the first to answer. When someone is discouraged, she is quick to encourage. In short, though we live thousands of miles apart and haven’t actually met face to face, I know her as a warm and generous person. As for her writing … I’ll let her speak for herself.
I read my first Regency-era romance when I was four years old, the word ‘read’ being a relative term as I was only able to make out ‘the’ and one or two other simple words. It was The Talisman Ring by Georgette Heyer (something I didn’t know for many years later, even after having read the whole book in my twenties. It wasn’t until I finally found an edition with the same heart-stoppingly romantic cover, as in, the hero, his head wrapped in a white bandange, weak and in bed with a colorful patchwork quilt over him, that I realized it was the same book.) and my sister would not give it to me if I couldn’t prove that I could read it. Two simple words did not qualify me as worthy, however, and I forgot about it.
However, my mother and much older sisters were reading regencies by the handsful. It was the sixties and regencies were wildly popular, even amongst those who later moved on to the more graphic “historical novels”. Georgette Heyer was the mother of the genre, despite the fact that she started out writing Georgian-set romances (most of which I love as much, if not better, than her regencies) but she was quickly imitated by the likes of Barbara Cartland and others. I made my first attempt at writing my own at age ten (again, I hadn’t read more than, literally, a few words of The Talisman Ring) a six page affair that took place in France in 1972. I had a lot to learn about what constituted a Regency romance.
Very shortly thereafter, one of my sisters introduced me to The Hobbit and The Chronicles of Narnia and I was off on a fantasy-only adventure that lasted until my mid-twenties. By then, more current Regency genre greats such as Joan Smith, Barbara Metzger, Carla Kelly, Marion Devon and many others were writing shorter, funnier, lighter and, at times, more emotionally satisfying, regency romances than had been available in the past. I read my first (I loved it but quickly learned that it was garbage and moved on to other authors whose names I still recall) and I was hooked. Who wouldn’t want to spend all day sitting around in a gorgeous gown, attended to by servants, taken out on carriage rides and spins around the ballroom by handsome young men and speaking in an English accent? At their core, Regency romances are the quintessential Cinderella story, which just happens to be my most favorite story of all. In short, they are the die-hard romantic’s fantasy novel of all fantasy novels.
By the time I had my first baby and was able to quit working full time, I knew what I wanted to write and, this time, I had a much better idea of how to go about it. It involved speaking in an English accent for a solid six weeks, a development with which my husband was very patient. That particular book was never submitted for publication but the next finally did find a publisher (erm, about fourteen years later but we won’t talk about that) and since I have published two more, as well as two novellas, and have written three more short stories coming out in an anthology in October of 2013.
As long as there are those who are true romantics at heart and who enjoy being transported to another time and place, Regency romances will have their place on the bookshelf (virtual or otherwise). Long live the Regency romance!
Thanks, Heidi, for sharing your love of Regency romances with us. I think you’re right, they’ll always have a place on the bookshelf. Who can resist a Cinderella story? And I have to say, they make the prettiest covers.
If you’d like to learn more about Heidi Ashworth, here’s her website: http://www.heidiashworth.com/