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How to Write an Utterly Delightful Regency Romance Story


The Regency romance genre is experiencing a resurgence thanks to the recent success of Netflix's Bridgerton. If you're interested in writing your own Regency romance, keep reading to learn the basics so you can write a captivating Regency romance story that will make your readers swoon.

What is Regency romance?

Regency romance is a romance subgenre that takes place in high society England during the early 19th century. The Regency officially refers to the nine-year period from 1811 to 1820 when the Prince Regent ruled England; however, not all Regency romances are set during this short period. Regency romances can take place in any time between 1790 and 1835 and are often classified as Regency romances based on plotlines, character tropes, societal tones, and opulence.

Regency romances feature fast-paced, intelligent dialogue through which the reader experiences characters falling in love. In traditional Regency romances, characters might long for each other and there might be implied sexual tension, but traditional Regency romance does not include bodice-ripping sex scenes, and even a quick kiss might be considered scandalous.

In historical Regency romances, the same high society characters with quick wit fall in love during the Regent period, but the characters in historical Regency romances often act on their sexual tension through explicit sex scenes. If you've read any of Julia Quinn's Bridgerton books or seen the Netflix adaptation, you probably already know that Bridgerton, with its passionate sex scenes, is classified as a historical Regency romance.

Why write Regency romance?

There are many reasons that you might want to experiment with writing a Regency romance:

  • Perhaps you want to explore 19th-century gender roles and societal expectations to better understand our current society's gender norms.
  • Maybe you want to escape to a time when romantic relationships seemed less complicated, even if that time occurred before electricity or running water.
  • Maybe you want to satirize the fact that even the most "romantic" of Regency men viewed women as property that they owned or conquered.
  • Perhaps you're a die-hard romantic who quivers at the thought of men riding horses and dueling over a woman's honor as she weeps into her dainty handkerchief.

Do your research

Before you start writing, do some homework to familiarize yourself with the genre. Georgette Heyer is credited as the mother of Regency romance, so start by reading one of her many books. If you want to read historical Regency romances with steamy sex scenes, consider the aforementioned Julia Quinn's Bridgerton series, which starts with The Duke and I.

As you read Regency romances, pay attention to the language, fashions, and social norms that are specific to the time period. When you encounter phrases or aspects of society that you are unfamiliar with, pause to do some research. Unless you are a Regency scholar, you will probably need to continue researching throughout your writing process, because Regency romance readers will be quick to point out any anachronistic elements in your story.

After you've read some Regency romances and done your initial research, decide if you want write a traditionally chaste Regency romance with unspoken sexual tension or a historical Regency romance that brings readers into the bedroom.

Before we develop your characters, start thinking about your story's overall plot. If you don't have a plotline in mind yet, consider one of the following scenarios:

  1. A betrothed woman falls in love with another man before her wedding.
  2. A young unwed woman must decide whether to marry a rich man for status or marry a poor man for love.
  3. An innocent woman's reputation is compromised, so she must marry immediately before it becomes a scandal.
  4. A handsome young duke arrives in London and two eligible sisters both want to marry him.
  5. An independent young beauty refuses to even meet the man her parents have chosen for her to marry, but she accidentally encounters him and falls madly in love with him.

Character development

Now that you've got a general idea of your overall plot, start creating the characters for your central love story. Regency romances depict burgeoning relationships between members of Britain's highest social class, which was known as the ton. As stated within, the ton consisted of royals, aristocrats, and the wealthiest, best-connected members of the middle classes. These were the Regency's trendsetters and taste-makers: the celebrities and influencers of their day. The central characters in your Regency romance will be members of the ton, and everything they do will be dictated or judged by the societal rules of the ton. As you develop your characters and identify what is most important to them, you will probably find natural conflict that will fuel your story.

Like many romance subgenres, Regency romances are full of familiar character tropes. If you're writing a Regency romance, these characters tropes will appear in some, if not all, of your characters. Don't panic at the thought of your characters fitting into a predetermined mold: Romance readers tend to swoon over familiar character types and plot lines that end with the protagonists in a happily-ever-after marriage. Once you add in some distinguishing features and unique characteristics, readers might not even notice that some of your heroine's core qualities contain echoes of heroines from other Regency romance stories.

As you create your female protagonist, consider the standard female characteristics in Regency romances: Most female protagonists are headstrong and independent virgins in a society that prizes virginity but does not value independent women. Most likely, your very fashionable female protagonist will have just debuted in society, so she will be expected (or pressured) to find a man of status to marry before society declares her an old maid. She will attend countless balls or formal gatherings where she will dance with suitors and engage in flirtatious banter without catching the attention of any gossiping old ladies at the ball.

To create a well-rounded female protagonist, ask yourself the following questions:

  1. What is her status in society?
  2. Does her appearance suit her, or is her appearance misleading?
  3. Is she satisfied with her position in society, or does she hope to elevate her status through marriage?
  4. What makes her different from the females around her?
  5. Are there elements of her past that will complicate her future?
  6. How does she feel about society's expectations of her?
  7. What are her goals or hopes in life?

As you create your male protagonist, consider the standard characteristics for Regency men: Most male protagonists will be promiscuous eligible bachelors with distinguished titles who are vain, well dressed, and unconcerned with society's norms. As you develop your male protagonist, ask yourself the following questions:

  1. What is his status in society?
  2. Does his appearance suit him, or is his appearance misleading?
  3. What makes him most appealing to young ladies? (To create conflict, this quality might also make other characters view him with suspicion).
  4. What makes him different from the other eligible men around him?
  5. Are there elements of his past that will complicate his future?
  6. How does he feel about society's expectations of him?
  7. What are his goals or hopes in life?

Create conflict

Once you've created character outlines for your protagonists/love interests, consider what aspects of their characters will add natural tension to the story. If your female protagonist is obsessed with the ton and wants society to view her as noble and pure but your male protagonist is a rake who doesn't care about societal norms, yet they are either attracted to each other or forced together by outside forces, you already have natural conflict. To further advance any implicit conflict, consider how supporting characters could create challenges for the young lovers. Adding in an overbearing mother who is determined that her daughter must marry a royal or introducing a jealous friend who sabotages the protagonist's happiness can add depth to the story while creating tension that keeps readers engaged.

After you've identified potential conflicts through your character outlines, explore ways to incorporate the pressure of the ton's rigid social expectations, the importance placed on unmarried females' reputations, and the intensity of young lovers' hormones. When you pair these elements with your characters' opposing hopes or desires, you will find plenty of tantalizing ways to complicate your story's central conflict.

Start writing

Through this process, you have selected a plotline, created a clear vision of your story's central characters and how they relate to each other, and identified the conflicts that your characters need to overcome before they can achieve the happily-ever-after resolution at the end of your story. Now it's time to start writing. Most likely, your characters will guide you through the story, and the details of the plot will become clear as you write. If you get stuck at any point, look back on the character development questions and listen as your protagonists reveal how they will react in various situations.

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