Regency vs. A Regency

World, meet Tristan Kelly. 

I was talking to Marie Sexton this morning, and she casually mentioned a mistake that she made with the book her publisher is releasing today. Some readers have stumbled upon something that I never considered as an obstacle. (I read parts of the book in beta.) Her book contains the word “regency.” This has lead some to call it a Regency Romance, and others to go into the book thinking that it is a Regency Romance in space. I imagine their surprise when they get a few chapters in to discover that not only is it not a Regency. It’s erotica. Of the male/male variety.

And the first thing that popped into my head was “definitions!” Hello, dictionary, I have missed you. (Not really, but it doesn’t need to know that. Shhh.)

re·gent
noun /ˈrējənt/ 
regents, plural

  • A person appointed to administer a country because the monarch is a minor or is absent or incapacitated
  • A member of the governing body of a university or other academic institution

adjective /ˈrējənt/ 

  • Acting as regent for a monarch
    • the queen regent of Portugal

re·gen·cy
noun /ˈrējənsē/ 
regencies, plural

  • The office or period of government by a regent
  • A commission acting as regent
  • The particular period of a regency, esp. (in Britain) from 1811 to 1820 and (in France) from 1715 to 1723

adjective /ˈrējənsē/ 

  • Relating to or denoting British architecture, clothing, and furniture of the Regency or, more widely, of the late 18th and early 19th centuries. Regency style was contemporary with the Empire style and shares many of its features: elaborate and ornate, it is generally neoclassical, with a generous borrowing of Greek and Egyptian motifs

Pride and Prejudice, 2005.

A Regency Romance is one that takes place in the United Kingdom between the years of 1795 and 1837. This period is a little longer than the actual rule of George IV as prince regent, but that’s because they’re including the transition from Georgian to Victorian eras.

Regency Romance has some conventions that are period appropriate, and others that are expectations of the audience who reads them. You can read what appears to be a short list on Wikipedia.  The regency of George IV, Prince of Wales, is the setting and timeframe of Regency Romance, but the genre does not and should not impact the word “regency” in the same way.

Queen Haptshetsut, Pharoah of Egypt
My son says, “She looks like chocolate!”

When I hear the word “regent,” I don’t think of Britain. I don’t think of France, which had a regency period of its own in the 18th century. I think of Egypt.

Queen Hapshetsut ruled as king for 22 years of the 18th dynasty. There’s a lot of revisionism and hyperbole in Egyptian history. On one hand, she is well regarded in inscriptions, and on the other, her forms were chiseled out leaving Hapshetsut-shaped voids. She stepped on toes, but Egypt prospered, so I feel comfortable in thinking she ruled well. Which is not an assessment of her character as a woman, because just look at that picture. They gave her every symbol acknowledging a pharaoh (who they regarded as a god on earth). She had the nerve to claim the throne of Egypt as rightfully hers, and people said okay. She had to be a magnificent bitch. But…she wasn’t technically the king, which only validates my admiration. She was her step-son’s co-regent, because he was a child when his father died.

Other countries to have regent periods include Finland, Hungary, and Iceland while it was ruled by Denmark. When Poland and Lithuania were a dual-state, they were ruled by a Roman Catholic Primate during the years between kings, which were elected. At present, San Marino elects two captain regents twice per year to rule the country in tandem. In addition to nations, regency principles are also a component of modern universities.

So, let’s look at the blurb for Blind Space.

Captain Tristan Kelley enjoys the luxuries of Regency service, as well as the pleasure of his prince’s bed. It’s an easy life, if not a happy one. When the prince decides to take a trip through the perilous Blind Space, Tristan must go with him, but somebody in the prince’s guard is a traitor.

Blind and held prisoner, Tristan finds himself at the mercy of Valero, a pirate who bears no love for the Regency. Valero is determined to seduce Tristan, and Tristan fears his resolve won’t last. His duty is clear, but so is his desire. As the days tick by without word from the Regency, Tristan begins to question his loyalty to his prince, the Regency he’s sworn to, and the man who holds him captive.

Tristan begins to realize that being a prisoner may actually set him free.

The word “Regency” is used four times in the blurb. I have issues with the repetition, but that’s neither here nor there. In this context, there are some things that are clear: 1) Regency is a governmental entity, 2) the story is taking place in space, not Great Britain.

Maybe that doesn’t necessarily preclude it from being a Regency Romance. The genre probably has sex slaves, pirates and seduction. Is there a gay Regency sub-subgenre. I don’t read Regency, so I have no idea.

Silver’s site has an information tab for their books, so lets click on that. It says, “Gay, Pirates, Romance, Science Fiction.”

I guess what I’m trying to say is that as readers, we should not rely solely on our understanding of a word, particularly when all other evidence points in a different direction. “Space” should be the first clue that this isn’t a Regency Romance. Based on the blurb, it could be a Regency-type Romance set in space, but wouldn’t that be a great marketing point? The very fact that it’s not marketed as such rather stacks the odds against it being that.

And as writers, I truly believe we have a responsibility to know from where our genres come. Regency authors should know not only what the elements of Regency are, but where they came from and how they came into being. For instance, an author with eloping characters needs to know that the logistics of  such a move were different in 1752 than they were is 1753. Science fiction has many layers flavors ranging from soft to hard, and some of them have nothing to do with fantastic technology or space ships. Paranormal and Urban Fantasy authors need to know what is being done in their genre by other authors, and they need to know how far they can push the limits of their audience’s belief. While it’s acceptable, (and as a reader, I would encourage the authors) to break conventions, it is necessary to know what the conventions are first.

We all, myself included, need to know the difference between “Regency” and “a regency.”

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