Sunday, October 24, 2010
Are Regency Romances Paranormal by Definition?
What does paranormal mean as a genre, really? I’ve been thinking about that lately vis-à-vis Regency romances. No, not ones with vampires or werewolves or sea monsters, but how the romances themselves conform to a paranormal paradigm. They’re all basically human stories played out against a background with unspoken rules and tropes. With vampires, the tropes include sucking blood, no reflection in mirrors, and intolerance of daylight; with werewolves, it’s changing form to a wolf, the full moon, and the transformative bite. Regency romances often have nothing at all to do with the reality of the historical Regency period, but they have their tropes as well – the obligatory mention of Almacks, Gunter’s ices, Vauxhall pleasure gardens, the scandalous waltz, the oh-so-tight top coat and the shiny Hessian boots. And, of course, there’s the issue that apparently there must be dozens of handsome, unmarried dukes (all rakes, but underneath completely honorable and noble) standing around on every streetcorner!
My most recent release, Mr. Darcy’s Obsession, didn’t follow the some of the Regency romance rules. I decided to show a few darker details of Regency life, though it’s still in truth a whitewashed version and definitely a happily every after story. I left out most of the tropes and replaced them with genteel poverty, the limited future for unmarried women, and a few images of how Regency men tended to view women. All pretty minor, to tell the truth, but I’ve been hearing about them from shocked readers.
In one of my earlier books, Mr. Fitzwilliam Darcy: The Last Man in the World, Elizabeth Bennet ends up married to Mr. Darcy when she still believes him to be ill-tempered, proud, and selfish. At one point during a quarrel, Elizabeth flinches away from an angry Darcy because she’s afraid he’s about to hit her. Oh, my, the indignation that provoked from readers! How could I possibly have Elizabeth think such a thing about Darcy? Perhaps because any Regency woman, let alone one as clever as Elizabeth, would expect their husband to hit them if provoked! It was legal, it was seen as appropriate chastisement, and more often than not, the woman would take the blame. Now, we all know that Mr. Darcy would never strike a woman, but Elizabeth has no way of knowing that. But once again, I’d broken the rules for Regency romance.
In a way, the traditional Regency romance really is a paranormal – it’s set in a mutually agreed upon fantasy world that bears a slight resemblence to an actual period in English history, but one in which men are enlightened and sensitive creatures and women far more outrageous than they would ever have dared to be in reality.
What are some of the repeated motifs and rules you’ve seen in Regency romances? What other genres are also para-paranormal?