If you’ve been in Romancelandia for longer than twenty minutes, you have probably noticed that the Regency reigns supreme when it comes to historicals. (Yes, for the purposes of romance settings, we’ll consider “long Regency” books to be Regency – that is, books set from around 1795 to the coronation of Victoria in 1837, despite the actual Regency-regency only lasting from 1811-1820). It’s the go-to era for a historical setting, giving us the Ton, Almack’s, the empire waisted gown, the Napoleonic wars, Gunter’s frozen ices licked in slow motion by Regé-Jean Page in Bridgerton…
Where was I, again?
Right. The Regency rules. But what is our SECOND favorite UK historical setting?
Time for a SETTING SMACKDOWN!
Don’t let the pastels fool you – these Neoclassical legends are gladiators through and through! IN THE BLUE CORNER, wearing powdered wigs and panniers, weighing in at thirty-seven Desert Isle Keepers and counting, and starring the kind of Chippendales with four legs, not two, it’s… THE GEORGIAN ERA!
Top reads of the Georgian era include Elizabeth Hoyt’s Maiden Lane series, Jo Beverley’s Malloren series, Stella Riley’s Rockliffe series, and the inimitable, unstoppable, many-times-imitated-but-never-duplicated saga Outlander.
But they’re up against some mighty difficult contenders.
Lasting sixty-four years, from 1837-1901, this contender has served up some of our favorite Gothic tales and least favorite misadventures in imperialism. Bringing everything from the sewing machine to the automobile, from the London Underground to the transatlantic telegraph, in the Red Corner, it’s…. THE VICTORIAN ERA!
The spooky gaslight of the Victorians lends itself to some grittier collections, like K.J. Charles’s Sins of the Cities series, Meredith Duran’s Rules for the Reckless, and Courtney Milan’s Brothers Sinister. Sherry Thomas has a number of delicious Victorian books (including, conveniently, Delicious), but we can only give her romance smackdown credit for ones like the Fitzhugh Trilogy that are non-steampunk/fantastical and are genre romances. Sorry, Charlotte Holmes – maybe in the mystery round!
The Georgian era was the heyday of highwaymen. Laura Kinsale’s exiled ex-highwayman S.T. Maitland, the Prince of Midnight, will sweep you off your feet, and Marsha Canham’s Pale Moon Rider, featuring Captain Starlight, will carry you away.
Gothic often says Victorian, such as Mimi Matthews’s A Convenient Fiction. But if you’re thinking about a Gothic Georgian (and a time travel one at that!) Susanna Kearsley’s The Rose Garden may be just what you wanted!
After so many rounds, we’re going to have to settle this bout on points. What say you, readers? Which era wins it for you? And which books have we left out?
I'm a history geek and educator, and I've lived in five different countries in North America, Asia, and Europe. In addition to the usual subgenres, I'm partial to YA, Sci-fi/Fantasy, and graphic novels. I love to cook.