I absolutely love writing Regency-set romance novels. The Regency period is so much fun! But if you’re relatively new to Regency romances, there might be a few terms you’re not familiar with.
Words to Know
First of all, you might be wondering what, exactly, the Regency is.
Regency—the period between 1811 and 1820 when King George III was considered too ill to rule and his son, later George IV, was made regent in his place. Novels set anywhere between 1800 and the mid-1820s are often considered Regencies.
There are lots of French words used in Regency romances. That’s because everything French was considered de rigeur (required by the current fashion) in Regency England. Here are a few French terms you might acquaint yourself with.
Haute Ton—This is sometimes abbreviated as ton. It refers to British high society.
Bon mot—You’re likely to find a humorous secondary character making bon mots. These are witty sayings.
Dishabille—This word isn’t exclusive to Regencies, but it’s a favorite. It means a state of being only partly dressed. Our hero might find our heroine in such a state. How delicious!
When it comes to Regency England, it’s all about class. In Regency romance you really only need to know about one class: the upper class. The members of the upper ten thousand. The ton. The peerage. Who are the peers? The peers are all those titled aristocrats (a word not yet in use during the Regency, by the way). Here they are, in order of importance.
You might occasionally run into a baronet or a prince or a foreign peer, but for the most part, you’re going to see a lot of dukes, earls, and marquesses. These were the men who had the money, the land, and all the privileges. They sat in the House of Lords in Parliament and made the laws. They had town houses in London and country estates in places like Shropshire and Sussex. These are the sexy bad boy billionaires of the Regency.
In Regency novels, there’s one Season. This is the period from about Easter until mid-summer when all of Society (the ton) was in Town (London) because Parliament was sitting (making laws). The men went to Town and the ladies followed. The Season was when debutantes were presented at Court and all the single ladies tried to catch husbands. Lavish balls were held as well as musicals, routs, soirees, and fetes. Everyone dressed to the nines, drank too much, stayed out too late, and slept all day. They could do that. They had servants to do things like laundry, child care, and cooking.
Servants are always in the background, and sometimes in the foreground, of Regency novels. Here are a few servants you might encounter in a Regency novel.
Valet (pronounced val-et)
If you watch Downton Abbey, you’re already familiar with these positions. Downton takes place well after the Regency period (100 years or so), but many of the customs of the Regency are still alive and well even 100 years later.
If you read enough Regencies, you’ll encounter if not the actual person, the mention of some famous people. Here are a few you might have heard of.
Lily Dalton, the Countess of Charm
Okay, that last one isn’t actually a famous person or even a real person. She’s the heroine of my latest novel, Sapphires Are an Earl’s Best Friend. Lily isn’t a real countess. That’s her sobriquet (nickname—they were big on those in the Regency). She’s actually a courtesan, and yes, that’s another Regency term for a high class prostitute. But Lily has a secret. She’s not actually a courtesan. She’s a spy for the British Foreign Office (like the CIA or MI6 these days), and she’s after a traitor. She thinks the traitor might be the Duke of Ravenscroft, who just happens to be the father of her longtime crush, Andrew, the Earl of Darlington. Andrew wants to hate Lily for taking up with his father, but something about Lily intrigues him. When he discovers there’s more to her flirtation than greed, he knows he must help her uncover a traitor. Even if that traitor is his own father…
COMMENT TO WIN:
Spies, dukes, courtesans! What could be more fun? Have you read any Regencies you loved lately? Any questions about the period? One person who comments will win copies of all three books in my Regency Jewels of the Ton series, When You Give a Duke a Diamond, If You Give a Rake a Ruby, and Sapphires Are an Earl’s Best Friend (US/Canada only).