All authors are told that a key trope in writing is to do a dramatic opening scene to catch a reader’s interest, and then build the backstory that helps develop the plot. So I’m going to play around with a variation of that today (and no, the first line is not going to be ‘It was a dark and stormy night . . .” Though I confess, I’ve always rather like the idea of playing with that one.) So here we go:
A metallic click caused Marcus Fitzherbert Greeley, the seventh Earl of Killingworth to look up from his ledgers.
“Who’s there?” he called sharply.
No answer sounded in reply, but after a moment the draperies stirred and a dark shape emerged from the midnight shadows. As the cloaked figure approached his desk, candlelight glinted off the steel of an ancient pistol.
“Stand up,” came the curt command.
The case clock ticked off a second or two before the earl put down his pen and rose.
“Take off your coat.”
He didn’t move, save for a slight twitch of his raven brows.
“You think a mere female incapable of pulling the trigger? I assure you, I should like nothing better, if you give me the slightest provocation.” The young lady—for her speech, if not her actions, indicated that she was indeed a lady—stepped closer. “And in case you are wondering, I am accorded to be a decent shot.”
The above are the first paragraphs of Pistols at Dawn, a brand new, never-before published traditional Regency Romance written under my old pen name of Andrea Pickens, which will be hitting the cyber shelves on June 2.
Okay, now the backstory. Some of you may know that my very first book, The Defiant Governess, was for Signet, which published a special line of traditional Regency romances. I did ten stories for them before moving on to a new niche—mass market historicals—and a new nom de plume—Cara Elliott. Like many of the other Wenches, I have gotten the rights back to my early books and have self-published them as e-books.
The process of getting them edited and formatted for the digital format made me think a lot about the “trad” Regency form and how it is different from what we broadly call “historical” Regencies, especially in their highly evolved modern variations. For me, there are two key elements that distinguish the “trad.” For one, it’s a shorter length—usually 60-70,000 words rather than the 85-95,000 of mass market historicals. More importantly to my mind is the fact that it’s typically “sweet,” which means, like the works of its patron Goddesses Austen and Heyer, the stories contain no explicit sex.
Both elements play a very fundamental role in shaping the story. With fewer words to play with, an author has to really concentrate on developing the character arc—what’s the core conflict that is keeping the hero and heroine apart, and how do they grow and change in order to resolve it? Plot is of course important, but it’s the main characters who must stay in clear focus. While many modern Regency historicals have a lot of bells and whistles—mystery plots woven in, important secondary characters who tend to have spin-off books of their own in the offing—the “trad” is at heart, a simple love story.
Sex. Now, aside from the titters the word provokes, there really is a big difference between a book that has graphic nitty-gritty and one that doesn’t. In a “trad,” where the bedroom door stays firmly shut, the powerful, provocative chemistry that ignites an irresistible attraction must be created with psychological tension rather than physical fire. It’s more subtle and suggestive . . .
And clearly, there is a a strong market for the “trad” despite what the big publishers think. My old Signet titles are selling very well, as are those of many other Regency authors. (I’ve been amazed that The Defiant Governess had garnered over 170 reviews on Amazon since I put it out in e-book form.)
As I re-read my old worked, I realized how much I enjoyed working within the tighter constraints of a “trad.” And so, when I realized that I had an old, unfinished manuscript in my desk drawer, and a way to bring it to readers through self-publishing, I sharpened my cyber pencil and got to work. I really enjoyed writing Pistols At Dawn (and I hope readers will enjoy reading it!) In fact, it was so fun to get back to my roots that I’ve started work on a new trilogy of “trad” Regencies. So stay tuned!
So what about you? Do you have a preference between “trad” and historical Regencies? Or do you enjoy them both? And how do you feel about graphic sex scenes in a romance novel? I’ll be giving away an e-book copy of Pistols At Dawn to reader who will be chosen at random from those leaving a comment here between now and Tuesday evening.