Alternative Regency Fiction

As I mentioned last week, I just went to Worldcon, i.e. the World Science Fiction Convention, which is five days of all sorts of fascinating fun.

One of the authors there was Madeleine E. Robins, author of the Regency-set slightly-alternate-history Regency adventure-mystery novels POINT OF HONOUR and PETTY TREASON. Unfortunately, I missed the panels she was on (there were always ten or twenty wonderful things to do every hour, and I kept wishing I had Hermione Granger’s spell to split into five people), so I can’t relay any brilliant inside info. But I can say that I really enjoyed POINT OF HONOUR, am looking forward to reading its sequel, and love to see what writers in different genres do with the Regency.

Also present was Naomi Novik, author of the hot new series about the Napoleonic Wars with a twist — dragons. I haven’t yet begun the series (which starts with HIS MAJESTY’S DRAGON) but I now have a signed copy of the second installment, and have heard great things about these books.

Have you read any of these books? If so, what did you think?

What other Regency-set books from other genres (mystery, SF, fantasy, general fiction, anything else) have you read? What do you think about them? Which would you recommend? Which ones are you looking forward to reading?

All opinions welcome!

Cara King, winner of the Booksellers’ Best Award for Best Regency of 2005, for MY LADY GAMESTER

About Elena Greene

Elena Greene grew up reading anything she could lay her hands on, including her mother's Georgette Heyer novels. She also enjoyed writing but decided to pursue a more practical career in software engineering. Fate intervened when she was sent on a three year international assignment to England, where she was inspired to start writing romances set in the Regency. Her books have won the National Readers' Choice Award, the Desert Rose Golden Quill and the Colorado Romance Writers' Award of Excellence. Her Super Regency, LADY DEARING'S MASQUERADE, won RT Book Club's award for Best Regency Romance of 2005 and made the Kindle Top 100 list in 2011. When not writing, Elena enjoys swimming, cooking, meditation, playing the piano, volunteer work and craft projects. She lives in upstate New York with her two daughters and more yarn, wire and beads than she would like to admit.
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14 Responses to Alternative Regency Fiction

  1. Oh, splendid! Finally one I can answer.

    I have read the horror novel A CIVILIAN CONTRACT, by Mme. Heyer. In it, a dashing and handsome young aristocrat is forced to marry a bourgeois. Quite horrid. Or perhaps it’s a tragedy? (Not great at classification things and all that.)

    Not much slaughter at the end, now that I think of it, so I would hazard a guess that it’s a horror novel. I recommend it for readers who want a chill down the proverbial spine. (Or do I mean literal spine? What is a spine, anyway? Not great at anatomic things and all that.)

    Yours, exquisitely as ever,

    Bertie the Beau
    (Bertram St. James, Esquire)

  2. Cara King says:

    Delighted you could join us, Bertie dear!

    I will just point out, though, if you don’t mind, that the novel is titled “A Civil Contract” — and most readers would classify it either as a romance, or as a historical novel. Not as either horror or tragedy — so it doesn’t exactly fit the category. 🙂

    So glad you are participating, though! You have given me something to think about.

    I hope you are adjusting well to life in our century, by the way! If you need any advice on things, I’m sure we’d all love to help.


  3. Elena Greene says:

    I haven’t read any alternative Regency fiction–more shame on me! Some of your suggestions are on my TBR list. Does that help????

  4. Cara King says:

    Let me clarify — by alternative I don’t necessarily mean alternate reality — I just mean non-romance. So Regency mysteries count. I know there are a lot out there — have you read any? Which? What did you think? How about Sharpe, Aubrey, Hornblower, et al???


  5. Madeleine Robins is awesome, I liked the second book more than the first.

    The Novik is FANTASTIC.

    Kate Ross’s Julian Kestrel mysteries are great.

    I’ve heard many people say Bujold’s Miles K. series is as close to Heyer as you can come–I like her Chalion series, not the Miles stuff so much.

    I am so glad you had a good time, Cara. It sounds great.

  6. I’ve read all of the Vorkosigan (Bujold) series. A Civil Campaign, I believe, is dedicated to Heyer and Austen – and maybe the Brontes, I forget. Loved this series and I am not a science fiction reader.

    I agree with Bertie, by the way, about Heyer’s A Civil Contract. (note the similar title Bujold used). Quite horrid. I just never could take to the heroine.

  7. Todd says:

    Actually, I might vote for A CIVIL CONTRACT being horror. But not for the reasons Bertie suggested…

    Andre Norton and Rosemary Edghill wrote an alternative-history-Regency-fantasy-romance-thingy, along with a sequel (sorry, I can’t type all those hyphens again): THE SHADOW OF ALBION and LEOPARD IN EXILE. I’ve read the first, and enjoyed it; haven’t gotten to the second yet. Very sad, though! Andre Norton is gone, so I guess there will be no more.

    Liked both the Robins books very much. And I adored the Kate Ross series. Alas! She’s no longer with us either! It may be dangerous to write books that I admire…

    The Novik series looks very intriguing. I need to trot right out and get book #1. Along with all the other books I need to trot right out and get. Yes! More books! Just what I need.

    In addition to romances, it seems like the most common books set in the period are military historical novels: Cornwell’s SHARPE series, Forrester’s HORATIO HORNBLOWER, O’Brian’s AUBREY/MATURIN series, etc. Another one of my favorite genres!

    I’m still waiting for Cara to start writing Regency Science Fiction! But until then, I like Bujold’s VORKOSIGAN series a lot.


  8. Kimber says:

    The Novik book is highly enjoyable — my husband liked it a great deal as well. She’s got a flowing, easy style and manages to capture the period dialogue and point of view without being heavy-handed or anachronistic. The relationship between the main character and his dragon is very affecting.

    The cover blurb claims it’s a cross between Patrick O’Brian and Anne McCaffrey, and (for once) that’s pretty much on the money. Novik lifts McCaffrey’s take on dragons to the letter, and her hero seems to be a composite of Maturin and Aubrey.

  9. They are late 1700s but has anyone read Dewey Lambdin’s Alan Lewrie series? It starts with The King’s Coat. Lewry, the hero, is a rather lusty fellow and not always admirable but he’s very likeable . I’ll probably be keel hauled for saying this, but I liked the books I read from this series better than the ones I read from the O’Brien Aubrey/Maturin series.

  10. Megan, I love Kate Ross’ Julian Kestrel series, too. What a great voice she had.

    But (uh-oh) not to be a wet blanket or anything, but why do people feel the Regency period is played out already? Why the urge to bring in dragons, hobbits, green blinking things, god knows what, when there’s so much terrific material still waiting to be mined beyond the narrow world of Mayfair and the ton?


  11. Cara King says:

    I do see some similarities between Bujold’s fantasic Vorkosigan series and Regencies — Barrayar has a very structured society, nobles who live part-time in the advanced capital city and part-time on their estates, etc. For me, though, there’s so much other, very different stuff thrown in the mix that the taste seems quite different.

    As for mysteries — Rosemary Stevens wrote some very witty and enjoyable Beau Brummell mysteries. And if you like gritty historical mysteries, there’s Ashley Gardner’s Regency mystery series.

    Thanks for reminding me of the Edghill/Norton books — they’re on my extended TBR list, but they’d slipped my mind! (I still remember Rosemary Edghill’s traditional Regency romances with great fondness. She was one of the few trad authors that St Martin’s Press ever published, and they did hers in hardcover, with lovely covers.)


  12. Cara King says:

    Thanks for your take on the Novik books, Kimber! I’m intrigued by the idea of blending McCaffrey and O’Brian in that way…can’t wait to read them.

    Janet, I suspect most of the writers who are blending paranormal or fantasy elements into the Regency don’t necessarily think the Regency is played out, but just happen to like such elements — and now that the market is strong in that area, are moving now.

    That said, I do know that some readers complain that many Regencies are too similar. (I have a theory on that, but it can wait for another time.) So this might be a bit of a response to that, too.


  13. I enjoy the Robins books very much, and can’t wait for the next one! I do wish you had heard her panels, Cara, because I would LOVE to hear why she thought it necessary to change some details of the period’s history. They don’t really seem to affect the plots of the stories (like Queen Charlotte being regent instead of Prinny–why???), so I’d like to find out the reasons behind the changes. Anyone have any ideas?

  14. Todd says:


    Thanks for the tip about the Alan Lewrie series; I’d never heard of it before! I love Patrick O’Brian, but I will withhold judgment until I have read Dewey Lambdin.

    There’s another series of naval adventures by Alexander Kent, set a bit earlier (I think it starts in the 1770s). I must admit, I read the first and didn’t care for it, so I haven’t read any more.

    There’s also a series of Napoleonic era naval mysteries by David Donachee. I’ve read about three or four of them, but they seem to be hard to find in this country. Next time I go to England I need to bring a list of the ones I’m missing…


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