If you want to write Regency Romance, the period that Jane Austen’s work was set in, here are some tips.
1. Get the language right
As a reader I don’t need a Regency Romance novel to literally sound like Jane Austen. To be honest, even Georgette Heyer’s very well-researched slang feels overdone in places.
But when once I came across a sex scene that mentioned “ass cheeks” (in a review of another author’s novel) I knew it wouldn’t be a book I could ever read.
An author that disregarding of basic tone and vocabulary – “arse cheeks” at the very least should have been used though even that would have been horribly crude, “buttocks” or something euphemistic like “globes” or whatever would have been better – is simply not an author who can be relied on elsewhere.
“Ass cheeks” in that era would literally be the cheeks of a donkey. It’s just wrong.
2. Don’t insert modern-day heroines
Likewise heroines called names that simply weren’t used then (“Haven” or “Chelsea” or whatever), or doing things that were just utterly unfeasible. There are authors who have researched long lists of names you can use, here’s a great list by Bryn Donovan and here’s another by Jo Beverley. and another by Sarah Waldock.
If you want to write about a woman becoming the first surgeon or flying a plane then great, do it, but don’t make it a Regency romance! There were a few women doctors in the Victorian era, so maybe try that setting. Or if you desperately want to write a Regency romance, do a portal or time travel romance, like the TV series Lost in Austen.
3. Get manners and mores right
Another issue, and a reason I tend to only read historic and Regency Romances by British authors or at least very well-established, well-known authors, is because many writers don’t get the class/society/royalty thing right, or the general social mores. They want to cram in some modern era heroine stomping about the place in some anachronistic display of feminism. Again, if you want do this, check out Lost in Austen.
When it comes to titles, the absolute golden guide to this is a series of detailed tables by Laura A Williams. I’ve found them absolutely invaluable.
Above all, bear in mind that spirited =/= rude or ballsy. Or “sassy”. The nearest Austen gets to “sassy” is Lydia Bennet and one or two other minor characters, and it is 100% a jarring, negative trait. If you want “sassy”, write contemporary fiction.
Elizabeth Bennet is spirited. Read the scene with Lady Catherine De Bitch for the perfect example of as feisty as it gets within the bounds of acceptable Regency conduct. It’s more powerful because it’s understated, but many modern writers don’t get this.
The restraint of the Regency era, and setting a novel in that era with all its social strictures and standards, is what makes the subtleties so powerful.