I fell in love with Sarah M. Eden’s writing while reading the Whitney Award Finalists a couple years ago.
Her Regency romance novel, "Seeking Persephone" (then self-published, and now republished by Covenant Communications), was a delight to read. It was reminiscent of a Jane Austen novel, but oh-so-much easier to digest. Don’t get me wrong. The writing was wonderful, and the research impeccable, but the presentation was a bit more reader-friendly to the modern reader such as myself.
Eden, a member of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, started writing Regencies when she couldn’t find any recently published ones that were free from explicit material. Yes, there are the greats like Georgette Heyer, who wrote clean regencies for the most part, but I’ve heard on good authority that many Regency novels can get quite steamy.
Since 2010, Eden has published three more regencies through Covenant Communications (which is also my publisher), including "Courting Miss Lancaster," "The Kiss of a Stranger," and "Friends and Foes," with "An Unlikely Match" due out this fall. And remarkably, all of Eden’s books have been successful in the Mormon market. Or perhaps not so remarkably after all.
Always a bit on the nosy side, I noticed that with the success of Eden’s novels, other Mormon authors and LDS publishers started looking more closely at the niche genre. Author Heidi Ashworth writes Regency romances for national publisher, Avalon Books, but not until Eden’s 2010 release had it appeared that any LDS publishers tried their hand.
In 2011, Walnut Springs Press, a boutique LDS publisher, released "Lydia" by Wanda Luce. Also in 2011, Cedar Fort re-released "Marian’s Christmas Wish" by the notable two-time Rita Award Winning author, Carla Kelly, with more on the way.
Finally, but not surprisingly, Shadow Mountain, imprint of Deseret Book, has released "Edenbrooke" by debut author Julianne Donaldson, and promoting it as a top title. The newest Regency to hit the market by an LDS writer is "The Duke’s Undoing," self-published by award-winning author G.G. Vandagriff, who is otherwise known for her genealogy mystery series, epic historicals, and women’s fiction.
I’m thrilled that LDS publishers are offering Regency romances written by Mormon authors because of the clean-read factor, but I’m also curious as to why an author, such as Vandagriff, made the genre jump, and why this genre appeals to readers.
Regencies, which are typically set in the early 1800s in England, are known for their humor, for their heroines who battle against “stiff judgments” of an upper-crust society, and for characters and plot that operate within a strict societal structure. Yes, it’s definitely an escape from the many dark and depressing things around us, both in modern-day life and in reading histories.
While reading the handful of Regencies, I found myself laughing at the humorous moments and shaking my head at some ridiculous notions that are contrived by society. And, of course, I escaped some of my worries for a few hours, which helped me gain a better perspective of how to keep the important things important.
Regencies emphasize themes such as love and values and family — not stressing over things we can’t control — which translates to money and titles and property in the Regency world.
I marveled as the heroines battled against the "proper society views" and being criticized when they stood up for what was good and moral. It reminded me of life today in which I sometimes assume too quickly and judge too harshly. I thought of how I should become more compassionate and less concerned about "church images" and should strive to focus more on what really needs to be done in life.
Perhaps some of this is why Regencies have struck a chord with LDS authors and now LDS readers.
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