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The Bennet Sisters Scale: Rating Regency Romances

A photo of all 5 Bennet sisters from the 1995 Pride and Prejudice. L-R: Lydia, Lizzie, Jane, Mary, Kitty.Throughout the course of this year I have been delighted to review plenty of Regency era novels, novellas, and short stories. I have discovered new favourite authors and deepened my appreciation for the period, but the quality of the audiobooks has varied rather dramatically. As Regencies are such a niche sub-genre of Romance, I've often found it difficult to articulate my thoughts using the star rating that I apply to audiobooks across the board. I tend to group them together much more easily in my mind, and realised that there's a perfectly fitting comparison ready and waiting to convey a good sense of each category to the people who might be interested. Each Regency I have ever listened to resembles one of the five Bennet sisters from Jane Austen's Pride and Prejudice!

And so, the Bennet Sisters Scale was born. Here I will explain how a few particular facets of each sister's character epitomise a distinct type of Regency romance novel. For illustrative purposes, I'll be using the 1995 BBC adaptation of Pride and Prejudice as my reference, because it's my favourite version and does a good job of highlighting the traits that have informed each category. As well as the usual stars for overall quality, I will award 1-5 'English Roses' as a simple visual guide to its rank as a Regency.

Photo of Elizabeth Bennet.Elizabeth 'Lizzy' Bennet

Rating: 5 Roses - 🌹🌹🌹🌹🌹

Traits: Lively, intelligent, unconventional, and humorous. Full of compelling wit and vivacity to which you will want to return. 

Stories which feel to me like a 'Lizzy', will be very much the gold standard. Not necessarily always a five-star story, but the most enjoyable kind of Regency. These audiobooks will be full of life and emotion, may be either passionate or romantic, and are generally well written.

Photo of Jane BennetJane Bennet

Rating: 4 Roses - 🌹🌹🌹🌹

Traits: Sweet and classic, with a rose-tinted view of romance and an unapologetically schmaltzy pursuit of a happy ending.

The stories that feel the most 'Jane'-like to me are sweeping romances, where the heroine is loved by all and the the hero is a prince amongst men. They are sweet, traditional, and mostly 'clean', but may lack some of the light and shade that gives a story depth.

Photo of Kitty BennetKitty Bennet

Rating: 3 Roses - 🌹🌹🌹

Traits: Pleasant enough but a little mediocre. Has many promising qualities and is generally quite nice, but not necessarily reaching full potential. A  little unremarkable but not disagreeably so.

'Kitty' stories are solidly middle-of-the-road. There may be nothing specific that I can pinpoint which I feel is wrong with them, but for whatever reason they are just a bit lacking in charisma.

Photo of Lydia BennetLydia Bennet

Rating: 2 Roses - 🌹🌹

Traits: Often values style over substance and could benefit from some correction. May be a source of irritation or impropriety. Gets rather carried away with trifling things, but is intellectually undemanding and easy company. 

Stories that feel like a 'Lydia' to me are the ones I frequently struggle to review. They're usually Regency-inspired rather than a true Regency due to the lack of historical research, improper use of language, or other integral flaws, but still come together in a diverting tale.

Photo of Mary BennetMary Bennet

Rating: 1 Rose - 🌹

Traits: Rather dry and dull. Too remote, a little awkward or out of place, and difficult to warm to.

No matter how much I try, I have never been able to like Mary, and stories that feel the most 'Mary' in my mind are those which lack the charm of the others, while containing a greater number of flaws than, say, a 'Kitty'. It is the stiffness or dourness that really sets a 'Mary' apart.

Gif of Mr CollinsMr Collins

Rating: 1 Wilted Rose - 🥀

Traits: Cloying, obsequious, cringeworthy, vexatious, and generally unendurable.

Finally, if a story is completely irredeemable, it would be branded a Mr Collins. The very spirit of 'DNF (did not finish)' in human form. I would really have to loathe a book to liken it to the oleaginous parson, so I sincerely hope that I shall never need to.  

I hope this helps you make sense of my Regency ratings. Can you recommend a good Lizzy? Or do you prefer a Jane? Is there a Regency everyone else loves but you just find a bit of a Kitty? Let me know your recommendations on Facebook, Twitter, or the comments below! Check out #BennetSistersScale on social media to join the conversation.

You can view all the reviews that have been awarded a #BennetSistersScale rating here, or by searching for posts containing the hashtag in the search box on the sidebar.

Gif of Mr Darcy

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