This is a false statement in more than one way. First, the Regency isn't strictly speaking "dead" as long Jo Beverley and Mary Balogh are publishing. But Regency-era romances have taken a hit in recent years. My insider-friend (I'm resisting calling her "Deep Throat" or any pun like it) told me that publishers resist publishing Regency romances because they don't sell enough copies. Even if the heyday of Regencies, when Signet and Fawcett/Coventry both had consistent lines with some excellent authors, is past us, we're still getting new and satisfying single-title format books from the likes of Elizabeth Hoyt and Joanna Bourne (about whom more, below).
I don't have kids, but I babysat for 25 years. Feeding kids candy for supper doesn't only ruin their appetite for healthy food, it gives them a sense of entitlement. When next you provide them with meat and veg, they're apt to sneer at you and demand the Snickers. Less of a market for the meat and veg. (It's too bad this is a metaphor; if it were true that Julia Quinn really did cause a drop in the demand for beef, say, we might get another Oprah versus the Cattlemen showdown.)
Next opinion: I'd never heard of Ann Herendeen's book, Phyllida and the Brotherhood of Philander before yesterday. I haven't read it, and I don't have an opinion about whether it's a good book or not. Heck, I'm so ignorant about romances with three protagonists (in Phyllida's case, she marries a man she knows is inclined exclusively toward other men, but they get on all right and when another man enters the picture, all three of them get on all right . . . or so I've been led to believe) that I honestly don't know the significance of whether it's an M/M/F romance or M/F/M -- is it a matter of who gets into the bed first? Because surely the point of a romance with three protagonists is that each member loves (emotionally and physically) two other people, regardless of who got there first. We write the letters in a straight line, but they ought to be arrayed in a triangle, right?
But it got me thinking. If the appeal of M/M romances is in some part voyeuristic, and the appeal for (some) (all?) M/F romances derives from the reader being able to put herself in the heroine's shoes (or bed), then what's the appeal of two Ms and one F, in any configuration? In theory, it could be this: the reader (an F) puts herself in the M/M action -- a ringside seat, of sorts -- by virtue of the sole heroine's involvement in the story. Only as others have pointed out, why would the reader want that? Isn't the romantic paradigm "I am the one for my beloved," and not "I'm one of two." I suppose these novels offer a completely different paradigm: "I am loved by two, and get to watch them love each other."
It seems a hard paradigm to promote, though.
Finally, I'm reading The Forbidden Rose by Joanna Bourne. Now, here's an author who uses the building blocks of prose to awesome advantage. I'm only on p. 119, but here are some of my favorite examples (context provided in italics):
She could not, not ever again for all of eternity, unknow what she knew of his body. Someday, when she was old, she would take this knowledge out as if it were a letter she had treasured. By then, the pain would be thin and crackly, like old paper.
She would be changed as well. She was quite certain old women did not feel this sort of pain. As if the air were knives that cut, going in and out of the throat.
[After seeing her naked as she changed into clothes he'd stolen for her, and then saving her life.] He leaned to her breast . . . "I wanted this," he whispered. "Couldn't get the picture out of my head. You, by the fish fountain, dressed in nothing but morning. That's not something a man forgets."
[Sitting together in the dark, talking. The hero says . . .] "I had to walk away, once, and leave everything. My books. Ideas I'd written down. Essays." He didn't move, but his stillness changed in quality. "My father burned it all."
She did not rush to fill the silence up, in case [he] might have a use for it.
I would argue that not one of those word-pictures is gratuitous or overly flowery. And as you know, I have an innate aversion to flowery prose.
a snippet on William Wickham for a taste of what was involved.)
No matter. Authors are 100% entitled to write about what they want, so have at it, Ms. Bourne. I'm in.
There's a saying, "Good enough for government work." Back in the 1980s, my cousin and I rewrote that to make it more topical, "Good enough for an ABC sitcom." Well, I'm tempted to rewrite another expression, "She could read the phone book and I'd listen to it," to this: "She could write a spy romance and I would read it." Because that's how good Joanna Bourne is.