The end of the fall semester always brings a wide array of emotions. There’s relief that classes are over. There’s excitement for the upcoming year. But for those of us who are graduating in May, there’s a very different emotion to contend with: fear.

For seniors, this time of year is rife with indecision and anxiety about our plans for after graduation, specifically, on whether our degrees will be enough to find a job to help pay back loans from getting our degrees. Ah, the American higher education system.

If someone else is paying your tuition (and you aren’t concerned about student loans), you have my permission to stop reading this article and go back to riding your pony around your ancestral estate in the Hamptons, which I can only assume is what you do.

But back to the desperate undergrad. After racking your brain trying to figure out a surefire plan for gaining financial stability, you’ve undoubtedly come to the only logical conclusion: pay off your student loans by penning a series of highly successful historical romance novels.

“But wait,” you protest, “I don’t know anything about historical romance novels.” Well, you’re in luck, because in this particular genre there’s a well-established formula for success.

You’re going to want to set your story in Regency-era England. Why, you ask?

Because it’s a thinly veiled attempt to borrow some literary credibility by trying to vaguely associate your work with Jane Austen. But if anyone asks, it’s because you like the dresses.

Your heroine will be independent and witty, but also refined and demure. As such, she is either a wallflower or a spinster. Her family is in dire financial straits and she’s the only one competent enough to deal with it. While she’s made peace with her quiet life on the fringes of ballrooms, she yearns for adventure and, dare we say, romance.

You should make sure to repeatedly mention her plain looks, but then offer descriptions that make it clear she doesn’t actually deviate from traditional standards of beauty at all.

Your hero is a rogue, a rake, a scoundrel, etc. Some incident from his childhood, perhaps mentioned in the prologue, has left the hero jaded and aloof. He’s far taller than what would have been statistically normal for the time, but it’s symbolic of how he holds himself above people. Deep, right? It almost goes without saying that he is god-like in his handsomeness. In addition, he’s most likely the richest man in England. And he’s a Duke. In other words, he’s kind of a big deal. However, someone may be plotting against him in order to steal his title and fortune. You don’t have to pay too much attention to that part though, as it will only be mentioned sporadically. Love takes precedence over intrigue in these works.

Your hero and heroine will meet in a decidedly awkward manner. It will probably have something to do with the heroine needing financial help. Once the hero learns that he cannot easily intimidate or charm the heroine, he will be fascinated, and of course, completely smitten. The heroine will find him vexing, but will acknowledge that he is indeed gorgeous and makes her feel odd things. The hero, always up for a challenge, will engineer several “accidental” run-ins with the heroine, slowly building up the tension.

Then comes the moment that all the little moments have been building up to: your hero and heroine hook up with the white hot intensity of a thousand suns. This will most likely be an unplanned tryst in a library during a large elegant party.

(Who knew that when you sneak off to the Stacks with your significant other, you’re actually participating in a rich literary tradition. Just please wait until I’ve returned my book.)

But the hero and heroine are not so conscientious, and are caught by either the heroine’s guardian or the biggest gossip in town.

Because your hero is first and foremost a gentleman, he will offer to marry your heroine so she will not be socially ruined. While both of them will express misgivings, secretly both of them will actually be totally stoked at the turn of events. And so they’ll get married, by a special license, of course.

As time goes on, both hero and heroine will realize that they actually deeply care about each other, but neither will admit anything to the other because humans are intolerably dumb.

The denouement is when that pesky plot, which hasn’t been mentioned in some ten chapters, is finally resolved. Usually it runs down something like this: villain kidnaps heroine, hero saves heroine, they admit their feelings for each other and your eyes roll so far back into your head you can see your brain. I understand the narrative need for a dramatic realization that they both love each other, but can we not mix it up a little? Would it be so heinous for the heroine to save the hero? And not through some wussy cop-out “she saves him through love” junk.

Anyway, your couple is now free to live happily ever after, secure in their social rank and status. Though in all honesty, there’s probably a pretty good chance your hero is syphilitic. But don’t mention that, since it’s kind of a mood-killer.

And finally, you’ll need a title. Luckily, this too can be distilled down to a simple formula: “How to (insert a synonym for seduce) a (insert a title of English nobility).” And with that, you’re done.

Now you’re fully prepared to start your Regency romance empire. When you’ve raked in your millions, spare a thought, or some of your millions, to this humble columnist.

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