Questions I Have Often Wondered About...
* More will be added from time to time.
Yes and no. (*Warning - what follows is highly
subjective and Just My Opinion!)
Some things about human life are immutable, I think; just as the same stars, more or less, shine down on us now as did then, so people have some characteristics in common throughout the ages. Parents, for the most part, still want what is best for their children. However, what they consider the best may be vastly different. For instance, nowadays, most parents of daughters want their little girls to grow up and find a career or vocation they can be really passionate about. In the Regency though, what most parents thought was 'best' for their daughters was an advantageous (financially) marriage. Marriage was seen, for women, like a career is now. It was prepared for, educationally and emotionally. We have to realize that back then there really was no social safety net other than the church, and that was the dreaded 'charity'. To be an object of charity has never been thought a good thing, perhaps because we truly have bought into the proverb that 'it is more blessed to give than to receive'.
The church taught that people were placed in the sphere in which they belonged, so to fall from one class down to another was a fate worse than death. Poverty was, somehow, shameful for one born to better things. So, too, spinsterhood incited pity, though, as Emma Woodhouse pointed out in Jane Austen's 'Emma', it was only poor spinsters who actually became an object of pity and mockery.
So, that was a long-winded and circumlocutary
way of saying that I think that there are some human traits that
cross all barriers of time and culture, but that the cultural interpretation of those traits might surprise one!
Yes And No. Flushable indoor toilets
were apparently invented in the 1770's. It was a heretical thing,
though, to have the toilet indoors - the lack of a ready way of disposing
of the noxious fumes likely accounts for the reluctance to have it nearby
- and most houses continued to have them outside, or located in an out-of-the-way
part of the house. In fiction, in describing a house, the author
usually used the phrase 'the usual offices' to descibe where the toilet
I think some people have come to the
erroneous conclusion that the modern era is the first in which both sexes
have come to equally enjoy intercourse outside of the boundaries of marriage.
Nothing could be farther from the truth. Though the invention of
more reliable sources of birth control has allowed women more freedom in
that way without fear of pregnancy, (some people would argue that) both
sexes always had their pre-marital and extra-marital flings. I read
somewhere recently (darned if I can remember where!) that in the early
1800's, an unusual survey indicated that a goodly portion of brides were
with child on the day of their wedding. You don't get that way without
some fooling around! Now, the Victorian era is a whole different
Writing And Reading Regency Romance Fiction
Q & A
Q - Why don't Regencies and other historical romances depict life as it really was lived, warts and all?
A - This truly is a point of division for many
readers. I have read a lot of readers on message boards asking for
more realism. The writer treads a fine line between reality and grim
reality. Mortality rates in the past were high, and extremely high
among infants. Rarely was there a woman who did not lose at least
one child in birth or soon after. Many women died in child birth
or of complications after. These rather grim facts can be used to great
dramatic advantage in romance ficiton, if handled subtly.
We run the risk as writers of over-emphasizing something that from our modern perspective seems horrendous, when in a past age it was not much thought of, or just accepted as a part of life. Some writers have speculated that Jane Austen never married, though she had the chance, because of her over-weening fear of childbirth and the pain and danger associated with it, and some of her rather atringent remarks would seem to bear this out. But if that is true, she was a rarity, it seems to me. Most women just accepted it as a risk of life.
My own opinion is that in future, people will look back in horror on the people of our time for a number of reasons. Consider our casual acceptance of war and the voluntary nature of the armed forces. Look at our calm acceptance of the fact that we eat animals. (I am not a vegetarian, merely a hypocritical omnivore) I believe that in future people will look back at us aghast that we would think of eating our fellow creatures on the earth, especially after the invention of so many substitutes for animal protein in our diet. Who knows how the fiction of the future will present our time? How brutal, how squalid, how dangerous?
So, as a writer we tread a fine line, as I said. If we go into graphic detail about rotting teeth, bad breath, poor hygiene, child labor, high death rates, the subjugation of women and non-white races--God, sounds pretty bad, doesn't it--we run the risk of taking the 'romance' out of romance fiction. Are we hypocrites? Do we sanitize the past? Yup and yup. But I think the reader is a canny gal (or guy) and knows it. I do not think that anyone truly believes we present an accurate view of life in the Regency era, though we may strive for reality.
See the next question for more thoughts on this subject.
A - Probably not. Mine aren't, anyway.
Though I try to be accurate about many things - dates,
historical characters, inventions, word usage - there are too many possibilities for error, and in a
lifetime of research I will never know everything. Mistakes I have made? I caught a doozy in
my own work the other day, thankfully in the copy edit, before it was due at the final copy stage.
I caught myself using the phrase 'mood swings'. Hoo, boy! Is that 1990's or what? I humbly
begged them to take out the word 'swings'. Hope they do it.
The bottom line is, I didn't live then, and so everything, every character, every action, is
filtered through my millenium mind. I can't help that, so I just strive for as much accuracy as
possible. And I try to avoid howlers like the one above.
A - Why not?
No, seriously, the choice of what
era to write a historical romance about is controlled by
the era that appeals to you. I have written a Victorian romance that, while pretty good
(I think, anyway) is an experience I have no desire to repeat. I love the Regency era, the
sense of pending change, the jumbled politics, the fine balance, like on the edge of a sword,
between Georgian sexual licentiousness and Victorian repression. And I adore Jane Austen.
I suppose if I loved Charlotte and Anne Bronte better, I would write about the Victorian era.
love regency romances. I have to assume if you are at this page,
that you do, too. Who are your favorite authors? Are there
any all-time favorite books you would like to share? Do you have
a 'keeper' shelf, books you cannot get rid of for any price? Following
is my list of keepers, with a brief explanation of why. Let me know
what your keeper shelf holds, (give me the title, author, publisher
and year) and I will put an excerpt of your letter on this page!
1. Married Past Redemption - Patricia Veryan - Fawcett, 1983 (my edition, anyway) IMHO, Patricia Veryan is the best writer of Regency romances since Georgette Heyer. Married Past Redemption is the story of a marriage of convenience that turns into a love match, a common enough story line in Regency fiction. But in Patricia Veryan's hands it becomes a powerful love story that transcends genre or sub-genre boundaries. I would recommend this for any lover of historical romances.
2. The Duke's Dilemma - Nadine
Miller - Signet - 1996
3. Miss Billings Treads the Boards
- Carla Kelly - Signet -
4. The Rake's Rainbow - Allison
Lane - Signet - 1996
5. Winter Wonderland - Elizabeth
Mansfield - Jove - 1993
now, tell me your favorites! What are your keepers?
Write to me with the subject line 'Favorite Regency'.
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