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Hi all!  What does the Reticule hold?
It is a 'mixed bag', so to speak, a little about life in the Regency era,
and a little about writing Regency romances.

Life In the Regency Era

Questions I Have Often Wondered About...

* More will be added from time to time.

Aren't people the same everywhere and every 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!

Did they have bathrooms in their houses?

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 was situated.

What about premarital sex in  Regency times?

 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 story!

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.

Q - Are Regency Romances an accurate portrayal of how people lived then?

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.

Q - Why the Regency era?

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.

Regency Romances

  I 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
   This, again, follows a typical Regency story-line, 'poor companion snags wealthy duke'.  But it is much, much more than that.  Ms. Miller's heroine is decidedly atypical. She is plump, learned and yet a romantic at heart.  Emily Haliburton is just waiting out the months until she comes into her inheritance, so she can continue her father's scholarly work; meeting a dashing rogue and falling in love is not a part of her plan. The story has some interesting twists and turns, but it is Emily and her duke who are the heart of this novel.

3. Miss Billings Treads the Boards - Carla Kelly - Signet -
1993  This novel has a great cast of secondary characters. The whole band of actors is delightful.  But the heart of the novel, Katherine Billings and Henry Tewksbury -Hampton, Lord Grayson, are two people anyone would be happy to call friend.

4. The Rake's Rainbow - Allison Lane - Signet - 1996
  Ms. Lane has done that most difficult of things, created a believable relationship from the inauspicious beginnings of a forced marriage to prevent a young lady from being compromised.  Not only that, but Thomas Mannering is pining after another girl!  From this difficult opening, she manages to weave a great tale of unlikely love.

5. Winter Wonderland - Elizabeth Mansfield - Jove - 1993
  This is my favorite Christmas Regency of all time (so far, but I am open to others).  The first meeting between Miranda Pardew and Barnaby Traherne is devastating, when she makes him the object of ridicule, setting in motion a chain of events that haunts them both for years to come.  How they come together is a great story!

 So now, tell me your favorites!  What are your keepers?
Write to me with the subject line 'Favorite Regency'.

E-mail me here!

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