When we read fiction set in the Regency period, we often come across references to sea journeys but, usually, they’re over pretty quickly. On one page, we’re at Dover or Harwich or Falmouth. A paragraph or two later, we’ve arrived at our destination and the story continues. (Not in all fiction, of course. Who could forget Mary Challoner’s horrendous cross-Channel trip in Heyer’s Devil’s Cub? Still, at least Vidal proffered a basin at the vital moment.)
Nowadays, our ships have GPS and radar and even engines! 😉 So this modern figure, staring out over a slightly stormy sea, has little to fear from going on board. But what was it really like, making a sea voyage on one of the Regency’s relatively tiny and fragile sailing craft?
Imagine a Regency lady with a beautiful evening gown, like this one in grey silk with pink trimmings and grey gauze oversleeves. But — oh, dear — she’s ripped it, or perhaps something has been spilled on it. Who will repair the damage or clean off the stain? The lady herself? Continue reading →
Napoleon Bares his Breast
~ or ~
The Editor Is [almost] Always Right
Two hundred and two years ago — on 7th March 1815, to be precise — Napoleon bared his breast to (what looked like) certain death and lived to fight one more great battle. (And if you’re wondering why we didn’t do this blog two years ago, on the bicentenary, we would plead that this website was a mere twinkle in the hively eye back then.)
A cautionary tale of author and editor
Once upon a time there was an author — let’s call her Joanna — who was writing a trilogy of love stories set in 1814-15, the end of the Napoleonic Wars. (He lost, by the way.) Continue reading →
Detail does matter. The Regency lady going to dinner, or going to a ball, wanted every detail of her appearance to be perfect. Especially if her aim was to attract a potential husband. (She might, of course, have been a married lady looking for a little diversion with a new lover.)
Did the gentlemen in question notice these details? Possibly they did, because most of the details on these gorgeous gowns were around two areas of the female body that drew the masculine eye — the low-cut neckline exposing much of the lady’s bosom, and the naughty ankle, glimpsed as the lady walked or danced. Continue reading →
Regency gowns are familiar to anyone who has ever watched a Jane Austen adaptation on TV or film. We expect to see ladies floating around in high-waisted dresses, probably made of fine white muslin. We expect to see large quantities of bosom on display. But from our modern perspective of mass-produced clothing and home sewing machines, we rarely think about how these supposedly simple Regency garments were made.
By female hand and eye. Every last cut and stitch.
It’s useful, when researching, to be able to consult people who were there. But go back more than a century or so — to the Regency in Britain, for example — and there are no living witnesses to consult. Regency novelists — like today’s guest, Elizabeth Rolls — have to rely on other sources.
You may imagine that “other sources” means dusty history books and written materials. But there’s much more than that.
And getting to grips with the non-written stuff can present the odd challenge if the author in question lives 12,000 miles away, in Australia.
As Elizabeth Rolls does…
Elizabeth Rolls loves her research
To research or not to research?
For me, research is a must. I’ve had a book kick off in my mind over a snippet about the crossroads burial of suicides in the early 19th century. The past is very much a foreign country, but add 12 000 miles into the equation and you have a real challenge. Continue reading →
My eye recently fell on an enjoyable reader rant against the onlie begetter of the Regency Romance, dubbing Georgette Heyer Heroes “utter douchebags”. (For the gentler sort of reader, the usage is North American, informal, referring to an obnoxious or contemptible person, typically a man.) A tweet from @Georgettedaily directed me thither and I am grateful. The ranter made some good points. But I disagree with her on Heyer heroes.
Heyer herself classified her heroes as Mark I (brusque, savage, foul temper) and Mark II (suave, supercilious and dangerous). I disagree with her, too. Continue reading →
Marriage by special licence plays a very important role in historical romance. Georgette Heyer used it often. And today’s writers of historical romance use it too. Why? Because with banns or a common licence, the couple had to marry in a public church or chapel between the hours of 8 and noon.
Those restrictions would have put paid to many a fictional marriage, like the one in Georgette Heyer’s The Reluctant Widow.
The heroine’s wedding takes place in the middle of the night.
And in a local PUB!Continue reading →