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 →
Today our guest blogger is multi-award-winning historical author Sarah Mallory who has more than 40 books under her belt, under various writing names including Melinda Hammond.
Although Sarah was born in the West Country, she now lives on the romantic Yorkshire moors, within a stone’s throw of Brontë country which is, she says, a constant source of inspiration. She is also inspired by history, an abiding love, and the Hive can vouch for her wide knowledge of the Regency and other periods. Get her into a corner (with a glass of something) and the discussion flows wonderfully.
At the request of the Hive, Sarah is going to tell us about her experience of writing historical romantic novels in a series. These days, it’s the received wisdom that readers want series books. So a guide from an award-winning author sounds just the ticket. Over to Sarah . . .
Often when we think about weddings — or write them into our books — we imagine the full works with floaty white dress, olde worlde church bedecked with flowers, rosy-cheeked clergyman, uplifting organ music, smiling friends and family.
But it wasn’t always so.
Weddings: not IN church, but AT the church door
Strange though it seems, in medieval times, weddings didn’t take place inside a church. In fact, many weddings didn’t involve a priest at all. Even if a priest was there, his job was only to bless the couple. In 1215, the Church decreed that a contract of marriage was to be “in the approved manner at the church door“. The priest was to be at the church door too, but in order to oversee the wedding, not to do the marrying — that was done by the consent of the couple themselves.
The Catholic Church decreed in 1563 that marriage required mutual consent plus joining by a priest. Since the Reformation was in progress, however, that didn’t apply everywhere.
Closest marriage house to the border. Yes, it’s a pub! In Springfield near Gretna
In Scotland, even into the 20th century, a couple could marry by simply exchanging consent in front of witnesses. Think of all those romantic Gretna Green weddings. The runaway couple might have assumed that the strange Scotsman in the Marriage House was doing the marrying, but in fact they were doing it themselves, by declaration before witnesses. Continue reading →
Re-reading some of my favourite Georgette Heyer novels recently — Dame Isadora snagged me as the minion to do the research for her blogs because she, being a Very Important Personage, had Better Things To Do — I was struck by how often Heyer brings her lovers together at the very end of her novels, sometimes on the very last page.
Heyer might give us a chaste embrace. She might even give us a fierce kiss or two. And she often adds a shared joke.
But that’s about it.
What we don’t get in Heyer is a lovers’ wallow.
What’s a wallow?
I’d describe the wallow as a shortish section at the end of a love story where the reader sees the lovers together and passionately in love — both of them trusting and relaxed and happy. Sometimes the lovers are married, sometimes they have had children, sometimes they are simply enjoying each other.
It’s the Happy Ever After ending shown right there on the page for the reader to savour.
Some readers love a wallow. Some readers even feel shortchanged if a novel doesn’t have one at the end. But readers still love all those Heyer novels that don’t have the merest hint of a wallow. So…