Why Regency?

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My husband and I were talking the other day, and he asked me, “But why the Regency era? Out of all the other periods of history out there, what made you choose that one?” I thought about it a lot, actually. It made me remember an experience I had years ago.

My friend Tami and I had gone to a stage production put on by a traveling troupe of–get this–radio actors. The story? Pride and Prejudice. As we sat and waited for the curtain to go up, I overheard a couple of men talking behind us. One of them said, “You know, I’ve seen this movie like six times–both versions–and I still don’t get it.”

It made me laugh.

Their wives joined them at this point, so I didn’t get to hear any more of their discussion. But, having five brothers who groaned and moaned and mercilessly teased me about my taste in movies and books (“Are you watching ‘Anne of Stinky Stables’ again?”) I grew a thick skin. I liked what I liked and that was that.

Still, simply saying that you like something isn’t really a reason. Just ask my ten-year-old son, who has autism, and often uses, “Because I love it!” as an excuse for misbehaving. It doesn’t save him from the consequences.

So, while I do love the Regency era, why do I love it? Why have I dedicated hours upon hours in research and writing time to set a story in England and Scotland in 1813? I’ve come up with a few reasons.

  1. Different, but still the same. The Regency period is long enough ago to have some very distinct differences from the time we live in now–horses, strict social classes, very defined rules for behavior and manners–but short enough ago that the language is similar, and, thanks to Jane Austen, we know the psyche is similar as well. While there were still a lot of arranged marriages going on, the idea that you could wait and marry for love was kind of rebellious and romantic at the same time.
  2. The fashion. I don’t know what it is about cravats and morning dresses and riding habits and gloves, but it intrigues me to think about how much care was put into dressing. Perhaps it just shows that people are vain in any era. [Shrug.]
  3. Transportation. In writing, we talk about “world-building,” where the world of your book or story is a colorful, intricate backdrop for the action playing out center stage. When I read a well-written Regency novel, I can experience the thrill of being transported to a world with manners, social decorum, and balls.

There are other reasons, but I’ll stick with these big three as the main purposes for choosing to write a Regency novel.

What of you, dear readers? Why do you like Regency fiction?

 

 

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Erasing the “Romance Writer” Stigma

When you hear the phrase “romance writer,” what do you think of?

Yeah, I think we need to update that picture. Too many people formed their romance writer consciousness by authors in the ’80s and ’90s. Big hair, floral wallpaper, feather quill pens, and a fainting couch.

Smelling salts, perfumed paper, and titles like Cornered Tigress or The Musk of a Gentleman.

In a boudoir. (Shudder).

The truth is, all the writers I know–romance or no–don’t put on those types of airs. This is my writing space:

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Of course, calling it My Writing Space may be a bit too generous, as its true title is The Homework Table and it shares the spot with a typewriter, a box of clutter, and art projects in various stages of completion.

Nary a fainting couch in sight . . .

I guess my point is this: occasionally we stereotype people. Used car salesmen, kindergarten teachers, romance writers.

One of my favorite lines in a remake of Pride and Prejudice happens when Darcy, a book publisher, is having a business lunch with Elizabeth, an author. He’s basically making an offer for his publishing house to buy her book, but she is so prejudiced against him due to their previous encounters she barely gives him the time of day. He’s saying something about her book and calls it “a romance.”

Elizabeth cuts in. “It’s not a romance.”

Darcy says (in his suave British accent with slightly raised eyebrows), “It’s not a put-down, Miss Bennett; it’s a category.”

So, while I have struggled with the stereotypes in my mind, I have reached the point where I can embrace it. I love the Regency period. I love sweet romances.

And I’ll continue to write them, despite not writing with feather quill pens.

Some stereotypes are just begging to be broken.

Stage Fright

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I am kind of a chicken.

Not totally, but, you know, kind of.

I had thought I had reached a fairly safe spot in my maturity where I was content and confident in my abilities.

Well . . .

Apparently not so much.

I had been talking to someone I knew from Narnia. No, wait–high school. We were catching up on our lives and I mentioned I’d been to a writing conference.

“What do you write?”

I told him I was writing a book.

“What’s it about?”

I explained I was writing a Regency.

After a few sentences, which included “Jane Austen” and “some of those historical chick flicks,” he said, “That’s great! I think it’s nice when older people go after their dreams.”

Wait. Did he just call me old?

Before I could remind him we were practically the same age, he said, “Can I hear some of it? Read me an excerpt.”

Gulp. An excerpt.

Remembering my own assertion–I am a writer–my brain scrambled to figure out what part I should read. I made small talk while my mind raced. Also, I was having a difficult time locating my manuscript, or even my notebook.

I was flustered.

And completely caught off guard.

While many people had read my writing, no one had asked me to read my writing, other than at a specific critique group with other writers. And over the phone–!

(Now is probably a good time to mention that I only talk on the phone when I have to. Otherwise, I dislike it with a potent and bitter loathing. I’m awkward enough in person; over the phone the awkwardness reaches new heights.)

I fumbled over my words, apologizing, still not finding my MS anywhere.

Awkwardness galore.

Luckily, my friend is a good-phone talker and he basically said, “That’s cool,” without drawing attention to my ineptitude on the telephone.

In an attempt to be bold and make up for my earlier chicken-heartedness, I am now going to post an excerpt here. “He [or she] who hesitates is lost!” (Props to Mr. Snicket.)

This is the second scene, where we are introduced to the hero of the tale.

Sidney Thomas Francis Carmichael, Duke of Ottley, Marquess of Shelbourne, Earl of Loxley, stared across his desk at his solicitor Frederick Feld of Banks and Feld, Esq. “There’s an estate in Scotland? Why is this only coming up now?”

Feld cleared his throat delicately. “Some papers appear to have been misplaced, Your Grace.”

“Misplaced?” The young duke’s brow furrowed as he thought of the ramifications of that piece of information. He let out a frustrated sigh and raked his fingers through his hair. “Blast.” He thumbed through the pages of the appointment book sitting atop his desk’s blotter. Most, if not all, of the pages had things written on them. “That means I have to make a trip to Scotland.”

Feld considered a moment, then ventured, “You could send someone else to check out the property, Your Grace.”

Sidney shut the appointment book with a click. “For whatever reason, Sir Howard appointed me as trustee.” His voice was quiet, clipped. “Although it isn’t particularly convenient for me to take a trip to Scotland just now,” he cast a baleful glare at his appointment book, “I will fulfill my duty.” Sidney let out a pent up breath. “It will just have to wait a couple of months.”

“Your Grace, someone with your responsibilities cannot expect to do everything personally.”

“Thank you, Feld,” the duke said with a smirk. “I’ve found that lots fewer papers get ‘misplaced’ when I attend to things myself.”

Feld turned an unbecoming shade of red, but before he could stammer an apology Sidney held up a hand to stop him. “You’ll have to forgive me, Feld. It had already been a long day before you decided to lay a mysterious estate in Scotland in my lap.”

Sidney stood and Feld followed his lead. “Come talk with me tomorrow,” Sidney said, his words a dismissal.

After Feld left, Sidney walked over to the window and looked down at the street below, leaning against the sill. The manicured shrubs and the fine carriages passing didn’t register in his mind. If he was honest with himself, the Scotland estate didn’t weigh so heavily, either.

The weight he felt was the weight of the dukedom, the weight his mother had piled on him earlier during tea, the weight of duty.

“You are now a score and ten,” she had pointed out unnecessarily. “You must find a wife.”