Tag: Romance Series

Meet the Parents: Regency Romance Series

Welcome back to another round of the Regency series:
* Starting off
* Meet the man
* Pretty Lady
*Who Do I Read 1

Since someone had to give birth to these paragons of virtue, troubled souls, wicked but utterly reformable rakes, and innocent but oh so wise maidens (and occasionally widows), we must as matter of course have parents.

Mothers:

Now then, in all the really good novels, they kill off the mother. Perhaps it’s a throwback to the classic fairytales or perhaps it’s just the reality that children, especially girls, with mothers often have relationships with those mothers and don’t tend to be quite so prone to running away, having strange romances, etc etc. So please, do consider abolishing the mother before you start the first page.

Mother often died early, perhaps even in childbirth. This is not necessarily unrealistic, many women did die at that time from giving birth. And all of their children apparently promptly grew up to star in Regency Romances. If the mother dies, it allows one to make her a sainted creature, fondly remembered and loved and without any flaws a woman who had to survive the teenage years of her child.

But sometimes you need the mother to live.

If it’s the girl’s mother:

If she survives the father (killing him off, also popular) often she’s useless and all burden of supporting the family, being an active character etc falls upon the daughter about whom the story is written. Mother is often relegated to having trunks of beautifully made clothing that can be remade for the daughter to wear when snaring the noble who’ll be her husband by the end of the book. Said noble then gets mother and other siblings as new dependents.

Other mother daughter options to consider:
* Mother ignores daughter in favor of another child: either a boy or a much more beautiful sister
* Mother is the grasping mushroom type trying to buy her daughter a title she doesn’t want
* Mother is running around with all sorts of inappropriate men, which embarrasses virginal daughter

It’s very very helpful is the girl’s mother was disowned by her gentry/noble family for marrying the girl’s father, reconciliations between grandchildren/grandparents are very popular.

And, occasionally, mother is a pretty regular normal decent parent with a pretty normal relationship with her daughter.

If it’s the guy’s mother:
* She was the only one who loved him but died early because his father was cruel to her
* She abandoned him at a young age to run off with her lover
* She had him with her lover but he’s been acknowledged/raised as the heir
* She is vitriolic and plans to rule his house forever and has to be thrown out.

Those are the extremes. Usually the guys have much better mothers and much better and more realistic relationships with their mothers, the moms mostly having the role of complaining about them not being married and providing grandchildren.

Fathers:

Fathers are more likely to be alive for the girls. If they have died, they’ve left massive of debts behind so their daughters are impoverished (the charming gamester dad or poor cleric dad) or they’ve left them as heiresses with bad guardians.

For your heroine, her Father

* raised her like the son he never had but hates her for being female and/or for behaving like a boy.
* ignored her, hated her for being female.
* is the vague professorial type who educated her too well for men.
* has remarried and the woman he’s married is awful for variety of reasons

For your hero, his father
* hates him for surviving his older brothers, or being wife’s ill-begotten child, or being born at all (take your pick)
* loves him and thinks his being a rake is perfectly marvelous
* is dead and was horribly mean, causing the hero never to want children or get married.
* is dead and was wonderful, in which case he only gets mentioned in passing.

Occasionally both parents are still alive and do seem to have a good relationship with their child. More often these are his parents and then they are either wonderful people who have a lovely marriage or they are cold, harsh aristocrats who sneer upon anyone except a frigid girl like themselves and who hate each other.

(At least I’m giving you a variety of options…cut them all up, draw them out of a hat, and go.)

Ah but we can’t forget remarriages, now can we.

Stepmothers:

These poor women are, ninety percent of the time, bad mean evil women. They resent daughters and sons of first marriages, they are grasping, money grubbers.

Generally it is the heroine’s father who has remarried. Those women, often younger than sainted dead mother would be, always want to marry off the daughter as fast as possible in hopes the daughter won’t require any more money from their fathers. If the father has remarried the stepmother wants the son/heir to die so her children can inherit or some other random and strange thing.

Such it is, it comes as a pleasant surprise when there is a healthy relationship between stepmother and hero/ine. The best example I can give is Julia Quinn’s book The Viscount Who Loved Me.

Stepfathers:

Stepfathers are rare. Sometimes the mother has remarried before she goes off to sainted death and now the stepfather is selling the heroine off to the highest bidder or one of his old cronies. Sometimes the mother is still alive and this same situation is happening. Rarely do they just portion off the daughter and let her marry some nice man.

But then, that wouldn’t make a good story now would it.

Siblings and other relatives on the way soon!

Who Do You Love? Part 1: Regency Romance Series

A commenter asked for some reading recommendations. If you’re just getting into historical fiction and regencies, it can be a bit daunting to face the romance section in your local library or bookstore and try to pick out the ones that are interesting and amusing over those that might be to prurient or insipid or “Please tell me that isn’t REALLY Fabio on the cover….”

My author suggestions will mostly come from the longer types of romances, those running about 350 pages. This is not to imply that there are not many valuable authors in 180-220 page category, but I read those by the pound. I don’t tend to grab a particular author (with one notable exception), I grab a publisher and put everything the library has on hold, ten books at a time.

Those publishers are:

Signet Regency
Zebra Regency
Fawcett (Coventry Romances or Crest or something other of that nature)

They aren’t the only ones but those are the most prominent amongst the 40 or so I just had a quick look at in the living room. You’ll get to where you recognize the cover formatting, more than anything else.

I don’t read the Harlequin Historicals. I have read a few and they were decent, but there seemed to be a focus on getting a sex scene into what was a relatively short story. When 1-5 pages has to be sacrificed to the obligatory “then they went to bed together” with all of the accompanying euphemisms, it annoys me.

So, onto those author suggestions.

Georgette Heyer: Heyer gave us Regency Romance and so no list should begin without her name. She’s known for her historical descriptions, her inclusion of detail, and her fine style. Her books tend to read like the shorter Regencies but be of the length of the longer ones. I’ve only read a couple of hers but more are definitely on my list. These are ones, I’m told, that have convinced skeptical male readers that there might be more to these books than petticoats, balls, and “purple patches.”

Julia Quinn: Quinn is my absolute favorite and I back that with my checkbook, having bought every single one of her titles, a couple of them more than once when my copies went missing. She is witty, her characters have depth, and she tends to break out of the oh-so-typical formulas that I am gently mocking. She spins new twists with a wonderfully ironic sense of humor. I recommend starting with The Duke and I and reading through the Bridgerton series. Those are, in my humble opinion, her best work.

Eloisa James: James is a tenured Shakespeare professor and a NYT best-selling author of romance. It somehow was a surprise to me, when I heard her speak, for her to point out that she writes about marriage. Not about engagements and happy endings that stop at a march down the aisle, but what happens five, ten, fifteen years later, when things have gone awry from misunderstanding, people growing and changing, miscommunications, etc. Her books are well-researched and rich in detail. Jemma is her most vibrant character, but certainly not the only one with whom one can or wants to identify. I would say start with either Duchess in Love or An Affair Before Christmas.

Celeste Bradley: Bradley was recommended to me by a dear friend in Chicago. Upon discovering that the other read historical romance, she and I went through author names until we found ones we’d not heard before. Bradley writes strong heroines, active women, and for that I grab everything with her name on it eagerly. Her books are also humorous, often I chuckle aloud at a description or turn of phrase. Witty dialogue, fun characters, and she tends to write in groups of three or four, which make for a pleasant, but not overwhelming cluster of books to take on for a trip, weekend, or however long. Best to start though with The Pretender. I read the books out of order, but it’s helpful to get them in sequence.

Michelle Martin: Here is the exception to the short-Regency author rule. Martin wrote The Hampshire Hoyden, a book known between the Incredibly-Patient-Mother and Sibling-the-Elder and I for having made all three of us cry for laughing so hard. It’s out of print, so you’ll need to look for a used copy and they aren’t the easiest to come by. I have one and no, you may not borrow it. Her others are amusing but not as good, in my opinion.

I have another half dozen authors to suggest, but I’ll leave you with these for the interim.

**Note: Some people like to know in advance, all but the Heyer books (and Martin’s) have sex scenes in them and some of those are pre-marital. None of them tend to put dialogue in those scenes that “can’t be missed or you’ll never understand the rest of the book.” As a result, once I’ve read how an author does the scene once, I usually can skip right over them in the rest of the books. They are there but they aren’t obnoxious. And with rare exceptions, all of their books meet the no-sex-in-the-first-100-pages rule.

Pretty Lady: Regency Romance Series

It’s another dose of the regency series:
* Starting off
* Meet the man

The Heroine

Alongside such a strong hero, it’s very possible for the woman of a Regency Romance to be overwhelmed. Still, it takes a lot to wrangle these guys into a marriage and so most of these girls need a spine. It’s when they’re really insipid that one needs an even larger leap of romantic faith. Really? A dynamic worldly 35 year old and an waifish 18 year old virgin…uh huh. But let’s lay the ground rules of our leading ladies:

Your heroine is beautiful but not always the most beautiful woman in the room (except, of course, eventually to the hero). She’s unusual, different, unique. The reigning beauties may look pale, washed out, dull in comparison, etc next to her. That’s one take, another is that she’s very attractive but in the shadows, waiting for some man to discover her and shine the limelight upon her. Blond is the most preferred hair color, though any myriad version of that shade will do (Golden, honey, white blond, etc). But even with this pale hair color, make sure her eyebrows and lashes are naturally much darker. Red hair also shows up with alarming regularity. Strawberry blond is the best of both worlds. If her hair has to be brown it must be chestnut and only on rare occasions where someone had a gypsy ancestor does black hair show up. Her face, if you’re following the Barbara Cartland tradition, is heart-shaped. Eyes are large and luminous (belladonna applications anyone?), pools of color to be fallen into. Again, brown eyes not so much, we really prefer a crisp green or blue or, randomly, violet. I’ve never met anyone with purple eyes, but apparently they were all over the place in the Regency.

Height is either unusually tiny, where she doesn’t come up to his shoulder, or she’s unusually tall and is the same height or taller than most of the men. ***If I seem to use “unusual” overmuch, it’s because some authors do.*** But then, with all those taller-than-everyone-else-men, it helps to have a girl who measures vertically up to them. Figures are at most full. She might have an impressive bosom but earthy figures are left to older women or those of a less moral nature. Often she’s not incredibly endowed but has a wonderful figure, slim and healthy, that doesn’t really ever need a corset. So ideally we’re going for curvy but slim. Got that?

Your heroine generally gets one of two personalities: the self-sufficient feisty girl or the delicate flower who needs someone to build her a backbone. The first is getting to be far more popular, probably because too many readers were getting sick of these wistful waifs who couldn’t say boo to their husbands. Backbone, willingness to work hard and possibly break a few rules, and generally having spunk is a good thing. Still, she should at all times also be incredibly well mannered, kind to small children, animals, and old servants, and beloved by all but the inconvenient family members who mistreat her. (More on those relatives in later posts.)

Whatever it is she’s done or doing, she’s doing or has done it well. Whether that be singing (golden songbird), dancing (no stomping on toes here), drawing or painting, raising her eight siblings after both parents died, speaking Latin, preserving her virtue, or dealing with some sort of weaponry, she’s awfully good at it. Occasionally, you find the rare girl who admits an inability to sing/play well, when others around her are virtuosos, but more likely while she might not play perfectly, she plays with so much more emotion that everyone has to stop and take notice.

Your heroine really should be from a good family. It is slightly less imperative that she be born aristocracy than it is with the guys, but not by much. She still needs to come from a good family: gentry and aristocracy preferable, if her family is merchant, then she should have been raised and educated as a lady so she’ll at least fit in neatly. Even if she has been demoted Cinderella style to servitude, she was brought up well and that always shines through when it needs to.

Yes, many of them have a Cinderella complex. Either personality, or evil family, or whatever….she’s waiting for Prince Charming to take her away from her life of servitude and shower her with wealth, security, children, and the greatest opportunity of her life: being his wife. She’s amazingly self-effacing in all this too. Yes, I know, options for women were rather more limited than they are now, but seriously.

What’s her view on marriage? She wants to be married a fair portion of the time, though not always to the hero. She has idealized the boy next door (who, if he’s not the hero, is totally unacceptable). You could go with the idea that she doesn’t want to marry so she can take care of siblings, relatives, etc etc. There’s the rare gem of a heroine who doesn’t want to lose herself in marriage, worried she’ll lose herself, but the hero always sweeps past this. Oh, and yes, occasionally she’s a widow. But with the exception of one of the Bridgerton books by Julia Quinn (and it’s a lovely book), I can’t come up with very many where it was a happy marriage. Usually the first husband was a profligate and subjugated her personality, was manic-depressive, left debts, and may have abused her. And if that doesn’t make one just want to RUSH right into a second marriage :-p

So there’s your lady. Go forth and make a lady, countess, or other title of her.

Next up? Meet the in-laws.

Who’s Your Hero: Regency Romance Series

If you’re just joining us,
*Starting Off

Every good regency needs a hero. The brooding type tends to be popular. Occasionally one sees the perky one but lethargy and brooding tend to rule the day.

Things to remember about your hero:

He is always handsome and most of the time he’s a brunette. I’m not sure why this is particularly appealing, but it seems the vast majority have gorgeous dark locks to be played with. There are a few blonds in the mix. Red hair is an extreme rarity. Make sure he’s tall, usually taller than everyone else and has piercing eyes. I don’t go for the angelic type, but apparently some do, for there are many who get described as angelic. Though, more often than not, it’s a dark angel.

He’s from a good family. With exceptions that I can count on one hand and have fingers left over, he’s from the aristocracy. He doesn’t have to be titled, there are those occasional spare brothers floating around, but most likely he’s got at least one or two titles. Some families seemed to have enough for everyone so no boy had to be a mere mister. Those rare exceptions probably have some kind of gentry in the past, even if he is a *gasp* merchant or *the horror* estate manager.

Your hero must be an exceptional rider, driver, dancer and fighter. He alone can handle the horses no one else can and is never thrown. He’s always exceedingly kind to them and they never lose shoes. He beats regularly the times others have set on various road races. Within the ballroom he never ever steps on a ladies feet and always in charge when dancing. (Would that all modern men could lead with such panache and confidence!) And no matter what he’s handed: pistol, sword, or knife, or if he’s just using bare fists, he is one of the undefeated at them. Along that fisticuff line, he has a “punishing” hook and usually trains with Gentleman Jackson himself. It’s a nice way to let the hero go blow off some steam, bond with other men, or attribute why he’s so amazing at everything he does.

The hero has quite the active night life, but amazingly shows no sign of the dissipation. He drinks, gambles, smokes and carouses with the demi-monde until wee hours. He sleeps until noon and is quite often hauled out of bed with a thick head. (Assuming of course that alcohol affects him, there are a number of heroes who seem to be able to imbibe vast quantities without every having a bad morning afterwards.) But none of these cause pudginess, gout, diabetes, red noses, and amazingly, despite having biblically known quite a number of women, none of these men have contracted sexually transmitted diseases.

Speaking of the time he’s spent with the demi-monde: your hero has a past with the ladies. He’s had any number of mistresses (often a “really big number of them” that shocks nice ladies). These ladies are always acknowledged courtesans, dancers, and widows. It’s amazing how he finds all these women with loose morals, the ladies of the evening never seem to have any problems with the fact they’ve turned to the oldest of professions. If the hero finds the heroine in a brothel, he must of course spirit her out of there post-haste because she’s a nice girl who would never do that. If he finds anyone else, apparently she’s excited about her profession and the chance to entertain him. There were an amazing number of lusty bar wenches. There are also an amazing number of wives who cheat on their husbands, though of course the hero and heroine never would cheat on each other. A surprising number of these adulterous wives are happy to set up their lovers with girls who turn out to be the wife of his chaste and monogamous dreams. Who knew?

War heroes are convenient to have around, so consider making your hero a former (in his past) or recent (just coming home from the wars now) soldier. If he fought in the war, he was mentioned in the dispatches, so everyone knows what a hero he was and how he sacrificed himself for others. Despite the sacrifice, he usually comes home in one piece, despite the French soldiers and horrible surgeons best and worst efforts. Often, regret and reflection is alluded too, along with nightmares. I appreciate this, actually, it makes the men more human to realize that they fought and took lives and had friends lose their lives. Much more realistic than shoving it down with a “doing one’s duty” and being perfectly able to resume civilian life.

The hero generally has one of two approaches to marriage: he has to for purposes of having an heir, saving his fortune, meeting a parental requirement, winning a bet, etc OR he’s completely against it, plans never to marry, thinks all women are beneath him (insert double entendre here), so on and so forth. It seems to be one or the other, rarely is he just casually interested in women (Austen’s Captain Wentworth in Persuasion is a rare example where he’s open to the idea of marriage without it being forced upon him.)

We’ve met our hero, now on to our leading lady.

How to Write a Regency Romance: A Tongue in Cheek Series

It’s become too serious of late, so it’s time for some frivolity. This will be a multi-part blog series over the next few weeks.

I now offer you, based on my years and years experience reading historical romance novels, suggestions on how to write one.* I’ll mostly be focusing on so-called “regency romances.” Many of these suggestions, though, play over nicely into modern/paranormal/etc etc etc. I make these points not to insult the authors, whose books I read, suggest, buy, pass to friends, etc.; nay, friends, I come only to amuse.

Let us begin.

We’ll start with something easy–the Top Five Things You Should Mention in your Regency Romance (RR). This way you can plan to build your story around them.

  1. Tea : Everyone drinks it, everyone offers it, there’s always a fresh pot around somewhere.
  2. Almacks: The ton revolved around it, who was invited, who was going, who wasn’t going, which rake showed up there, who was banned, and the Patronesses.
  3. Ankles: Apparently they were the height of sexy, since bosoms were exposed by evening wear. Make sure there are nicely turned ones. (Turned, not sprained)
  4. Napoleon and the war: Half pay officers, wounded soldiers returning, soldiers dying, someone leaving to war, getting a commission, the escape from Elba, heros. TONS of possibilities here.
  5. Cravats: No nice man is without them. They’re used to promote the hero, bind wounds, point out the silliness of brothers, and so on and so forth.

Next we’ll be exploring your hero.

*Please note, these suggestions are not intended as practical advice. I have neither written nor published a regency romance, though the Incredibly-Patient-Mother has suggested that perhaps I should.