Pardon delay in announcing the winner of the giveaway of The Introduction of Gentleman by Heather Brothers – I was trying to get in touch with the winner before I announced it on the blog and have now heard back – Fran Politi of our own JASNA-Vermont group wins the honors this time around! – Congratulations Fran! – very happy to have you win. Heather will send off the book to you pronto … I think you will enjoy it very much! And thank you Heather for the interview and offering a copy to us – the best of luck to you in your first publishing venture!
Gentle Readers: I welcome today one of our very own JASNA-Vermont members, Heather Brothers, to talk to us about her very own, just published, novel! – The Introduction of a Gentleman. A long-time Jane Austen fan, Heather has been coming to our meetings for the past several years – she loves the Regency period and this is her first go at a Regency historical romance – it is a great read, full of all the things you expect from the genre – good guys, bad guys, a naïve heroine, an estate in jeopardy, a bit of a mystery, and a fine Scottish setting both in the country and in Glasgow. Heather has graciously offered to tell us a little bit about herself and how she came to write this first book, and she will provide a free copy for a giveaway – see below for the giveaway details.
Deb: Welcome Heather! All of us in Vermont are very excited for you, about this, your first published book! Tell us something about The Introduction of a Gentleman and what set you on the path to writing it…
Heather: The seed that grew into my love of the Regency Era was planted – as many others may have experienced themselves – when I saw the 1995 BBC version of Pride and Prejudice. I lived in Australia at the time and was visiting my best friend’s family. Being proper members of the Commonwealth, they were shocked that I had not seen P&P. The first day at their house we sat and watched it from beginning to end – I was so enraptured by it, I didn’t want to leave my seat for anything!
Being your typical enthusiast, I proceeded to throw a Pride and Prejudice New Year’s Eve party the following year – complete with country dance jammed into a most decidedly un-Pemberleyan dance hall (i.e. the living room of a cape house.) I had movie-viewing parties, read through each novel, connected with other Janeites, and after a trip to Scotland in 2008 for a friend’s wedding, I began the story that is The Introduction of a Gentleman.
Inspired by names such as Carrick and Strathclyde (both of which my husband has refused to name any future children), I began thinking and working on who these characters would be. And being fairly recently graduated from that tumultuous match-making time of life myself, I wanted to create that time and those feelings in Laura’s life.
After two years, I had created a rough draft and then fell victim to the precursor to the most glorious blessing one can possibly experience in life. Morning sickness led to hospitalization. Thank heaven for anti-nausea medication. And incidentally, if you throw up in the waiting room, you’ll get a hospital bed really fast. Keep that in mind.
My daughter being born was so amazing and during the nursing phase I was able to read a ton of books – the first being re-reading Emma. I learned so much about writing from that intense reading-filled timeframe.
I found that self-publishing really relies on your network of friends and family members. I got three critical reviews from friends – one who is a published writer, one who is an award-winning writer and Regency Era subject matter expert, and one who has a PhD in the Classics and is qualified to teach writing at the college level. My husband was also an invaluable help since, in self-publishing, you have to do all the formatting yourself (i.e. become a software expert.) I would really recommend Createspace, though. They have a lot of tools and all the channels set up for you.
And this is how I come to be where I am now. I really hope you enjoy The Introduction of a Gentleman. It doesn’t compare to the works of Jane Austen, but I think it’s a good read if you like that era.
Deb: What sort of reading have you done to prepare you to write a Regency historical novel?
Heather: Reading Jane Austen’s novels are in themselves a tutorial on many levels. I have also read some great books about the era – most recently The Jane Austen Handbook by Margaret Sullivan. I have done online research as well as learned a lot from the JASNA-Vermont meetings.
Deb: How long have you been reading Jane Austen? And what is your favorite book? Your favorite thing about her?
Heather: Interestingly, I ordered Sense and Sensibility from the Scholastic Book Club when I was in 9th grade. I tried to read it but couldn’t understand who everyone was, so gave up. Fortunately, through increased brain development and a more keen interest, since that time, I have been able to enjoy each novel.
My favorite book is Persuasion. What I love about Jane Austen is how funny she is and how brilliant she was in weaving everything together in these books. I’ve written an essay on the book Persuasion called “Might I Persuade You?” which I hope to record in an audio format. After listening to the audio version so wonderfully performed by Juliet Stevenson, I was struck by just how hilariously and wonderfully Jane Austen wrote. The other aspect of Persuasion that is so great is the theme of redeemed love and second chances – which is just irresistible.
Deb: Are you working on another novel? And if so will it be set in the same time period as The Introduction of a Gentleman? Will you continue with any of the characters?
Heather: I am working on another novel – but it is a present-day story set in Vermont about a 10-year old girl who wants to figure out a family mystery amidst her quirky aunts, uncles and grandparents: Your typical Vermont family.
Deb: Sounds like Cold Comfort Farm in Vermont! Can’t wait! What other kinds of books do you enjoy reading?
Heather: My favorite books right now are Alexander McCall Smith’s Isabel Dalhousie series and the No. 1 Ladies Detective Agency series.
Deb: You mention a trip to Scotland and the reason why it is the setting for your book, but have you travelled to other places in the UK as well, specifically to Jane Austen country in England?
Chatsworth House and Bridge [Wikimedia Commons ]
Heather: My travels in Scotland helped me decide the general areas that I wanted things to take place. Sir William Blair’s country home, for instance, is based on a castle that my husband and I visited. Other scenes were inspired by a prior trip to England. One of my aunts used to live in Nottingham. When visiting her, she took me to some amazing sites like Chatsworth, but this was before I became an Austen fan – so I didn’t realize what I missing out on! I actually had no idea what Chatsworth was prior to her taking me there. I was 18 at the time – with so much to learn! So another trip to England is definitely a hope.
Deb: You dedicate the book to your sister, and also “To my husband, who came with me to my first Jane Austen Society meeting…on fashion.” Was that at a JASNA-Vermont meeting, or another meeting somewhere else?
Heather: Yes – the dedication refers to my first JASNA meeting – the one where Hope Greenberg spoke in Montpelier at the Vermont College of Fine Arts! I loved it and actually mentioned it to Hope at the Christmas tea when she wore her wonderful dress and hat to that meeting. I have been coming to JASNA meetings – when I could (i.e. not when Claire was tiny…) – since that meeting. [Ed. This meeting was on June 7, 2009 – with our very own regency fashionista Hope Greenberg on “Fashion in Jane Austen’s World” and a great intro to JASNA-Vermont for Heather! (and her husband!)]
Thanks so much for having me here Deb!
Deb: Thank you Heather! – and wishing you a great deal of luck with your first publishing endeavor.
Plot synopsis: In 1797 Laura McCay searches for her path and a husband in the Scottish gentry. When the intriguing Mr. Strathclyde arrives at the May Ball, Laura is captivated by both his stature and his status. Her close friend, Carrick, deplores both the change he sees in Laura and Mr. Strathclyde’s growing influence over her. Heedless of the ramifications, Laura follows after Mr. Strathclyde, leaving family responsibilities and friends behind in the country. Laura disregards Carrick’s admonitions and throws herself into the city life of concerts, dresses and fashionable balls, only to find that not everything is as it seems….
The Introduction of a Gentleman at Amazon
[there is one online on Amazon for $999.11 – don’t buy that one… :)]
About the Author:
What Amazon says: Heather Brothers is an avid Jane Austen fan and has had the pleasure of visiting Scotland several times. She lives in Vermont with her family.
More detail from Heather: I was born and raised mostly in Vermont, with three years of my childhood spent in Germany. I went to McGill University in Montreal, and spent one year in Australia. I studied Political Science, German and French, and like many with a liberal arts degree, my job doesn’t reflect my studies. I work as a loan analyst at the Vermont Student Assistance Corporation, where I have worked for eight and a half years.
I love going to Shelburne Farms in the summer with my daughter and husband. My favorite restaurant is Mirabelle’s downtown – which has the best hot chocolate. I’m beginning to wonder if it’s become an addiction, seeing as I stop there every Sunday before church and am on a first name basis with the staff…
Please leave a comment or a question for Heather at the end of this post and you will be entered into a random drawing for a copy of The Introduction of a Gentleman. Deadline is Tuesday January 21, 2014, 11:59 pm. I will announce the winner on Wednesday January 22nd. US entries only please. [sorry about that – postage rates are sky-high to everywhere else…]
C2014, Jane Austen in Vermont
The Jane Austen in Vermont blog has been silent for the past month, for which I apologize, but as I have now returned somewhat to a “normal” life, I can begin again to obsess on “all things Jane” – blogging, twittering, facebooking, researching, writing, and best of all Reading!
Moving is a nightmare, no matter how organized one might be, and of all my various strengths and weaknesses, the will to organize has always been the driving force; so take the contents of one old house, pack it all up and put it all in storage, and six months later, move all into a new maintenance-free house, and spend the next 3+ weeks unpacking, overdosing on cardboard and paper, as 25,000 pounds (or so the mover tells me) of “stuff” (including my own book collection) finds a place in the new home … so bad back notwithstanding, the deed is done, my books are on the shelves (though alas! not yet fully alphabetized, she says shame-faced), all the drawers and closets are organized, the kitchen is in fine working order (surviving on take-out has become a very nice habit – whoever said I actually needed a kitchen in this new place?), and all the pictures are hung – so “normal” returns in a fashion, and time to get back to real life…
What have I done these past 3+ weeks for my sanity? – the quick break from unpacking, organizing and hammering? I have existed, not only on take-out, but also on the comfort-food of reading mysteries and romance novels – my mind might now be a tad mushy, as I fear the worst in trying to get my head around “game theory” in reading the grandly enlightening Jane Austen, Game Theorist (I promise an author interview shortly, but see in the meantime Michael Chwe’s website here: http://www.sscnet.ucla.edu/polisci/faculty/chwe/austen/ ) – but it has been great fun – so here is my list, all highly recommended as just great reads, and even Jane might approve, as they are each and every one, “only a novel”!
Georgette Heyer: I should add here that for the packing-up part last fall, I re-read all my favorite Georgette Heyers – hard to choose, but I read at least ten all in a row, and can now safely say that I can barely tell one from the other, but the joy of the moment of reading is nearly perfection!
[Image courtesy of Jane Austen Today, with thanks]
Charles Todd, the Bess Crawford mysteries: I am a fan of the Jacqueline Winspear Maisie Dobbs series , largely because I love the time between the two World Wars, so was happy to discover that the Charles Todd mother-son duo (of Ian Rutledge fame) had started a similar series a few years ago – have read the first three and have just started the latest. The titles in order:
- A Duty to the Dead
- An Impartial Witness
- A Bitter Truth
- An Unmarked Grave
– all featuring Bess Crawford, a nurse during WWI, who seems to forever be stumbling headlong into murder and mayhem, as well as the very-helpful-in-a-murder-mystery-plot-device of having veritable strangers tell her the most amazing things – great fun – you must read them in order… and the fact that there is a very close family friend who seems to always be there when needed adds a little spice and anticipation – his name is Simon Brandon, so nice to know that Jane Austen, as always, is in the mix somehow… [I think Knightley would have been too obvious…]
See their website at http://charlestodd.com/ for more information.
Julie Klassen’s The Tutor’s Daughter: I have read a few of Klassen’s books and find them to be the perfect read, so was happy to take on her latest The Tutor’s Daughter. It does not disappoint: raging Cornwall weather; two brothers with opposite personalities and each with a history with the lively heroine, the nearly-on-the-shelf daughter of the live-in tutor to the two younger sons of the new wife of Sir Giles; add in an old-rambling castle-like home with a wing one is to stay out of and some ghostly goings-on, and you have a fine historical romance that combines Northanger Abbey and Jane Eyre into one delightful confection……
For more information on this and other books by Klassen, see her website here: http://www.julieklassen.com/index.html
Candice Hern: Thanks to Laurel Ann and her mentions of Ms. Hern, I have read most of the books in the Reading Challenge at Austenprose (though I did not sign up, didn’t think I would have the time! – no matter, it is the reading that counts!): again, each tells a fine regency-era tale with the requisite heroines, rakes, fashions, and settings you will be sure to savor:
- A Proper Companion
- A Change of Heart
- An Affair of Honor
- A Garden Folly
- The Best Intentions
- “Desperate Measures”
- “Lady Ann’s Excellent Adventure”
For more information, visit Hern’s website here: http://candicehern.com/ – and be sure to click on the “Regency World” section of her website for a wealth of information about the times of which she writes. And for those attending the Jane Austen JASNA AGM in Minneapolis this year, you will be fortunate to see Ms. Hern’s collection of Regency artifacts on display – she wrote an article on vinaigrettes for the Mar/Apr issue of Jane Austen’s Regency World magazine.
Ok, so all of this made the joys of moving more than bearable – I am almost disappointed to have to return to real life after all – but I am not quite done yet: I will be moving all my Bygone Books business back into the house in the next 2 weeks, so I can keep reading these delightful escapist tales after all – Hern’s Miss Lacey’s Last Fling and Todd’s Unmarked Grave await! and then I shall return to Austen and celebrating Pride and Prejudice, so stay-tuned…
What do you like to read when going through a stressful, energy-intensive time?
c2013 Jane Austen in Vermont
Book Giveaway! ~ See details at the end of this post.
I welcome again Louise Allen for the second part of my interview about her new book Walks Through Regency London ~ [click here for Part I]
JAIV: Hello again Louise! – now let’s talk about your fiction: I have to make the embarrassing confession that I have not read any of your Regency romances! Your website says you write “Scandalously witty Regency romance” – how are you different from the other writers in this genre?
LA: I write romance, so obviously there is emotional intensity, but I have a well-developed sense of humour and I don’t enjoy writing about people who can’t laugh at themselves and the situation they find themselves in. A hero who isn’t witty isn’t quite a hero for me and my heroines, who all have a bit of me in them somewhere, are more likely to find the light side of any disaster, pick themselves up and carry on. And scandalous? Well, I’m told I write “hot” historicals – which means that I tend to have slightly older, more experienced and/or less conventional heroines who might have convincingly amorous encounters.
JAIV: What book would you suggest a “newbie” start with? [I promise to order a copy right away!]
LA: Well, I’ve just won a CataRomance Reviewer’s Choice Award for The Lord & the Wayward Lady which is the first of a series of eight books I wrote with five other authors. I also wrote the seventh in the series, The Officer and the Proper Lady which I have to confess is a favourite of mine. Or you might like to start with a trilogy which comes out in the States later this year (August, September, November) – “The Transformation of the Shelley Sisters.” The first one is Practical Widow to Passionate Mistress.
JAIV: You have several stand-alone titles and several titles in series – which do you prefer to write? Is it hard to let a character go when there is no sequel in the wings?
LA: I do enjoy being able to stretch myself over a series and I love revisiting characters from earlier books. And yes, I hate letting my characters go! But it does make scheduling problems and there is more flexibility and variety with stand-alone books. My next one will be a singleton and I’m just starting it. Mills & Boon is producing a series set in historical houses owned by the National Trust, linking a fictional romance with real events and people, and I’m lucky enough to have been asked to do one. I’ve chosen Wimpole Hall in Cambridgeshire. When I’ve completed that I’ll be writing one set entirely in India in the 1790s.
JAIV: This National Trust series sounds intriguing! Are any of your other characters based on historical figures?
LA: I will occasionally have real characters “walking on” – the Prince Regent or Wellington for example – but all my heroes and heroines are entirely fictitious. I try very hard to make sure historical events take place as the records show and I’m not making people act out of character.
JAIV: What is your writing process? – do you plan ahead or as you have said yourself do “the Hero and Heroine take over and sabotage all your efforts at discipline”?
LA: I’m what is known in the business as a “pantser” – I fly by the seat of my pants into the fog – rather than being a planner. But I need to know my characters very well before I start, then I put them in a situation and I hope I can keep control of them!
JAIV: Do you have a favorite character? – the Hero? The Heroine?
LA: I need to be able to identify with the heroine – and hope my readers will too. And I have to be a little bit in love with the hero (luckily my husband is secure about this!). Some heroes though, stay with me – Hal Carlow in The Officer and the Proper Lady and Jack Ryder in The Dangerous Mr Ryder for example.
JAIV: What makes a great Hero? A great Heroine?
LA: My heroes have to be men of honour, even if sometimes that is buried rather deeply. They must have courage – physical and moral – and they need an edge of darkness, of danger. And a sense of humour, of course! Great heroines have the reader living the book with them – and I wish there was a recipe for achieving that. I know I’ve succeeded when my editor says (in a good way) “ was in tears over x or y”.
JAIV: Do you believe in the transformation of the Rake, his redemption? –
LA: That depends on the rake. There were some genuinely unpleasant and vicious Regency rakes. I believe that a man who has, for good reason, become cynical and cold and destructive can be redeemed by love, but there are things I wouldn’t countenance in one of my heroes.
JAIV: How do you come up with names? Ravenhurst, Carlow, etc…
LA: What a good question – I wish I knew the answer! I tell my subconscious to get on with it and end up with lists and jotted notes on every scrap of paper. Then I have to try them out and see what works. Sometimes a character insists on a different name and I have to give in.
JAIV: If you were giving advice to budding writers, what would it be?
LA: Write, write, write – you have to learn technique and you have to build your writing “muscles”. Listen to constructive advice from agents, publishers, published writers and think about what they are saying. But never over-polish your work so that you lose you unique “voice”.
JAIV: Your covers – do you have input or is this out of your hands?
LA: Out of my hands!
JAIV: You mention that your last work is part of a “continuity series” of eight books written by six different authors. How ever did you all come together in such a task? And how different was the writing process for your two books in this series? – what are the other titles and authors, and should the series be read in order?
LA: The editors at HMB in Richmond, London, put us together – we didn’t know each other so it was a sharp learning curve. Fortunately we got on very well together, which was a good thing as we had to come up with the over-arching mystery that links the books, all the characters and eight plots ourselves, subject to editorial approval. For me it meant I had to plan far more than I usually do and the process was slower as we were all writing at the same time and constantly checking back and forth to ensure continuity of plot and characterization, especially as we were all using each other’s characters. But it was a wonderful experience and we are still firm friends. The books can be read alone, but if read in order you also get to follow the mystery through to its conclusion. In order they are:
The Lord & the Wayward Lady (Louise Allen)
Paying the Virgin’s Price (Christine Merrill)
The Smuggler & the Society Bride (Julia Justiss)
Claiming the Forbidden Bride (Gayle Wilson)
The Viscount & the Virgin (Annie Burrows)
Unlacing the Innocent Miss (Margaret McPhee)
The Officer & the Proper Lady (Louise Allen)
Taken By the Wicked Rake (Christine Merrill)
JAIV: I am interested in your current “work in progress” – to be set in India – you have recently visited to inspire you and help in your research – I had the good fortune to visit India a few years ago and was so moved by the beauty of the people and the culture – what were your impressions? And what works are your reading for your historical research?
LA: As I said above, this is now the book after next. I went to India last year and used some of that experience in my “Danger & Desire” trilogy (out in the States next year) but I wanted to do one set there entirely, and rather earlier than I usually write – the late 1700s. I love India, even at its most chaotic, and Rajasthan where we were in January had the most incredible palaces and forts, many of which we stayed in. I’m reading through a pile of quite academic material on the East India Company but I found William Dalrymple’s The White Moghuls very inspiring and for light relief there is always William Hickey – Memoirs of a Georgian Rake.
JAIV: What is the most essential tool in marketing your work?
LA: Constant contact with readers is paramount. I keep my website up to date, I tweet and I’ll do talks wherever and whenever I can. Next week I’m speaking at a US base in Norfolk!
JAIV: And finally a question about the publishing aspect of books vs. Kindle [etc.] – I see that many of your works are available in the ebooks format – have you seen an increase in sales because of this?
LA: I love books, but I love my Kindle too and I’m really pleased that many of my out of print books are becoming available in e-formats. It is too early to say what impact it is having on sales, but I don’t think there is any option other than to go along that route. Having said that, I can’t see the paper book dying any time soon, thank goodness.
JAIV: And finally, what do you like to do when not writing??!
LA: I read voraciously, travel, go antiquing, garden and talk endlessly to other writers.
JAIV: Anything else you would like to say?
LA: Thank you very much for having me! And do get in touch if you are coming to London – I’d love to meet members of your Society.
JAIV: Thank you Louise for sharing your thoughts with us – You have been most generous with your time! To All: Please look for my review of Walks Through Regency London in Friday’s post.
If you would like to order the Regency Walks book, you can do so directly from her website – I can attest to the book being mailed right away, arriving safe and sound and very quickly!
Book Giveaway: Please enter the drawing for a copy of Walks Through Regency London, compliments of ‘Jane Austen in Vermont’, by asking Louise a question or commenting on any of the three posts about this book. Drawing will take place next Wednesday 2 March 2011; comments accepted through 11 p.m. EST March 1st. [Delivery worldwide.]
[All images from Louise Allen’s website, except the letter-writing sketch which seems to be everywhere…]
Copyright @2011, Deb Barnum, at Jane Austen in Vermont.
NOTE: Book giveaway! ~ see the end of this post for details!
Please welcome author Louise Allen today as she answers questions about her new book on Regency London. Louise is a very successful writer of historical Regency romances, over thirty-five titles to date! Her interest in all things Regency is fed by constant research into the period, as well as the development of a fine collection of prints and ephemera from the era – all this to help in her writing. In December 2010 she released her first non-fiction work titled Walks Through Regency London [available direct from her at louiseallen [dot] regency [at] tiscali [dot] co [dot] uk
JAIV: Thank you Louise for joining us here in Vermont today! I was so pleased to get your new book on Regency London hot off the press! – I ordered two copies and gave one to another London-obsessed friend and she is most enjoying your book!…we only wish we could both be in London together and exploring Town with your book in hand, rather than this armchair traveler thing! – hopefully, sometime soon…we’re working on it!
JAIV: So first, tell us something about yourself.
LA: Thank you very much for inviting me to join you – it is great to be in Vermont, even if only in cyberspace! I live in the East of England with my husband and we are about to move even further east, to a cottage on the North Norfolk coast. I was first published back in 1985 and for years I wrote alongside my full-time job as a property manager, but for the last three years I’ve been writing full-time and I love it.
JAIV: When did you first discover your love of the Regency period? Why this time and place?
LA: I think I first became aware of it when reading Georgette Heyer as a teenager. I’ve always been an historian – I studied landscape history, historical geography and archaeology at university – but it took me a while to settle on the “long” Regency as a period to write in. My first book was set during the English Civil War of the 17thc but my editor encouraged me to look at the Regency and I fell in love with it. I think it is because it occupies a transitional place between the agricultural and aristocratic world of the 18thc and the rapid technological change and urbanization of the Victorian era. Boundaries are always interesting and complex and it is also sufficiently different and yet recognizable, which makes it fascinating to write about. And I’m English, so English history felt right.
JAIV: Did you read Jane Austen as well as Georgette Heyer? – do you re-read them? Which are your favorite titles, if it is possible to choose?
LA: Yes, to both authors and yes to re-reading. Austen – I love Pride & Prejudice, but I find Sense & Sensibility more interesting. I was at Jane Austen’s house at Chawton last year and it was very moving to walk in her garden and to see her tiny writing table. Heyer favourites? The Grand Sophy and also The Toll Gate, which isn’t everyone’s choice, but I’m tall, so I identify with the heroine!
JAIV: You obviously use London and the London social scene in your fiction, and the need to be accurate has led you to amass a great deal of research through the years – hence your “Walks” book – what first prompted you to pull all this together and publish it?
LA: My husband and I love walking, and we love London, so it was no hardship to start exploring when I wanted to check details. Then we got hooked and started exploring specific areas – when I looked at my notes and our photos I realized that I had the makings of a book.
JAIV: You cite the 1807 The Picture of London guidebook as your main source. What other books did you use? – there are so many works on London – which are your favorite and why?
LA: I use the 1807 guide because it is fun to take it for a walk where it must once have gone with its Regency owner – it is the real thing, much used and slightly battered. We also take the invaluable A-Z of Regency London published by the London Topographical Society. Their historical A-Zs are a brilliant resource. When I checked my shelves just now I found I have 55 reference books on London, so it is a problem to pick out just a few, but I would say The London Encyclopedia (published by Macmillan) is an essential. Peter Ackroyd’s London: The Biography is full of fascinating, unusual and often downright weird information and Dan Cruickshank’s book on the sensual life of London The Secret History of Georgian London is about so much more than sex.
JAIV: What are your favorite haunts in London, for both Regency times and the present?
LA: The St James’s area is the best preserved Georgian/Regency quarter. Soho is endlessly fascinating – so many layers of history. The City, although it has been leveled by the great fire and then again by the Blitz still preserves its medieval street patterns and modern office blocks must contort themselves to fit the shape of some ancient workhouse or monastery cloister. You can even see the curved walls of Newgate Prison fossilized in the shape of an ultra modern building. But it is hard to find a part of London that isn’t interesting if you are prepared to be very nosy!
JAIV: The book is fact-filled and anecdotal, and culled from so much available information – how did you decide what to include and what not to include?
LA: It was a nightmare! I had enough material for twenty walks, but I tried to chose ones that gave a variety of experiences, which were all about 2 miles long and which could be split up if walkers wanted to have a shorter route or spend more time in a museum.
JAIV: Did you discover anything surprising in your research and exploration? Something you did not already know?
LA: It wasn’t so much new facts that I found but places which gave me a real frisson of excitement: the 1820s operating theatre where you can see the marks of the surgeons’ saws on the table; the last galleried coaching inn left in London; the great scales in Berry Bros & Rudd where Byron used to weigh himself; having a drink in Tom Cribb’s own pub and exploring the back alleys behind Almack’s which were once filed with high-class brothels and gambling dens. Perhaps the most unexpected discovery was in a Chinese supermarket in Soho – walk past stacks of dried herbs and fish, bags of rice and look up and realize you are in a very old house indeed – and in the back is still the sweeping 18thc staircase. This is the Turk’s Head coffee-house and Dr Johnson and Joshua Reynolds were just two of the great men who socialized here.
[Image of Samuel Johnson: Johnsonese.com]
JAIV: The illustrations in your book are from your own collection. What other ephemera from the era do you look for? When did you start becoming a serious collector? – and did your writing come first or vice versa?
LA: The writing came first then the more I wanted to know about the period, the more I would look for items from it. I collect fashion prints 1790-1820, prints of London from Ackermann’s Repository, coaching and sporting prints, bills and invoices, playbills and anything else that I can get my hands on. I started buying fashion prints when I stubbed my toe on a box of over thirty, all framed, under the table at an auction. I got them for a song and as the porter staggered out to the car with them he said, ‘Bloody hell, madam, you don’t half buy in bulk!’ He didn’t know how true it was, I’m afraid – I’ve got about 1,000 prints now.
JAIV: Where are your favorite haunts to find items? How do you categorize and store them?
LA: On-line and live auctions, antique fairs and antique shops are all good places to search, but auctions are the most productive. I store them in archival-quality binders on acid free paper, or have them framed by a specialist framer using acid-free mounts. I arrange the fashion prints by date, the London prints by street and everything else by subject.
JAIV: You bring the Regency so to life! – better to have this guide while actually walking around London – but even so this journey of readinghas been delightful… Which of your walks is your favorite? – what is your favorite part of London?
LA: Thank you! I enjoy them all – it depends on my mood. If I am feeling like high society and shopping, Mayfair and St James’s are best. Hyde Park is great for a good walk, Soho is vibrant and slightly edgy and the City surprisingly dark and sinister.
JAIV: The process of writing fiction and non-fiction is quite different – explain the process for writing this Walks book.
LA: I was very conscious the whole time that I had to make this crystal-clear for people to follow. It would have more than doubled the cost if I’d included maps, so users needed to be able to do without, or use it in conjunction with an ordinary pocket map. Then, once I had plotted each walk out on a modern map it was a question of picking out the relevant points of interest or short snippets of interesting information and weaving them in with the directions – and then re-walking to check every turning and fact.
JAIV: Do you have another non-fiction Regency-era book in the works?
LA: We are tracing the original route of the Great North Road, the main coaching route between Edinburgh and London – but not on foot! This is great fun and needs a lot of detective work and old maps. I see this one as possibly being a Kindle book rather than a print one.
JAIV: Thank you Louise for joining us today for Part I of this interview! – Louise is happy to answer any of your questions, so please ask away!
Stay tuned: Part II tomorrow where I continue this interview with Louise on her Regency Romances and her thoughts on writing; followed by Part III, a book review of Walks Through Regency London.
If you would like to order the Regency Walks book, you can do so directly from her website – I can attest to the book being mailed right away, arriving safe and sound and very quickly!
Thank you again Louise for joining us today – looking forward to continuing our discussion tomorrow!
Book Giveaway: Please enter the drawing for a copy of Walks Through Regency London, compliments of ‘Jane Austen in Vermont’, by asking Louise a question or commenting on any of the three posts about this book. Drawing will take place next Wednesday 2 March 2011; comments accepted through 11 p.m. EST March 1st. [Delivery worldwide.]
[All images excepting Dr. J from Louise Allen’s website]
Copyright @2011, Deb Barnum, at Jane Austen in Vermont.
by Clare Darcy
Walker and Company 1977, Signet 1978
[and other various reprints]
She had never thought a great deal about being in love before, not being romantically inclined and having read very few of the novels over which other young ladies at Miss Bascom’s had shed luxurious tears; but obviously, she thought, it was quite as uncomfortable a matter as those marbled volumes depicted it as being. [Eugenia, p. 231]
Clare Darcy’s Eugenia is a bit of a different confection than the usual Regency Romance. The Heroine is still the smart, feisty, quick-thinking, in this case tomboy-like young lady, and Our Hero is as expected, tall, dark and handsome, strong and muscular; but there are only rare moments of sword-crossing, none of the “they started off hating each other” – indeed, this Hero and Heroine are only occasionally found interacting on the page together, and barely ever alone – but it is quite charming all the same… and thankfully largely lacking the incessant “infant-brat-chit” talk!
We begin in Bath in May of 1811, and Miss Eugenia Liddiard, an orphan since her father’s death three years ago and schooled at the Miss Bascom’s Select Academy for Young Ladies, is finally returning “home” to the Essex seat of her cousin / guardian Lord Chandross. Lady Chandross, “not a proper guardian”, is to chaperon Eugenia in her first London Season, the goal to marry her off as soon as possible so she, Lady C, may return to to her own dalliances unencumbered. Eugenia wants none of this – she is practical and not romantic and has definitely made up her mind to propose marriage to her childhood friend Tom Rowntree, brother of her best friend Muffet, so she will no longer be a burdensome project, be able to settle on land adjacent to her former home Coverts in Kent [her “place of belonging” and now in the care of a hands-off elderly clergyman cousin], and to be free to just be, taking no orders from anyone.
Fortunately for all, characters and readers alike, the traveling chaise bearing Eugenia and her abigail is forestalled at the less than fashionable Kings Head Inn due to a raging storm and washed-out roads, and Eugenia, “who liked new experiences of any sort”, serendipitously runs into her cousin “Gerry” at the Inn, and the adventure begins. By page nine we have met our Hero, have a full understanding of the the Heroine’s character, beauty, love of adventure, and quite wild imagination with a penchant for concocting very tall tales when the occasion calls for it.
For “Gerry” is not Eugenia’s wild and reckless cousin Gerry at all, but the dead-ringer “Richard” [to wit, Jane Austen may not approve but he makes a fine Hero just the same!]. Richard is yet another cousin [isn’t is striking How Many Cousins there are in these Regency novels?!], also forestalled at the Inn and suffering from the lingering effects of a fever – and alas! he collapses in a dead faint in the Inn’s coffeehouse, Eugenia comes to the rescue and discovers the truth of his identity – he is the “by-blow” of her long-dead uncle Charles, thus not the true legitimate male heir to Coverts because he has only hearsay evidence, no written proof, of his parent’s marriage. Orphaned shortly after birth and raised by a clergyman in Ireland, Richard has returned to England to prove his birthright; Eugenia schemes for him to pass himself off as his look-alike cousin and come to her guardian’s estate to recuperate, offering her help to search the ecclesiastical records for the hoped-for marriage registry.
But, as all best-laid plans must indeed go awry or we wouldn’t have a tale to tell, real cousin Gerry is being sought by the Bow Street Runners for Highway Robbery and Murder – Richard must go into hiding until Gerry can be captured or he risks the gallows…
… so… her wondrous and fertile imagination madly at work, Eugenia sets up a new plan [she calls it “acting, not lying” ] – with much disguise, masquerading, outrageous fabrications to family and friends, and many a character entering her play – her old nurse Nan and her old groom Haggart to whom she confides Richard’s secrets; Lady Brassbororough [!], Lady B, the former “scarlet woman” famous for her stage past and various liaisons among the the rich of the ton, now a rather large woman covered in emeralds and diamonds, with a pug named Wellington who bites on command, with a resource of ready swears to send any man staggering into a corner, and who thankfully, in the end, saves the day.
I’ll tell no more – but Miss Darcy, like Heyer before her in False Colours, gives us an almost gentle tale of mistaken identity, complete with Regency cant, French sayings, and an abundance of Regency references [Stulz the tailor, the 1697 play “The Deceiver Deceived“, Hessian soup, Fanchon, ices at Gunter’s [though it is misnamed Gunther’s – her mistake or a typo?] are just a few examples … there are a good many more with the fun of looking them up!]; the two bumbling Bow Street Runners, Baker and Cartwright [perfect name for a TV show!]; dance requests and marriage proposals from all the wrong people; the “highest kick of fashion” described; the settings of Town and Country knowingly depicted; the ever-present cadre of servants, who keep “up a dignified pretence, for the sake of [their] positions, of being deaf and blind as well as quite uninterested” [p. 242]; the requisite pistols and grown men brawling; a charming and defiant Heroine who unromantic as she believes herself to be discovers “the joy of knowing love” and the pain of not having it returned; and finally The Hero, more Fitzwilliam Darcy-like – aloof and composed with a quiet, impenetrable reserve and decisive manner – and thankfully knows how to perform the proper Embraces and Crushing Kisses when so called upon.
Lady Chandross, “with her usual air of fashionable indifference“, sums it all up nicely with “so it seems that everything has turned out for the best in the end, quite in the manner of one of those dull little comedies where everyone reforms or is suitably paired off just before the curtain falls” [p. 224] – Miss Darcy may laugh so at her own little creation, but so do we, and again, though this is not Heyer, it is great fun – put it on your summer reading list!
3 1/2 full inkwells out of 5
[Posted by Deb]
Georgina, by Clare Darcy.
NY: Walker and Company, 1971;
NY: Dell, 1977 [and other reprints]
The opening scene finds us in a house on Great Pulteney Street in Bath, where a rejected marriage proposal has all the Power family at odds – we quickly see that Miss Georgina Power is not going to be forced into an arranged marriage with one Mr. Smallwoods, despite his prospective title and comfortable fortune – and to avoid the inevitable resulting gossip, she is quickly shipped off to Ireland to visit her father’s cousin, the widowed Arabella Quinlevan, who has her own plans for Georgina to marry her son Brandon. They reside at The Place of the Oaks, a fine estate, slowing running to seed since the death of the owner, Georgina’s uncle, whose daughter Nuala had recently died and the estate rather than going to the next rightful heir, our Heroine Georgina, fell to Nuala’s “odious adventurer” rake of a husband, Mr. Shannon. [phew! sufficiently confused?]
Now Mr. Shannon has all the qualities of the Regency Rake – but he has no place in this closed Society, as he is the “natural son” of the Scottish Lord Cartan, and this, coupled with his arrogant air and lack of proper manners and a bad reputation fueled by the gossip-mongers, sets the entire cast of characters off to a rousingly bad start when Shannon returns to The Place unannounced, asserts his rights as owner and expects the Quinlevans to vacate immediately.
He walked into the book-room with Brandon. Her concept of arrogance was immediately strengthened by the sight of a tall figure, carried with distinction and set off to careless advantage in a well-fitting drab coat, buckskins, and top boots, and a harsh-featured face with cool grey eyes. [p. 33]
Georgina labels him a “rag-mannered basket-scrambler” [p.36] and the sparks begin, that ever-present in a Regency Romance “crossing of swords”. Shannon IS an arrogant, cold-hearted Hero. They both are hot-tempered, she “devilishly obstinate” and persistent, with a sharp and honest tongue, displaying all manner of improper behaviors for a Lady; he showing no emotion, no feelings, but seemingly a hardened rake who had married Nuala for her fortune. But Georgina begins to see that in his fine management of the estate, the respect the servants and tenants show him, his growing friendship with Brandon, his protectiveness of her [like all Regency Heroes, he does have a penchant for showing up exactly when the Heroine has landed in the suds!], that perhaps the neighborhood’s opinion is not so justified after all – her efforts to defend him bring on the tattle-boxes and the damage is done.
True to this genre, the conventional escapades begin, Georgina in numerous scrapes, masquerades, marriage proposals in abundance – some for love, some for her fortune – balls, midnight runaways, the machinations of a few nasty and jealous Matrons, and like Heyer before her, Miss Darcy’s strong, silent, Hero does indeed have feelings – all conveyed in his Eyes: “the glad incredulous welcome in his eyes” changing to “an indifferent sardonic coolness”, “the contempt she read in those eyes”, “a look of such bleak unhappiness in those grey eyes”, “those hard grey eyes, strangely softening”, etc…, otherwise we would be at a loss…!
Georgina was Clare Darcy’s first book, though I did not read it first, and I recollect that I thought it more serious than anything Heyer had certainly ever written – truth be told, it lacks that expected humor and even Darcy’s own hand at it improves in her later works. I wonder perhaps that she was not sure where her Regency era talents would take her in this first book. There is a certain gravity to the narrative -we have a dark Hero, a mystery in his past about his marriage and the death of his wife, rejected by a Society that seems more mean-spirited than funny, and a Heroine who fights the fortune-focused, behavior-constraining society she lives in, breaking almost every Rule in the Book to clarify what she instinctively knows about this man. Thankfully, her young cohort Brandon, whose mother is set to have him betrothed to Georgina, is the salvation here – the bookish, Byron-like figure [with the required limp] is quite adorable and amusing, bringing much-needed levity.
I liked this book very much – and while we again know from the first moment that the name of Mr. Shannon is introduced on the page, where it is all headed, it was great fun. And one must like a book where the proposing Hero says: “Nay, I’m no hand at speeches!” – even Jane Austen’s Mr. Knightley would approve!
4/5 full inkwells
For the past year I have been interspersing my regular reading with a taste of Georgette Heyer – a delightful romp through her Regency romances – not quite done yet [gad! There are so Many! – not to mention the Mysteries and the Historicals…], and I fear as I look back that I am getting them all confused – I must learn to take better notes! – But I have taken a break for a bit, and in looking around for other such books to get my “Regency fix” [or is it the “romance”?!], I have discovered Clare Darcy – or at least discovered her books, as there seems to be cloak of complete mystery about the author. Even the know-it-all Internet brings up little evidence:
1. A Wikipedia entry that only lists her books and repeats the biography given on all the novels: “an American novelist from Ohio”
2. The Books Themselves: “…her recent Regency tales have all been acclaimed as the truest successors to those of Georgette Heyer. It is hard not to believe that Miss Darcy was born and raised in the best Society of that day – rather than in the Ohio of our own time.” All copyright notices state either the publisher “Walker and Company” or “Clare Darcy”
3. Rave Reviews: “The latest addition to the author’s piquant, literate romances of life among the ton in Regency England celebrates one of Darcy’s spunkiest heroines yet” [Publisher’s Weekly on Eugenia] and “An enchanting Regency novel…which makes one rejoice in finding what could have been taken for a new Georgette Heyer novel” [Library Journal on Victoire]
4. A Blog Post by the Regency author Lesley-Anne McLeod dated September 16, 2008: Ms. McLeod raises the same questions I have: Who was she? Where is she? Was she a “she” or a “he”? Is Clare Darcy a penname? [it must be!], Did she write other books? she is obviously versed in Heyer, but original and knowledgeable enough to put the reader into a living, breathing Regency world. Ms. McLeod asks for any information, and a reader commented: “I would like to point out in the front of my book it states that ‘this is the last of the novels discovered after Clare Darcy’s death’. It was first published in 1982.” – this last title is Caroline and Julia. [I have the Signet paperback and it makes no such mention, so this must be in the hardcover edition; but the author note in my copy says “Miss Darcy was very much at home in her special world, Regency England” and the previous books note that “she is very much at home…” [well, at least that answers ‘where she is’]
[and BTW, on another post, Lesley Ann lists her top dozen Regency reads: Clare Darcy’s Lydia sits in great company at number 11; Persuasion is 6, but the list is in no particular order]
5. At Good Ton there is a list of all her works with character names and short summaries
7. And finally at Fantastic Fiction, there is a list of titles with several images of book covers, but nothing else
So, scanty information! I’ll share some thoughts and pen a few “rapid reviews” over my next few posts [don’t want to give too much away!] – I begin with the titles of her fourteen published works [thankfully, more manageable than Heyer!] – all published by Walker, and in paperback by Signet, other various reprints, no longer in print but readily available from used booksellers. You can also search Amazon and read a few customer reviews.
Here’s the list:
- Georgina 
- Cecily: Or a Young Lady of Quality [1972)]
- Lydia: Or Love in Town 
- Victoire 
- Lady Pamela 
- Allegra 
- Elyza 
- Regina 
- Cressida 
- Eugenia 
- Gwendolen 
- Rolande 
- Letty 
- Caroline and Julia 
So far I have read eight of the fourteen in my continuing efforts to flunk my regular bookgroup – and now, as with my Heyer immersion, I am getting all the plot lines confused, relying on notes to keep them fresh in my mind, and now taking a much needed break [not to mention that I am increasingly frustrated with my husband for not wanting to dress in superfine blue waistcoats and a cravat in the Mathematical style, his “dark locks” in the Stanhope Crop, and must desist in those efforts for family harmony…]
I cannot compare Darcy to Heyer – she falls short; everyone does, just as anyone trying to imitate Jane Austen, fails miserably despite best efforts. Heyer is incomparable in plot, characterization, and laugh-out-loud humor – I first read Faro’s Daughter and at every turn of the page I yelled at myself for not Reading Her Before Now – so I will not compare them – read Clare Darcy for herself – here too we find great plots, characters [some that jump off the page], sparkling dialogue, and almost as much humor as Heyer – there is at least one classic scene in each novel that sends you into peels, and any of the books will certainly cure you of a “fit of the dismals”!
Some Regency Romance conventions:
The Romance Writers of America site defines the “Romance Genre” thusly – it must comprise these two elements:
A Central Love Story: The main plot centers around two individuals falling in love and struggling to make the relationship work. A writer can include as many subplots as he/she wants as long as the love story is the main focus of the novel.
An Emotionally-Satisfying and Optimistic Ending: In a romance, the lovers who risk and struggle for each other and their relationship are rewarded with emotional justice and unconditional love.
A “Regency Romance” must have these and be set for the most part in Regency England. And what else? – these seem to be the recurring conventions , what shows up in each tale, what we expect from page one to the end [I confess to NOT being a reader of romances, so bear with me as I try to piece all this together]
1. The Regency World of Town and Country:
real settings in England, either in London and during the London Season, or in a Country house; Ireland figures here and there, and one heroine is AMERICAN from New Orleans [and thus fashioned appropriately in all the latest French fashions]; Waterloo is also prominent: we see settings such as Vauxhall Gardens; the Covent Garden Theatres, complete with the acting greats Kean, Kemble, Siddons; the boxing saloons and gambling houses; Almack’s and its Patronesses; circulating libraries; Tattersalls and horses [“ a bang-up set of blood and bones”] and carriages [chaises and hackney coaches and fast-driven curricles and gigs] and coaching inns for traveling escapades, complete with races, mishaps and crashes; Restorative Pork Jelly makes an appearance, as does even the Prince Regent himself.
2. A world of Regency fashion:– where male and female dress is described in full, vivid, colorful detail, ones attention to their dress delineating their character – there is indeed an abundance of the color “puce” – the “why” of this I will persue further…
3. Regency language: Miss Darcy either kept lengthy notes while reading her Heyer or she had her own “Regency Lexicon” close by – each novel is replete with Regency cant, adding to the authenticity and the humor: you can read my post on Frederica where all I do is compile a list of Heyer’s terms – so here I list some of Darcy’s, in no particular order [and laughing at my frustrated spell-checker’s efforts!] – you can refer to the online Regency Lexicon if you need a definition!:
outside of enough; flummery; fustian; fall into the ropes; rake-shame; faradiddle; light-skirts; roundaboutations [my very favorite!]; Banbury Tales and Cheltenham Tragedies; bumblebroth; miff-maff; flying up into the boughs; cloth-headed; moonlings; Top of the Trees, Lady of Quality; the ton; shatter-brained; bird-witted; gudgeon; on dits and tattle-boxes; put-downs and cuts and quizzing glasses; those requisite vapours and dismals; don’t like it above half; rag-mannered; the high fidgets; cutting a wheedle; coming to cuffs; etc. – you get the idea – we are in Heyeresque territory here…and feel quite at home.
4. The Heroine: she will be independent, feisty and high-spirited; a Lady of Quality but unconventional in her behaviors, setting the tattle-boxes wagging their tongues and the Hero intrigued; sometimes wealthy in her own right, but usually in need of some assistance, either for herself or a family member and thus searching for work, rank, money, an introduction into Society, etc; always beautiful, not always a “traditional” beauty, but can be dark, or titian / chestnut or blond; usually tall and slim, but can be petite [Elyza]; will have numerous gentleman sitting at her feet, interested in all manner of coupling arrangements; knows all the dances, even the WALTZ; adept at male-dominated activities as riding, hunting, fishing, carriage driving; seems to be most adept at getting into scrapes – enter the Hero; always calls the Hero “abominable” or “wretch” and is always “crossing swords” with him [that’s how we know he is The Hero… or as Lady St. Abbs says in Lady Pamela:
You mark my words… when a woman comes to dagger-drawin’ with a man every time she meets him, there’s mischief in it! [p.126]
5. The Hero: usually wealthy, either by birthright or inheritance from a distant relative; always has some grand name like Lord Dalven, or Sir Derek Herington, Lord Wrexam, Viscount Northover, Cleve Redmayne [Cleve??!], the Marquis of Tarn, or Robert Ranleigh; he will be handsome but not perfectly so [compare to Lord Harlbury in Lydia, first name “Shafto”, reason enough to rule him out as Hero, but he is also “a very worthy young man – and the most beautiful creature I have ever set eyes on – and an earl – and fabulously rich-“ – but alas! NOT our Hero]; OUR Hero is handsome but this is usually coupled with a sardonic, cynical look, a darkening brow; mostly dark locks, occasionally fair, with grey or black eyes; dressed like a dandy in the fashion of the moment, but detached enough from his own appearance to be attractive not foppish, with only the occasional grab for his snuff box – he wears a well-fitting superfine blue coat, starched neckcloths, he is ALWAYS broad-shouldered and powerfully built; he calls the heroine all sorts of charming endearments: my girl, a chit, a vixen, hoyden, infant, brat [these can grate on my 21st century feminist leanings, but I shake it off in an effort to get into the spirit of it all…]; he is calm and rational and in control in the face of any hysteria, tribulation or catastrophe, his behavior bordering on the arrogant [those feminist sensibilities having trouble yet again…]; often languid with a “drawl” in speaking; a sense of humor, but has a “dangerous look” when pushed to the limit; is an accomplished boxer and knocks adversaries to the ground in one blow; and of course is an experienced whip. In short, the perfect man for us all… except for that horrible gossip-feeding reputation as… a Rake…
6. Other Characters: often a sibling of the heroine in need of Help, can be a bit “bird-witted”; the Other Men, hanging about the Heroine, often Mama’s boys, dandies, or wimps; those gossipy Matrons of the ton, and the Mothers with marriageable daughters a la Lady Catherine de Bourgh; a coterie of landladies, butlers, cooks, maids, grooms and tigers, each with their own personality that propel the plot, add the humor, and give the main characters someone to sound off to, play off of…
7. Like in Heyer, everything is revealed in the Eyes of the Hero – the gleam; the odd light; the intense warmth; the laughing eyes; the eyes that are alight; the hard grey eyes strangely softening… etc…
8. The Consummate Ending: the thickened voice of the hero; the melting heroine weak in the knees suddenly unable to look The Hero in the face; the “ruthless” nearly crushing embraces; the “violent” kisses… I could go on but won’t – you must read each ending…
9. And Austen? – well of course, all these Heroes are made of Darcy’s [as in Fitzwilliam] cloth, so Austen is everywhere really – but in Lady Pamela there is this wonderful reference to Sir Charles Grandison by The Hero:
In love with him! No, no – you mean you made up your mind to have him when you were a schoolroom chit and hadn’t any more idea of what you wanted in a man than what you read in novels. And I must say Babcoke [another name to surely alert us to his I-am-not-the-hero status] could do Sir Charles Grandison very well if he had the least idea of what it was all about and didn’t fall asleep in the middle of it. [p. 120]
Aah! The Hero has actually READ Sir Charles Grandison!
And like Austen in her Letters where she freely used Capital Letters, there is a penchant in Lady Pamela for the same: it adds to the humor in the dialogue, such as “I will Get to the Bottom of This”.
A quick summary – but lest you think that all the stories are the same, be not afraid of treading into Clare Darcy’s land – each story, like most romance novels, begins on page one and by page two you have figured out who is the Heroine and who will be Her Hero, and I suppose you could turn to the last few pages and get into all the Ending Embraces and Kisses and call it a day – but don’t do that – each story brings unique characters, fun plot lines, all that Regency chatter, the lovely fashions described, the Heroine’s adventures amidst the Society constraints on her Behavior, the Hero’s awakening to being a “marrying man” after all, and the Heroine realizing that she really has had a passion for this “abominable wretch” quite from the start – we knew it all along, but don’t pass up the ride…
Join me for several reviews, spaced over the next few days….
[Posted by Deb]
The following is a guest post from one of our JASNA-Vermont members, Janeite Lynne. After she commented on my post on Georgette Heyer’s ‘Frederica’ , Lynne and I were in touch and discovered that we both seem to be having a parallel summer of reading Heyer! – she sent along the following thoughts on Heyer’s heroines ~ we welcome comments on YOUR favorite Heyer female lead and why ~ and thank you Lynne for sharing your thoughts!
I recently submitted a comment to Deb’s blog about Georgette Heyer’s novel Frederica. I noted in my comment that Heyer’s plots were formulaic. I hope that this isn’t a spoiler, but the lead male and female characters do end the novels by expressing, admitting, or realizing their love for their opposites. The more Heyer you read, the more you see stock characters: the arrogant but honorable duke; the rake with a good heart; the headstrong heiress; the penniless relation in a noble family, etc. Yet within these stock shells, Heyer brings out three dimensional characters.
I especially admire Heyer’s strong female leads. But strong is not always the same. Serena Spenborough in Bath Tangle is a powerful woman in the traditional sense. She is rich, beautiful, and she travels in the highest circles of society. The plot device of Bath Tangle involves her fortune being tied up after her father’s death until she marries. Even when she is more financially constricted, you are never in doubt that she will always be rich, so this is one form of power. She also refuses to follow the accepted social conventions that coddle and restrict women of her class. She is a vigorous walker and refuses chairs in Bath. She rides on horseback all day in pursuit of a runaway without thought to comfort or propriety. And she cried off from a marriage earlier in her life because she believed they would not suit without thinking about how it would affect her social standing. Serena’s character is a good match for the male lead, the Marquis of Rotherham. He is the man she rejected years before the novel opens, and the dialogue between them is like swordplay.
Still, powerful women in Heyer come in many different packages. Another of my favorites is Lady Hester Theale in Sprig Muslin. She is a spinster daughter whose father describes her as insipid and without fortune or “any extraordinary degree of beauty.” When he tells Hester that she will soon receive a proposal from the extremely eligible Sir Gareth Ludlow, he says: “ I don’t mind owning to you, Hester, that when he broke it to me that it was my permission to address you that he was after, I thought he was either foxed, or I was!” Every member of her family attempts to browbeat her into accepting his proposal, but she refuses. She reminds me of Melville’s Bartleby in his short story Bartleby the Scrivener. She simply chooses not to. Hester is the anti-Serena. She is not rich or beautiful, and she has no one to support her, yet in her own ethereal way she asserts her independence. She will not accept a marriage of convenience, even if it would seem to offer her a better life. She knows what it is to love, and she will not compromise.
So while there is formula in Heyer, there is also wonderful character development and dialogue. Best of all, she was such a prolific writer that there are many novels to escape to during this rainy summer!
[by Janeite Lynne, posted by Deb]
I have just finished reading a book – one you might classify as a Regency Romance, but written today [as so many are!] – looks, feels and tastes like Pride & Prejudice all wrapped up in a Georgette Heyer plot of older woman “chaperoning” a young beauty with all the requisite beaus [the poet, the bore, the rake, etc…] and the gentleman “family friend” who always is on the scene –
I’ll say no more as I will write more on this fun read in a later post – I just throw this out as a “teaser” – perhaps you can guess to what book I am referring – but I just had to share the following passages –
In regards to a 3-volume book from the local circulating library:
‘I will thank you – as long as you can assure me of the absence of two things, which I cannot abide in a novel. There must be nobody who lives in the town of Blank, or belongs to the Blankshire Regiment; and there must not be a couple who are in love with each other all the time without knowing it, and who signal it by constantly quarrelling.’
[alas! are we not talking about P&P here? – as well as the novel we are actually reading!]
and then this lovely tribute to Jane Austen:
‘… you can tell me what I should write my novel about. It is not a thing I have ever considered, and I am sure I could not do it, but you have whetted my curiosity. Is it to be Gothic? We are back to castles again. I must warn you, I have a healthy disrespect for ghosts, and my only response to a Bleeding Nun would be to offer her a piece of court-plaster.’
‘Oh, no, not that sort of novel. That would not suit you at all. I was thinking of the way you help me to see things, not by dictating, but by reason. Persuasion. You could make a very good sort of novel about people simply facing these questions, and about what is best to do in life. I remember one of my governesses reproving me for indulging in sensibility. I think she felt I needed sense instead. But then how to reconcie the two? That is the sort of thing I mean.’
“Sense and sensibility – well, it has a certain ring. But I doubt, you know, that is would appeal. And a mere woman writing about moral questions – surely, that is a man’s field -‘
‘Park,’ cried [she], ‘that was the governess – Miss Park. Very austere: I was rather frightened of her. But I remember finding out by chance that her first name was Emma, and thinking how pretty it was, and wondering if there was a different person inside that stern lady I knew. But then, who can guess at the feelings of others?’ She sighed. ‘It is hard enough to know our own…’
Isn’t this just brilliant? It certainly made me smile! Any thoughts on the title of this book? Please share!