Books, TBR Challenge

Cora’s TBR Challenge 2015

Job_Lot_Cheap_by_William_Michael_Harnett,_1878_(cropped)

In the immortal words of John Lennon, “another year over and a new one just begun”. It’s time (if you haven’t already) to make those resolutions for 2015–including one for your TBR pile.

My TBR Challenge was such a personal success last year that I’m doing it again! 2015 is very uncertain for me–my teaching career is up in the air right now (Will I ever teach again? When? Where? How? If not, what else will I do?), and thus so is my writing time (How much energy will I have to devote to a day job? How will my health hold up? The bills have to be paid, but will I be too tired to do anything else?). So this year’s TBR Challenge is a way for me to take a measure of control in addition to finally reading some of the books languishing on my shelves and Kindle.

I’ve tweaked the rules slightly for this year:

1. How many books from your TBR pile will you read? I’m upping my goal to 18 books this year over the 12 I chose for last year. I have so many books floating around the house that 12 felt like just a drop in the bucket, and I’m hoping to make more headway this time around.

2. How long have your books been waiting? For the purposes of this challenge, the books I read must have been acquired by me or placed on my library TBR list (which is also getting out of hand) before August 1, 2014. This means I can’t buy new books in January and count them toward my TBR Challenge come September–which I found myself doing at least once last year, and kind of defeats the purpose of the challenge.

3. How will you hold yourself accountable? Like last year, I’ll post here once a month to share my progress and see how you all are doing. I found the Goodreads shelf and the dedicated page on this blog were enormously helpful, too. I’m a very visual person and being able to see the collection of books that I’d read gave me a nice sense of accomplishment, which made me want to read more TBR books 🙂

Who will take up this challenge with me? Who will commit to wading through the mountains of books you’ve spent your hard-earned money on, but never read? Leave a comment here or on the 2015 TBR Challenge page with your goal: how many books will you tackle this year?

Books, Writing Life

Book Covers: The Good, The Bad, The Imaginary

Every unpublished author dreams about what his or her book cover will look like (maybe the published ones do too!). Something that sums up the story, of course. Perhaps the model(s) should resemble the main character(s) a little. If it’s a historical novel, any people pictured should be dressed in clothing appropriate for that period (though I’ve seen that thought ignored enough times).

But what else?

Bright colors or muted ones? Lots of skin or something more demure? Detailed or simple?

When I imagine my future book cover, I see something like this:

nearly-a-lady

There are a lot of covers out there with sweeping scenery and heroines in vibrant flowing gowns, and they’re beautiful. But the uncluttered simplicity of this one appeals to me. I like the softness of the lavender, and the fact that it looks easy yet professional. The models are even wearing clothing that invokes a Regency frame of mind.

But my favorite part about this cover is the way the models are interacting with each other. I’ve always been more fond of beta heroes than alphas, so I like that he’s holding her gently instead of bending her over or pinning her against a tree. I also adore the expression on his face, eyes nearly closed as if he’s drinking her in with his other senses. That she is wearing a similar expression–and caressing him sweetly–seals the deal for me. In fact, it was part of the reason I bought the book 🙂

What are your favorite covers? Have you ever bought a book because of the cover? Have you ever not bought a book because of the cover? Is there anything special you look for in a book cover?

Marriage

You Bastard! Illegitimacy During the Regency

Because I had to rein myself in last week replying to Barbara’s comment, and because I can use one of my favorite characters as an example (see if you can guess which one it is), this week’s blog post is about legitimacy (or the lack thereof).

In order to be considered a legitimate child during the Regency, your parents had to be married at the time of your birth.  It didn’t matter what their status was at your conception, as long as they made it to the altar—together—before you made an appearance in the world.  If you came before the nuptial ceremony, you were illegitimate, forever, even if your parents married later*.

If your mother was married to another man at the time of your birth, you were legitimate, but legally the child of her husband.  There are all kinds of subtle (and sometimes not so subtle) jokes and references in Regency and Georgian novels about ladies letting a “cookoo” in the nest—passing off the child of an affair as one belonging to her husband.  It’s even a major plot point in Julia Quinn’s It’s In His Kiss: the hero and his “father” both know he’s the product of his mother’s affair, but he’s still the legal heir to his “father’s” title and fortune.

Illegitimate offspring could not inherit titles or entailed property (property that, by law, passed to the next legitimate male heir).  Ever.  They could inherit unentailed property (property that could be disposed of in any manner), money, or goods by will—as could anybody else.

A great example of this is Mary Balogh’s A Secret AffairThe hero, Constantine Huxtable, was born two days before his parent’s wedding, thus rendering him ineligible to inherit his father’s earldom (this is actually the basis for the series, as a cousin inherits instead).  But wait, you say.  Grace Burrowes has a hero who’s illegitimate, and he’s an earl!  In The Soldier, Devlin St. Just is the bastard son of a duke, and he does gain an earldom, but not through inheritance. St. Just’s title was granted for service to the Crown during the Napoleonic Wars, and it was the monarch’s prerogative to confer the honor.  (Where do you think all those nobles came from in the first place?)

Bastardy was also a bar to society, for the most part.  According to Allison Lane, an illegitimate daughter was not accepted or welcome at all socially, while a son could be admitted to the fringes of society with the help and sponsorship of his father.  The heroine of Julia Quinn’s An Offer from a Gentleman is a good illustration: she was the bastard daughter of an earl, but never acknowledged as anything other than the earl’s ward, nor did she move in society (except once, but I won’t spoil it for you).

There were exceptions to this rule (there always are, right?), and a big one was William, Duke of Clarence (later William IV) had ten (yes, ten!) illegitimate children with an actress known as Mrs. Jordan.  Being the bastard get of a royal duke was clearly a better lot than that of other illegitimate children (and many legitimate ones, too).  Since their father was the son and brother of a king (then later a king himself), the FitzClarences, as they were called, did well socially.  They were given the precedence of the children of a marquess, the eldest son was granted an earldom, and the rest married nobles or the children of nobles.

*For those of you that are familiar with the medieval period, you’re probably jumping up and down right now, yelling “John of Gaunt!” or “Beaufort!” (or maybe you’re yelling something else at me!).  Yes, John of Gaunt (son of Edward III) had four children with his mistress Katherine Swynford and given the surname Beaufort (after one of John’s properties).  And yes, they were eventually legitimized by the pope and their cousin Richard II when John scandalized everyone and married Katherine (their children were adults by then).  But this was under the medieval Catholic Church, where rules could be bent for the right price, and John was a very powerful man.  And this legitimacy was questioned a couple of generations later when Henry Tudor, great-great-grandson of John through his eldest Beaufort son, claimed the English throne.  The Regency was several hundred years after the Reformation, andBritain’s aristocracy was (for the most part) steadfastly Protestant.  Different time, different church, different rules.

Marriage

Annulments: 99 Problems, But A Wife Ain’t One

After reading Regina Jeffer’s blog post about the rules of marriage in Regency England last week, I started thinking about ways to dissolve a marriage (I know, ever the optimist, aren’t I?) during the period.

Marriages of convenience show up in romance novels of all types, usually with the understanding that the couple can part ways after their union is no longer useful.  In Regency romances, I’ve seen a lot of marriages dictated by a will (as in “you must marry by a certain age/time frame or you will lose your inheritance”), and marriage to one person to escape marrying another (often a “my father wants me to marry this horrible, old man, and I don’t want to” sort of thing, though sometimes it’s a prospective groom who is being hounded to marry a woman of his family’s choosing).  They always say, “We can get an annulment later.”

Of course, they don’t–they fall in love and decide to stay married.  But while they’re falling in love, the newly wed couple is usually trying to preserve a situation where an annulment could be granted.  And while annulments are certainly possible during the Regency, they were only obtainable under certain circumstances.

–>Fraud: a participant in the wedding used a fake name or anything short of his/her full legal name (including all titles) OR a promise was made in the marriage contract that cannot be kept.  Though, in the case of a misused name—say a nobleman forgot to include one of his multitude of titles on the register—the presiding authority can decline to issue the annulment and simply correct the register.

–> Incompetence: a participant in the wedding was under 21 (a legal minor) and did not have consent of his/her legal guardian (your father, if he was still alive) OR insanity (which tainted the entire family–if one of you is insane, what about the rest?)

–>Impotence: the physical incapability of a man to have intercourse, not the abstinence from it.  Doctors became involved, and, according to Allison Lane, the use of very skilled courtesans!  (Mary Jo Putney’s The Bargain—previously title The Would-Be Widow—does a pretty good job with this, and though her method does not match what Allison has described, it’s a logical process…minus the courtesans 😉

Divorce was even more difficult, a long process that involved civil courts, ecclesiastical courts, and the House of Lords.  It was very messy, very public, and very expensive.  A divorced man’s reputation was basically trashed, though he might be able to find some acceptance somewhere (the hero of Laura Lee Guhrke’s And Then He Kissed Her—the inspiration for the name of this blog [though I haven’t finished the book yet!]—is divorced at the start of the story).  A divorced woman was pretty much cast out of society, ruined beyond repair.

For more details and examples, check out Allison Lane’s Common Regency Errors page.  She has some great information on inheritance of properties and titles, and a wonderful section about forms of address for titled nobles and their families.

Regency

What is the Regency?

When I first started working on my novel, I was intelligent enough to ask a good friend of mine (who is an excellent writer in her own right and a British subject to boot) if she would please, please, please be my beta reader.  I let her know that the story was set during the Regency era, and asked how much she knew about that period of time.  She replied that she knew there was a Regency era in British history, but that was all.

That, of course, is not a slight on her intelligence (because I secretly think she’s smarter than me), but it occurred to me that a lot of people might not know much about the period beyond the shirtless man on the cover of the historical romance they saw at the bookstore.  It also occurred to me that an introduction to the period would make a good introduction to this blog, but there are a lot of great articles already out there.  So rather than rehash what’s already been said, I’ve included links to some of the best articles I’ve found so far to get you started.

The teacher in me is yelling “No, no! It’s not a credible source!” but Wikipedia has a good article on the British Regency, complete with a timeline, lists of important people, places, and publications.  There are also some nice images for the visual learners among us—the Frost Fair  picture reminds me of a pack of ice fishing shanties.

Greenwood’s 1827 map of London  has been a big asset to me, both as a read and a writer.  Click on any part of it to zoom in, then click again to zoom in further.

Here’s a beautiful website dedicated to the 95th Rifles, formed in 1803 as the first regiment to use rifles instead of the less accurate muskets.  They saw a lot of action during the Peninsular/Napoleonic Wars.

Regency Romance novelist Candice Hern  has compiled a wonderful timeline running from 1788 through 1820 that gives more detail than the one listed in the Wikipedia article.  Political events, literary milestones, musical accomplishments, theater history, and social developments of the extended Regency can be found here in chronological order, color coded by category.

This is a nice article by Michelle Jean Hoppe  that talks about the London Season.  I like it because it’s not too long, but it’s well written and gives you enough detail to be worth reading.

These are just a few of the websites I’ve frequented.  What other good websites are out there for the Regency period?  What are your favorites?