Books, Friday Favorites

Friday Favorite: Christmas Romances

Ready to gear up for the holidays with some Christmas romance novels? This week’s Friday Favorite comes from Katherine Ashe:

cover-Ashe-KISSES-SHE-WROTE

“I adore Christmas romances. From Regency lords and ladies on romantic sleigh rides to  crazy church Pageants in contemporary small towns, I can’t get enough of holiday love stories. After all, love is the meaning of Christmas.

“My Christmas novella, Kisses, She Wrote, is finally here! (99¢ ebook & $3.99 paperback). But for weeks already I’ve been in the mood for delicious holiday reads to satisfy that cozy craving for romance. So I’m compiling a list of new and re-released Christmas romances,* including full-length novels, anthologies, novellas and short stories. I hope you’ll find stories here to enjoy curled up by the fire with a cup of hot cocoa or mulled wine, a plate of cookies beside you, and maybe even your best furry friend warming your toes.

Wishing you a very Merry Christmas!

~ Katharine”

Click here to see the list, including stories by Shana Galen, Barbara Monajem, Jennifer Ashely, Robin Carr, Elizabeth Essex, and my critique partner Susana Ellis!

Society

Regency Christmas Traditions: Parlor Games

Article by Maria Grace. She has one husband, two graduate degrees and two black belts, three sons, four undergraduate majors, five nieces, six cats, seven Regency-era fiction projects,  notes for eight more writing projects, cooks for nine in order to accommodate the growing boys, and usually makes ten meals at a time so she only has to cook twice a month.

hot-cockles

Christmastide and the release of my new book are both coming soon upon us. To celebrate both, I am beginning a series on Regency Christmas traditions, possibly with a few of my family’s thrown in for good measure.

Regency Parlor Games pt. 1

Christmastide was a time for fun and frivolity. Parlor games made up a large part of the fun.

They were played by all classes of society and often involved overstepping the strict bound of propriety. Losers often paid a forfeit, which could be an elaborate penalty or dare, but more often were a thinly disguised machination for getting a kiss. Often, forfeits were accumulated all evening, until he hostess would ‘cry the forfeits’ and they would all be redeemed.

Here are a few of the games that might have been played during Christmas parties of the Regency.

Blind Man’s Bluff and variations there of

Many variations of this game existed, including Hot Cockles, Are you there Moriarty, and Buffy Gruffy. All the variations include one player being blindfolded and trying to guess the identity of another player who had tapped them or who they have caught. A great deal of cheating was generally involved, which only added to the sport.

Click here to read the rest of the article at Maria’s blog, Random Bits of Fascination.

Society

What’s So Rotten About Rotten Row?

Laurie Benson's Cozy Drawing Room

It’s that well-known place people go to see and be seen. Today it might be an expensive restaurant, exclusive nightclub or even a famous seaside town. But during the Regency Era one place English aristocrats went to strut their stuff was a bridle path in London’s Hyde Park known as Rotten Row. This pathway was the ultimate place to people watch. On any given day the Prince Regent, Beau Brummell, or Georgiana, the Duchess of Devonshire might promenade down the bridle path for all of London to see. Quite simply, Rotten Row was the place to be.

Rotten Row

The show began around 5:00 in the afternoon when members of the ton would descend on Hyde Park for the fashionable hour. Beautifully turned-out men and women on horseback shared the bridle path with their finely dressed peers who rode in expensive carriages. One did not gallop on Rotten Row during the fashionable…

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Military

The 95th Regiment of Foot (Rifles): The first of all Services in the British Army

“In this distinguished Service, you will carry a Rifle no heavier than a Fowling-Piece. You will knock down your Enemy at Five Hundred Yards, instead of missing him at Fifty.

On Service, your Post is always the Post of Honour, and your Quarters the best in the Army; for you have the first of everything; and at Home you are sure of Respect—because a BRITISH RIFLEMAN always makes himself Respectable.

GOD SAVE the KING! and his Rifle Regiment!

 —Wellington’s Rifles: Six Years to Waterloo with England’s Legendary Sharpshooters by Mark Urban

 

Who says you can’t learn things from fiction?  I was first introduced to the 95th Rifles in Mary Jo Putney’s book The Bargain, where the hero was a wounded officer from that regiment.  (Bernard Cornwell also uses them in his Richard Sharpe series.)  I wouldn’t have thought anything else about it except that she included an author’s note and explained why she picked the 95th.  I’m one of those strange souls who think history is a whole lot of fun, so I went right from the book to the computer and starting poking around the Napoleonic Wars and the 95th Rifle Regiment.  It turns out they were quite different from the rest of their infantry brethren.

The first thing I noticed was that the men and officers of the Rifles wore green uniforms rather than the familiar red—not a huge revelation if one is familiar with the British Army, but a small surprise for me.  Their belts and trim were black instead of the white of the other regiments.  Recruitment advertisements touted these darker uniforms as more comfortable and easier to care for.  In practice, they drew the ridicule of other units (at least in the beginning—once the Rifle Brigade had proved its value, the taunting slowed considerably).

Also, while most officers of the time were still purchasing their commissions and promotions, the majority of officers of the 95th were commissioned or promoted based on merit or seniority.  “Soldiers of fortune” they called themselves, neither nobility nor gentry for the most part.  Perhaps because of this, the Rifles were known as a more egalitarian outfit than their musket-bearing counterparts.

The biggest difference between the Rifles and the rest of the infantry, of course, was their weapon.  While everyone else carried muskets, the 95th carried the Baker rifle which had grooves inside the barrel to spin the bullet as it was fired (you CSI fans and gun enthusiasts will recognize this as the “rifling”).  The spinning increased accuracy immensely—like spiraling a football—allowing these soldiers to fight differently.  Riflemen did not stand shoulder to shoulder and fire into a block of the enemy.  Instead, they could fire individually and from standing, sitting, and kneeling positions, or even laying down, and were trained accordingly.  They were, in fact, founded to emulate the sharpshooters of Continental Army and militias during the American Revolution.  (There’s irony for you!)

The 95th Rifles went on to become wildly famous for their actions during the Peninsular War, being awarded regimental battle honors for Ciudad Rodrigo, Salamanca, Vittoria, The Pyrenees, Toulouse, and Waterloo, among others.  Curiously, though, they were rarely awarded individual medals and recognition, though other soldiers in other units were regularly honored.

Uncategorized

Whole Lotta Love: England as a Popular Setting in Historical Romance

I was reading the reviews on Amazon a couple of months ago for some Regency-era novel, and one reviewer was upset because the book was set in England (not the UK—she specifically mentioned England, so Scotland, Ireland, Wales, and the rest of the old Empire were apparently exempted).  She went on to comment that so many historical romances were set in England these days that she was sick of them all, and wondered why authors never used more exotic locales.

My first reaction was indignation—how dare she disparage a place and period so near and dear to my heart?!  And it was a Regency novel she was reviewng, what did she expect?  But the question rolled around in my head for a while, and I began to wonder the same thing, minus the resentment.  Why is England so popular a setting for historical fiction authors?

My attraction to English history is partly personal.  I adore reading about many locations and periods of time, but many of my ancestors are English, including my grandfather.  It’s interesting to me to study the history of a country so closely tied to my family.  And since said grandfather died before I was born, it’s also a way for me to connect with him, to get to know him through the culture and events of his first home.

I think, too, that Samantha Brown (from The Travel Channel) hit the nail on the head when she said that visiting England was, at least for Americans, Europe-light.  It is exotic for us with the differences in food, accents, and dialects, but it’s not way outside our comfort zones.  Traveling to London from the US seems kind of like visiting, say, Atlanta when you’re from Minneapolis—go with me on this one.  Some accents are hard to manage, sure, but they still speak English and you can make yourself understood.  Some of the food is decidedly different from what you’d find on your table at home, but it’s recognizable and you can find something you like.  Your trip is full of new and exciting experiences, and you don’t have to worry about whether or not you can read the street signs.

So what do you think?  Are there other reasons readers might favor stories set in England?  Or are there locations you prefer when you’re choosing a book?

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?