Georgette Heyer – Regency Romance

The article link below to The Guardian was actually released back in September of 2016.  I’ve been thinking about focusing some posts on a few well-known authors of the past who have paved the way for the historical romance genre’s popularity.  Georgette Heyer is certainly one of those writers who come to mind.

The article states, “Heyer, known for her tales of romance and intrigue set during the early 19th century, died in 1974, the author of more than 50 books. She said of her work that ‘I ought to be shot for writing such nonsense, but it’s unquestionably good escapist literature.'”  Obviously, many have escaped over the years into the Regency era through her books.

Though she passed away in 1974, she still ranks #46 in the top 100 historical romance authors in ebooks and #28 in historical romance in print.  This prolific writer’s popularity has not waned in any fashion over the years.  Her author page on Amazon is filled with her works.

Read more about her life here:

Three short stories by the queen of Regency romance have been discovered by her biographer and are being reprinted in a new volume.  Source: Forgotten Georgette Heyer stories to be republished

Different Flavors of Authors

Untitled designSo who are these women (and occasional males) that write historical romance novels?  As a reader, if you haven’t been following the ever-changing landscape in the publishing world, authors come in a variety pack.  From young to old, these are the people who pen your stories that you rate from one to five stars.  We all have favorite sub-genres.  We all have favorite eras.  We all have the likable type of hero and heroine.  However, with such a variety of authors, it may be hard to weed through the inundated market of romance these days.

The Traditional

These are the ones who have chosen the traditional publishing world.  They traveled the rough trail of submissions and rejections and paid their dues.  They were proficient in writing great query letters to hook agents. Others were persistent, knocking on doors of publishers that accept direct submissions.  Whatever gateway they have been fortunate enough to open, it has provided them support from big-named publishers and smaller publishing houses on the road to release. These authors have a unique experience with their publishers who do it all – editing, cover design, distribution, in addition to bearing the majority of costs associated with publishing a book.

The Indie

Once coined the vanity writers, self-published authors or “indies” as many call them, are an entirely different breed.  At first, they came out of the gate with a less than warm welcome or reputation, often coined as the slush pile rejects or wood-be, mediocre writers.  However, as the years have passed, the indies have taken over a large portion of the market, including reaching the USA Today and NYT best-seller lists. They have gained great strides in gaining respect and earnings. Supposedly, indies are control freaks. They enjoy full engagement in their artistic endeavors.  The smart ones seek out good editors to tone their content and talented graphic artists to do their covers. It’s a learning experience in ISBN’s, eBook formatting, printing, distribution, marketing, etc., because they immerse themselves in the publishing world in order to succeed.  They are the independent ones who bear the cost of getting their books into print.

The Hybrid

What in the world is a hybrid?  No, it’s not a new dinosaur about to hatch that will grow up to eat you or your book.  It’s an author who enjoys both worlds – the traditional and the self-published.    It’s a path that some individuals pursue in a variety of ways.  It’s not unusual for a traditionally published author to take a book when the rights have reverted back to her or him and self-published it afterward.  Frankly, it’s a sweet spot for many because they are well known as traditional authors who already have a fan base.  However, this route may take negotiation because some publishers insist on a non-compete clause that prevents authors from self-publishing while under contract.

In the end, I like to think that all three author varieties have one common goal — to spread the romance together.  At Historical Romance Books, whatever path to print you have chosen, you are welcome on our pages.

Historical Romance Books Admin

 

 

 

 

Top 10 Historical Romance Authors on Amazon

Okay, who are the ladies that write the stories that make you swoon?  Historical Romance, of course, has many sub-genres.  After looking over the top ten, it appears to me that a bit of historical fiction is spilling over the lines.  What is most surprising in this list is that the number one historical romance seller is…wait for it…a man.

Here are the top ten authors and their most popular books as of December 2017.  : Drumroll Please:

  1. Colin Falconer – The Unkillable Kitty O’Kane, LA Women, Silk Road, When we were Gods, The Good Daughter.
  2. Dianna Galbaldon – Outlander, Outlander Series, Dragonfly in Amber, Voyager, The Drums of Autom
  3. Amy Harmon – From Sand and Ash
  4. Georgette Heyer – The Grand Sophy, Snowdrift and Other Stories, Federica, These Old Shades, Arabella
  5. Kathryn LeVeque – Leader of Titans, The Highlanders, Warwolfe, DarkWolfe, The Lion of the North
  6. Samantha Holt – You’re The Rogue That I Want, When a Rogue Loves a Woman, The Warrior’s Reward, To Steal a Highlander’s Heart, Tempting His Mistress
  7. Bridget Barton – Kind Ella and the Charming Duke, A beauty for the Scarred Duke, A bride for the Betrayed Earl, Loving a Noble, A Governess for the Brooding Duke
  8. Christi Caldwell – To Tempt a Scoundrel, The Heiress’s Deception, To Wed His Christmas Lady, More Than a Duke, The Spy Who Seduced
  9. Karen Robards – Shattered, Pursuit, Loving Julia, Nobody’s Angel, The Senator’s Wife
  10. Grace Burrows – No Other Duke Will Do, A Rogue of Her Own Heart, His Lordship’s True Lady, How to Find a Duke in Ten Days, To Scott to Handle

Do you have any favorites out of the list?

Historical Romance Admin

 

‘Persuasion:’ Jane Austen’s Greatest Novel Turns 200

Prof. Robert Morrison edited Jane Austen’s “Persuasion” for Harvard University Press. On the classic’s 200th anniversary, he explains how Austen’s rhythmic words on loss, love and hope still resonate.

Source: ‘Persuasion:’ Jane Austen’s greatest novel turns 200

Speak to Me of Love

Romantic quotes.  Recently, I glanced at one quote spoken by Marianne in the movie Sense and Sensibility:

 “Can he love her? Can the soul really be satisfied with such polite affections? To love is to burn – to be on fire, like Juliet or Guinevere or Eloise…”

Hmm…I pondered.  I know that there are many more quotes that move my heart, so I flipped over to the quote section on Goodreads and starting tagging all sorts of wonderful words. Goodreads has a nifty widget that I added to the sidebar that will rotate all sorts of great lines and quotes.

Of course, I favored Jane Austen’s work, only because her lines are so memorable and moving.  Here are the quotes I so love from Austen’s work.  I hope you enjoy and feel free to comment on a few of your own memorable quotes from books!  Now, if we could only get the men in our lives to whisper such glorious words to melt our hearts.  

 “Dare not say that man forgets sooner than a woman, that his love has an earlier death. I have loved none but you.”
(Captain Wentworth – Persuasion)

“You pierce my soul. I am half agony, half hope.
Tell me not that I am too late, that such precious feelings are gone for ever.”
(Captain Wentworth – Persuasion)

  “In vain have I struggled. It will not do. My feelings will not be repressed.
You must allow me to tell you how ardently I admire and love you.”
(Mr. Darcy – Pride & Prejudice)

“I cannot make speeches, Emma,” he soon resumed; and in a tone of such sincere, decided, intelligible tenderness as was tolerably convincing.
“If I loved you less, I might be able to talk about it more.”
(Mr. Knightly – Emma)

“I come here with no expectations, only to profess, now that I am at liberty to do so, that my heart is and always will be yours.”
(Edward Ferrars – Sense & Sensibility)
 

Come back soon for more fun things before we start dissecting romance novels.

Your amiable host,
Historical Romance Books

11 Books Like ‘Outlander’ To Help You Escape Modern Day Drama For A While

Time to dig out your stretchiest pants, practice your speech about cultural appropriation, and rehearse an answer for the inevitable question, “So what are you doing with your life?”, because Thanksgiving may be over, but the family-filled holiday season.

Source: 11 Books Like ‘Outlander’ To Help You Escape Modern Day Drama For A While

PriorAttire.com (Another Clothing Site)

 

Prior Attire “provides costumes for a variety of periods, starting from the late Roman era, up to the 20th century. Every item is thoroughly researched, and all care has been taken to render it as close to the original as it is possible, using the patterns and techniques appropriate for the period.”  

Book Covers – Shirtless Men or Flowing Dresses?

Jon

Posted with Artist’s Permission

They say men are stimulated visually. It’s not what they hear whispered in their ears – it’s what they see with their eyes that move them toward sex and romance. For the most part, I do think that men are wired that way. However, when it comes to reading steamy historical romance novels, women are not only moved by the story, but by the covers that give us a glimpse of the hero and heroine in a passionate embrace.

The historical romance genre bombards readers with bare-chested, muscular males, who have shirts falling off their backs, toned physiques, and six-pack abs. The heroines are women with unbuttoned or unlaced dresses in the back, overflowing breasts from low necklines, and lustful scenes of kissing in provocative poses. They set the stage for the forthcoming sexual tension between the characters and build the reader’s anticipation of what is to come between the sheets . . . I mean pages.

The old adage you can’t judge a book by its cover is really only a half-truth because I dare say most books are sold in the romance genre by what is on the cover. The cover sets the scene, tempts us with what’s inside, and reveals the type of book we’re about to read, or at least it should.  However, there also appears to be a lot of similarities in covers between well-known authors, including fonts that are utilized as well as stylistic features that are part of an author’s branding.

Of course, there are many talented cover designers and graphic artists that produce fantastic work in the industry. Large publishing houses can afford the best artists and highly paid models to grace their covers. One artist, in particular, is Jon Paul Studios. You will recognize his work on many covers coming from traditional publishing houses. Check out his gallery and get lost in his works of art that are breathtakingly beautiful. The cover art above is a Jon Paul creation and reposted with his permission.

Many indie authors and traditional publishers are also turning toward stock photography on sites such as Dreamstime, iStockPhoto, Getty Images, Shutterstock, Adobe, and much more. There are also romance cover sites, such as Period Images, which I highly recommend, as well as Romance Novel Covers. The prices are reasonable and licensing terms are fairly straightforward. Frankly, I’ve thought for many years that photographers have a goldmine of opportunity if they would focus more on historical era shots with men and women in the fashions of the time. I’m happy to see an increase of such photographs on the market.

However, just purchasing a photograph isn’t the end of the design process. The real artistry, of course, comes when a picture is chosen, as well as a background, and then it’s turned into a cover story that is unique. Authors, however, are wise to learn the rules about license usage rights, model releases, and copyright law when dealing with photography. Better to be safe than sued for damages in a court of law for infringement.

Since Fabio’s earlier days of book cover shots, with his long hair, chiseled face and body, it seems the standard for romance covers hasn’t changed very much. We now have new models and artists on the scene and the advent of advanced design techniques to tickle our fantasies. I have noticed, though, a distinct difference between historical romance and historical fiction covers. Historical fiction uses less exposed flesh than the historical romance genre with bulging six-pack abs under white open ruffled shirts and ladies with breasts spilling over the bodice or low in the back.

In any event, a well-designed cover does the trick. It will either entice us to purchase or not. Frankly, I remember the days when I loved to buy novels with beautiful covers and kept them on my bookshelves like works of art. Now, we enjoy them our high definition digital readers. Wherever they meet our eyes, in print or on screen, the effect remains the same — you wish you were the heroine in the arms of the hero about to enjoy the fleshly pleasures that await.

Historical-Romance Books.com

Don’t Feel Guilty About Buying Used Books 

Interesting article and food for thought since we are about to embark on selling used historical romance books. Besides, there are times I love to hold one and take a sniff.

It’s always good when consumers are aware of how creators get paid—but there’s no shame in not buying new

Source: Don’t feel guilty about buying used books: Writers won’t see a…

For November, A Romance Trio For ‘Hamilton’ Fans (And The Rest Of You, Too)

Historical Romance News!

Even if you haven’t seen the musical, you can keep warm this November with a delightful trio of novellas set in and around the battalion commanded by Alexander Hamilton at the siege of Yorktown.

Source: For November, A Romance Trio For ‘Hamilton’ Fans (And The Rest Of You, Too)

The Perfect Hero

The perfect hero in historical romanceHERO. Is there one? What fantasy do readers want?

In reality, as much as we are filled with fanciful and romantic thoughts, there probably isn’t a perfect man. Of course, it depends on how you define perfection. Like the variety of readers and their various tastes over heroines, there is no absence of criticism over the perfect male. Once again, I’ve strolled through the reviews of some best selling authors to find out what women are thinking.

There are the usual complaints of women who dislike emotionally scared men (except for Fifty Shades, apparently), along with arrogant aristocrats and walking cardboard characters (boy that term gets used a lot). Frankly, I think women who look for the perfect hero want a type of man they can fall in love with during the story. Women are looking for romance and ways to live vicariously through storytelling, no doubt to soothe our lack of it in real life. If you love historical romance, then no doubt you want a swoon-worthy, good-looking chap in breaches, boots, with a ruffled shirt, and white cravat.

So what is the perfect hero? If we look at the typical male stereotypes in works of centuries past, we can categorize them in a variety of ways.

The Darcy Type – Prideful and arrogant but humbled in the presence of one woman. His good sense and social class tell him to walk away. Instead, he bemoans his tortured and bewitched existence as if he’s helpless to resist. “In vain have I struggled, it will not do. You must allow me to tell you how ardently I admire and love you.”

The Knightly Type – A soulful, kindhearted, and wise man who is your friend. He supports you, chides you when needed, admires you silently, and gradually falls in love. He cares deeply about your well-being and sacrifices his own happiness to ensure your own. When his outward motives reveal a deeper love, he declares the obvious. “Marry me, my wonderful darling friend.”

The Captain Wentworth Type – He suffers in silence over a love lost but clings to the hope that he may regain what he desires. As he quietly watches from the sidelines the love of his life, he waits for the opportune time to once again profess his love. “You pierce my soul. I am half agony, half hope. Tell me not that I am too late, that such precious feelings are gone forever…I have loved none but you.” Who can deny such a plea?

The Mr. Rochester Type – The tortured soul, who is moody and cynical about life. He has a dark secret, that binds him to another, while in the meantime he lures the innocent and young Jane into marrying him. Even though the Rochester type of hero should contain a warning label, women are drawn to his brooding character. His words of love are filled with desperation. “My very soul demands you: it will be satisfied: or it will take deadly vengeance on its frame.” It’s not until the ultimate tragedy plays out that happy ever after arrives.

The Mr. Thornton Type – A successful man of determination in his business and family life. A bit too close to his mother, annoyed by his sister, but nonetheless respected by his peers. He is drawn to a woman of strong character, like himself, and they clash repeatedly like a stormy sea. “He shrank from hearing Margaret’s very name mentioned; he, while he blamed her–while he was jealous of her–while he renounced her–he loved her sorely, in spite of himself.”

The men above are just a small sampling, and I bet you can think of more.

The Edward Ferrars Type
The Willoughby Type
The Colonel Brandon Type
The Mr. Bingley Type

It’s an endless list of possible men who can make you swoon.

I don’t know that there is necessarily a perfect hero by any means because I believe women are drawn to types and situations when they think of falling in love between the pages of a book. Whether they be an arrogant male, steadfast friend, silent sufferer, tortured soul, or irritating sod, they possess alluring and attractive qualities. Every woman has their type. Of course, that makes it difficult for authors to consistently write the perfect hero!

Do you have a particular type of man that you like to read about in historical romance? Frankly, I like the silent suffering male who cannot live without me, like Captain Wentworth.

All our best from Historical Romance Books!

 

Why We Still Call Them Bodice Rippers (Racked)

A rather interesting article on historical romance and the 1970’s term of Bodice Rippers, where books were all about sexually aggressive men taking weak women.  The author has a point about the former ideals in the ’70’s and ’80’s with repressed sexuality and the excitement these books produced. Nowadays, putting any type of forced sexual assault in an historical romance book is pretty much taboo among readers.  What are your thoughts?

Derision for the genre might have as much to do with the bodice as the ripping.

“While historical romance remains a major part of the romantic fiction genre today, experts agree that bodice rippers describe a short and specific moment in American publishing history that lasted only between the early 1970s and mid-1980s. “

The Ladies Toilet (1872 Style)

Pearl-Powder-198x300

“Suppose then that this first and vital standing order for the toilet be stringent, and that refreshed, and therefore energetic, buoyant, and conscious of one duty being at least performed, the lady leaves her bed and prepares to dress.”  The Habits of Good Society

What duty? A good night’s sleep, of course. I suppose you could call it the need for beauty sleep in a rested young lady.

I am continuing to read through “The Habits of Good Society,” yawning here in there but also dropping my mouth open at some of the recommendations. Hang onto your Victorian hat, because here comes the next installment of life in 1872 England.

The second order of business, after getting out of bed, is the bath, which once again is reiterated upon regarding the healthy type to take to balance circulation and maintain the skin. After the bath, a lady moved onto the necessity of personal grooming of the skin, face, and hair.

Her great-grandmother, however, wore powder and only dressed her hair three times a week. She rarely washed her face because it was bad for her complexion, but merely dabbed it with a cloth. Apparently, they were afraid of cold water. Filtered rainwater is suggested in 1872 to be the best moisture for the complexion.

After the bath, the woman sits at her “toilet table,” which contains everything neatly arranged for her use. (Once again, in the Victorian mind, everything has a place and is the order of the day!) The author notes that having a pale complexion was at one time the mark of beauty and somewhat continues to be the preference of some women. “Pearly whiteness” of skin in this time period was enhanced by “pearl powder.” The use thereof is stated to be unhealthy because it clogged the pores, and if not applied correctly, was noticeable. Let’s face it, we still see a bit of clumpy powder on our faces now and then. Of course, the more one aged, the deeper the lines upon the face became, necessitating the additional application of powder. Eventually it would turn into a clumpy and undesirable state of affairs.

The thought of the day is that the extravagant use of cosmetics was evil, according to the author, who doesn’t think it’s a moral question but a physical one. Good skin should be attained by rest, exercise, and a healthy diet. If you were prone to occasional “eruptions” (which are pimples), it could be very stressful. The author states, however, to avoid such frequent occurrences that you should not rub or touch your skin unnecessarily, get fresh air, stay out of the intense heat, use pure water, and sparingly use cosmetics. Not bad advice for 1872, considering it closely adheres to twenty-first century practices for the control of eruptions (a much kinder word, I think, than pimple).

Brace yourself for hair care. The practice of some with thick hair was only brushed and not wash, which led to smelly heads. It was not the author’s preference, who focuses on the puritanical view of Victorian cleanliness. Brushing alone was not recommended. To cleanse hair, the best possible solutions are noted below. In addition, a lady’s hair should be dressed twice a day (meaning styled), but taken down during the middle of the day for a thorough brushing.

“Wash the roots of the hair from time to time with weak vinegar and water, or with a solution of ammonia, cleanses it effectually, whilst a yolk of an egg beaten up and mixed with warm water is excellent for the skin and hair; bit it is troublesome to wash out, and must be done by a careful maid.”

Whether this concoction was used by all, I have no idea. However, the thought of ammonia and its smell had to leave a residue behind. I suppose the yolk of a beaten egg might eliminate the odor. The author seems to think that any scents applied to the hair itself is injurious.

I am finally gathering that the anonymous author must be male, which I think lends to a few of his slanted views. Where he gets his information regarding best practices for the feminine toilet routine is unknown. Frankly, I don’t think I’ll be searching my kitchen stash of cleaners, along with vinegar, to wash my hair any time soon. Thank goodness for Pantene.

(By Vicki Hopkins, Author)

Why Are So Many Romance Novelists White? – MarketWatch

This recent article has started a bit of a buzz regarding romance novels and the lack of diversity in story-telling or the authors who write them. In the historical romance genre, I can see how this lacks because of the historical background where stories are set. A large majority of romance stories are in England and Scotland, during Georgian, Regency, and Victorian eras. The opportunity to diversify those storylines are not always available.

However, I’m sure historical romance set in other countries such as the colonies and in the early history of the U.S. are available. Unfortunately, because of slavery, it is difficult to romanticize the era.

Even period drama movies do not always have diverse stories. The exception recently was the movie “Belle” from 2014 about an illegitimate, mixed-race daughter of a British admiral. It’s a story set in the Georgian era that is based on a true story. If you have not seen, it, I highly recommend and have provided a link below.

What do you think? How can we as authors and readers suggest more stories that are more inclusive and diverse in this genre?

The authors, as well as the characters, are rarely people of color

Source: Why are so many romance novelists white? – MarketWatch

 

Available to Stream on Amazon

Victorian Cleanliness (1872 Style)

“In the beginning of the present century (19th), it was thought proper for a gentleman to change his undergarment three times a day, and the washing bill of a beau comprised seventy shirts, thirty cravats, and pocket handkerchiefs à discretion.” (The Habits of Good Society 1872)

The Habits of Good Society: A Handbook for Ladies and Gentlemen,” continues on the subject Pears'Soap02of particular interest mostly because of the stories I’ve read about the poor hygiene in centuries past. However, when it came to the Regency and Victorian era, the upper class deemed it important as a sign of good character. Not only cleanliness was a duty for the sake of health and being agreeable to one’s neighbor, but it also went hand-in-hand with obeying the scriptures as a means of exemplifying purity. Poor personal habits by an individual who neglected his body was a sure sign of weak character.

The Victorians in 1872, however, thought Beau Brummell’s idea of taking two hours to dress was a bit ludicrous. However, if you dressed in ten minutes time, surely you’ve neglected the important matters of the toilet through your speedy actions.

The bath, recommended after waking in the morning, focused on the type one took. There were a variety of baths at varying temperatures. The most cleansing bath came from warm water of 96° to 100°. If you were filthy, 108° was better, as it expanded the pores, increased circulation, and did a better job.  Then there was the cold bath of 60° to 70° that should be avoided by persons who cannot tolerate it and is extremely dangerous after eating. A tepid bath of 85° to 95° is the safest. Shower baths were frowned upon because they did not focus on the health of the individual. Then there is the sponge bath as the last means of cleansing that could adequately do the job if a regular bath was unavailable.

The next duty of the Victorian is to clean the teeth, as there is nothing so terrible as being near an individual with poor breath and black teeth – especially a woman. The usual recommendation of avoiding sweets and smoking were taught be dentists. The writer recommends hard bristle toothbrushes with tooth powder. A little water, with a good lather, will do the job. (I guess by this time, we’ve progressed beyond the twigs and chalk of the Regency era.) The mouth should be rinsed seven times with cold water, and one should brush several times a day. After all, a woman can tell when a man has been drinking and smoking, which was deemed offensive in the opposite sex. Frankly, it doesn’t matter how attractive the man appears — if he has foul breath it is unforgiving. At least now when you read historical romance in the Victorian era, you can be assured that the hero’s kiss upon the lips of the heroine didn’t include a mouthful of bad breath.

The advice continues with grooming for the nails, hair, beards, makeup, and other matters regarding the lady’s toilet. Stay tuned for the next installment of cleanliness in 1872.

 

Feminine Accomplishments

530px-George_Goodwin_Kilburne_A_young_woman_at_a_piano_1880An English lady without her piano, or her pencil, or her fancy work, or her favorite French authors and German poets, is an object of wonder, and perhaps of pity.” (The Habits of Good Society: By Unknown Author, originally published 1872. Copyright 2012 Forgotten Books).

 Chapter VI is another fascinating look into life in 1872 as penned by someone who lived during the time period. In order to be a member of good society, young ladies should possess a skill besides dancing. Women are discouraged from being talkers.  “We are not, we English, a nation of talkers; naturally, our talent is for silence.” (Perhaps that is where the stiff upper lip mentality comes in because one never talks of their misfortunes or petty irritations.) Since the female population should not be prone to excessive conversation, they must compensate through some form of talent to be shared with others.

Music, of course, is the number one choice because it soothes the soul. The piano keeps it’s preeminence as the instrument acceptable for society, because the harp, by 1872, is no longer fashionable. A guitar is more compatible for a man to play rather than a woman. The writer of this book, however, thinks it to be a monotonous instrument. A zither is another acceptable musical form, which is Bavarian in origin. It is considered soft, romantic, and unsophisticated. The violin is unsuitable for young ladies, even though there have been women who have cultivated the playing of the stringed instrument.

Possessing the skill to play an instrument is imperative but also choosing the right piece of music to perform. Loud thumping scores should be avoided, as well as mournful pieces or music that is too rapid. A young lady, when sitting down and using a piano, should never complain that the instrument is out of tune because it is considered rude and an insult to the owner. A single piece is sufficient rather than dominating the instrument for long periods of time thereby preventing other ladies the opportunity to play.

Singing is a form of accomplishment. One must not be too young or inexperienced before singing in public. The voice must be trained and have tone. You should choose a song that suits the audience. A simple one for a homely group. On the other hand, if your audience is more sophisticated and you possess the talent to impress, a more complicated piece is suitable for the occasion.

Accomplishments give a lady something to do. Beyond music, “Sketching and archery stand first among outdoor amusements. They are healthy, elegant, and appropriate…”  The writer seems to think that if more young ladies were accomplished, they would not appear so bored at public parties.

All this talk about accomplishments reminds me of the conversation between Mr. Darcy and Elizabeth:

It is amazing to me,” said Bingley, “how young ladies can have patience to be so very accomplished as they all are.”

“All young ladies accomplished! My dear Charles, what do you mean?”

“Yes, all of them, I think. They all paint tables, cover screens, and net purses. I scarcely know any one who cannot do all this, and I am sure I never heard a young lady spoken of for the first time, without being informed that she was very accomplished.”

“Your list of the common extent of accomplishments,” said Darcy, “has too much truth. The word is applied to many a woman who deserves it no otherwise than by netting a purse or covering a screen. But I am very far from agreeing with you in your estimation of ladies in general. I cannot boast of knowing more than half a dozen, in the whole range of my acquaintance, that are really accomplished.”

“Nor I, I am sure,” said Miss Bingley. “Then,” observed Elizabeth, “you must comprehend a great deal in your idea of an accomplished woman.”

“Yes, I do comprehend a great deal in it.”

“Oh! certainly,” cried his faithful assistant, “no one can be really esteemed accomplished who does not greatly surpass what is usually met with. A woman must have a thorough knowledge of music, singing, drawing, dancing, and the modern languages, to deserve the word; and besides all this, she must possess a certain something in her air and manner of walking, the tone of her voice, her address and expressions, or the word will be but half deserved.”

“All this she must possess,” added Darcy, “and to all this she must yet add something more substantial, in the improvement of her mind by extensive reading.”

“I am no longer surprised at your knowing only six accomplished women. I rather wonder now at your knowing any.”

(Picture: George Goodwin Kilburne – A Young Woman at a Piano 1880)

Purchase: Ladies’ Period Clothing at Historical Emporium

If you must own a Victorian-period frock for a lady or gentleman, this is the website to visit.

Historical Emporium, Authentic Ladies Period Clothing. Authentic Victorian, old west and prairie styles for ladies. Perfect for theater, screen, living history and special events. Gentleman’s Emporium, Steampunk Emporium, Western Emporium and Ladies Emporium are now Historical Emporium! All of these websites are now combined into one single (epic) Emporium, Historical Emporium (historicalemporium.com), with all the same great products and service!

Source: Ladies’ Period Clothing at Historical Emporium

 

Dancing 1872 Style – Notes on the Waltz

“A lady – beautiful word! — is a delicate creature, one who should be reverenced and delicately treated. It is therefore unpardonable to rush about in a quadrille, to catch hold of the lady’s hand as if she were a door-handle, or to drag her furiously across the room, as if you were Bluebeard…”  (The Habits of Good Society: By Unknown Author, originally published 1872. Copyright 2012 Forgotten Books).

Recently on my author Facebook page, I’ve been posting videos of period dramas with romantic scenes of waltzes. Some of my favorites are from The Young Victoria, War & Peace (2016), Cinderella, and Crimson Peak. They look so romantic with women in gorgeous gowns being swung around the room by handsome men.

According to The Habits of Good Society, there were rules to be followed if you were considered to be an “accomplished” individual on the dance floor. The introduction above focuses on how men should gently treat the lady. Apparently, if a man is too brusque with a woman while dancing, it may be an indication of how he is in his personal life.

A man should always smile when taking a lady’s hand, and bowing should still be in style.

“To squeeze it, on the other hand, is a gross familiarity, for which you would deserve to be kicked out of the room.”

I’m sorry, but it’s difficult not to laugh over at that rule. Even though the quadrille is a bit outdated in 1872, it is still danced albeit a bit slowly. Too slowly it becomes ridiculous.

The waltz, of course, is the preferred dance of this time period. In fact, the writer of this book wishes he could rave about it for days. He begins by explaining that position is the first importance, as well as the placement of the man’s hand where it should be – at the center of the lady’s waist. The lady should turn her head a little to the left. Oh, and it’s considered atrocious for a lady to lay her head upon a man’s shoulder! Position, therefore, is of utmost importance.

These points are fascinating:

  • In Germany the waltz is rapid but it slackens the pace every now and then.
  • The Russian waltz men perform like the Austrians and will dance around the room with a glass of champagne in the left hand without spilling a drop. This reminded me of the scene in Crimson Peak where the waltz was done with a candle in the man’s hand that remained burning throughout.
  • To be graceful in England, one must waltz with the sliding step. It’s up to the gentleman to steer, keep his eyes open, and watch where they are going to avoid collisions in a crowded ballroom.
  • Violent dancing (too fast and reckless) can cause injury. The author apparently had seen an occasion where the gentleman broke his ankle and the lady gashed her head.

There are quite a few more references to various dances, including the Polka. Instructions are detailed. The overall sense, of course, is skill, ability, and following the social norms of treating the female with respect.

Ah, the waltz. Let’s watch one from my favorites.

 

“How Victorian Women Styled Their Hair For Work And Everyday Life” – Another Great Article From Mimi Matthews

For balls and other formal events, fashionable women of the early 1860s often arranged their hair in elaborate styles with artificial tufts, pads, and false plaits.

Source: How Victorian Women Styled Their Hair For Work And Everyday Life

"The Perfect Heroine" by Vicki Hopkins

In the past seven years, I have had the opportunity to craft female characters by the names of Suzette, Desiree, Charlotte, Angelique, Rachel, Ann, Mary, and Caroline.  Each woman is unique so that their character fits the theme of the story that I pen.

However, it’s been interesting to learn that crafting a female character who pleases the vast array of preferences that exist among readers, is a unique challenge. It’s safe to say that each one of my imaginary leading ladies has been a victim of harsh criticism, but a few have been lauded as brilliant. The ratings appear to hang upon whether the reader likes or dislikes the personality of the heroine. Since historical romance books are inherently written for the fantasies of the female audience, it makes perfect sense that female readers can be harsh critics. As I have said before, writing romance is a tough gig.

What I find utterly fascinating is that female readers appear to be more critical of their heroines than heroes. The damaged or flawed character of a handsome man is easily forgiven, rather than the shortcomings of a woman. The heartless rake who seduces a virgin in a passionate love scene is given absolution. His less than honorable motives are overlooked as well as his reputation. As long as he’s a good lover, is portrayed handsomely on the cover in a kilt or frock coat, all is well.

After all, ladies want to fall in love with the hero of the book for many reasons. We wouldn’t be reading them if we didn’t feel there was a void to be filled in our fantasies of what love should really be like. That is why we read historical romance to take us back to another time we blindly believe to be much better than the sneaker and blue jean society of our day. However, if the heroine doesn’t fit our preconceived idea of what we envision ourselves to be in her shoes, there could be trouble brewing in the ratings.

Why are we so critical of heroines? What is it about women who are harsh on other women – even if it’s just a make-believe character with no flesh, bones or soul?  Is it because women relate more closely with their gender than they do with men?  I think it boils down to what I believe I’m learning about this phenomenon – the men or heroes are fantasies in the mind of a female reader, while on the other hand heroines tend to be more personal as we walk that path of romance with them page by page vicariously.

Any author, who has taken a course or read a book on character building, will tell you that it takes talent to craft a hero or heroine and bring them to life.  We’ve all read complaints about cardboard characters (no depth) or characters that are run-of-the-mill remakes with no individuality.  The law of character building includes the pros and cons of that imaginary person. Can an evil person experience a pang of guilt or a saint have a sinful thought? Of course they can, because without dimension, they are not human. It’s the things we love and despise about people that make for good characters.  By the end of the story, the fictional individual should have grown in some way or changed for the better in spite of their flaws while conquering that obstacle that looms between them and their happy ending.  Let’s be honest – not every living being is perfect – so why do readers sometimes expect our characters to be as well?

I will raise my hand and admit that I tend to write prickly people because conflict is the spice of my stories. After reading other popular authors in the historical romance genre, I’m finding that I often dare to stray from the regulated norms. You will no doubt find more amiable and agreeable ladies elsewhere. An interesting exercise is to stroll through one-star reviews on best-selling historical romance books, and you’ll get a feel for how readers really view the heroine.  It’s usually a love/hate relationship based on personal preferences when it comes to romantic encounters between the pages.

From my own experience and reading the thoughts of other readers, here are some of the negatives that women do not like in their heroines:

  • Prickly women who come across as bitches.
  • Weak women who can’t stand up for themselves.
  • Disabled women who don’t match the standards of beauty or perfection.
  • Gullible women who swallow men’s lies and have no good sense.
  • Arrogant women who are snobs.
  • Unforgettable and uninteresting women with bland personalities.
  • Women with poor self-esteem.

I am sure the list could be expanded, but those complaints are the most obvious. It makes me wonder though if readers have placed twenty-first century expectations of behavior upon women of the Regency and Victorian eras. I wouldn’t be surprised if our thought processes actually wish for stronger women, which may not have been the case until the later part of the 19th century and early 20th century when women found a voice due to the suffrage movement.

Frankly, I think it is impossible to please every reader all of the time when it comes to historical romance. Each reader, like each character, is frankly unique in what they are looking for in a story. They have their perfect hero and heroine already in mind, and it’s the journey that the two must traverse to find an everlasting love that is the entertainment readers seek. I would only caution that sometimes a character can possess negative characteristics early in the story, but the author has plans to mellow them out or heal their flaws. Unfortunately, tales that instantly irritate are often discarded before the best is yet to come.

So is there a perfect heroine?  I sincerely doubt it.  If one existed, every historical romance writer would be a New York Times best-selling author because they didn’t irritate a reader with a less-than-stellar heroine.

Now as far as heroes?  Well, that’s an entirely different topic that I may tackle in another post.