To Ruin a Lady is Quite Fun

Helloooo, thank you to the Regency authors for letting me join your lovely group. My first Regency is releasing from Love Inspired Historical in September and it was a hoot to write. So much so that I’m at work on another.

A great regency involves just a bit of ruination…at least for the heroine in my current manuscript. But how canI go about ruining her so that she’s forced into a marriage of convenience?

As someone who has enjoyed regency romances since I was a teen, I still have so much to learn. I needed a ruination that was palatable for a Christian audience but still severe enough to force my heroine into the arms of my delectable yet decidedly anti-marriage hero. So the first place I looked was, of course, Google. My dear friend Google.

The search yielded many interesting titles but no specific reasons on why or how a lady could be ruined. I really wanted something concrete. Something unarguable. But that showed my misunderstanding of the Regency period. Thank goodness for writing friends! A dear author friend named who has been writing regencies for years informed me that all it could take is some gossip to rip my heroine’s reputation into tatters.

And so I got to work in creating ruination. After all, my hero and heroine belong together, even if they don’t know it yet!

Has gossip ever hurt you or ruined your reputation? How did you recover?

 

New Romances by Kristi Ann Hunter

Vanessa here,

It’s my pleasure to have Kristi Ann Hunter on my porch today to talk of her latest novels.  Really, I should have had you here sooner since we are both Georgia Peaches, but we’ve both been a little busy.

Kristi Hunter and I enjoying the music.

Kristi Hunter and I enjoying the music at RWA 2013.

Please have a seat on the pollen free chair. So Kristi Ann what made these stories come to life in your head?

There are always stories in my head. It’s a very noisy place.

Isn’t that always the way. Please continue.

There are a few things I do to streamline my thoughts enough to actually pull a coherent tale together, though. Usually I start with a question, a “What If” sort of scenario, or I start with a character that I’d really like to explore. Once I have both of those pieces, I know I’ve got the basis for a real story.

 

In A Lady of Esteem I started with the idea of Amelia. On the surface, Amelia had everything she needed to make a good connection – respectable family, connections to aristocracy, and a home in a fashionable area of town. Even though she had the necessary elements, they were useless because she had no way to utilize them. She’s a Cinderella figure oppressed by circumstances instead of people. The big question then was what do I do with her?

 

That’s where the big What If question comes into play. What if the servants of London decided they wanted something to happen? These people are so deeply embedded in the lives of the aristocracy that it’s hard to believe they couldn’t do something is they put their collective minds to it. That was the birth of the story.

She said free everyone. Please go find this free romance. http://www.kristiannhunter.com/#!a-lady-of-esteem/c2407ALoECover

What do you want people to think about when they read a Kristi Ann Hunter book.

While they’re reading it I hope they’re not thinking much of anything. My books are meant to be an enjoyable escape. I hope the story takes them into the world of Regency England until they’re completely immersed. A laugh or two would be good. Mostly I want them to enjoy the story. Once they’ve closed the book is another story. If an element of the story resonates with them and gets them to think about life a little differently or come to a better understanding about God and how much He loves us, then I consider that a success.

A Lady of Esteem is available now as a free eBook!

Miss Amelia Stalwood may live in London at her absent guardian’s townhouse, but she’s never actually met any nobility, and instead of aristocrats, her closest friends are servants.

Kristi Ann Hunter and Julie Klassen in Regency garb

Kristi Ann Hunter and Julie Klassen in sweet Regency gowns.

Quite by happenstance, she’s introduced to the Hawthorne family and their close family friend, Anthony, the reformed Marquis of Raebourne. They welcome her into their world, but just as she’s beginning to gain some confidence and even suspect she may have caught Anthony’s eye, she’s blindsided by an unexpected twist in her situation accompanied by nasty rumors.

Will she lose her reputation when the world that has only just accepted her turns its back on her, or will she rest in the support of the friends who’ve become like family and the man who’s shared his faith and captured her heart?

It’s free people! : http://www.kristiannhunter.com/#!a-lady-of-esteem/c2407 

On September 8th Kristi Ann Hunter’s first full length Regency Romance Will be Available.

A Noble Masquerade will be available everywhere on September 8!

Lady Miranda Hawthorne acts every inch the lady, but inside she longs to be bold and carefree. Entering her fourth Season and approaching spinsterhood in the eyes of society, she pours her innermost feelings out not in a diary but in letters to her brother’s old school friend, a duke–with no intention of ever sending these private thoughts to a man she’s heard stories about but never met. Meanwhile, she also finds herself intrigued by Marlow, her brother’s new valet, and although she may wish to break free of the strictures that bind her, falling in love with a servant is more of a rebellion than she planned.NobleCover

When Marlow accidentally discovers and mails one of the letters to her unwitting confidant, Miranda is beyond mortified. And even more shocked when the duke returns her note with one of his own that initiates a courtship-by-mail. Insecurity about her lack of suitors shifts into confusion at her growing feelings for two men–one she’s never met but whose words deeply resonate with her heart, and one she has come to depend on but whose behavior is more and more suspicious. When it becomes apparent state secrets are at risk and Marlow is right in the thick of the conflict, one thing is certain: Miranda’s heart is far from all that’s at risk for the Hawthornes and those they love.

Let’s all go order a copy:  http://www.kristiannhunter.com/#!a-noble-masquerade/c190y

Thanks for visiting with me. Next time I’ll serve cake.

What in the Regency World is a Round Gown?

Susan Karsten here.  I love historic costumes, but am by no means an expert, even though I took the subject in college.  If you are at all like me (Regency fiction reader/fanatic), you’ve come across the archaic and forgotten term “round gown”. Again, if you are like me, you will take a mental guess what that might be, and move on, flipping pages as fast as you can read them.

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To the best of my research,  the round gown appears to be a pre-Regency style that hung on, or was used for day-wear even as fashion moved to a different silhouette. Marie Antoinette is said to have inspired the round gown, then a dress and robe joined together and tied in the front  Later came Josephine Bonaparte who ushered in the slim, high-waisted, gossamer thin chemise dress of the early 19th Century, that we think of first when we think of Regency dresses.

Back to the round gown, the Empire gown’s precursor. The round gown had a soft, round skirt silhouette, with full gatherings at a slightly raised waist, a train, and straight, elbow-length sleeves.  The round gown’s train, which was common for a short time for day wear and lasted until 1805-06 for the evening, would be pinned up for the dance, as mentioned in Austen’s Northanger Abbey. One shudders at the impracticality of these long white muslin dresses in England, a country renowned for wet weather and muddy roads.

So, when you encounter the term “round gown” in your favorite Regency fiction, think of probably a day dress, kept for wearing at home, and more modest than their evening counterparts. An earlier silhouette, and not in the first stare of fashion.

I so hope some of you will add to this description with more yummy details about the mysterious round gown.

Reminiscing about the traditional Regency novel

Hi, readers! Susan here with another blast from the past — 1987 to be exact. I expect many of you inspirational Regency-lovers are like me…you loved the older, clean Regencies that were so readily available a few decades ago, published by Signet (my faves), Zebra and the like.

In fact, my efforts toward a fiction-writing career began with a desire to try my hand at writing one of these thrilling, yet clean, romances…with a dash or more of the Christian faith included as a character developing element…sometimes even as a plot twist or a conflict-causing, stake-raising factor.

So today, I am bringing you a review of an old favorite, Mary Jo Putney’s “The Diabolical Baron.”

Book Cover

Book Cover

Don’t let the title throw you, the book is a charming tale of true love, the twists and turns and the happily ever after. With two attractive suitors trying to lay claim to her heart and a father insisting she marry for a fortune, she has deep waters to navigate all the while trying to protect her beloved sister.

If you can find this title, I believe it might be one of your favorites too — though it is not a true inspirational romance. My hopes are that the Regency genre will grow in popularity again, with Christian writers bringing it to the fore.

 

Shell Pattern Manchettes

Camy here, and I’m knitting Regency knitting patterns again! This time, it’s “Shell Pattern Manchettes” from The Ladies’ Knitting and Netting Book by Miss Watts, originally published in 1837. You can download the .pdf of the Fifth Edition, with additions, which was published in 1840.

Shell Pattern Manchettes Watts-Ladies' Knitting and Netting Book 1st series 5th edition 1840 1

Shell Pattern Manchettes Watts-Ladies' Knitting and Netting Book 1st series 5th edition 1840 2

Shell Pattern Manchettes Watts-Ladies' Knitting and Netting Book 1st series 5th edition 1840 3

I had to Google what “manchettes” were. :) In the 1838 version of this same book, the pattern calls them “cuffs” instead of “manchettes,” but they seem to be longer than what we would consider cuffs, so they could have been perhaps wrist-warmers or arm-warmers.

(And autocorrect keeps trying to turn “manchettes” into “machetes,” so I apologize in advance if the blog mentions long blades instead of long gloves.)

The pattern mentions adding lace to the top and bottom, so I think they were meant to be worn over the dress sleeve, like the “muffatees” (fingerless gloves) patterns in the same book.

Even though this pattern was first published in 1837, I’m almost positive these patterns were in use during the Regency era. Most knitting patterns were passed down from one woman to another by word of mouth or copied instructions, hence they were called “receipts” since they were received from someone else.

The intricacy and complexity of British knitted artifacts dated from before 1800 (in the Georgian, not Regency era) point to knitting skills already fully developed beyond just knit and purl patterns. Knitting was mostly done by wealthy women for themselves, or for poor women who knit fine articles to sell to the rich.

Spinsters Christmas, The web 388I originally picked this pattern because I wanted my heroine to be knitting a gift for her friend in my next Regency novel. :) So I think I’ll knit these manchettes and then hold a contest to give them away when my Regency releases, like how I did with Gerard’s Red and Black Scarf from The Spinster’s Christmas.

Since most of us don’t have a maid to tie the ribbons of our manchettes for us (le sigh), I think I’ll knit these with ribbing to fit the manchettes to the wrist instead of the ribbon holes. But since these will be a giveaway, I’ll keep the arm part loose (no ribbing) so they’ll fit more people.

If you’re on Ravelry, here’s my project page for these manchettes.

Here’s the start of my machetes!

Peony Manchettes 1

Dark, Lovely, and Loved: The Diverse Regency

Vanessa here,

I’ve been away for a bit as I immersed myself in my latest writing projects. As you all know, I love the Regency, the mannerism, the wit, and the fashions. I am intrigued by the challenges the people of the times faced: the complexity and aftermath of war, the stark differences in the rights of women versus men, and the growing social consciousness.

But there is more, much more.

Did you know London was very diverse with large Jewish and African populations? Yet, it is very rare to see these aspects in Regency fiction. Except for my dear friend Ruth Axtell’s book, The Winter is Past, you do not typically see a racially diverse cast of characters.

I, an African American writer, am guilty of this, too. In my debut book, Madeline’s Protector, Justain’s conscience figure, Mason, was originally a free black, but I edited it out, thinking that such a close relationship between an earl and his black man-of-all-work wouldn’t pass the sniff test or even would upset some because he’s killed early in the book. I didn’t trust my audience as much as I should’ve, nor did I trust my ability to tell the tale. And if I had such worries, I can imagine how others feel when they lift pen to paper trying to write a historically accurate, compelling, and marketable tale. Those three components differ based on the eye or pocketbook of the beholder: Traditional Presses versus Indie Pubs, niche marketing versus mainstream pitches, Christian Bookseller Association versus American Bookseller Association, etc.

I applaud everyone brave enough to write their story in the way that they feel is right. I just know that for me and my pen, my laptop and smart phone, we shall tell the story and the whole story from now on, so help me God.

But London was diverse. And doesn’t love always win?

Let me show you some images. At first glance they may offend, but that is not my intent. With the sweetness of the Regency, one must also accept the bitter dregs, the things that have been swept away, because it is ugly.

Lewis Walpole Library, Yale University

Lewis Walpole Library, Yale University – Drawn by William Austin 1773

This is William Austin’s 1773 caricature: ‘The Duchess of (Queensbury) playing at Foils with her favorite lap dog Mungo’. This cartoon was meant to shame the duchess for spending 10,000 pounds (1 Million pounds in 2015 dollars) to teach one of her loyal servants, Soubise, how to fence. Soubise was treated like a son to the duchess.  Think of the trust the duchess must’ve had in this black man to invest that sum in his education and to trust him to wield a sword. But was he so unusual in the Duchess’s world?

By Regency times, historians, Kirstin Olsen and Gretchen Holbrook Gerzina, estimate that Black London (the black neighborhood of London) had over 10,000 residents. While England led the world in granting rights to the enslaved and ending legal slavery thirty years before the American Civil War, it still had many citizens who were against change.  Here is another image from an anti-abolitionist.

The_New_Union_Club_Being_a_Representation_of_what_took_place_at_a_celebrated_Dinner_given_by_a_celebrated_society

The New Union Club Being a Representation of what took place at a celebrated Dinner given by a celebrated society – includes in picture abolitionists, Billy Waters, Zachariah Macauley, William Wilberforce. – published 19 July 1819. Source: Wiki Commons

This image is from 1819, a cartoon by George Cruikshank. It is supposed to depict an abolitionist’s dinner party, but it just shows fear of the races intermingling. It serves as a reminder of how many thought of blacks and how it was ingrained in the times. Notice the half-black half-white baby, the promiscuous woman sitting on the gentleman’s lap, the black-face additions to the artwork, the violence and chaos, even the blood shed amongst the party goers.

How many laughs did it draw in the parlors and drawings rooms of polite society? Moreover, how did the enslaved and free servants or the black men who owned shops feel fetching this paper to their masters, their employers, or watching it enfolded in the hands of their patrons?

Cruikshank drew fear, and he wouldn’t have, if Regency society didn’t possess it. For Cruikshank, a rising black middle class, intermingling in society, gaining in social power and wealth, was something to dread. Is this ugliness, this truth, the reason the fictional landscape of Regency exhibits stories abscent diversity and color? Does showing black or brown or yellow historical faces mean that the ugliness must also show?

Perhaps, or perhaps not. But to pretend it did not exist is to dishonor every person who received a racial slur and turned the other cheek, the unknown man lynched for the fault of his birth, or every fallen soldier felled on the road to equality.

My goal is to show through the stories pressing upon my spirit that truth and love can coexist on a diverse canvas. When love arrives, the picture changes and even the bad can be borne and overcome.

Here’s a picture showing love winning.

Lady Elizabeth Murray and Dido Belle, once attributed to Zoffany

Portrait of Dido Elizabeth Belle Lindsay (1761-1804) and her cousin Lady Elizabeth Murray (1760-1825) painted in 1778. Source: Wiki Commons

Look at these two cousins, Dido and Elizabeth. Their great uncle, Lord Mansfield, loved them both and had them arrayed in fashionable apparel and pearls for this portrait. Both ladies are trapped by their circumstances, Dido by her race and Elizabeth by her lack of an inheritance. Johan Zoffany paints them, particularly Dido with no grotesques features, no overt subservient positioning, no hint of promiscuity or evil, just two lovely women.

It would be great if the date of these images showed progress, the growing changes in London society. They don’t. No, they just show truth. The landscape of Regency London was diverse and enlightened hearts embraced the diversity with love.

My second full length novel, Unmasked Heart releases on June 15, 2015. Gaia Telfair is a different kind of heroine. She’s a mulatto, with both black and white blood coursing within her veins, only she didn’t know it until she reached for love.

unmasked heart cover3cvNew72

 

Regency Wards and Guardians – the care of a well-to-do orphan

Kristi here. As long as people have been having children, there has been the question of what to do with them if the parents die before the child can care for themselves. In Regency England that care depended greatly on who your parents had been.

Orphanages were frequently reserved for the poor or poorly connected. Those with higher connections and particularly those with money and property became wards, but the assignment of the guardian was not always simple.

Early 19th Century painting of the Court of Chancery, via wikimedia commons

Early 19th Century painting of the Court of Chancery, via wikimedia commons

The father was the only person able to assign a guardian for his children should he die too early. If his will didn’t state who it was to be, the choice fell to the Court of Chancery. The court could also in extreme cases overrule the father’s choice of guardian.

If the child had property and money the court cared a great deal more than if the child didn’t. If there was no material wealth, then the court didn’t get very involved unless someone made a ruckus. If no one sued over the child, then the court was likely to leave them with whoever wanted to care for the child, such as a stepfather who had no legal right to his deceased wife’s children from a previous marriage.

The appointed guardian was usually the most closely related person that could not inherit from the child. The court was very concerned about the child being coerced out of his inheritance by a guardian or through marriage. If the child was a minor and the court did not approve of the marriage, it was considered non-existent, particularly if the child were male.

Adoption as we know it today did not exist during the Regency time period, though it was not unheard of for a ward to be treated as a son or daughter and even inherit certain things from their guardian, unless of course there was a title involved. Titles had to move along bloodlines.

After the age of 14 the child could have a say in who their guardian was,  but many children didn’t know this and felt they had to go along with whoever the court appointed. There were also instances where someone might have been appointed the guardian but someone else actually cared for the child (such as a brother or sister). This wasn’t an issue unless legal things such as permission to marry were involved.

Since the Court of Chancery was exceptionally bogged down and notoriously slow about things, they tended to ignore whatever didn’t involve titles, property, or angry people. As long as nothing untoward was happening and no one objected, guardianship of well-to-do but penniless people could be decided by society.

A working or middle class family might take in a neighbor’s child out of love or a wish for another pair of hands. There was no legal ramifications for this unless someone sued.

This lack of oversight comes into play my novella coming out in July. A Lady of Esteem is a complete story – no cliffhangers! – offered free as a preview to the upcoming Hawthorne House series. If you’re on Goodreads, hop over here and add the book to your to-read shelf. If 250 people add it, I’ll do an early release of Chapter One on my webpage.

*The assignment of wards and guardians and trustees could get very complicated. This is a very high level look at how guardianship was handled. For more information on the Court of Chancery, there are several books available through Google books that go into the formation and responsibilities of this particular court. Here are some other websites that go into greater detail about the types of guardians: Regency Researcher and Word Wenches

 

Charming Quotes from Jane Austen

Hello, my Regency-loving friends. Interesting, isn’t it, that the actual Regency last only from 1811-1820, but the periods before and after can also be considered part of the era?  When trying to explain to the uninitiated, what the Regency is, I’ll often bring up Jane Austen. I find that most, but not all, have heard of the book Pride and Prejudice and they can get a grasp on what kind of fiction genre I am writing.104_2304

So, to bring Jane Austen alive again, in our minds only, I bring you some of her delicious quotes.

What dreadful hot weather we have! It keeps me in a continual state of inelegance.

A lady’s imagination is very rapid; it jumps from admiration to love, from love to matrimony in a moment.”

There is nothing like staying at home for real comfort.

The person, be it gentleman or lady, who has not pleasure in a good novel, must be intolerably stupid.

Based on these quotes alone, I do believe I would have enjoyed know Jane Austen.

Which author would you have liked to spend time with? Answer in the comments, please.

Knit lace evening gloves

Camy here! Lately I bought a hand-made Regency-style dress from my friend and Steampunk author, Shelley Adina, (it was a steal because she didn’t want it anymore) and so now I’ve been looking for accessories. (I’ll post pics of the dress soon!)

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I realized that the blue dress is perfect for some lacy gloves I had made for myself a while ago. Actually, I originally made these gloves because Shelley had wanted opera gloves (designated “16-button gloves” even though there aren’t actually 16 buttons on the gloves) for when she goes Regency dancing, and I made my gloves as a test run before making Shelley’s.

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These are a pale blue lace-weight alpaca yarn, although the original pattern called for crochet cotton. I also had to extrapolate a bit to extend the gloves beyond my elbow.

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The gloves have pearl buttons at the wrist because Shelley had requested that, for ease of removing the hand portion when she has to eat. I found out later that the button slit is actually Victorian, and not Regency, but it’s extremely practical, don’t you think?

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I’m rather proud of these gloves because they’re just so pretty! :) I’m also so excited that they’re light blue, which matches the gown I just bought!

If you’re on Ravelry, here’s the link to my project page.

Do any of you own Regency style gowns? Where do you get your accessories, or how do you make them?