Mourning Becomes Her: Regency Mourning Dress & Customs

The Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York has been running a lovely costume exhibit (“Death Becomes Her”, which closes tomorrow) covering mourning fashions roughly 1820-1920. I was invited to see it with a friend who knows how much I love costume history, and we recently spent seven hours at the museum, viewing many things in addition to the costume exhibit. We took a lot of photos –some will turn up in future blogposts! It was exciting to see two real examples of mourning gowns, from 1820 and 1824, that were worn at the end of our period. Don’t you love museums?

Met Museum-Widow & Child Mourning DressesThe Regency era technically ended on January 29, 1820, when the old mad King George III died and Prinny succeeded to the throne. One reason his Coronation wasn’t held until the following year had to do with mourning customs –it wasn’t seemly for the royal family or the bereaved country to hold a grand celebration too soon after the death of the old monarch.

Mourning customs followed by the upper classes at the personal level were even more de rigueur when it came to royal mourning, and the British had seen quite a lot of that by 1820. In November, 1817, Prinny’s only child, Princess Charlotte, died after giving birth to a stillborn baby. The old king’s Queen Consort, Charlotte, died in 1818. Prinny’s brother, the Duke of Kent, died just six days before their father, on January 23, 1820, so there was double mourning then. (The duke had won the race to produce the new heir to the throne with the birth of his daughter, Victoria, only eight months earlier.)

Met Museum-1820 Mourning dressIt’s not known if this 1820 dress exhibited at the Met was worn for the decreed royal mourning or for a personal loss, or both, but its sheer overlay on the bodice and sheer sleeves were very fashionable. Compare the 1818  illustration below.

My friend and I also loved this 1824 Scottish gown (below) embellished with ribbon trim and large scroll appliqués around the hem. But you can see clearly how the fashionable lady’s silhouette was changing from the slim columnar shape favored in the earlier years of the Regency!

Met Museum-1824 Scottish mourning gownWearing black for mourning dates as far back as the ancient Romans. As social mourning customs evolved, they dictated all levels of behavior –not only what you could and couldn’t do, but also what you were expected to wear, right down to the types of fabrics, for several distinct stages of mourning.

Widows were expected to mourn for at least two years, one of full mourning and one of the lighter half-mourning. Socializing was proscribed for at least six months to a year. Widowed men were not subject to the same expectations! The rules were less severe for the losses of other family members: a year to mourn parents and children, six months for siblings and grandparents, three months for aunts and uncles, and six weeks for cousins. Servants, and anyone in uniform, such as the military, wore black armbands. Door knockers were swathed in black to serve notice when a household was in mourning.

Met Museum-1818 Regency Illustration
1818 Mourning Eveningwear

Naturally, the Regency fashionable were guided in all this by such venerable tomes as Ackermann’s Repository. (Research tip: you can find issues online by searching www.archive.org.) The February issue for 1820 features a number of examples of mourning dress, for after all, one needed to carry the mourning through all occasions in the course of a day. How do you like this walking dress, or these two versions of evening gowns?

Ackermann's Mourning 1820- Walking Dress

Ackermann's Mourning 1820 - Evening Dress

Ackermann's Mourning 1820- Evening Dress-2

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The rules for public mourning were announced by the Lord Chamberlain’s office, and could vary. Prinny, now the uncrowned George IV, “in consideration of the interests of trade” declared a “shortened” period of public mourning for his father, essentially three months. The first stage lasted until March 19, just over six weeks of wearing bombazine and crape. The so-called “first change” or second mourning called for “plain black silk” with “French grey bombasine” for undress, until April, and then colored ribbons and flowers could be added to the black silk, or white with black trimmings could also then be allowed. Ackermann’s noted that in addition to French gray bombazine, pelisses made of gray levantine (trimmed with black velvet), and some “high dresses of poplin” (trimmed with black gauze or net) as well as gros de Naples and corded silk had been seen. Mourning was to end on April 30.

The exhibit at the Met offered a lot of fascinating details about the fabrics used for mourning clothes. For instance, crape was favored, they said, because while it satisfied the first stage requirement of having no sheen, its fine weave and flexibility made it very suitable to be pleated or crimped or shaped into purely decorative ornaments that allowed the wearer to be fashionable while still following the rules of mourning.

Met Museum-2 Ladies -1840s-2While styles changed radically over the course of the 19th century, I noticed the same fabrics continued in use throughout. I have to include this picture of two dresses from the 1840’s, just for Susanna. Note the model’s “spaniel curls”!

I also have to include this photo (below) of two gorgeous sequin-covered 1902 evening gowns worn by Queen Alexandra (Victoria’s daughter-in-law) in half-mourning colors after Victoria’s death –they are mauve and purple–for Elena, because they are 100% sparkly!!

Met Museum-1902 Queen Alexndra Eve GownsHowever, advances of the Industrial Revolution: fabrics more available and less expensive, improved black dyes, and the boom in ready-made clothes after the invention of the sewing machine, served to support and spread the observance of mourning customs to the middle classes and beyond (more than Queen Victoria’s long mourning for Prince Albert). The “mourning trade” became big business after the Regency, with entire warehouses catering to the need for mourning attire. No doubt they had a vested interest in encouraging the fashion for public display, but if you went too far, you could be criticized for being ostentatious or, worse, insincere in your grief!

TPE orig coverMy heroine in The Persistent Earl is a widow. While I didn’t know as much about mourning customs and dress when I wrote that book as I do now, I tried to keep Daphne dressed appropriately in half-mourning colors. You may imagine my shock when I first saw the cover Signet gave that 1995 book –the heroine is depicted in a lovely, bright gold satin gown! When readers have asked me what scene in the story it represents, I’ve cheerfully told them it’s from AFTER the story ends. :-)

Today, the complex social rules of mourning that held sway during the Regency and flourished during the 19th century are mostly obsolete. People follow the customs dictated by their religions, but mourning is generally a private affair. Governments may order flags at half-staff for the death of important public figures, but there are no society-wide expectations or judgment laid down. Attitudes about mourning have changed. Do you think that is for the best? Are we better off sucking it up and trying to function as normally as we can manage instead of wallowing in our sorrows and making a public show of our grief? Or was there a kernel of common sense that we’ve lost underlying these old rules, that gave the grieving some recognition and respect, a bit of protection, structure, and time to recover? Please comment, for I’d really like to know what you think!

“She’d worn that color, or gray in its place, for three years now. And unrelenting black for a year before that. It had been a bit of a badge, she realized, a uniform of sorts. One never had to worry about who one was when one’s clothing proclaimed it so loudly.”
Julia Quinn, When He Was Wicked

Posted in History, Regency, Research | Tagged , , , , , | 5 Comments

My New Favorite . . .

Is this:

The Historical Thesaurus of English

For those of you who don’t already know about this, I’ll wait here while you go check it out.

Decades in the making. Linked with the OED. This is a word lover’s paradise. I’ve already emailed my thanks to the University of Glasgow for this.

I about cried when I found this. Seriously.  I was overcome with emotion. When I raxed up from my faint, I bawled like a baby.

Sorry. I spent several lovely moments clicking between the thesaurus and the OED on the word cry.

 

 

 

 

 

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Australia Day

Today is Australia Day! Or, if you are in Australia, then perhaps yesterday was Australia Day. This national holiday is marked by community festivities, family get-togethers, and citizenship ceremonies welcoming new citizens. Like our Fourth of July.

Australia, of course, had a much different beginning.

In the 1700s Great Britain had been using the American colonies as penal colonies, but the War of Independence put a stop to that. In need of a new land to which they might send convicts, Great Britain decided on what was then called New South Wales, one of the lands Captain Cook had explored. Cook recommended it for colonization.

The_First_Fleet_entering_Port_Jackson,_January_26,_1788,_drawn_1888_A9333001hThe First Fleet left England on May 13, 1787. It consisted of 11 ships, including two Royal Navy vessels, three store ships and six convict transports. More than 1,000 convicts were transported, but on board all those ships were also over 400 others: ships crews, marines, officials and passengers, and wives and children of all of them.

The voyage was harrowing, marred by extreme heat, rain, water rationing, and an astonishing number of vermin infestations. The voyage took over 250 days to complete. Remarkably, only 48 people died.

View_of_Botany_BayThe fleet first attempted landing in Botany Bay, but it was found to be more unsuitable than Captain Cook had led them to believe. Captain Arthur Phillip, the man commissioned to found the penal colony, explored the coast and discovered a better harbor and a better place to anchor, which he named Sydney Cove. On January 26, 1788, Phillip weighed anchor at Sydney Cove, marking the official beginning of the colony.

800px-Thomas_Watling_-_A_Direct_North_General_View_of_Sydney_Cove,_1794The first years of the settlement were difficult ones. The soil was poor, the climate unfamiliar and the many of the convicts knew nothing of farming. The marines were poorly led and less than competent, but Phillip eventually appointed convicts to oversee matters. Eventually, the penal colony prospered.

1808 was the first recorded celebration marking the anniversary of the First Fleet landing. The colonists began to feel a sense of pride and patriotism and marked the anniversary with “drinking and merriment” according to Historian Manning Clarke.

1818 marked the first official celebration of the anniversary. That puts it right in “our” time period!

Have you read any Regencies that involved the Australian penal colonies? I remember one where the heroine’s brother and father were transported and, in the end, the hero becomes the colony’s governor so she can search for them. Can’t remember the title, though. Anyone remember that one?

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Tired Tropes I Could Do Without

This year I received NINE books to judge in RWA’s RITA contest. It appears, from online discussions, that people who are open to judging a broad range of categories can get swamped, as I have. Unless there are changes in how they do things, I may have to opt out of more categories next year, because this is going to be a challenge!

Anyway, judging the RITAs is always a mixed pleasure. Usually I find some new authors to follow, but almost always, I also run into books that use some tired old tropes I don’t see in my favorite authors’ books. Here are a few I’m braced to expect:

Tired Trope #1 – The Feisty Redhead

Red hair is gorgeous, and I understand why authors might use it in a symbolic sense, to connote passion (although I’d also argue that blondes and brunettes can be just as passionate). I do wonder about the idea that redheads are naturally short-tempered.

When I googled around, I found some historical background for this idea of the “fiery redhead” and also some articles suggesting that the gene that produces red hair may also cause an increased sensitivity to pain. So perhaps a redhead might react more strongly if one accidentally stepped on her toes? It still seems like a stretch to assume that redheads have a short fuse about everything. It’s not borne out by the ones I know. They aren’t wimps but also aren’t at all the sort to jump to erroneous conclusions or blow up at trifles.

The stories that really rub me the wrong way are the ones featuring a redheaded heroine who blows her top easily and a hero who somehow thinks this is cute. Taken to this extreme, it’s infantilizing women’s anger. I prefer to read about a heroine who can be angry with real reason and a hero who, even if he disagrees with her, will take her seriously.

Tired Trope #2 – The Rich, Handsome, Alpha Chauvinist

Sadly, in most of the batches of RITA books I’ve judged, there’s at least one book with a hero who crosses the line from alpha to abusive. He shows a consistent lack of respect for the heroine, disregards her ideas, needs and desires, and may judge her sexuality using a double standard.

In a historical romance, I can imagine a hero whose upbringing and experiences may not have prepared him for a heroine with untraditional abilities or strong passions. I still want him to be intelligent enough to recognize, accept and eventually be delighted by what he learns about her true nature.

However, I actually see as many or more chauvinistic heroes in contemporary romance. Seriously, have we not gotten past the modern hero who’s surprised when a heroine proves to be intelligent and competent? Or one who slut-shames her for having as strong a libido as his?

Even if there’s some good grovel at the end, I can’t believe in a happy ending for these couples. I see the heroine ending up in what amounts to a luxurious cage and the “hero” eventually replacing her with either a younger wife or a mistress, depending on the setting.

I want to read about a hero who loves the heroine in all her complexity. One who does not see her as a static, desirable object but a living woman, who will change and acquire new wisdom and power as she goes through various phases of her life. Because he loves her, he’ll be excited to be her companion for that journey.

What do you think? Are there other tropes you’d like to see retired?

Elena
www.elenagreene.com

Posted in Rant, Reading, Writing | Tagged , , , | 7 Comments

Worth More Than 1000 Words*

*Unless you’ve managed to dislocate your heroine’s shoulder

I’m a bit late with posting today because I spent a really long day at university, inflicting Shakespeare’s Othello on my students around midday and then grading for the rest of the day. As a consequence this post is going to be rather short — sorry about that!

I’m currently on deadline for my Roman romance (cue blood-curdling scream) (have I already mentioned that I wrote this thing longhand and that I still need to type most of it up?), and I’ve reached that happy stage where I’m convinced that writing the book was a BIG FAT mistake to begin with and that my poor editor will forever hate me for forcing her to read the manuscript (or she will just drop dead from the sheer awfulness of it). So to cheer myself up, I’m experimenting with digital art and developing character portraits. This, I’ve found, is not only a lot of fun, but it also helps me to better visualize my characters.

Thus, I’m always thrilled to pieces when I manage to render a particularly nice portrait of Lia, my heroine. One, in which her skin doesn’t look like plastic, in which her shoulder doesn’t look completely dislocated, and in which she isn’t hovering above the (anachronistic) chaise longue. But sometimes, an image turns out just perfect, which means you can drool over your heroine’s pretty dress. (Anachronistic as well, but who cares? A female character in Spartacus could have totally worn this! she says with her tongue firmly planted in her cheek)

Lia, by Sandra Schwab
But as to the guys? Oh dear, the guys! They all end up with gray skin that would suit a zombie extremely well. Or with red skin that looks like a bad case of sun burn As I write neither zombies nor lobsters, the skin issue is a bit unfortunate.

And in couple pics? If you’re really lucky, both of your figures end up looking … er … odd. As in this one. Guy looks like a lobster, gal looks plastic-ish. Duh. (Also, what’s up with their right hands? The hands seem to have merged and her middle finger now grows out of his middle finger. Gah!) (But hey, at least her hair and her dress are pretty!)

a draft for a new cover of Bewitched by Sandra Schwab
Still, I hope that I’ll eventually be able to use these images as promo images and perhaps even for my covers.

As soon as I’ve figured out how to solve the skin issue (and all the other stuff)!  :-)

Posted in Anything but writing | 3 Comments

Regency, Manga-style!

Two years ago, I opened a package of books delivered to me and discovered that my 2007 book, Innocence and Impropriety had been released as a Japanese Manga!
Innocence-and-Impropriety-Manga1
What a thrill. I blogged about it here. I loved the illustrations, but the text was in Japanese, so I couldn’t read it.

Imagine my delight when I accidentally discovered that the Manga version had been translated into English! First it was available only in the UK and only in ebook version, but last week I found the English ebook version on Amazon! It comes in two volumes: Volume 1 and Volume 2

91v5KyTDB4L._SL1500_ 91ZVjn4ilnL._SL1500_

I immediately purchased copies for myself! The first surprise for me was to see that this English version, called a Comic not a Manga, still read from right to left, just as Japanese books do.
IMG_1114

It was such a hoot to see how Hiroko Miura translated the story. I imagine this manga artist first translated the story into Japanese, then, for the Harlequin Comics (English) version, the Japanese was translated into English.

This makes for some amusing changes, such as Madame Bisou in my original becoming Madame Biz. Regency language (or how I imagine Regency language) was pretty consistent, though, as was the setting detail. Notice the drawing of Vauxhall Gardens.
IMG_1115
Here’s the meeting between the hero and heroine:
IMG_1116
Here’s an exciting moment!
IMG_1117
And the happily ever after:
IMG_1118
The emotion and danger and even the humor in the story were shown, as well. I loved reading it. Sometimes I laughed with delight at how Hiroko Miura showed the story.
But what really touched me was this note at the end of the second volume. What a wonderful compliment from Hiroko Miura.
IMG_1119

These are the moments that make the author life worth it!

Do you read Manga? Turns out there are lots of Harlequin Comics to choose from! What fun!!

Posted in Uncategorized | 9 Comments

Guest Interview and Giveaway – Rose Lerner and True Pretenses

Everyone, please give a warm welcome to Rose Lerner, who’s here to talk about her latest release, True Pretenses, and give away a copy to one lucky commenter!

True Pretenses

Never steal a heart unless you can afford to lose your own.

Through sheer force of will, Ash Cohen raised himself and his younger brother from the London slums to become the best of confidence men. He’s heartbroken to learn Rafe wants out of the life, but determined to grant his brother his wish.

It seems simple: find a lonely, wealthy woman. If he can get her to fall in love with Rafe, his brother will be set. There’s just one problem—Ash can’t take his eyes off her.

Heiress Lydia Reeve is immediately drawn to the kind, unassuming stranger who asks to tour her family’s portrait gallery. And if she married, she could use the money from her dowry for her philanthropic schemes. The attraction seems mutual and oh so serendipitous—until she realizes Ash is determined to matchmake for his younger brother.

When Lydia’s passionate kiss puts Rafe’s future at risk, Ash is forced to reveal a terrible family secret. Rafe disappears, and Lydia asks Ash to marry her instead. Leaving Ash to wonder—did he choose the perfect woman for his brother, or for himself?

Warning: Contains secrets and pies.

And now here’s Rose:

True Pretenses is your second book in a village-set series. Did you find writing it easier or harder than a stand-alone?

Definitely easier. Having an established world meant there were so many things I didn’t have to stop and think about. I already had a map of Lively St. Lemeston, for example (you can see it on my Lively St. Lemeston Pinterest board).

However, the two books were pretty loosely linked (if you’ve read Sweet Disorder, the heroine of True Pretenses is the daughter of Nick’s mom’s political archnemesis Lord Wheatcroft). So as far as writing characters and plot was concerned, it didn’t make too much difference.



What was your inspiration for this book?

I was watching Mark Ruffalo movies after The Avengers came out. One of them was a movie called “The Brothers Bloom” in which he and Adrien Brody are good-looking Jewish con artist brothers. The ending of the movie upset me so much that I had to fix it.

The basic set-up of the movie is that Adrien Brody wants to go straight, so Mark Ruffalo tries to set him up with Rachel Weisz, an endearingly eccentric heiress. Something that I realized while turning it over in my mind was that Mark Ruffalo set his brother up with someone exactly like him. Now, this is not an uncommon plotline, but usually it’s leading to either (A) “I set you up with a mini-me because I’m in love with you myself” or (B) “I arbitrarily decided you would be perfect with this person and pressured you into dating them and then HORRIBLY BETRAYED YOU by falling in love with them myself” (cf. Dan/Blair on Gossip Girl. Blair, Serena would have been FINE with you guys dating if you hadn’t gone ON AND ON about how she and Dan should get back together first, and tricked them into going on a weird Valentine’s Day date, and planted old people in the restaurant to talk about how great marrying your high school sweetheart is, and and and).

I went with option (B) for obvious reasons. Delicious angst! BUT with a happy ending, UNLIKE “The Brothers Bloom”. (Seriously, I love the movie, watch it, but BE WARNED.)



Did you learn anything that surprised you in your research? (I’m particularly interested in how you researched your hero’s background, since he’s not your typical Regency hero on several levels.)

I was surprised by how many Jews were involved in the Regency criminal world! Apparently most London fences were Ashkenazi Jews, for example, who had immigrated from the Netherlands and still had the connections to offload hot items there.

The word “swindler”, which my hero Ash uses to describe himself (“confidence man” is first attested in 1849, and in the US), entered the English language in the 1760s probably as a borrowing from Yiddish. (See a summary of the debate here. When it first came into use, the word had a much narrower meaning in bankruptcy fraud.)

I almost hesitate to share that because I don’t want to contribute to anti-Semitic stereotypes, but on the other hand, I don’t think that erasing Jewish criminals in favor of imagining an all-Englishborn all-Gentile underworld is any better.

Some books that were helpful to me in building Ash’s backstory were The Jews of Georgian England by Todd Endelman, The Regency Underworld by Donald Low (especially the chapter “Nurseries of Crime” about child criminals), The Big Con by David Maurer (a very entertaining history of American con artists that provided the blueprint for most modern heist stories and requires no background knowledge to enjoy), and A Vocabulary of the Flash Language (1819) by James Hardy Vaux, which not only teaches slang terms, but indirectly demonstrates a lot about London criminal culture and practice. 



What was the most difficult part of the book to write?

Ash and Lydia are both very different from me! They don’t like reading fiction, they live in the moment, they get a thrill from taking risks, in their hearts they don’t really care about the rules, they aren’t cranky and enjoy crowds. There were a lot of times where I was writing them and thinking Ugh I would hate this SO MUCH but I guess it doesn’t really bother Ash. 



Read any good books lately?

I feel like I’ve read ONLY good books lately! I think as I get older I get better and better at knowing my own taste and avoiding books I won’t enjoy. A few standouts: A Bollywood Affair by Sonali Dev, Jeannie Lin’s new steampunk Gunpowder Alchemy, and Secrets of a Scandalous Heiress by Theresa Romain (yay for a Bath setting!).



What do you do when you’re not writing or reading?

Apart from working at my day job (cooking), mostly watching TV with my BFF. Fiction is my jam, and TV is fiction you can enjoy in real time with someone else! At the moment we’re obsessed with Leverage and enjoying The 100, Selfie, Forever, Brooklyn Nine-Nine, and an embarrassing number of others.



What’s next for you?

The third Lively St. Lemeston book comes out in January 2016! It’s called Listen to the Moon and it’s about Toogood (Nick’s impassive valet) and Sukey (Phoebe’s snarky maid) from Sweet Disorder. I’m writing it now and I can’t wait to share it with everyone!

———-

Thanks for visiting today, Rose!

If you’d like a chance to win a copy of True Pretenses, comment and tell us who your favorite fictional criminal is.

Also, note that the first Lively St Lemeston book, Sweet Disorder, is on sale for $0.99 at all retailers through tomorrow, January 20. And last but not least, Rose is giving away a con artist gift basket on her blog.

Posted in Giveaways, Guest, Regency | Tagged , | 38 Comments

I’m sorry. I’m having a bad hair decade.

So, I’m between projects at the moment, finishing up my blog tour for Freedom to Love and planning for my big Waterloo bicentennial trip to Europe this summer. I decided it might be a good idea to put a free short story or two up on my website in the meantime, and I’m planning to start by pairing off my characters’ next generation–Charles Farlow, son of Henry and Therese from Freedom to Love, with Lucy Atkins, daughter of Will and Anna from The Sergeant’s Lady.

Pairing Charles and Lucy will require me to venture into unfamiliar territory: the 1840’s. So in the next month or two I’ll be giving myself a crash course on early Victorian Britain–all the important political, technological, scientific, and cultural trends that will make their world different from the one their parents knew as young Regency lovers. But the very first thing I looked up was the fashions. I’ve already decided that Lucy is going to have her father’s chestnut-red hair with her mother’s Scottish looks. If I was the kind of author whose books became movies, I’d want her to be played by someone like Karen Gillan:

Karen Gillan

To complete my mental picture, I needed to know what sort of dress she’d wear to a ball, and how she’d arrange her hair. I hurried off to Wikipedia to check out 1840s in Western Fashion. The dresses are quite pretty, though I don’t like them as much as Regency or Edwardian fashion. At least the exaggerated puffed sleeves of the 1830’s were gone, and skirts hadn’t reached the crinolined extremes of the 1850’s or 60’s.

But then I saw the hair.

Spaniel Curls

“Spaniel curls” were all the rage.

Spaniel Curls 2

Maybe it’s just me, but it seems like an unfortunate look.

Spaniel Curls 3

On the other hand, authors who live in glass houses should be careful how they throw stones. Here’s me as a teen with 80’s hair:

80's hair

I used to hate my naturally straight hair and envy the girls who could effortlessly achieve the desired Big Hair SO MUCH. And my teenaged self would be boggled to learn that in 2015 I wouldn’t even own a bottle of hair spray.

So, how do you feel about 1840’s fashion? Are spaniel curls due for a comeback?

Posted in Frivolity, Research | Tagged , , | 10 Comments

Books, eBooks, and Audio Books, Plus Ivory, Plus Writing

Judith Ivory’s Black Silk is one of my all time favorite historicals. At the time I read Black Silk, Ivory’s books were not available in eBooks. There were terrible, horrible, cheap POD versions — with newsprint quality paper and ink that was smeared… I returned the copy that arrived with a crooked cover and located a used mass market paperback.

Ivory’s books are now available as eBooks, as  I came to learn on Twitter. I immediately purchased everything (including the Judy Cuevas books) and I added the audio book to a couple of them. Set that aside for a moment, while I gush about Ivory …

I LOVED LOVED LOVED The Proposition even with the cheesy ending. I’m in the middle of The Beast right now (in audio) and well. Judith Ivory. Her writing is lovely, and she does what I miss so much in historicals and that I strive to do in my own writing, which is tell as story as if the HEA is not a given. My personal description of this goes like this: A Romance written as if it were not a Romance.

Aside: I said this once on a loop and got a tremendous, even vicious, push back. Not that any of the disagreement came close to changing my mind. I still believe that a Romance that is written as if it’s not a Romance will have far, far more tension.

Also, especially now that I’m not traditionally publishing, I really don’t care about the prevailing beliefs about what sells. A lot of those beliefs are wrong. Sure, it’s crucial to know what’s happening in the market, but even so, I get to decide what I write, and I get to write exactly the way I want, entirely in line with the stories I want to tell.

Because, and, yes, another aside, when I am gone from this world, I want to have written the stories that speak to me, without compromise in the way I’ve told them. (This is NOT the same thing as not listening to editorial advice. Editorial advice is crucial.) If that means I sell fewer copies, I am at peace with that.

When This Is A Romance permeates every aspect of the story, there’s a very real risk of the book being too familiar. Tired, even. The Insta-Love trope is a predominant approach these days. I don’t necessarily mind it. There are lots of such stories that are great books, too. But there’s an awful lot that don’t distinguish themselves.

Yes, this is another aside.

Too often I feel I’m getting a Romance where sexual attraction is the container of the story … such that it is present from the start. Even stories where the hero and heroine, ostensibly, do not like each other, they are powerfully attracted underneath. Again, I’m not saying this should never be done. I’m just saying, it’s now really really common. Plus, well, I guess I also think there are lots of authors who aren’t challenging this. You have to be really, really good to make such a story extraordinary.

This leads to stories where something else delays bringing together the sexual and the commitment to the person they love. Often, this ends up being “I’m not worthy.” A flavor, if you will, of “I’m in your ass, saving your life.” Again, it’s possible to pull this off, but you have to be good. Really good. (P.S. I read that book and liked it better than SBTB. But that review started a meme/trope/Romance inside joke.)

Anyway, one of the things Ivory does so well is to give us characters who, despite any attraction, have lives that allow us to see exactly how they might walk away from this potential relationship. And that possibility is credible. Even when you know it’s a Romance and there will be an HEA.

Right. OK, so when I was on my Ivory spree, I clicked Add the Audio Narration because I’ve been listening to some audio books, and I am finding a place in my commute and certain other moments where an audio book fits quite nicely. I just finished listening to a Romantic Suspense audio book (not an ACX DIY book) by a favorite author, and I loathed the narrator from the start.

Loathed. The. Narrator.

She read the book as if she felt contempt for the work she was reading. The male voices were phony and contrived and because she was trying (and failing) to roughen and deepen her voice for the male characters, they were all the same. That production wasn’t as bad as the production for A Darker Crimson (my first paranormal, audio rights not mine at the time) which was just horrific, I’m sad to say. Terrible narrator. Terrible production values.

I started listening to the audio book for Ivory’s The Beast, and the narrator is wonderful. She never sounds strained or phony, and I’m just so struck by how very, very good this reading is.

So. Here are my questions to you. Do you listen to audio books? What are your thoughts, pet peeves, loves, hates about them? Have you read Ivory?

 

 

Posted in Risky Book Talk, Uncategorized, Writing | Tagged , , | 3 Comments