Manly Pastimes and the Romantic Hero, or, Where Did You Get Those Bruises?

Boxing_1811_Crib_&_MolineauxI’m so happy to be back again, blogging with the Riskies!! Thank you, gracious friends! I’ve been thinking about the subject of manly pastimes a lot recently as I work on my new book. (Yes, I am finally back working on it!) As I write this, my husband is downstairs watching the Bruins play hockey on the TV, providing a very fitting background of excited man-crowd sounds, punctuated by his own loud exclamations. Our Regency gentlemen had a wide range of diversions to amuse themselves and test their mettle, and just like men today, especially enjoyed the chance to compete with one another. In our beloved fictional Regency world, our romance heroes indulge in all sorts of activities, from gaming and watching horse races to the more athletic pastimes –riding, hunting, shooting, driving, fencing, wrestling, archery, rowing, skating, and, of course, fighting. I did one hero whose passion was sailing. I’m sure you can think of more.

What I wonder is, and I hope you’ll jump into the conversation, are any of these pastimes problematic for you as a reader formulating an image of the coolly elegant, romantic Regency man? The hero in my current work-in-progress is known to be one of the better card players in London, a big man who dresses well and does not make waves. He has another side to him, however –he excels at bare-knuckle fighting and is a member of a private fighting club made up of five aristocratic fellows who essentially have surpassed what Gentleman Jackson’s establishment can offer them. He is a character who first showed his face in one of my books ten years ago, but at that time I hadn’t realized he would someday claim his own story.

Boxing-Cribb_vs_Molineaux_1811The vivid brutality of the fighting contrasts so sharply with the elegance that was also so admired in this era, I find sometimes I can’t wrap my brain around it. Is it too violent to be in a Regency romance? We know that historically, fighting, or “pugilism”, was extremely popular in the Regency period. But in our fantasized version of the Regency, is there room for both “bucks” and “bruisers” among our heroes? Would a hero who is both work for you?

As so often happens, there suddenly seem to be a number of authors who are all going in this direction.

Delilah Marvelle created quite a stir with her trailer for Forever a Lord (January 2013). If you didn’t see it, here it is:

I haven’t read it yet –looking forward to it, so discussion is fine but no spoilers please!

Sara MacLean –just mentioned at a workshop I attended last week that her upcoming book –I think it’s No Good Duke Goes Unpunished (coming November? 2013) –is about a hero who does bare-knuckle fighting.

(Sigh.) But we know they will all be quite different from each other. Have you read others? Or written them? Let’s get a conversation going in the comments. I’d really love to know what you think!

rakesmistakeI will give away (by mail) a mint paperback copy of my 2002 release, The Rake’s Mistake, to one lucky poster. To be entered in the giveaway, you must give your email address and let me know you want to be entered! I’ll contact the winner to get a mailing address.


About Gail Eastwood

Gail Eastwood is the author of seven Regencies that were originally published by Signet/Penguin. After taking ten years off for family matters, she has wobbled between contemporary romantic suspense and more Regency stories, wondering what century she's really in and trying to work the rust off her writing skills. Her backlist is gradually coming out in ebook format, and some are now available in new print editions as well. She is working on the start of a Regency-set series and other new projects. Stay tuned!
This entry was posted in Regency, Risky Book Talk. Bookmark the permalink.

16 Responses to Manly Pastimes and the Romantic Hero, or, Where Did You Get Those Bruises?

  1. Lesley A. says:

    Hi Gail,
    I would have to agree with you that for the Regency hero in his silken unmentionables, starched cravat and Weston tailored jacket and waistcoat is hard to reconcile with such a violent pursuit as boxing. I could not get past how these fancy rakes would apparently strip to the waist and have at it. Then I read one Regency that put it together for me. It had the hero challenge the villain at ‘Gentleman’ John Jackson’s boxing saloon. So, apparently a man like Jackson was able to elevate the sport to include gentlemanly rules of fighting such that violence was acceptable between those of the time who might be considered above such pursuits… Of course it still wasn’t proper to mention in drawing rooms in the presence of ladies.

    The popularity of boxing certainly makes me wonder at the mental and emotional health of these gents. Was a sport like boxing – violent, athletic, bloody – necessary for them all to maintain their grace and control in the drawing room?

    Very interesting article. Thanks Gail!
    Please enter me into your giveaway, I’m chasing down your back-list!
    Lesleyattary (at) yahoo (dot) com

  2. Elena Greene says:

    There’s such an interesting tension between the elegance of a Regency gentleman’s attire and manners and the roughness of boxing.

    I say go for it!

  3. bn100 says:

    They don’t bother me; think they make for a more interesting character and story

    bn100candg at hotmail dot com

  4. I believe anytime you have a civilized society where “gentlemen” must “restrain” themselves from overt displays of temper or violence, you’ll find that the men search for some outlet where their emotions and conflicts can play out safely and without censure. Anything “exciting” could be used for this…sporting events, gambling, even boxing, fighting or duelling, if the man is brave enough, where one man can best another either for a specific offense or just on general principle.

    Even the “coolest” Regency hero has to have passion simmering just below the surface, right?

    Please enter me to win a copy of “The Rake’s Mistress,” Gail. 🙂 KadeeMcDonald (at) aol (dot) com. Thanks!

  5. Great comments, ladies! Thanks for jumping in. Leslie, do you recall what author/book that was with the scene at Gentleman Jackson’s? Interesting choice. I think Kadee has it right about the outlet for passion that has to be tightly controlled the rest of the time. (Definitely true for my hero.) Yes, simmering!! Also, the British have always admired toughness and honor in combination. One of the reasons the public schools in our period tolerated brutal treatment endured by some of the boys was the idea they were learning these qualities!! My hero did a lot of fighting in school –mostly punishing those he felt were vicious bullies, however. He had the advantage of being big as well as strong. 🙂

    • Lesley A. says:

      Gail, I figured out which book I was thinking of, it’s “Lord Carew’s Bride” by Mary Balogh – the hero, Hartley (love that name) learned to fight from Jackson even though he has a crippled hand. There’s a great fight scene where Jackson plays a small part. I highly recommend it!

      • Lesley, I’m sure I must have read that one, back in the day. Surprised I don’t remember it, since Mary’s books were always so memorable!! I’ll have to check my shelves, as hers are always keepers. Thanks for getting back to me on it. You’ve a good memory!!

  6. Cynthia Young says:

    The Regency Era is a time of such great contrast. Great wealth and great poverty. Refinement and violence. It seems fitting that an acceptable way for men to release pent up energy as Kadee writes would be a part of this time period. I think it allowed men to compete against each other and show off their strength in a socially acceptable way.

    cynpr-books (at) yahoo (dot) com

  7. Jo's Daughter says:

    I have become passionate about the Regency, but at times all the rules and graces seem a little stuffy or restricted. Great opportunity for an interesting story “twist”. I can imagine that a complex man would have another side to him & bare knuckle fighting might be just the thing!

    devapajo (at) gmail (dot) com

  8. Linda Thum says:

    I’m sure the gentlemen in those times needed some form of physical exercise too. All that elegance and primping needs an outlet once in while 🙂

    I love Delilah Marvelle’s Forever a Lord. Highly recommend to anyone who hasn’t read it.

  9. Kristen says:

    ‘Forever a Lord’ looks really good! I should put it on my B-day list! Of course, I can’t wait for your book too Gail!

    Knowing a few hockey players does give one some insight to the mind of the men who would have done bare knuckle fighting. I talked to one once – an engineer by day – and he said he enjoyed getting out his extra energy on the rink. He’d get into fights and then go have a beer with the other guy. Guys don’t take the fighting personally.

    – Kristen

  10. As Cynthia said, the Regency was a time of great contrasts –I think that is part of what makes it so fascinating, along with it being a time of great transitions. No wonder we never tire of reading (or writing) about it!
    So far, I have five people entered in the book giveaway –Lesley, bn100, Kadee, Cynthia,and Jo’s Daughter. If you want to be entered, don’t forget I need your email address to get in touch about mailing the book if you win! ( I know some of you read the book when it came out, and I thank you!)

    • Valerie says:

      I love the Regency period for all its diversity. It was a time of violence both at home and with war abroad. The rich and their rules were in stark contrast to the harsh life of those who merely survived on a daily basis. Changes on every aspect of life were vast. Therefore, why not reflect some of the darker and more realistic aspects of the Regency period within the plot of the novel?

      • We know contrast and complexity add meat to a good story! They also make it harder to write. Maybe I’m just rusty! Finding my new story a real challenge. But very encouraged by all these positive responses to the idea! Maybe I need to take a few lessons and kick my doubting internal editor to the ground! 🙂

  11. diane says:

    I love the idea of the bare knuckle fighting. A great idea (obviously shared). It is funny how these synchronicities happen. Happened to me with my artist hero in Gallant Officer Forbidden Lady. There were about 3 other artist heroes that year.

    I think a hero who loved cock fighting would not work for me!!

Comments are closed.