Viking vs Regency Romance by Guest Author Michelle Styles

MichelleStyles smWelcome my friend and fellow Harlequin Historical author Michelle Styles who writes in a variety of time periods, including Roman, Victorian, Regency and Viking.  Michelle is the perfect person to explain to us how Viking Romance differs from Regency Romance and how they are alike. 

Michelle’s latest Viking Romance, Summer of the Viking, is available June 1. Prejudice in Regency Society was a special UK release in April, easily available to North American readers from Book Depository

Here’s Michelle!

As I write both Viking and Regency Romances, Diane Gaston thought this blog would be the perfect opportunity for me to compare and contrast the two time periods. A bit like the questions I used to always answer on high school history exams.

The big similarity is that they are both romances. At their heart, Viking and Regency romances are about the growing emotional relationship between the couple. Society may change but deep human emotions remain the same. This fact makes it easier for an author to find a way into a time period. Ultimately romance is about the emotions and the characters’ emotional reactions to the events which overtake them, within the confines of the society they exist in.

SummeroftheVikingRegency society is an urban society. People have banded together and live in cities. This puts certain pressures on behaviour and accepted standards of behaviour. Like Western settings, Viking romance are rural. Although urban centres did exist, I am not sure we would recognise them as cities in the same way that we do now or indeed as the Regency did. It means many activities were done within the home — hard for a heroine suddenly to acquire a new wardrobe, for example. Or to go to the theatre. Or meet friends for tea.

Because society was far more violent, the choice of occupation for the hero is far less. Basically, unless the hero became a priest, he would be a warrior. He would also be a merchant, farmer and a politician but under-pinning all of this was his status as a warrior. His skill with the sword and shield as well as leading men will have been tested. He will have travelled as the Vikings were forced to look beyond their shores for trade.

9780263250138Regency heroes can and do have lots of different occupations and hobbies. They do not necessarily have to be leaders of men in battle or skilled with weaponry. They can be more refined, if you will. It means their reactions to various events may be different than that of a Viking. Viking heroes tend to be the ultimate in alpha male dom. Regency heroes while still alpha are not quite so uber, unreconstructed.

The rate of literacy was far lower in the Viking era. The whole concept of sitting down and reading was alien to a certain extent. Theirs was an oral culture which means memory was hugely important. There was no such thing as university, for example. Young men might go away to be trained but the universities are founded because of a need for clergymen, rather than for warriors. Equally for the writer, the ordinary Regency voice is accessible through diaries, journals and other published sources. Nothing like that exists for the Viking period. We can’t be precisely sure of the slang or the exact manner of speech. This can be also considered a blessing as there is no one to tell you that you made an error either.

Equally the concept of private space was different. There was much more communal living. The hearth was central in the room, rather than being at one side and things happened in the great hall. While the lord might have a private hut or chamber, there were no great houses with little nooks for privacy.

Sexuality and marriage were different. As the Viking society was pre-Christian until near the end of the Viking period, the taboos against divorce or indeed sex didn’t exist. Women could divorce as well as men. Indeed several sagas use this as crucial plot points. Men could take mistresses. And sometimes would have more than one wife. However, from we know from the sagas, polygamy was not popular and most had one wife at a time. Men could also have mistresses and there were various concepts of legitimacy. Children belonged to the man and he was expected to contribute to their upbringing. So if a noble had a one night stand, he would leave a token for the woman in case there was a result. The population pressure was not great and incidence of child mortality was high. Men needed heirs.

Communication was far worse in Viking period. We do not know how long it took for a message to get between two places. Transport was also much more primitive. The roads were appalling to non-existent and those who could travelled by boat.

Slavery existed but it was different from what we think of as slavery today. It was very possible for a high born man or woman to be sold as a captive. They could be ransomed. Slavery was not based on colour or creed. It would be unthinkable to a Viking not to have slavery because there were no machines to certain tasks. Everything was handmade. However when writing about things like the existence of slaves, one has to use a light hand and not rub modern noses in the fact.

Why are these things important? Knowing the limitations makes it easier for an author to craft the story. But ultimately because the spine of the story is the growing relationship, there are a lot of similarities.

Which do I like writing more? In Viking set romance, there tends to be more sword fights and I do love writing a good fight!

Giveaway: to celebrate the publication of my latest Summer of the Viking, I would like to offer one reader a signed copy. Please email me (michelle@michellestyles.co.uk ) with the answer to the following: where is Summer of the Viking set? Hint – look on my website: www.michellestyles.co.uk

I will draw the winner next Wednesday (3 June 2015).

Thanks, Michelle! Another difference I noticed right away was that Viking Romances are more likely to have a bare-chested, leather-clad, sword-carrying, tattooed hero on the cover! Whew!

About diane

Diane Gaston is the RITA award-winning author of Historical Romance for Harlequin Historical and Mills and Boon, with books that feature the darker side of the Regency. Formerly a mental health social worker, she is happiest now when deep in the psyches of soldiers, rakes and women who don’t always act like ladies.
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6 Responses to Viking vs Regency Romance by Guest Author Michelle Styles

  1. How lovely to have you visiting us today, Michelle!! *waving* I love the covers of your new books.

    Your points on the differences between Viking and Regency romance echo several things I’ve been mulling about since I started on my series of Roman romances. Slavery in particular was one of those things where I needed to think long and hard about how I wanted to handle them

  2. I am intrigued to try a Viking romance — reading, not writing, that is. My mother’s parents were from Sweden, but my grandmother had an olive complexion and brown eyes, as did one of her daughters. My own mother was blond and blue-eyed like her father. I figure those Vikings might had had something to do with my GM’s heritage!! They did get around, didn’t they?

    • Yes they did get around.
      Swedish Vikings were the ones who traveled through Russia to Byzantium, working that lucrative trade route. Russia comes from Rus which was the Slav word for Viking.
      There was obviously intermarriage/liaisons along the way. After the Viking era, the mixing and mingling (if you will) isn’t as great as the nature of the trading changed. I set Taming HIs Viking Woman in Sweden. My maternal g-grandmother was Swedish. It is a mis-nomer to think of all Swedes as being blond and blue-eyed,

  3. Elena Greene says:

    Michelle, I’m always impressed by those who write such widely diverse time periods. I have stuck to Regency so far, but I have several ideas that may go a bit before and after. How do you transition?

    • How to transition — do your research. Learn mores and manners. Understand what drove the society — what the aspirations were, what the pitfalls were. Look at the changes in fashion. Look at the changes in expectations for women. For example, the Victorian and Edwardian eras were far more restrictive for women than the Regency era. You can tell this through the clothes they wore and the fact that women suddenly are no longer as acceptable as business women. 20 women held licenses to print money in Regency England (ie they headed banks, including some large banks such as Coutts) and none held licenses in the Edwardian era. I could go on and on about how the women’s movement is not a straight line but here isn’t the place. Even today, there is a rise in misogyny which no one could have anticipated ten years ago.
      Then begin to craft your characters. Characters drive your story and if your characters are firmly rooted in the time period, your story will be as well.

  4. Sorry to be late.
    Sandy — writing in time periods where there are slaves (ie basically anything before the late 18th century) requires some thought. You do have to think about how you will handle it so that the modern reader can cope.
    Slavery was different in Roman times. Freeing slaves was important but society could not function without slaves. There was a certain fluidity. Some slaves end up being richer than their masters, and buying their way out. The whole system of patronage meant in essence everyone was obliged to someone else.
    There wasn’t a concept of ridding of the world of slavery until you get the Industrial revolution (still not realised even today!). And it wasn’t just a one way street — there were obligations on the elite to look after the less fortunate. For example unlike mid-19th century factory owners, an owner of slaves couldn’t just fire them when times were tough or they were past working age. But one doesn’t want to get weighed down in moral arguments in a work of fiction where that isn’t the main force of the story.
    Mostly I try to skate over it and use different less emotive words. Captive or thrall work in a Viking time. Occasionally one throws in the odd comment so that the reader can understand how abhorrent slavery is.

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