House Hunters, Lake District Style

I just returned home from the Number One London tour of the Lake District. What a fabulous time! We saw vistas like this:

And this:

What an inspirational trip! I just so happen to be starting a new book and I can set the book anywhere in England, so why not the Lake District?

The Lake District was a popular destination for English travelers during the Regency, perhaps because Europe was closed to them or maybe it was because William Wordsworth wrote a guidebook popularizing the place.

Wordsworth was born in Cockermouth, Cumberland, and with his sister Dorothy, settled in Dove Cottage in Grasmere, soon to be joined by a wife, the wife’s sister, and three out of their five children. We visited Dove Cottage and, while it had a charming exterior, inside it was dark and small. There were only three bedrooms, one for the Wordsworth and his wife, one for Dorothy, and one for the children. The poor sister-in-law slept sometimes with the children, sometimes with Dorothy and sometimes in a cot in the sitting room, if none of Wordsworth’s frequent guests were visiting.

It was pretty clear to me that my book would not put my hero and heroine in such a small, dismal house.

Another choice was a castle. We visited Sizergh Castle, a residence of the Strickland family since 1239. This house was quite atmospheric, with dark oak panelling and oak carved fireplaces and winding castle-like staircases.

Or perhaps a stately Georgian house would be a better fit. We also visited Dalemain House.

With its beautiful gardens.

Decisions. Decisions.

What do you think?

(By the way, this was only a fraction of the wonderful sights we saw in the Lake District)

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

Queer in the Regency: a Slice of Once-Hidden LGBT History

How much do you know about LGBT history during the Regency period? Today we offer you a guest post by writer Graham Stokes (who happens to be Risky Gail Eastwood’s son).

 As most of you probably know, June is LGBT Pride Month. The month is generally filled with gregarious celebrations commemorating the Stonewall Riots which occurred on June 28, 1969 and launched the modern LGBT rights movement as it is known today. But the history of the LGBT community goes back much farther than that. Here’s a glimpse of it specifically during the Regency period.

To start, let’s talk terms. Of the words that make up the acronym LGBT, only the word “lesbian” was used in the Regency with the same meaning as it has today. Even though we’ve used “queer” in our post title, it actually just meant weird or deviant back then, without any specifically sexual connotation. Homosexuals were known as “mollies”. Some sources say this was an evolution of 18th century slang when a “Molly” meant an effeminate man.

In the British Empire, not only was homosexual behavior between men still illegal in the Regency era, it still carried the possibility of a death sentence. Homosexual and transgender people were forced into hiding. Taverns, coffee houses, and other businesses that could provide cover for them were called “molly houses”.

Molly houses were primarily establishments where men could meet other men –or male prostitutes, a practice that was increasingly common by the Regency period –for sexual encounters. However, these houses were also the hub of what little community there was for LGBT people.  Cross-dressing was commonplace inside molly houses. Some outdoor locations, such as public toilets and certain public parks and thoroughfares, became known as “molly markets” but served much the same purpose as molly houses.

For convenience (of the authorities), pillories were often built near these places, because of how frequently offenders were placed in them. Ironically, this meant that pillories often became an identifier of a place where a molly market might be, rather than a deterrent from seeking one.

Early in 1810, James Cook and someone named Yardley (full name unknown) opened a molly house on Vere Street called the White Swan. Both men would later claim they had wives and kids, were completely straight, and were only operating the molly house for the money. On July 8, less than six months after the White Swan opened, Bow Street Runners raided the place.

This Vere Street coterie, as it was called, was reported in every newspaper. Twenty-seven men were arrested, though only eight were prosecuted and convicted for the crime of buggery. Six of them, convicted only of “attempted sodomy” (a subset of the umbrella term “buggery”), were pilloried in the Haymarket on September 27. A large and unruly crowd came out to watch the punishment and hurl things –reportedly including dead cats –at the “mollies”. The city was forced to deploy 200 armed constables to prevent anything worse from happening.

The following spring, on March 7, 1811, 46-year old John Hepburn and 16-year old drummer boy Thomas White –both convicted of engaging in the actual act of sodomy –were hung despite neither of them being present at the White Swan at the actual time of the raid. The lawyer Robert Holloway would write a book about the incident, published in 1813, entitled The Phoenix of Sodom.

This would not be the end of the scandal stirred up by the Vere Street coterie. The Weekly Dispatch reported that the Reverend John Church had been performing false marriages between the male clients of the White Swan. The rumors are, at this point, unprovable but the modern LGBT community of the UK claims John Church performed the first same-sex marriages in England. For his part, Reverend Church denied the accusations, claiming they had been started by his rivals in the clergy. He took legal action against the Weekly Dispatch to ensure such stories were not reported again.

However, in 1816, Church became involved in another scandal when he was arrested on charges and this time convicted of attempted sodomy. The trial took more than a year. Upon the news of the verdict, a large crowd burned an effigy of him at his church, the Obelisk Tabernacle. Rev. Church was sentenced to two years in prison. He resumed his career as a minister after his release, and was not involved in any more scandals afterwards.

The validity of the accusations against Church is certainly questionable, as false accusations of sodomy were not unheard of. In his memoirs, radical speaker Henry Hunt recalled the supporters of his opponents frequently heckling him with remarks that suggested he was engaging in buggery. In 1811, the Lord Bishop of Clogher, Percy Jocelyn, was accused of “committing unnatural acts with another man” by a man named James Byrne. The Bishop took legal action against the accusations that he stated were false.

Given a lack of evidence to support the accusations, and considering the Bishop’s membership in the Society for the Suppression of Vice –an organization responsible for many raids on molly houses –the court sentenced Byrne to three floggings and two years in prison. Byrne nearly died from the first two floggings, so he recanted his accusation and the third flogging was canceled.

 Byrne’s accusations, however, had not been forgotten by 1822, when Bishop Percy Jocelyn was caught in the act of buggering a soldier named John Moverly. The ensuing scandal, taking into account the bishop’s hypocrisy and high social standing, was so vicious that the moral superiority of every clergyman in England was called into question. The scandal reverberated throughout society. Lord Castlereagh’s suicide less than a month afterwards is said now to have been because he was being blackmailed for “preferring men.” As for the Bishop, he was fortunate to have the means to escape from England to France. 


France had decriminalized sodomy in 1791, and when Napoleon created a new penal code in 1810 he carried over the entire lack of laws banning sodomy. As a result, Paris became something of a “hot spot” for homosexual and transgender individuals. No laws existed to protect them, and the behavior was certainly not accepted, but Bishop Percy Jocelyn was still able to take up residence in Paris under his own name and was welcomed into French society. Indeed, the entire French Empire was something of a different, freer experience for homosexual people than it was anywhere else in the world.

Details about life as a homosexual woman during this time period are scarce. Romantic relationships between women were — and often still are — misconstrued as passionate friendships. In cases where such friendships were discovered to have a sexual nature to them, legal action was typically not pursued against the offenders. Even if it was, the laws were much more lenient in regards to lesbian behavior. Of course, women were much less able to secure any sort of financial stability for themselves without a husband, so most lesbians chose to marry and carry out their affairs in the most secretive of ways. Only a handful (that we know of) were able to get by without a husband.

 The Ladies of Llangollen were two such women — Eleanor Butler and Sarah Ponsonby, who had a romantic relationship for over 50 years. Defying their families, the two established an estate in Wales, called Plas Newydd, rather than enter into marriages with men they did not love. Though they incurred significant debt in order to have a staff, they survived on the generosity of friends until a fascinated Queen Charlotte convinced King George III to grant them a pension.

Plas Newydd became something of a haven for writers during the Regency era, especially since the couple living there could afford to keep it. Another, even more notable, lesbian of the time was Anne Lister, who was a guest at Plas Newydd on occasion and who kept an explicit diary (in code). She had secured a position amongst the landed gentry, having inherited a good amount of wealth and a manor in Yorkshire called Shibden Hall. Because of her position, she was able to survive securely without ever marrying a man.

Ann Lister (c) Calderdale Metropolitan Borough Council; Supplied by The Public Catalogue Foundation


Details on transgender individuals are even harder to find. This isn’t just because being transgender was such an unexplored concept at the time, but because there was a lot of cross-dressing that went on for other reasons even though it was highly illegal. There were frequently men who dressed in women’s clothing at molly houses, and these likely were male-to-female transgender folks. Beyond those, however, there were practical reasons. Were women living as men transgender, or simply trying to escape restrictive gender roles? It’s hardly a secret by now that some women entered military service pretending to be men. In 1812, two men dressed as women calling themselves “General Ludd’s wives” led an attack on a factory owner’s home — but this was most likely to obscure their identities rather than because they actually identified as women.

GAIL says: Thank you, Graham!! Fascinating info. We have come a long way from the days of the Regency, at least in some parts of the world, in how we see and treat our LGBT society members. Still a long way to go!

Blog readers, have you read any Regencies with LGBT characters? What do you think about including such historically accurate elements of the time period in stories about romance?



Posted in Guest, History, Regency, Research | Tagged , , , | 16 Comments

Heiress Stories and a Sale

This month, I’m continuing my series of ebook sales for good causes. The Redwyck Charm is currently on sale for just 99 cents.

Here’s the blurb:

Marcus Redwyck, Earl of Amberley, reluctantly agrees to wed an heiress in order to save his estate. But his equally reluctant bride, Juliana Hutton, runs away and masquerades as an opera dancer. When they meet, passion leads them to the edge of scandal. Even when all is revealed, it will take all of Marcus’s resolution and the fabled Redwyck charm to win the spirited Juliana’s heart.

I realize that it’s a bit of a stretch for a properly raised young woman to impersonate an opera-dancer. I work around that a bit by not having her dance that well! But also I did have some historical justification. In The Mirror of Graces (by a “Lady of Distinction, 1811) I read that young ladies sometimes took ballet-lessons to improve their ballroom performance.

“Extraordinary as it may seem, at a period when dancing is so entirely neglected by men in general, women appear to be taking the most pains to acquire the art. Our female youth are now not satisfied with what used to be considered a good dancing-master; that is, one who made teaching his sole profession; but now our girls must be taught by the leading dancers at the Opera-house.

“The consequence is, when a young lady rises to dance, we no longer see the graceful, easy step of the gentlewoman, but the laboured, and often indelicate exhibitions of the posture-mistress. Dances from ballets are introduced; and instead of the jocund and beautifully-organized movements of hilarity in concord, we are shocked by the most extravagant theatrical imitations. The chaste minuet is banished; and, in place of dignity and ease, we behold strange wheelings on one leg; stretching out the other till our eye meets the garter; and a variety of endless contortions, fitter for the zenana of an eastern satrap, or the gardens of Mahomet, than the ball-room of an Englishwoman of quality and virtue.

“These ballet dances are, we now see, generally attempted. I say attempted, for not one young woman in five hundred can, from the very nature of the thing, after all her study, perform them better than could be done any day by the commonest figurante on the stage. We all know, that, to be a fine opera-dancer, requires unremitting practice, and a certain disciplining of the limbs, which hardly any private gentlewoman would consent to undergo. Hence, ladies can never hope to arrive at any comparison with even the poorest public professor of the art; and therefore, to attempt the extravagancies of it, is as absurd as it is indelicate.”

The picture above is a waltzing scene from La Belle Assemblee, February 1, 1817 which I think clearly shows the influence of opera-dancing on social dances.

This was a fun book to write, definitely in the category of “romp”. It was also a stretch for me to write a heroine like Juliana, who did things I’d never have dared. One reader did complain that Juliana is spoiled. But the way I look at it, even now a woman can be born to wealth and material advantages but still have to fight to determine her own destiny.

When Juliana is faced with the prospect of a marriage of convenience with Marcus, she is finally swayed by the fact that he needs her money to save his estate from falling into the hands of a man who would neglect his tenants for a quick profit. Juliana’s compassion surpasses her personal desires (at the time at least—once she realizes she’s in love with Marcus, it’s all good).

So I think it is fitting to donate the proceeds of this sale to the Flint Child Health and Development Fund, dedicated to the “long term health and development needs of Flint children exposed to lead”. If you are not familiar, here is some background on the Flint water crisis and a more recent update.

The ebook version of The Redwyck Charm is on sale at Amazon, Barnes & Noble, iBooks and Kobo.

If you’d like to donate directly, go to Flint Kids and just use the “Donate” button.

Do you like “heiress” stories? Do you have any favorites?


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Voices from Old London

The Strand, with Somerset House and Mary-le-Strand church. Published by Ackerman, 1836 (from Wikipedia)

This year I’m back in Victorian London, and as it so happens I’ve got a couple of new research books, among them Voices from Dickens’ London by Michael Paterson from 2006 (republished as Inside Dickens’ London). Right in the introduction Paterson makes a claim that I found both daring and electrifying:

“The city of Dickens is a place lost to us beyond recall. It is difficult to imagine its dirtiness and dnager and its extremes of wealth and poverty. Its people did not look, speak, smell or behave like us. The ways they dressed, the times at which they ate, the slang they used and the accents in which they talked, the ways in which they worked or celebrated or took their amusements, often bear no resemblance to our experience” (10).

As somebody who has walked through London several times, often with the specific intention tracing the sights and buildings of the early 19th century, I found Paterson’s claim rather outrageous at first. After all, isn’t it our shared human experience that allows us modern readers to connect to characters in the literature of the past as well as to characters in historical fiction?

Today’s London is noisy and dirty and smells of exhaust fumes. Add to that the stink of piss and garbage in the back streets. How much worse could 19th-century London have been? There would have been different smells, of course, not of exhaust fumes, but of horses and…

Open sewers.

Cess pits.

A river that stank to heaven and spread illness and disease.

The smell of this old London, Paterson writes,

“must have been overwhelming. First, there was the smell of coal fires.. The vast forest of reeking chimneys filled the air with smoke, which covered buildings with unsightly layers of soot and left dirty black smuts on clothes and faces. There were the multifarious stenches of industry: breweries, foundries and forges, chemical works and, worse than all of them, tanneries […]. There was also the aroma of horses, on which so much of London’s transport and commerce depended — the smell of a stable multiplied millionfold. There was the scent of hundreds of thousands of people, whose tightly packed lives did not allow them opportunities to keep themselves, their clothes or their homes clean” (18).

And as to the noise —

“However noisy today’s traffic may be, it is insignificant by comparison with the din that filled the city in Dickens’ time. Countless iron-shod wheels rattled all day over cobbled streets behind clopping horses. Shouting was constant as, without any form of traffic control, drivers relied on aggression to push their way through the crush of vehicles. The sounds, thrown back by the walls of narrow streets, was so loud that it would not be possible to hold a conversation on the pavement, nor to leave street-facing windows open in summer” (17).

An exaggeration? Perhaps, for after all, the street sellers were still able to hawk their wares. And there were street musicians, too — Italian boys with barrel organs or harps — and street performers of every kind.

No Big Ben, of course.

Some of the things Paterson considers strange — like the closure of all shops and museums on Sunday — don’t seem quite so strange to those who have a different cultural background than the author (in Germany, shops are closed on Sunday).

And yet, the London that emerges from the pages of Paterson’s book is indeed very different from the London of today. It also differs markedly from the London you get to see in most of those pretty TV adaptations of 19th-century literature (with Dickens adaptation being the big exception).

As the title suggest, Voices from Dickens’ London relies heavily on primary texts by Victorian journalists, authors, and everyday people, which are quoted extensively (though not always quite accurately: ellipses are often unmarked). This makes Paterson’s book both fascinating reading material and a rather fantastic source — one I can highly recommend.

I wrote this post yesterday. Today, London was once again hit by catastrophe: This morning, a devastating fire started in Grenfell Tower in Kensington and killed and injured many people. My thoughts are with all those affected by the fire.

Posted in History, Places, Research | Tagged | Comments Off on Voices from Old London

Celebrate London!

George VI spoke those words in a broadcast on September 23, 1940, during the London Blitz, but are they not as true today?

I wish I were in London today to stand with Londoners, resolute and undismayed.

On Saturday night, June 3, a white van hit pedestrians on London Bridge, then three men got out and stabbed people in Borough Market. Seven people were killed and 48 injured. The police shot and killed the three attackers.

My friend Kristine Hughes Patrone of Number One London Tours is in London with our friend Denise from the Duke of Wellington Tour. Their Sunday plans were to include  visiting Borough Market. She said on Facebook yesterday that they walked across Waterloo Bridge and that Londoners were out and about.

Resolute and undismayed!

Last May Kristine and I wandered through Borough Market…

It is difficult to believe anyone would want to terrorize such a lively, unique, nurturing place.

The Borough Market dates back to medieval times. During the Regency, the market was an institution of national significance, devoted solely to the fruit and vegetable wholesale trade. Now it offers retail food items from both British traders and International ones.

My heart is there, at Borough Market, today. I know that in no time it will return to its former vitality.

Because that is the spirit of London and Londoners.

Tell me something you love about London! Let’s celebrate the city that features so prominently in our Regency romance novels.

Posted in History, Rant | Tagged , | 3 Comments

Shameless Self-Promotion & Mumps (Begging Your Indulgence)

I’ve never missed my Riskies blogging date (except one time we switched dates), and here I am, but I have to tell you I have been sick all month. ALL MONTH!

Rather unbelievably, I came down with the mumps. Yes, I had it as a child (we didn’t have the vaccine for it then), although I had a very light case. My sister had it much worse. Perhaps my case then wasn’t bad enough to give me full immunity, or something. At any rate, an outbreak of it on the state college campus close to where I work apparently spilled a bit into the nearby community, and WHAM!

I will tell you, having mumps at my age is NOT for sissies. Also, when you are that sick, not resting enough can prolong how long it takes to get well (what, you are not writing that down?), and can also lead to secondary infections…..

In my defense, allow me to explain that in my primary day job, I work in a one person church office, and as we are in between pastors at present, there is literally no one else who can do the work. And the work does need to get done. (sigh.) I was good about cleaning the office with Lysol in case anyone else came in there. Obviously I stayed home from Sunday services! But I did get more intentional about balancing work and rest, and I am finally on the mend.

So instead of an interesting research piece, I am begging your indulgence. I know I already announced that The Magnificent Marquess was coming out on May 15, and we only missed that by a couple of days. Not bad all things considered! But I do have buy links to share now. (Print edition is not done yet.)




I also –tah-dah –issued my first newsletter in literally YEARS. If by any chance you are interested in signing up for future ones (I will only send one out when there is actual news), then here is a link to sign up for that:

Did you ever have the mumps? I don’t want to turn this into a rant about why people should vaccinate their children, but OTOH I am pretty steamed about having just lost the entire month of May while being in a lot of pain!! Feel free to reminisce or rant here if you want to.  🙂



Posted in Risky Book Talk, Uncategorized | Tagged , , | 1 Comment

Stewards and Death Taxes

The Modern Land Steward by John Lawrence, published in 1806.

Note: A version of this was originally posted at my website. This post is expanded to include more about Stewards.

It will be sufficient fbr our purpose, to define the needful qualifications, of each, of three orders of stewardship, namely, of The Superintendant OR COMPTROILING AGENT, THE LAND-STEWARD OR Agent, properly so called, and of The HouseSteward. A thorough knowledge of common accounts, and of the nature of markets, bargaining, and of the proper modes of settlement with tradesmen, will, with the aid of common honesty and discretion, suffice to form the HouseSteward.
But with regard to the first description, or the Chief Agent, the trust is of a high and extraornary nature, nor do the opportunities of tilling such an office to advantage, frequently occur. It is even matter of great public concernment, since the well or ill-management of extensive estates may in a variety of views be highly interesting to the community’. How much then does it concern our great landholders and proprietors, both on their own private, and the public account, to search out the most capable men for this important department.
To be properly qualified for chief agent to a great estate, a man should have attained that thorough knowledge of the business of life, that tried experience in men and things[…]


Let the steward provide a Journal, or Day-book, and a Ledger, with two other books, having an alphabet, and the pages marked, to be styled the Memorandum Ledger, and the General Inventory, and let him always go provided With a POCKET-MEMORANDUM book.

Sidebar: I am using that pocket-memorandum in a novella I’m writing.

Here is a list of things logged by a Steward

Paid for bread and flour
Paid for a Cheshire cheese, 511b. at £3id.
Paid for oats, eight quarters, at 10*.
Paid grocer, for candles, &c …
Paid for a hunting saddle for Your .
Paid for ditto for My
Paid for a new set of harness for six cart-horses
Paid ironmonger, for tnxes, &c
Paid coachmaker, for chariot
Paid for a set of harness for six horses
Paid brazier, for a washing copper, wt.52lb. at £6d.
Paid for a garden engine
Paid for a garden roll six feet, at 2s. 6d.
Paid cooper, for six iron-bound hogsheads, at 22s
Paid Your——— by cash, bills, &c
Paid butcher’s bill
Paid for a cask of vinegar 16 gallons,at 16i
Paid for 20 ton of coals, at 10s
Paid for carriage of ditto
Paid housekeeper her bill for incidents
Paid myself my year’s wages
Paid housekeeper her year’s wages ….
Paid the keeper his year’s wages
Paid the butler ditto
Paid the head footman his year’s wages
Paid the under footman ditto
Paid huntsman ditto
Paid the dog-boy ditto
Paid the principal gardener ditto
Paid the under gardener ditto
Patd the head groom ditto
Paid the under groom ditto
Paid the coachman ditto
Paid the postillion dilto
Paid the game-keeper ditto
Paid labourers wages

There are several entries like this:

Paid collector, for two quarterly payments of the land-tax, from Lady-day to Michaelmas, 17—, for the manor of A. as appears by his receipt.

The total amount of land taxes paid is £499.11.5

Total yearly expenses for this particular Lord —- are £6139.2.41

The ledger example is for recording income received and money spent for tenant and household-related expenses.

This line is what made me pause, the author has it labeled for the year 1800:

Agreed this day with R. S. to accept as a compensation for a heriot due at the death of his father…………… £26 5

I admit I had to look up “heriot”

British historical
noun: heriot; plural noun: heriots

  1. a tribute paid to a lord out of the belongings of a tenant who died, often consisting of a live animal or, originally, military equipment that he had been lent during his lifetime.

Right. Even if this is only a made up example and not drawn from an actual example, (which I think it is since the author says he got examples from his own work and others), it’s not something I’ve run across in any of my previous research in the Regency.

R.S’s father died, and he has to pay Lord Soandso £26 5. Sigh.

Also interesting is that J.B paid half a year’s rent of £79.5 and D.S paid a full year at £125
J.S. Sadler was paid the full amount of his bill £19.10 as was P.A. Smith in the amount of £21.5
The Groom was paid expenses of £4.3.11

I just paged forward, there are several examples, plainly drawn from documents lent to him, that mention heriots:

Received of (J. D. a composition for three heriots, instead of his three best beasts or goods, due at the death of his father E. D

There are many of them.

Trees were branded, and boy, they were quite profitable.

When an account of the timbers is taken, they may be marked with iron stamps, the rough part of the bark being taken off with the hatchet before the stamp is applied, that the impression may be made fair; and that it may be lasting, the stamp should go no deeper than the bark, but it may be renewed.

Then I came to a long rant about lazy poor people and how taking away the commons and giving them to “ingenious gentlemen” to rent back to the poors who would then be no longer lazy, and, well, I’ve had about enough of that kind of talk lately so I stopped reading.

Posted in History, Regency | Tagged , , | 2 Comments

A Documented Interracial Marriage in Georgian England

My ongoing research into free blacks in Georgian London has netted me two more books. I’m going to talk about the first today: Colonel Despard: The Life and Times of an Anglo-Irish Rebel by Clifford D. Conner. All I knew going in was that Despard had a black wife. I was hoping to find out about how their relationship was viewed and how it affected his career as an officer, but the book focuses vary narrowly on his military career and his trial for rebellion.

Colonel Despard


There were tiny bits about his personal life that could be gleaned though. His wife, Catharine, was the daughter of an English curate in Jamaica (no information is provided as to whether her parents were married). She was clearly well-educated, and obviously moved in the same circles as the English officers and their wives. Despard married her in the middle of his career (probably in 1785), and promotions continued to follow, so the powers that be in the army didn’t seem to care. Neither did Nelson, who was a friend and testified in Despard’s defense. Catharine traveled with him to his various postings, and appears to have acted as his hostess when he was governing various territories in the West Indies.

Despard’s family on the other hand clearly never accepted the marriage. They referred to Catharine as Despard’s “black housekeeper” and after Despard’s death they offered no assistance to her or to their son (his uncle, General Despard, said that James had “not even an illegitimate claim upon him.”) What we do know is that Despard’s friends took care of them after Despard was executed (they were reportedly given a pension by Sir Francis Burdett and Lord Cloncurry’s memoirs state that they lived with his family in Lyon for some years).
Their son, James Despard, went on to join the military (as an officer, which I think is worth noting). There are various reports of him (usually referred to as a “creole”) that scatter across the first decades of the nineteenth century. He was appointed a captain the London Milita in 1814 after serving in France and supposedly refusing an offer of a high position from Bonaparte (this I find doubtful given Bonaparte’s treatment of the Chevalier Saint-Georges). There are further anecdotes from his spiteful Aunt Jane suggesting that he ran away with an heiress.

So all in all, I read a lot of tedious military history and found the barest scraps of what I was interested in, but I’ll take what I can get when it comes to real life interracial marriages in the period.

It did lead me however to a post by Mike Jay who has also written a book about Despard (The Unfortunate Colonel Despard) that has a more detailed look at the marriage and Catharine. Let me quote it here:

According to Jay, this could well be the first known case of an English gentleman married to a free woman of color, which makes it all the more fascinating.

Posted in History, Isobel Carr, Regency, Research | 4 Comments

Regency Worlds and a Sale!

I’m in the middle of teaching an online class, “Introduction to Writing Regency Romance.” Preparing for the class helped me brush up on the basics and the participants seem to be enjoying it. I certainly am. It feels rather nostalgic to answer questions I asked about seventeen years ago when I started my first manuscript!

One thing I’m keeping in mind while teaching this class is that there are many types of Regency romance—traditional, inspirational, long historical, paranormal, erotic, and other variations. There are also many different readers—some who love specific genres, some who are more eclectic in their reading, some who prefer “sweet” romance, some who enjoy darker stories, etc… Even though the historical background is unchanging, I believe that readers have different ideas of what sort of Regency world they most want to visit and since romance is meant to be entertaining, there really is no right or wrong Regency world, only personal preferences. So in each lesson, I strive to provide accurate information, but also allow each participant to decide for herself how much she wants to use that information in her stories.

Within my books, I do strive to get the details right. My characters may bend the rules of society, but not without being aware of the risks they take. But I’m not a purist about every matter. I know perfectly well that the hero’s clothing on the cover of Fly with a Rogue is inaccurate. However, I chose this image for a specific reason. I’ve found that readers don’t always check my blurbs to gauge the sensuality of my books, so I used this image to help them recognize that this is one of my sexier books. So far, no one has complained about the sensuality, and no one has complained about the inaccurate clothing either. I think I’ve achieved my goal of making sure the right readers buy this story.

As a reader, I’m pretty eclectic. I’m OK with books that create rather different versions of the Regency. For instance, I don’t care if some of the details are over the top in a really funny story. In an angsty story, I want more realism. I try to be a forgiving reader regarding a lot of historical details, though there are a few that grate.

As someone who’s done a bit of riding, I find that errors regarding horses do bother me. The funniest one was the story in which the hero kept teams of black stallions posted at inns between London and his country home. I’m sure this seemed romantic to some, but anyone who knows much about horses would know just how unrealistic this would be. (Most male horses are gelded as this makes them easier to manage; generally only the ones deemed best for breeding are kept intact.)

The sort of things that bother me most, though, are those that paint a Regency society that is too different from what I imagine from my reading and research. These include books in which the characters behave as if they are completely unaware of social conventions—not merely rebellious, but unaware. These also include books in which the social conventions are stricter and feel more stuffy and Victorian than Regency. I’ve read books in which characters are declared “compromised” after a brief time alone, even though there are plenty of scenes in Jane Austen’s books where couples are not closely chaperoned. There might be gossip, such as there is when Marianne is out driving with Willoughby, but not the full-flown scandal of, say, Lydia running off with Wickham.

Anyway, I’m curious what others think. What’s your favorite kind of Regency world? Without naming authors, because this is a polite space, are there any pet peeves you’d like to share?

Also, the ebook version of The Incorrigible Lady Catherine is on sale this week for just 99 cents. Lady Catherine is one of my more rebellious heroines. Besides trying to elope with a rake, she shocks her family by playing Beethoven sonatas, which were considered too passionate for ladies. Since she derives so much pleasure and comfort from the arts, I’m going to donate the proceeds to PBS.

You can get The Incorrigible Lady Catherine for Kindle, Nook, Apple, and Kobo.


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Roman Rubber Duckie Goes to Market

Two weeks ago, I paid another visit to my favorite reconstructed Roman fort—but this time, I was not alone, oh no! I was accompanied by my Roman rubber duckie, who felt straight at home in front of the porta praetoria, the main gate…

The Roman rubber duckie in front of the main gate of the Saalburg
…and between the Emperor Augustus‘ feet…

Duckie between the feet of the Emperor Augustus

But I didn’t visit the fort just for a photo shoot with the Roman rubber duckie, no, it was market day at the Saalburg, and at various stalls spread across the whole museum you could learn about antique crafts such as pottery (did you know boiling earthenware in milk will seal off the pores and make it waterproof?), spinning, glass making, and bone carving. I was quite surprised to learn that objects made from bone can be dyed, e.g., with onion skins or even green rust, which produces a lovely turquoise color.

Game counters made from bone
Game counters made from bone

There was also a stall with Roman cosmetics on display. Apart from a lead foundation (to make your face look all nice and pale) (it might get paralyzed a little, mind you, so perhaps you might want to use chalk powder instead, even though it doesn’t look as pretty as the lead), Roman ladies also used eyeshadow (the more colorful the better), rouge, and eyeliner.

Most make-up was available as a powder. A bit of powder would be mixed with a bit of oil and then applied to the face.

Roman cosmetics
Roman cosmetics

One of the highlights of the Roman market was definitely the military demonstration: a small group of auxiliary soldiers went through a number of exercises, while their (rather dashing) optio watched on with eagle-eyes. 🙂

Auxiliary soldiers & their optio
A Roman horseman going through a few simple weapons‘ exercises formed the crowning glory of that demonstration. He was in full regalia, including a silver mask, which the Roman cavalry wore on special occasions, e.g. for cavalry games.

Roman horseman
All in all, it was another delightful trip into the Roman past!

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