Welcome! It’s nice to be back at Every Savage Can Dance after a winter hiatus!
I do occasional beta-reading for one of my Facebook acquaintances, and amongst my favourite reads was this delightful book by new JAFF/Regency author Lela Bay. It actually comprises two stories in one. You may have noticed that I often crab about how disappointed I am when authors publish short stories as stand-alones, and how I wish they’d put two or more together when they publish them. (When you encounter a single engaging short story it’s kinda like you’re just starting a yummy meal only to see it yanked off the table before you’ve finished enjoying it.) So I was most gratified by Ruined Reputations, which comprises two delightfully engaging short romances. Enough to keep you occupied and happy through one cup of tea or a potful!
Blurbing the book
–The Unusual Manners of Mr. Aarons–
Rumors of Mr. Aarons’ unconventional ways are confirmed when he nearly yanks the bonnet off Emmaline’s cousin’s head. Drawn by his charm and good looks, Emmaline finds herself assisting him in his mysterious mission.
His obscure search appears to lead to her cousin, beautiful Catherine Connersfield. Catherine is the more sensible choice, but will she have him? More to the point, will Emmaline let her?
Experience has taught Eleanor it’s better to be practical than passionate.
When she discovers Bitsy eloping with her French tutor, scandal threatens to ruin the girl.
To keep her reputation intact, Eleanor reluctantly chaperones the rebellious heiress.
Eleanor’s spotless character protects Bitsy, but behaving respectably proves difficult when Eleanor is tempted by the dangerously attractive Mr. Stinson.
If she fails it will end with … Ruined Reputations.
About the author
Lela lives in a modest house with her husband, children, and pets. Despite living in the far north, she requires a certain amount of sunshine each day or she gets grumpy. When she isn’t writing, she enjoys strolling, gardening, reading, and tea time with friends.
She enjoys stories with intimacy and humor.
Follow Lela on twitter @bay_lela.
Guest Post by Lela Bay
When a young, impressionable girl is led astray in a period drama, don’t you wish someone with sense would see it happening and step in? Where are all the disapproving matrons who should be fretting and tutting?
Examples of young misses led astray abound in literature. In Pride & Prejudice alone, Georgiana, Mr. Darcy’s younger sister, was barely rescued after meeting secretly with George Wickham and planning to elope. Similarly, just think what trouble it would have saved Mr. Darcy and Elizabeth Bennet if careless Lydia had been hauled home to pout instead of succeeding in escaping her chaperones in Brighton for Wickham.
As Elizabeth tells Mr. Darcy, “I have just had a letter from Jane, with such dreadful news. It cannot be concealed from any one. My youngest sister has left all her friends—has eloped;—has thrown herself into the power of—of Mr. Wickham. They are gone off together from Brighton. You know him too well to doubt the rest. She has no money, no connections, nothing that can tempt him to—she is lost for ever.”
In Ruined Reputations, the heroine of Virtue’s Temptation, Eleanor, discovers impetuous Bitsy running off with someone unsuitable. Rather than allow the girl to destroy her future, proper Eleanor takes responsibility for her.
Of course, saving someone from their own bad behavior is more demanding—and entertaining—than anyone with good sense could expect. Bitsy resists Eleanor’s help, and Eleanor is relieved when Mr. Stinson appears in pursuit. Eleanor and Mr. Stinson join forces to get Bitsy home before her reputation is irreparably ruined.
Eleanor must behave with propriety, since Bitsy’s reputation rests on hers as chaperone, but traveling with Mr. Stinson makes that more and more difficult. He came chasing after Bitsy, but is he noble hero or thwarted suitor? And what if it is Eleanor who wishes to be pursued?
I love the tension in Regency romances between propriety and longing. Eleanor is proper but in many ways envies Bitsy’s impetuous youth.
Virtue’s Temptation and The Unusual Manners of Mr. Aarons form my first romance novella Ruined Reputations.
And now for my review
Two romantic Regency-era stories in one volume? Yes, I like it very well.
To start, I liked wondering if Mr. Aarons was a gentleman or if he was a rogue or a rake. And I liked rooting for “the underdog” to capture his heart (altho’ it took a bit to discover whether or not he in fact had a heart!). Then I liked wondering what dangers a woman traveling alone and sticking her nose into somebody else’s business might encounter, particularly given that these stories are set during the English Regency era, when women did not have quite so much latitude in society as we do nowadays.
The scenes and characters played out believably in both stories, with good attention to period detail as well as to human (and canine) nature. Both stories moved along at a good pace, engaging the reader fully. When I get to the end of a story and think “I wish I knew what happened next” — as I did twice with this book — the author has made a definite connection.
Please note that while there are several steamy encounters between some of the characters, this is a clean read. But the mind can wander, can’t it? 😉
What I liked most
Well, aside from the “two-fer” aspect of the book that I appreciate, I liked how well the characters were drawn. If I ever encounter any of them I’ll know them in a moment!
What I liked least
I would have liked a rather more definite conclusion regarding Eleanor and Mr. Stinson. Given that life doesn’t always work that way, however, I’m willing to wait and see if the characters compel Lela to bring them back for an encore.
A fun read (times two) and a well-done book. Nicely written and tightly edited, which is the way I like my books. Oh, and the cover is beautiful too. I give Ruined Reputations a well-deserved five Darcys.
I look forward to more good things from this author. Thank you for visiting me today, Lela!
Lela is offering an ebook copy of Ruined Reputations to two (2) lucky winners. To enter the Giveaway, please leave a comment on this review post. (You can also comment even if you don’t want to enter the Giveaway; your comments are always welcome.)
And … if you haven’t already got your copy of Desperate Hearts, you can order a kindle copy here. Also available on kindleUnlimited.
I should begin this post by saying that Catherine Kullmann has become one of my favourite authors. Her Regency stories are always well researched, well written, and well edited. My introduction to Catherine’s work was Perception and Illusion, reviewed here. Her brief autobiographical notes explain clearly why I was originally drawn to her writings. Recently I read The Murmur of Masks and couldn’t wait to share it with those of you who love good historical romances.
Blurbing the book
It is 1803. The Treaty of Amiens has collapsed and England is again at war with France. Eighteen-year-old Olivia must say goodbye to her father and brother, both of whom are recalled to active service in the navy. Not long afterwards, her mother, who has been her anchor all her life, dies suddenly. As a result, she loses her home. Adrift and vulnerable, she accepts the offer of a marriage of convenience from Jack Rembleton, an older man whose brother, Lord Rembleton, is pressuring him to marry and sire the heir to the title Rembleton has failed to provide. Olivia hopes that love will grow between them, but Jack’s secrets will prevent this and Olivia must learn that she has thrown away her youth and the chance of love.
When Luke Fitzmaurice, a young man prevented by ill-health from joining the army, meets Olivia at a ball, he is instantly smitten but she must tell him she is already married. Ten years pass, during which each faces up to life’s challenges but then fate throws them together again. Olivia is finally free, but before they can explore what might be between them, Napoleon escapes from Elba and Luke, who is determined this time not to be found wanting, joins Wellington’s army in Brussels.
They say: “I read it very quickly as the story was very compelling and the characters really came to life and engaged me.” “Depicts both the harsh reality of the battlefield and the pleasures and challenges of society life in England.” “I was hooked from start to finish.” Winner of a Chill with a Book Award.
Please enjoy Catherine’s beautifully illustrated tour of the British Regency period.
The Regency Illustrated
One of the joys of writing historical novels is that you have an unimpeachable excuse to rummage in flea markets, second-hand book shops, antique fairs, and curiosity shops. My books are set in the extended Regency period from 1800 to 1830 and I was amazed to discover the wealth of coloured contemporary illustrations of the period over and above the portraits and architectural prints I had expected. Print shops selling cartoons and caricatures thrived, and ladies’ journals published fashion plates and engravings of eminent persons in each issue. In addition, publishers had progressed beyond the usual frontispiece to produce lavishly illustrated books that are the forerunners of today’s graphic novels. I have chosen five of these illustrations to take you on a tour of London from the lowest dive to the Prince Regent’s court.
Here we meet Bob Tallyho Esq. and his cousin the Hon. Tom Dashall blowing a cloud and taking their heavy wet at the Black diamond merchants’ free & easy King Charles’s crib, Scotland Yard.
Blowing a cloud Smoking
Heavy wet Beer, especially porter and stout
Black Diamond Merchant Coalman
Crib Here, a public house
Free & easy A social gathering (gen. at a public house) where smoking, drinking, and singing are allowed.
And here we see Tom and Bob in Hyde Park, Cutting a Dash among the Pinks in Rotten Row. A ‘Pink of the Fashion’ is a gentleman who is at ‘the top of the mode.’
While Tom and Bob were well-born young men about town, Dr Syntax, the hapless protagonist of at least four volumes by different authors, was a not-so-young curate whose outings tended to end in disaster of some kind. We encounter him and his wife at Vauxhall Gardens, holding up a slice of the ham that was famous, or infamous, for its thinness, which inevitably led to a steep bill at the end of the night.
Before them soon was laid a slice
which some might think was very nice,
But through whose thin, transparent fold,
You might the distant stars behold,
Was not much better than a jelly;
Another, and another still,
Must feed the craving ivory mill,
And still to every keen performer
“The last is welcome as the former.”
We next visit a fashionable ball. In this illustration from The Adventures of a Post-Captain, you can just see the dancers in the background at the top left, but all attention is focused on the pink sofa where our hero woos his lady, ignoring the envious glances of others less favoured. The text beneath it reads:
The maiden listen’d, blush’d and look’d,
As she would have the words rebuk’d
But there was something in her eye.
Which seem’d to give the words the lie.
Finally we attend a levée at Carlton House, seat of the Prince Regent, where Johnny Newcome, fresh from the Campaign in the Peninsula, presents him with the Trophies of Battle. Although our hero is fictional, this scene alludes to the retrieval of the baton of the French Marshal Jourdan from the abandoned coach of Napoleon’s elder brother Joseph Bonaparte, whom Napoleon installed as King of Spain in 1808. Joseph made a desperate attempt to escape Wellington’s advancing army in 1813, losing almost all his baggage in his headlong flight. The baton was given to Wellington, who sent it to the Prince Regent.
To me, these prints and their accompanying text open a window on the real Regency. Perhaps it is because they were created with no thought to posterity that they are so appealing two hundred years later. Their vitality and immediacy invite us to step into their world, and I for one cannot resist.
This story opens heartbreakingly sadly. Young Olivia suffers the loss of her beloved mother, and inasmuch as her father and brother are off fighting the interminable war with France, she is left on her own with disappointed hopes. In Regency society, being without male protection translates as being quite vulnerable. Fortunately her uncle steps in to help. He approves when an acquaintance asks for Olivia’s hand in marriage. Unfortunately, neither Olivia nor her uncle are aware of who and what this acquaintance really is, what are his motives, and where his heart is truly engaged, setting Olivia up for a sad and loveless marriage of convenience.
After she is married she meets the man of her dreams. Altho’ he is a bit of a rascal (or maybe because of it!), I fell in love with Luke almost from the moment I “met” him. Illness prevents him from fulfilling his dream, as a second son, of joining the military, and he lives a rather dissolute life as he is also set adrift by his own disappointed hopes.
Ultimately, of course, they are both free to marry and enjoy a life of happiness together. Getting to that point, however, is not an easy straight line. The many twists and turns of their relationship are the stuff of this intriguing story, a story I could barely put down once I had started it.
What I liked most
There was so much I liked about this book that I hardly know where to start. Perhaps with the clever references to Pride and Prejudice? I’ll leave it to you to make these delicious discoveries for yourself.
Then there were the engaging characters and situations. All had the ring of reality to them, and I was pleased to be sharing their lives with them. One situation, and character, I had already been introduced to: Lallie Tamrisk, the star of Perception and Illusion, makes a cameo appearance, and I was happy to see her again, in a shocking scene touched on in P&I and featured in the 1972 movie Lady Caroline Lamb. Then I realized that P&I was written after TMoM. So now I wonder if Lallie simply grew into a larger role in P&I, and if we’ll see her yet again in Catherine’s next book? (Hint hint, Catherine!)
The new-to-me Regency words and expressions, as well as the general Regency history, that I learned here.
What I liked least
The vividly detailed description of The Battle of Waterloo. We who have never seen war close-up know events such as these simply as ticks on the timeline of history. To Luke and the other participants, however, they were far more personal, and even tho’ I admit to skipping some of this difficult reading, I actually found myself having nightmares about this nightmarish battle.
If you enjoy well-researched and well-written historical novels incorporating a not-always-tender love story with a happily-ever-after ending, you will surely enjoy reading The Murmur of Masks.
I give it an enthusiastic five-star rating:
To learn more about Catherine Kullman and her writings, and for lots more treats and goodies, visit her website.
Your comments, as always, are most welcome!
And … if you haven’t already got your copy of Desperate Hearts, you can order a kindle copy here. Now also available on kindleUnlimited.
Full disclosure: I enjoy the JAFF stories produced by many authors, altho’ I have two favourite authors. One of them is Regina Jeffers. When I pick up one of her books I know it will be a well-written and well-thought-out story, properly edited, and well-researched. I always look forward to learning at least one, if not several, new points of Regency or British history from each of her books. Not to mention that they are always fun to read.
And so it is with Mr Darcy’s Brides.
Blurbing the book:
I much prefer the sharpest criticism of a single intelligent man to the thoughtless approval of the masses.
ELIZABETH BENNET is determined that she will put a stop to her mother’s plans to marry off the eldest Bennet daughter to Mr. Collins, the Longbourn heir, but a man that Mr. Bennet considers an annoying dimwit. Hence, Elizabeth disguises herself as Jane and repeats her vows to the supercilious rector as if she is her sister, thereby voiding the nuptials and saving Jane from a life of drudgery. Yet, even the “best laid plans” can often go awry.
FITZWILLIAM DARCY is desperate to find a woman who will assist him in leading his sister back to Society after Georgiana’s failed elopement with Darcy’s old enemy George Wickham. He is so desperate that he agrees to Lady Catherine De Bourgh’s suggestion that Darcy marry her ladyship’s “sickly” daughter Anne. Unfortunately, as he waits for his bride to join him at the altar, he realizes he has made a terrible error in judgement, but there is no means to right the wrong without ruining his cousin’s reputation. Yet, even as he weighs his options, the touch of “Anne’s” hand upon his sends an unusual “zing” of awareness shooting up Darcy’s arm. It is only when he realizes the “zing” has arrived at the hand of a stranger, who has disrupted his nuptials, that he breathes both a sigh of relief and a groan of frustration, for the question remains: Is Darcy’s marriage to the woman legal?
What if Fitzwilliam Darcy and Elizabeth Bennet met under different circumstances than those we know from Jane Austen’s classic tale: Circumstances that did not include the voices of vanity and pride and prejudice and doubt that we find in the original story? Their road to happily ever after may not, even then, be an easy one, but with the expectations of others removed from their relationship, can they learn to trust each other long enough to carve out a path to true happiness?
Regina was good enough to write up a guest post on a most fascinating topic, Criminal Conversation, for Every Savage Can Dance readers:
Several years back, I did a series for my blog, Every Woman Dreams, entitled “Eccentrics of the Regency.” One of the pieces I wrote was on Edward Hughes Ball Hughes. In it, I wrote: “Hughes’ older sister Catherine Ball was a socialite, journalist, and novelist who eventually styled herself the “Baroness de Calabrella” after acquiring property in Italy. She married an older man, Rev. Francis Lee, at the age of 16 in 1804, without her mother’s permission, and was separated from him in 1810 on charges of adultery; her lover, Captain George de Blaquiere, was successfully sued by Reverend Lee for criminal conversation.” When I read this, I wondered whether “criminal conversation” was anything like “alienation of affection.” So, I was determined to find out.
Criminal conversation is commonly known as crim. con. It is a tort arising from adultery. For those of you who do not understand “legal speak,” tort law involves a situation where a person’s actions unfairly causes another to suffer harm or loss. The case is not based around an “illegal” action, but rather one of not thinking of the other person and causing some sort of harm. The law allows the harmed individual to recover his loss, generally by awarding monetary compensation. To prevail (win) in a tort law case the plaintiff (person suing) must show the actions or lack of action was the most likely cause of the harm.
Criminal Conversation is similar to breach of promise, a former tort involving a broken engagement against the betrothed, or alienation of affections, a tort action brought by a deserted spouse against a third party.
In 18th– and 19th-century England, criminal conversation cases were common. It was not unheard of for the plaintiff to be awarded sums as high as £20,000. These cases were seen at the Court of King’s Bench in Westminster Hall. Not only did the plaintiff make money on the proceedings, but so did publishers such as Edmund Curll, whose name became synonymous, through the attacks on him by Alexander Pope, with unscrupulous publication and publicity.
Although neither the plaintiff, the defendant, nor the wife accused of the adultery were permitted to take the stand, evidence of the adulterous behavior was presented by servants or observers. Awards of damages were based upon compensation for the husband’s loss of property rights in his wife, the wife being regarded as his chattel. Historically a wife could not sue her husband for adultery, as he could not be her chattel if she was already his. The criminal conversation tort was abolished in England in 1857, and the Republic of Ireland in 1976. It still exists in parts of the United States, although the application has changed. At least 29 states have abolished the tort by statute and another 4 have abolished it by common law.
A number of very sensational cases were heard in the second half of the 18th century, including Grosvenor v. Cumberland in 1769, where Lord Grosvenor sued the King’s brother, the Duke of Cumberland, for crim con with his wife, being awarded damages of £10,000; and Worsley v. Bisset in 1782, where Sir Richard Worsley lost his case against George Bisset, after it had been found that Sir Richard had colluded in his own dishonour by showing his friend his wife Seymour Dorothy Fleming naked in a bath house. In 1796, the Earl of Westmeath was awarded £10,000 against his wife’s lover, Augustus Bradshaw.
The tort has seen particular use in North Carolina (my current home state). Criminal Conversation is one of the “Heart-Balm” Laws, which include breach of promise, wrongful seduction, and alienation of affection.” ‘Criminal conversation,’ in turn, was a civil cause of action that dated back at least to the seventeenth century in England. The name is oddly inappropriate, since there was nothing criminal about the claim, and it certainly was not about conversation. Rather, “Crim. Con.” allowed a man to bring suit against another man who had sex with his wife. It was a remedy for loss of the wife’s “consortium” (that is, of the companionship and sex she had provided before being seduced by another). Proof of a valid marriage and extramarital sex were all that was required for the husband to make out a successful claim against the interloper.” [Find Law citation] Our most famous Crim Con case in North Carolina in many years was when the late Elizabeth Edwards sued her husband, John Edwards’s, former Presidential candidate, “mistress,” Rielle Hunter.
Enjoy this excerpt from Chapter 5 of MR. DARCY’S BRIDEs in which Elizabeth first learns of Lady Catherine’s idea of having Anne sue Elizabeth for drawing off Darcy’s attentions.
“I am pleased to find you from your bed,” he said politely while eyeing her with interest.
Elizabeth did not address his attempt at consideration. Instead, she asked, “Could you explain to me, sir, how you thought it acceptable to remove my person from your home to your yacht without my permission?” She watched as a muscle along his jaw line twitched, but otherwise, his expression of indifference remained in place.
“It was necessary for you to depart Darcy House, and as you were in no condition to make that decision, I made it for you. As part of my wedding plans, I was set to sail on the day of our departure; therefore, I took advantage of the ship’s preparedness.”
“And why was it necessary for me to leave Darcy House? Could you not have sailed alone? I would have been up and moving about in a day or two, and then I could be gone from your society. No one would have known the difference.”
Other than a slight lift of his eyebrow, he displayed no reaction to her tight-lipped accusations. “My aunt learned of your presence under my roof. She planned to send a magistrate to my home to arrest you. I thought it best if we were removed from England until this matter can be settled.”
“Arrest me?” Elizabeth demanded. “Upon what charges? Certainly what I did was unconventional, but it was not a crime. It was a mistake. I have no desire to remain with you, and you, sir, should be glad to observe my exit. I have caused you nothing but grief and inconvenience. Needless to say, Miss De Bourgh would still accept a man of your consequence. Marry your cousin. Lady Catherine will be mollified, and I will return to my life in the country. All will be forgiven.”
“If you think my aunt will forgive or forget your perceived insult, you are sadly mistaken. Lady Catherine will make your life and the lives of your loved ones miserable. Only with my protection will you remain safe,” he argued.
Elizabeth swallowed hard against the trepidation filling her chest. “I shall…I shall assume my chances, sir. Surely a woman of Lady Catherine’s stature will extend her forgiveness once I explain the situation.” She lifted her chin in defiance.
“More likely she will force Anne to sue you for criminal conversation. I know my aunt, she will not be happy until she leaves you and your family in penury. Not only did you forestall her aspirations of having Anne at Pemberley, but you treated her cleric as if he were insignificant. She sees Mr. Collins’s character as a reflection of her condescension.”
Elizabeth fought the anxiety rising in her stomach. “Nevertheless, I insist that you set me down in the next port and provide me enough coins to claim passage home. I will have Mr. Bennet reimburse you as quickly as I make my way to Hertfordshire.”
“That might be difficult,” he said with a wry twist of his lips, “for you to make your way to Mr. Bennet’s estate in what you are wearing.”
Despite her best efforts, despair pooled in her eyes. “So you mean to keep me a prisoner by refusing me proper dress?” she accused. “I demand the return of the dress I wore for the wedding!”
He shrugged in indifference. “On the morning of our departure, Mrs. Guthrie and a maid dressed in your gown made a great show of leaving Darcy House. I am certain my neighbors will have taken notice of your exodus. My servants have been instructed that if anyone asks after me to tell them that I was so upset after the wedding that I departed for my estate. The servants will also inform those who wish to be apprised of my comings and goings that the poor soul I saw into my house was a distant relation who had been injured at the wedding, and that I instructed my staff to tend the young lady in my absence. When the magistrate calls upon Darcy House he will learn of your leave-taking from more than Mrs. Guthrie, who is to explain that you fell into the street before Lord Haverton’s coach and was treated by Doctor Nott. Both my housekeeper and the good physician will confirm the story of your departure. They will tell the official that you asked to be returned to your home in Bath, and before I left Town upon personal business, I made the necessary arrangements.”
“No one will believe such a convoluted tale,” she argued.
“On the contrary, my dear. The ton is quite gullible. They will believe any tale that smacks of gossip, and they will add their own tidbits to it to make it more outrageous.”
“Then what am I to wear?” she insisted, although she wished her voice had not cracked upon the word “wear.” She suddenly felt like Mr. Darcy’s mistress, for she was dressed for the role.
His expression softened, as if he could read her thoughts. “We had little time to prepare, but Hannah, the maid you met earlier, has altered several of my sister’s gowns. Miss Darcy has sprouted up in the last year, but some of her former gowns will do nicely until we can have something specifically designed for you. Mrs. Guthrie suggests those items ordered as part of Anne’s trousseau, but I rejected the idea, for my Aunt Catherine could then label you a thief. It is best to do over some of my sister’s gowns, rather than to provide her ladyship with a reason to see you behind bars.”
Elizabeth wished to acknowledge his sensible actions, but it was her life in which he dabbled, and all of his decisions were simply too personal. She gritted out the words, “As I am at your disposal, how are we to proceed?”
“If you are agreeable, I thought we might have supper. I tire of eating alone.”
Got you hooked, right? It only gets more complicated, and exciting, from here!
And now for my review:
In this variation we see Elizabeth and Jane hatching a desperate hare-brained scheme to foil Mr. Collins’, and Mrs. Bennet’s, plans for him to marry Jane. Mr. Bennet has recently been injured and is barely clinging to life, so his wife determines that one of their daughters must marry Mr. Collins – Mr. Bennet’s heir – to prevent their eviction from Longbourn on Mr. Bennet’s passing.
Altho’ the Bennets have never met Mr. Collins, Mr. Bennet’s opinion of the man renders the thought of marriage to him absolutely abhorrent to his daughters. Undeterred, Mrs. Bennet offers up their most beautiful and compliant daughter so he will not refuse the match. Jane, being Jane, agrees to comply with her mother’s wishes. When second thoughts plague Jane and she wishes to be released from her acceptance, Elizabeth comes up with her scheme, which she and Jane believe will void the nascent marriage.
A misunderstanding sends Elizabeth to the wrong church, where she speaks her vows and ends up married to another man, who just moments before had realized the mistake he was making in marrying a woman he did not love and even praying for a way out of taking his vows with her. After a madcap chase scene, Elizabeth and Darcy end up married to each other. Maybe. The legality of the marriage must be investigated, and the vindictiveness of Lady Catherine must be dispelled. Because Darcy, you see, has determined that Elizabeth would make him the perfect wife …
So are they or aren’t they? The answer, it seems, is no, yes, and maybe. The story, and our dear couple, must decide whether an accidental, or rather fateful, encounter should determine their futures.
What I liked most:
Seeing how their relationship played out. The tale follows canon to a certain extent in that Darcy is high-handed and haughty, and completely besotted with Elizabeth, while Elizabeth needs some convincing before she can return his affections. The situations, however, are quite different from those in canon. Of course it all works out in the end, but as they say getting there is half the fun. Or in this case, even more than half! I found myself smiling often as I read this story.
And the epilogue. Yes, it’s an idea that’s been done before, but never with the poignancy of this version.
What I liked least:
Well, I guess I have to come up with something. How about this: Regina likes to use the word mayhap, a word that makes the hairs stand up on the back of my neck! Sorry, it was the best I could do.
A fun read that will keep you guessing from beginning to end. I give it
And now a terrific GIVEAWAY!
Regina has two (2) ebook copies of MR. DARCY’S BRIDEs available to those who comment on this post. The giveaway will end at midnight EDST on Saturday, August 19.
Your comments, as always, are most welcome. (Yes, even if you don’t want to enter the giveaway.)
And … if you haven’t already got your copy of Desperate Hearts, you can order a kindle copy here.
Catherine Kullman, the author who brought you the Matrimonial Map, now introduces you to the Matrimonial Ladder. This rare Regency-era “comic book” is absolutely delightful and most charmingly illustrated.
Do stop by Catherine’s home on the Web and take a look. While you’re there, you might want to see what other goodies you can find on her website. It’s one of my very favourites; one reason why is her Regency stories, like this one that I reviewed a while ago.
Apologies to my ESCD readers for being out of touch for so long … I went through a bout of ill health, including a (blessedly!) brief hospital stay, and am just catching up now. I have some wonderful reviews and other “stuff” — including giveaways — coming up soon, so please stop by again. G0d bless you, and wishing you all good health and happiness!
Your comments, as always, are most welcome.
And … if you haven’t already got your copy of Desperate Hearts, you can order a kindle copy here.
DH and I have recently been caring for a couple of aging pets. We’d wake up in the middle of the night, either of our own accord or because some particular noise alerted us to see if either of them needed something in the night. After tending to whatever needed tending, we would go back to bed, on good nights falling asleep straight away but just as often struggling to return to our slumbers.
On those long white nights, and the following mornings when I could barely drag myself around the house, I was reminded of a custom I learned about several years ago and that has ever since fascinated me: the practice of two sleeps. And decided to go with it instead of fighting it.
Humans did not always spend eight (or so) hours at one stretch sleeping through the night. From ancient times our ancestors would sleep for four or five hours, wake up, spend anywhere from two to four hours in various activities, and then return to dreamland until sunrise. It was the common practice, and it lasted until about the end of the nineteenth century. So altho’ not a uniquely Regency-era practice, people certainly would have been two-sleeping during Jane Austen’s lifetime.
After waking from the first sleep, people engaged in numerous activities. These included feeding babies or the sick of the household; tending fires that would otherwise extinguish themselves during the night; checking on the welfare of farm animals to ensure they were not being set upon by predators or thieves. Many people spent the time reading or praying, and in fact there were specific prayers for this time of night. Family members might find this a convenient time for chatting with each other, while husbands and wives often engaged in sexual relations. Physicians recommended having sex after the first sleep as both parties were generally more relaxed and it was likelier to result in conception.
As the practice of two sleeps was so common, visits were often made to equally wakeful neighbours. Socializing also served to remind potential nighttime thieves that their intended targets were awake and alert.
Two-sleeping faded in popularity with the advent of electricity; specifically indoor lights and outdoor street lamps. With more light available, people extended their daytime activities to the nights, and began to go to sleep later, leaving too little time for two sleeps and a wakeful period in-between. Thus our current practice of getting (or trying to get!) eight consecutive hours of sleep each night developed.
While we lost one of our pets recently – cancer ultimately claimed our beloved dog Rufus – we still tend to our elderly kitty Shana when she requires attention during the night, as well as to any other critters who might be temporarily indisposed. We two-slept for most of last weekend, for example, when our kitty Spunky chewed up a silk flower and spent the better part of the next two days puking it up at all hours. (Yes, we took him to the vet and he’s just fine now.)
Next time you find yourself awake in the middle of the night, don’t panic or think that you absolutely must get back to sleep right away. Take a cue from our ancestors and stay awake for a while – productively awake, that is, by engaging in one or more of the activities enumerated above, or perhaps by sketching out your next storyline or book review. Or jot down any part of your dreams that you can recall. Or catch up on your reading. In fact, this is often the time when I get most of my own reading done!
Your comments, as always, are most welcome.
And … if you haven’t already got your copy of Desperate Hearts, you can order a kindle copy here. A perfect read for your two-sleep night’s awake hours!
Some weeks ago I posted a piece entitled “Getting into Mr Darcy’s pants,” about the underwear a Regency gentleman would have worn under his fashionable clothing. Rather than re-post the general overview of fashion and undergarments of the day, you might want to take a moment to re-read the original post.
When ladies of the Regency exchanged their previously-fashionable voluminous skirts for a slim, classical Greek-style high-waisted silhouette, their undergarments also altered. Wearing the previously-stylish constructed fashions that essentially re-designed the shape of a woman’s form into something resembling a bell, a lady faced two primary problems. The first was one of real estate: only so many bell-shaped ladies could fit into a given area such as a sidewalk, a shop, a sitting-room sofa, or a carriage. Secondly came the problem of maintaining modesty: one false step, or a less-than cautious entrance into or exit from a carriage, could send the rigidly-constructed frame under one’s dress — and the dress along with it — up into the air in a most revealing position.
The slim lines, and lightweight fabric, of a Regency Empire-style dress presented its own problems. As clothing became lighter and slimmer, ladies began to discard heavy layers of undergarments for the bare minimum required for comfort and modesty. The challenges at this time were also multi-fold: fabric folds would work themselves between a lady’s legs, often aided by a wind or even a light breeze, clingingly revealing a bit more of a lady’s form than was considered proper. Being caught in a light rain that dampened one’s attire could cause a scandalous spectacle! And again, if one was not attentive to how one was moving, or — heaven forfend! — if one tripped or took a fall, the light fabric could easily be blown or otherwise pushed away to expose a lady’s privates. (This, by the way, was the reason why gentlemen preceded ladies when walking up stairs.)
Even after adopting the new fashion styles, the basic lady’s undergarment remained the chemise, a simple, unfitted shift-type garment with a rounded neckline and short sleeves that reached to about the knees. It was generally made of light cotton or linen, although it might be fashioned of flannel at colder times of the year. Over the chemise was worn a corset, or stays. As with their male counterparts, ladies wore these to create a slimmer appearance. An important function of a corset was to draw in the hip area, as the slim style of dress required almost a boyish figure below the waist (much as some modern fashion styles have also demanded).
Corsets might be simple affairs, or they might have supports for the breasts, similar to a modern brassiere. Slim hips did not exclude the preference for a femine bustline! Over this would be a petticoat, either a short petticoat from waist to ankle, which was gathered around the waist with tapes, or a full petticoat with an attached bodice. Again, they were crafted of light fabric except for winter wear. And they were mostly still homemade at this time. Depending on the style of the dress being worn, the petticoat might have a small, light hoop at the bottom to create an A-line shape rather than a straight style.
As to drawers … Ladies “borrowed” men’s drawers some time before 1810. Altho’ they were not in regular use at this time, by the 1810s most ladies, at least of the upper and middle classes, were wearing them. Initially these too were homemade; it wasn’t until the mid-nineteenth century that they become available commercially. Reaching from waist to knees, and fastened with tapes at both points, they were not particularly ornate, as they were not intended to be seen. At least not until Queen Charlotte decided to scandalize society by wearing them somewhat longer and sitting with her legs extended in front of her so glimpses of the embellished bottoms of the drawers could be seen as her skirts lifted slightly. Like the rest of underclothes, these were fashioned of lightweight cotton, linen, silk, stockinette, or sarsenet in summer and flannel in winter. The original ladies’ design comprised two tubes for the legs held together with tapes at the waist; these later evolved into a connected design more like the gentleman’s. Which certainly makes a lot more sense from just about every standpoint.
So perhaps the ladies of the Regency period were not so very different from modern ladies in their fashion choices. I have, however, sometimes wondered about one aspect of the effects of fashion: Was the not-uncommon loss of the mother’s life in childbirth in any way affected by the fashion of mechanically drawing in the hips as tightly as possible? Perhaps I’ll research and report on this aspect in a future posting.
It’s said that love makes the world go ’round. I have, however, observed that it’s reviews that make the book world go around.
When you shop online for a book, do you check out how many stars the book has received from reviewers? Do you browse the reviews? If you have to choose between two books, do the stars and the review text influence your decision?
You’re not alone; most people look at reviews on amazon, GoodReads, Facebook, blogs, and anywhere else they’re posted — and these reviews influence buying decisions. So it really means the world to authors when their work receives reader reviews.
If you enjoyed a particular book, the nicest thing you can do to let the author know that his/her work pleased you is to write an online review. You don’t need a blog, and you needn’t write a voluminous review; a few words will suffice. Some suggestions: “I liked the author’s integration of characters from another favourite book into this story.” Or “Detailed descriptions of places made you feel as if you are actually there.” Or maybe “Could not find even one error of spelling or word usage” or “I liked the flow of the story.”
You do not need to be an author yourself to write a review! Just think about what you would tell a friend if you were recommending the book to them, and write it down. Review done!
How about if you did not like the book? If there is a reason other than “I didn’t like the story,” then explain it simply and courteously. “It was too long and the story meandered.” “It was too short to really get into the characters and events.” “Spelling was poor” or “Too many incorrect homophones.” “One of the story lines was never resolved.”
Some reviewers who don’t like a book seem to be almost vindictive in their reviews, as if they want to punish the author for not writing a book they liked. Revealing and describing salient plot points — i.e., spoilers — is very unkind. If you did not like the book, you can always return it; you don’t need to damage the author’s credibility or ruin the story for future readers just because it wasn’t your own cup of tea.
Remember what all of our moms told us: If you can’t say anything nice, don’t say anything at all!
And here are some books recently featured at Every Savage Can Dance to start you off. If you’ve read them, and especially if you’ve enjoyed them, please take a few minutes to leave a review. If you have not yet read them, follow the link to buy a copy, and then leave a review after you’ve read it.
Believe me, an author will thank you when you do! (Speaking of which, Many Thanks to Claudine Pepe at Just Jane 1813 for her lovely review of Desperate Hearts. If you have not yet read this book, do stop by to read her review and enter the giveaway for a chance to win a copy of the e-book)
Please take a moment to let me know what you think: Click the Leave a Comment link at the top left-hand corner of this post. Thank you!
I’m so excited — this is my first time participating in a book blog tour! I have a guest post by the author, a book excerpt, and a giveaway for you from the Meryton Press Blog Tour.
The Best Part of Love author Amy D’Orazio has kindly stopped by to write a guest post for Every Savage Can Dance’s readers.
Blurbing the book:
Avoiding the truth does not change the truth
When Fitzwilliam Darcy meets Miss Elizabeth Bennet he has no idea that she — that indeed, the entire town of Meryton — harbors a secret. Miss Elizabeth, a simply country girl from a humble estate, manages to capture first his fascination and then his heart without him ever knowing the truth of her past.
When she meets Darcy, Elizabeth had spent the two years prior hiding from the men who killed her beloved first husband. Feeling herself destroyed by love, Elizabeth has no intention of loving again, certainly not with the haughty man who could do nothing but offend her in Hertfordshire.
In London, Elizabeth surprises herself by finding in Darcy a friend; even greater is her surprise to find herself gradually coming to love him and even accepting an offer of marriage from him. Newly married, they are just beginning to settle into their happily ever after when a condemned man on his way to the gallows divulges a shattering truth, a secret that contradicts everything Elizabeth thought she knew about the tragic circumstances of her first marriage. Against the advice of everyone who loves her, including Darcy, Elizabeth begins to ask questions. But will what they learn destroy them both?
And a word about the author:
Amy D’Orazio is a former breast cancer researcher and current stay-at-home mom who is addicted to Jane Austen and Starbucks in about equal measures. While she adores Mr. Darcy, she is married to Mr. Bingley and their Pemberley is in Pittsburgh PA.
She has two daughters who are devoted to sports which require long practices, and began writing her own stories as a way to pass the time she spent sitting in the lobbies of various gyms and studios. She is a firm believer that all stories should have long looks, stolen kisses, and happily ever afters. Like her favorite heroine, she dearly loves a laugh and considers herself an excellent walker.
Now let’s pass the quill to you, Amy!
It is such a pleasure to meet all of you at Every Savage Can Dance. I am really excited about the publication of The Best Part of Love. This is my first published work although I have been writing and posting Austenesque stories for about five years now. To me there is nothing more enjoyable than exploring new paths to a happy-ever-after with Darcy, Elizabeth and many other characters given to us by Jane Austen.
Like many authors, I first began my JAFF journey as an insatiable reader. I started with what I could find on amazon which, at the time, wasn’t a lot. Then I found the forums and really got hooked into it — it was a pretty happy day when I discovered just how much was out there.
For as much fun as reading is though, once I started writing, I really got addicted. Reading about Darcy and Elizabeth is great, but I found writing allowed me to really immerse myself in their world and their story. Of course it’s a danger too — I tend to be in the middle of the grocery store or driving somewhere when the exact right thing I need to make Darcy say hits me and then my mind is gone and I wonder how it is I came home without the shampoo I desperately needed!
The Best Part of Love was the fourth or fifth novel-length story I wrote and posted at A Happy Assembly, although parts of it were written before anything else. What I really loved was the idea of Darcy being in Hertfordshire and looking down on Elizabeth and not realizing that she is, in fact, both wealthy and titled. It took me a while to figure out how that scenario would come about and it certainly took me into story lines and plots that I could not have envisioned back then — but it was definitely a fun ride! I hope you will have as much fun reading it as I did writing it.
Elizabeth seized upon the warmer weather of Kent gratefully, departing on an early walk the first morning she was in residence at Rosings. Elizabeth chose a lane at random, delighting in the burgeoning verdure before her. She inhaled deeply, drawing the fresh spring air into her lungs and feeling the bounce return to her step. She soon came upon Mr. Darcy.
“May I join you?” he requested. “It is a lovely morning, is it not?”
“It is splendid, and yes, you may join me.” They began to walk, and Elizabeth asked, “Do you always rise early, or did the sounds of the country awaken you?”
“I am an early riser. Are you?”
“I am,” she admitted. “Not the mode, I know! I much prefer a walk at dawn to a promenade during the fashionable hour.”
“As do I.”
They walked on, sometimes silent and other times voluble. Elizabeth had many questions about the grounds, the house, and the parish that Darcy was happy to answer.
From that morning on, their rambles together became a regularity. At first, Elizabeth counselled herself to be kindly to him, honouring her promise to Lady Matlock, but she was soon surprised to realise she anticipated his company.
Their conversations soon revealed a side to him she would not have suspected: a good intentioned man with an honourable character and true heart and with similar frailties and problems to anyone else. It was endearing. When she had sketched his character in Hertfordshire, she had seen only a small portion of his true self.
“May I enquire as to your thoughts, my lady?”
“Forgive me.” She blushed lightly. “You have caught me in recollection.”
“I was thinking of my initial impression of you. My opinion has improved markedly now that I know you better.”
He looked down, the brim of his hat putting his face into shadow. “How far improved is that opinion?”
She glanced at him quickly, her heart skipping a beat.
He stopped then, turning to her and looking into her eyes. Her hand, which had been on his arm, dropped and somehow found a place within his grasp. “You must know my feelings and wishes are unchanged. You may have me; nay, you already have me. On your word, we shall be husband and wife.”
Dismayed, Elizabeth spoke quietly and as gently as she could. “Forgive me if I have led you to think my feelings have changed. I treasure the time we spend together, but I cannot marry you.”
There was a bench nearby and he led her to it. “You do not doubt the sincerity of my love for you?”
“No, not that.” She looked down at her lap.
“Then what? Do you not think we would be as happy in marriage as we are in friendship?”
“No, I confess, I do not. We would argue and fight; you would grow resentful over what I could offer you, and I would grow weary of trying to love you well enough to satisfy you. I already know the pain of losing love, and I could not dare begin with a love that burns hot and see it grow cold. I could not bear it.”
She looked up; pain smote her chest in seeing the sadness in his eyes. She caressed his arm. “I am sorry. I have pained you.”
“I am only pained with my understanding of your sorrow. I should not be surprised. To have lost all you did and endure all you have, that you should be care-worn is expected. You do such an excellent job of appearing content and in good spirits, it deceives me into believing you truly are well.”
He removed her glove and brought her hand to his lips for a gentle kiss. “I am happy to wait for the day when you again have the courage to be loved as I intend to love you.”
Wow! Doesn’t that make you want to drop everything you’re doing and read the story from beginning to end? It does me! Fortunately The Best Part of Love has been released and is available here. Ebook version only at this time; paperback version should be available in two to three weeks.
Eight (8) lucky readers will win a copy of The Best Part of Love!
Readers may enter the drawing by tweeting once a day and daily commenting on a blog post that has a giveaway attached for the tour. Entrants should provide the name of the blog where they commented (which will be verified).
Tweet and comment once daily to earn extra entries.
Each winner will be randomly selected by Rafflecopter. Paperback or ebook format will be randomly selected for each winner as well.
NOTE: Paperback copies are available for continental US winners! Ebook copies are available for all winners, including international winners! If more international winners are randomly chosen than the 4 allotted ebooks, then that will decrease the number of paperbacks. 8 books will be given away to 8 different winners.
Comment at Every Savage Can Dance by clicking the Comments link in the upper-left corner beneath this post’s title.
Sorry it’s been a while since my last post. DH was off work during the holidays and, as much as I love having him around, he does have a tendency to hog the computer. (I’ve told him several times that when he retires — he’s looking at early retirement in a couple of years — we’d better have two computers both attached to the Internet, or one of us will not survive his retirement!)
Today I have the pleasure of introducing Suzan Lauder, author of Alias Thomas Bennet and today’s feature, Letter from Ramsgate.
Jane Austen left a great deal to the reader’s imagination, so Suzan took one of these “under-described” incidents — Georgiana Darcy’s encounter with George Wickham at Ramsgate — and filled in the details.
I enjoyed this book and have reviewed it, but before posting the review I have a special treat. Suzan has graciously outlined the methods she employed to create my favourite scene in the story. So let me hand this off to Suzan now, followed by my review of Letter from Ramsgate.
Guest Post by Suzan Lauder: The Hunsford Proposal and Deep Point of View
Warning—This article contains spoilers
While enjoying Letter from Ramsgate, some readers have expressed concern about how Darcy could have jumped so quickly from the romance of the proposal to the anger about his assumption that Elizabeth was friends with Mrs. Younge.
The easy way out for the author would be to get the reader inside his head and show his thought process explicitly rather than let them watch his anger escalate and the proposal fall apart like a train wreck from Elizabeth’s viewpoint. Had I done this, it would be called head-hopping. However, the writing style I used eschews this technique, which is casually used by many, many writers who choose the more traditional point of view of Omniscient Narrator.
I wrote Letter from Ramsgate in what’s called Third Person Limited, Deep Point of View. This is a popular technique for Regency romance novels. In Deep Point of View, the author must stick to only one character’s point of view at any time; point of view (POV) changes take place only at chapter or clear scene breaks with markers alerting the reader to the change, and the reader gets so deep into the character’s head that they “see” it as if they were there. Another analogy is that the reader is like a camera filming the action: the alternative Omniscient Narrator POV has the reader’s “camera” high up watching from a neutral position. In Deep POV, it’s like the camera is on the shoulder of the point of view character.
Though much harder to write, this technique provides the reader with a much more intense experience, as they’re almost in the character’s head. It also means that if the character is confused and things around them seem unfair, the elevated sense of that unfairness becomes the reader’s experience too. Readers were hurt and indignant regarding Darcy’s jumping to conclusions, therefore I did my job as writer well, because that’s how it looked to Elizabeth at the moment.
How can his actions be justified? In the scene with Colonel Fitzwilliam on the way to Rosings, Darcy is clear about how much he hates Mrs. Younge—more than he hates Wickham—and blames her totally for Georgiana’s misfortune. A couple of chapters later, during the proposal, readers don’t get to know what Darcy is thinking. The point of view is now Elizabeth’s (and the author is hamstrung!). We feel how whisked away she is with the romance and kisses, but we don’t know why her begging Darcy to help Mrs. Younge—a woman he abhors—causes him to become so very angry. Yet his reaction is supported by prior events as well as later scenes where we get to hear how he has reacted to this situation that was just as painful to him as to Elizabeth.
Of course he was terribly wrong. But he had not yet learned how to deal with his conceit, his thinking meanly of those below him, his overblown pride, nor his sense of superiority—all the things he says he learned as a child and applied unwisely in Austen’s novel. In Letter from Ramsgate, his true “Hunsfordization” doesn’t take place until much later in the book, where he gets read the riot act not once, but three times, by a total of no less than five women! He doesn’t know all the facts until then, and pays for it in fear that his mistakes will cost him the woman he loves now that he realizes he can’t force himself to choose expectations over his heart. From Elizabeth’s POV in the final chapters, Darcy finally redeems himself, yet she doesn’t make it easy!
Thanks to Janis for the opportunity to share this fascinating writing topic with readers and authors as a guest post on her blog!
And thank you, Suzan. I have to admit that I have some difficulty understanding POV in general, and your explanation actually has this concept sinking in (finally!).
Now for my review of Letter from Ramsgate:
Letter from Ramsgate by Suzan Lauder
When I re-read Pride & Prejudice as an adult, my first impression of Mr Darcy was that he was “socially retarded.” That impression came back to mind as I read this story.
But first … I believe that most P&P readers wonder what exactly happened in Ramsgate between Georgiana Darcy and George Wickham. Jane Austen leaves this episode rather vague so we are left to our own imaginations. Until now. Suzan Lauder gives us every smarmy detail of the nefarious plot and its players.
Fortunately, this time around we have Lizzy Bennet coming to Georgiana’s rescue, albeit anonymously. The letter referred to in the title brings Lizzy and Mr Darcy together, and at first all proceeds well between them. But the road to happily-ever-after is by no means smooth for our dear couple. There is plenty of angst in both their hearts and sufficient mutual misunderstandings to satisfy even the most die-hard of P&P fans – Pride and Prejudice being the ultimate tale of angst brought on by misunderstandings, mostly caused by (of course) the pride and/or prejudice of our hero and heroine.
And for his part, this is where the “socially retarded” Mr Darcy enters the picture.
Fortunately (again), this time Georgiana saves the day … and is the vehicle for reuniting our dear couple. Their reunion could almost be the equivalent of a “meet cute” – well, you’ll have to read the story to see what I mean.
I very much enjoyed this carefully-written story; even my anal reading eye could not uncover more than one or two minor text errors. The story flows well while taking the reader on a journey of non-canon relationships and interesting new characters.
What I liked most: The cover. It is simply gorgeous.
The Hunsford proposal. It is absolutely brilliant. And a bit more deliciously amatory than the original – although this is still a clean read.
The letter that followed the proposal is likewise brilliantly constructed.
What I liked least: The scenes that take place at the Exeter Exchange zoo and references to Chunee the elephant. I really did not need a reminder of the horrendous prison-like menageries that existed until recent times. And still exist in some places, such as roadside zoos. Nor of the reminder of Chunee’s horrifying end. (To be fair, this detail was presented separately in author’s notes. But it was a jarring note after such a pleasant read.)
The author’s conclusions about disguised handwriting. Having studied the psychology of handwriting for a number of years, I was not completely convinced that the subterfuge would have been successful. On the other hand it wasn’t completely out of line so for the sake of the plot line I let it pass and suspend disbelief. Sometimes the reader has to do that or you end up never enjoying a story, and just drive yourself nuts.
In short: An enjoyable read with just enough wretchedness amongst the characters to remind you that you’re reading a P&P variation! I gave it four stars out of five.
And … if you haven’t already got your copy of Desperate Hearts, you can order a kindle copy here. (Coming soon for Nook.)
One of the pleasures of watching film adaptations of Jane Austen stories is the abundant collection of extraordinarily hunky men who populate these dramatizations. (Okay, so maybe not every story; how can we forget the anomaly of P&P2005’s disappointingly goofy Mr Bingley?)
While we’re enthralled with the lovely gowns and dresses of the female characters, let’s face it: we just adore seeing those hunks in their well-tailored costumes. Now, show of hands: who amongst you has wondered what the guys are wearing underneath those form-fitting outfits? (If you’re over the age of consent and haven’t raised your hand, I presume you’re crossing your fingers with your other hand.)
The Regency era was a period of fashion flux. Ladies had recently abandoned their structured hoops and bustles, which essentially rebuilt the shape of a woman’s body, for a resurgence of classical Greek-style dresses that followed the female form more closely. Gentlemen dressed to preserve the distinction of rank, then they adopted more “democratic” styles, then re-adopted styles that could be worn only by the leisure classes.
Two factors influenced the evolution of undergarments during this period. The first was a growing sense of prudery, tempered by the generally greater permissiveness that often characterizes periods of war. (The Napoleonic Wars dragged on from the late 1700s to the early 1800s.) The second, and possibly of greater influence, was a startling concept taking root: the notion of personal cleanliness. Prior to this period, people bathed infrequently and not very effectively. Whole families – sometimes whole villages – shared responsibility for heating bath water and then shared the same bathtub in succession according to age and rank. Children were at the end of the long line of bathers, and by the time they were granted access to the tub the water was generally rather murky – I know: yuck, right? – leading to the admonition to be careful not to throw the baby out with the bathwater when emptying the tub.
As the Regency era progressed, those who could afford it indulged in regular ablutions in their own private bathtubs. They changed and laundered their clothing more frequently, no longer relying on perfume to cover up unpleasant body odours. No less a figure than George “Beau” Brummell himself – confidante to the Prince Regent and acknowledged arbiter of men’s fashions of the time – declared that for a gentleman to be properly dressed in society he must first be scrupulously scrubbed clean.
This led to gentlemen changing their clothing more frequently, as shirt collars and cuffs, as well as cravats, had a tendency to soil rather easily. Underwear likewise was changed more often to maintain that cleanliness.
Men’s underwear mostly took the form of drawers: underpants that generally reached to the knee under breeches or longer under trousers. These were fastened with ties at the waist and the knee, and fashioned of various fabrics depending on the time of year: Lighter cotton or linen drawers would be worn in summer, while flannel or wool were preferred for winter wear. Under trousers, gentlemen often wore stockinette (stretchy knitted cotton) drawers that extended the full length of the lower torso and leg, usually ending in loops around the feet.
When a gentleman’s breeches were particularly form-fitting, they might have had drawers attached to the inside, like a lining. These drawers were removable for laundering. Or he may have simply tucked his shirt deeply into his breeches or trousers to eliminate the bulk of an extra layer.
During this time, mens’ shirts were considered underwear. The collar would be long, perhaps six inches or so, and unless turned down over the tied cravat would extend up to cover part of a gentleman’s face. The front neckline was fastened with one or two buttons, and may have featured a frill that peeked over his waistcoat (or, as we now call it, his vest). Shirt collars and cuffs may have been adorned with ruffles, and gentlemen of leisure would allow an inch or two of their shirt sleeve to extend beyond the end of their jacket sleeve, a luxury not possible for working men whose cuffs were tucked under longer jacket sleeves to keep them clean. Fabrics used for shirts were generally light linens and cottons. When we saw P&P1995’s Mr Darcy dive into the pond without his jacket or waistcoat we actually saw him in his underwear – the equivalent of the modern tee shirt or undershirt. Likewise when P&P2005’s Mr Darcy roamed the fields of Netherfield in search of Elizabeth, he was also in his undershirt – even if it did not have a pack of cigarettes rolled up in the sleeve!
Fashionable men, including the Prince Regent himself, wore corsets to create the appearance of a slim-waisted figure. Corsets tied in the back and required the services of a valet to tighten them.
Gentlemen of the time normally would change their clothes, and their cravats, at least twice a day to ensure a tidy appearance, altho’ drawers were usually not changed more than once a day. The average gentleman kept a wardrobe of fifty to sixty shirts, about half as many cravats, and maybe ten or twelve pairs of drawers. Nightshirts were similar to day-wear shirts, altho’ about a foot longer in length.
Here are a few examples of Jane’s gentlemen with their undershirts showing, along with a video that truly charmed me. I hope it charms you too! Please note that I do not own the copyright to any of this media. Film stills are the property of BBC; video is the property of ZZ Top.)