Courting in Late Georgian & Regency England

Courting in late Georgian and Regency England wasn't for the faint of heart. Courting was serious business and the business was all about making the best match possible. In a time when being married was a woman's career, landing the richest man with the highest social station wasn't just a matter of bragging rights, it set the tone for the rest of a woman's life.

During the whirlwind of the London Season in the spring, ladies were introduced to society with the intent of finding a husband. Balls played an important part in the courting process. These dances weren't the prom, but a marriage market where a young lady might finally get a chance to dance with a young man, and have a conversation with him without the chaperon hovering around. Individual dances like those portrayed in Pride and Prejudice could last a long time, and depending on the dance, there could be a lot of standing around and waiting as the numerous couples sashayed up and down the line. All this standing around offered a good chance for a man and woman to get to know one another or to decide they weren't a good fit. Since a woman was only allowed to dance with a man twice before people started whispering that they were engaged, she had to decide fast. Think speed dating with the rest of your life hanging in the balance.

So, did a young couple who were a good fit wander off to the garden, slip upstairs and find a deserted room? No. This wasn’t a frat party, and if a lady wanted to keep her reputation, which she needed to land a good man, she was careful to stay in a public place at all times. Also, her chaperone wasn’t likely to let her out of her sight, so even if the open garden doors were calling, a smart lady ignored the call. Hanky panky was for after marriage when the heir and the spare were safely in the nursery. Until then, it was all good girl all the time. Also, it wasn’t just the woman’s reputation hanging in the balance, but those of her sisters and her family. Remember Lydia Bennet in Pride and Prejudice and how her running off with Mr. Wickham risked ruining her sisters’ chances of finding husbands? There was a lot riding on a woman’s good behavior.

A ball was also a good time to look over the prospective candidates, learn who was who and how much money they possessed. Women were on the market just as much as the men, so advertising their own wealth was a smart move. Balls were excellent places for women to wear their finest dresses and flaunt the goods. It was in a woman’s best interest to cultivate the pick of the gentlemen and not get stuck with last Season’s leftovers. Love might conquer all, but it rarely landed a poor woman a man of means.

Marriage in late Georgian and Regency England lasted until ‘til death do us part and picking a partner was serious business. So, if you suddenly found yourself in Regency England, do you think you’d be up the challenge of courting Regency style? 

If you like reading about courting in Regency England, you should check out my books. There's a lot of courting in those

Torture Your Heroine to Strengthen Her

I love to write strong women, but I also like to make them suffer through a few tragedies before they reach their happily ever after. Think of Scarlett O’Hara from Gone with the Wind and how much she had to struggle through during the ten long years of her story. However, unlike Scarlett O’Hara, my heroines overcome their challenges with their hearts still intact and become the kind of women Rhett Butler wouldn’t walk out on.

I have lots of ways to torture my heroines. Some of my favorite methods are poverty, dead parents, neglectful parents, dead husbands etc. You get the idea. Usually, it’s not just one tragedy they must deal with, but many spread out over their lifetime so that by the time they walk on stage in chapter one, they’re carrying a load a luggage, I’m talking Louis Vuitton steamer trunks.

No matter how I decide to torture my heroines, I always give them two things to help them deal with and overcome their troubles; heart and grit. For each leading lady, grit can be something different, from the courage to carry on after a nasty shock, to the sheer determination to succeed no matter what. My heroines aren’t the kind of women who sit down and give up when faced with disaster or setbacks. Instead, they figure out how to overcome them, and in the process, become stronger women.

Cornelia, Comtesse de Vane, the heroine of my novel The Courtesan’s Book of Secrets has suffered her share of tragedy by the time her story begins. Her father neglected her as a child then tried to gamble away her virtue when she was a teenager. Her mother died when she was young and she had to deal with a nasty stepmother. As an adult, she married a man she thought was rich, and when he died, she discovered he was poor. Yet through each difficulty, she has retained her ability to love, as seen in her regard for her young step brother, and her desire to acquire enough money to make sure he is secure and safe. It is her ability to love, despite the cruel hits she suffers from life, which help her capture the heart of the hero and get her happily ever after.

Sometimes it doesn’t seem right to torture my heroines so much, but in the end it’s for their own good. Without suffering, they can’t discover their inner strength, or become the kind of woman the hero needs to help him deal with his troubles (don’t get me started on the ways in which I torture my poor heroes). Through their trials, they learn about themselves and what is most important to them and their lives. All Scarlett O’Hara got at the end for her suffering was Tara and a possible divorce because she lost her ability to love (did she ever really possess it in the first place?). My heroines achieve their Tara and their Rhett after a lot of suffering because heart and grit are the dominant characteristic of my kind of heroine.

If you love the idea of torturing your characters then check out my novels. I really stick it to my characters

More History Humor

It's Friday. The week is history. Now, enjoy some history humor!

Set Decorating Your Novel's Scenes

I love the furniture of the past. It's elegant fabrics and curved lines, burled wood and gilding all echo the ages of elegance that created them. Some of it can be a bit tacky by our standards but a great deal of it sparks the imagination. I picture my heroine writing a letter that will change everything while seated at a curved wood desk, or another character fingering a porcelain figure on the mantle. In my novel, Engagement of Convenience, the hero convinces the heroine to marry him by showing her all the places they can travel to on a globe similar to the ones in the picture below.

However, furniture doesn't just have to be used as props. It can be employed in novels to convey mood, reveal character or echo themes. The creepiness of a house and how it effects the character's emotions can be emphasized by the furniture inside. A messy desk can reveal the messiness of a character's life or attitude. The furnishings in the office of a wealthy duke will look very different from those in the office of a common London solicitor. However, the solicitor might have something unique in his office which gives the reader insight into his hopes, dreams and aspirations.

Furniture can also echo themes and ideas in a book. In my novel, The Courtesan's Book of Secrets, an embroidered screen plays a crucial role in the climax of the story. Embroidered on the screen is the myth of Icarus and Daedalus and it echoes the hero's past relationship with his father. The inspiration for the screen came from this antique screen on display in The Getty museum in Los Angeles.

The next time you find yourself wandering through a museum or a historic house, pay close attention to the furniture. It might inspire a scene or a story,

If you enjoy old furniture then you will enjoy my books because I describe some of the furniture in the settings of my novels

Some Period Dresses from Various Sources

Back in November of 2007, I visited England and the Bath costume exhibit. At the time, I was just getting into writing Regency romance novels. I had written my first novel, Lady's Wager, and it was scheduled to be released in January of 2008. I've always been into all things British but with my novel about to be published, I was on full Anglophile mode. I wish I had taken more pictures at the museum, but alas, with so much to see and do, it was hard to focus. Apparently, it was hard for my camera to focus too. Here are  a couple pictures that I did take.


Here are some portraits of Georgian era costumes, with the exception of Napoleons sisters in their Regency finery, from The Getty museum in Los Angeles. I visited there a couple of years ago for a great exhibition of photographs from Queen Victoria's collection. Sadly, I could not take any pictures of those. I was so excited about the one of the Duke of Wellington.

 I love the cat the woman is holding in this portrait. He doesn't look happy.

If you enjoyed this post then you should check out my books because I describe a lot of period dresses in them

The British Sea Service Pistol

The British Sea Service Pistol

The Royal Navy issued flintlock pistol known as the British Sea Service pistol was one of the most common firearms in the 18th and early 19th century. The Board of Ordinance oversaw the manufacture and distribution of these pistols which were issued from the early 1700s until 1815. The pistols were assembled in the Tower armory but the pieces came from various sources. Made of brass, steel and wood, the user loaded it by ramming the ball and black powder down the nine or twelve inch barrel. The length of the barrel depended on the year it was made, with earlier versions being longer and later versions being shorter. It was a solid weapon meant for use in close fighting during boarding. The pistol had a special hook on it for securing it to a sailor’s clothing, and this hook was missing from the Army version of this weapon.

The user of the pistol only got one shot. Afterwards, it was pretty good for whacking the enemy but not much else, unless a seaman could find a place to hunker down and reload, which, in the heat of battle, wasn’t likely. Also, since hitting someone with the pistol could damage it, there is some debate as to whether or not empty pistols were used for this purpose.

The fact that the pistols were government issue did not mean that they were accurate or safe. They weren’t. Flintlocks had a bad habit of misfiring and the harsh sea air aboard ship could wreck havoc on their springs and hammers. The phrase “a flash in the pan” came about in reference to misfires. A flash in the pan is when the flint ignites the gunpowder, or charge as it was known, in the pan but does not fire the ball. With the enemy bearing down on you, this would not be a good thing.

Officers usually had their own weapons especially made for them, but many weren’t above using the standard issue Sea Service pistol. In the painting Nelson Boarding the ‘San Josef’ at the Battle of Cape St. Vincent by George Jones  you can see Admiral Nelson holding a Sea Service pistol. Thousands of the pistols remained in circulation for decades after they were no longer issued and it wasn’t just the British who used them. The weapon ended up in several countries, including America, as various enemies captured British supply ships during the numerous wars. Even the East India Company preferred the pistols. 

The heyday of the Sea Service pistol would come to an end in the mid 18th century when flintlocks were replaced by percussion cap pistols, However, the Sea Service still remained as many were changed into the less hazardous, but no more accurate percussion cap design. An example is the pistol at right. Although not a Sea Service pistol you can see the percussion cap. Despite the changes, the Sea Service pistol remained a workhorse and a staple of life aboard ship. One of these pistols also plays an integral part in the plot of A Debt Paid in Marriage, the first book in my Business of Marriage series from Harlequin Historical. 

For a more detailed article about the pistol check out

If you liked this post you must like history. There's a lot of history in my books so you'll love them

The Middle Class in Regency England

The plot of my novel, A Debt Paid in Marriage, book #1 in my Business of Marriage series, involves the daily lives of the middle class of London. The middle class consisted of prosperous tradesmen, merchants, bankers, solicitors, shop owners and anyone else who wasn’t among the laboring classes, the poor or the aristocracy. It wasn’t easy doing research, or uncovering the details of their everyday lives. The public’s fascination with the rich and titled, which hasn’t changed much in the two hundred years since the Regency, meant the scandals and habits of the ton were well documented in letters, newspaper articles, diaries and biographies. The newspapers weren’t as interested in the lives of drapers, unless there was something scandalous going on, which wasn’t usually the case. Teasing out the details of how the merchants of London spent their days was difficult but fun.

In many ways, the habits of the upper echelons of the middle class mimicked those of the wealthy. They had nice houses, they sent their sons to school, owned fancy coaches, and employed servants including footmen, cooks and a butler. It wasn’t just the manners of the upper class they mimicked but their vices too. Prosperous merchants were known to frequent the gambling house of George Smith, George Po and Co in St. James’ Street. Here they could spend their hard earned money and risk landing themselves in debtor’s prison. In a time when ruin could mean a severe drop in the quality of life, or death by jail fever, and without the great manor houses, land and titles to prop up their fortunes, gambling was a risky habit for a merchant to acquire. Another expensive pastime was keeping a mistress, which men of the upper middle class, and sometimes even a solicitor’s apprentice, sometimes did.
While the above pastimes were enjoyed by those of the middle class who possessed a great deal of money, the more middling sort lived much simpler lives. They worked for a living and had to concern themselves with matters of business if they wanted to remain in the middle class and not slip into poverty. Women played a much larger role in the merchant class, helping their husbands at the counters of shops and often running the business in the event of his death. The famous wine merchant Berry Bros. and Rudd was not only founded by a woman, but her daughter, Elizabeth Pickering, ran the business after her husband’s death. Men who owned and ran inns expected their wives and daughters to help, as the famed country beauty Mary Butterworth in the North of England did before she fell prey to the charms of a bigamist.

A merchant’s life could be an arduous one. Those in trade often began their careers at a young age, somewhere between eleven and fourteen, through an apprenticeship which could last up to seven years. This wasn’t an idyllic time, but one of hard work and toil where they not only learned the business but did most of the menial dirty work. The tradesmen who took in apprentices had to look after them and provide room and board. These duties were on top of their numerous other responsibilities and worries, and they had a lot to worry about. Clients often failed to pay their bills, thieves were a constant problem and bankruptcy an ever present threat. Even if all went well where bills and shoplifters were concerned, the merchant’s day was a long one. Shops often opened early and might remain open until nearly ten o’clock at night. It wasn’t an easy life, but it offered more prosperity than those in previous generations had known. Industrious people in the middle class could do well for themselves and their families, provide opportunities for women, and if they made enough money, allow them to live like the other half.

If you are interested in the middle class in Regency England, check out my novels A Debt Paid in Marriage or A Too Convenient Marriage.

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