Tuesday, November 15, 2005

The Regency, A Necessary Evil

I have an idea for a Regency-era story, but I'm really reluctant to explore it at any length. This is because the prospect of writing a Regency scares the bejeebus out of me.

I've never been a reader of traditional Regencies, those very particular brand of stories that depict so much drawing room intrigue and witty banter that hints of deep longing and repressed sexual tension but never allows the hero and heroine to actually do anything about it (see my previous entry on Pride & Prejudice and why I loved the new movie adaptation). I enjoy a well written sex scene, especially if the sexual tension has been building and the characters have great chemistry. Leaving things unfulfilled as it seems Trads do would simply cause me much eye-rolling.

I have read a few Regency-era historicals, as I believe non-traditional Regencies are called. Whitney, My Love and its sequel, Until You, come to mind immediately. I've also read a few Mary Baloghs. A Summer to Remember was pretty good and included some wonderfully depicted sex scenes. But I suppose her The Secret Pearl is the closest thing to a true Regency I've ever read. BTW, it looks like TSP is about to be rereleased. I had a devil of a time getting ahold of my used copy, so I highly recommend that everyone snatch up a new copy while you can.

Anyway, most of the Regencies I've read have been such simply because they are set in the Regency time period, not because they follow any set standards that seem to be de rigueur by true connoisseurs of the sub-genre. They've used the best things about that time period - the things that make it more romantic than, say, the Depression years of the 1930s - while ignoring the truism that proper young ladies and gentlemen rarely spent any time in mixed company unless chaperoned, a real downer as far as the touchie-feelies go.

If I were to venture into this territory, I'd write something Regency-era for exactly those reasons. There is an appeal to the idea that women worried so much about being ruined and that it seems as if such a situation could happen with not much action on her part. Simply being found in the wrong place alone with the wrong man was quite enough. So every encounter with a lover or potential lover was fraught with risk. Talk about your built in conflict. Not to mention all the opportunities for men to act gentlemanly and defend their woman's honor and all that.

But I have no use for the strict rules of the time period. That's what frightens me. I have a hard enough time trying to understand early nineteenth century British peerage structures without having the added stress of checking and double checking that I've called everyone by the correct title and form of address. I don't know the difference between Almack's and Almanacs, and frankly learning the difference holds no interest for me. I think neck cravats and all of the lace and froufrous of a well-dressed Regency man look ridiculous. I can't imagine finding such a man sexy or manly.

Sidebar here to make note that I found both Colin Firth and Matthew MacFadyen incredibly sexy, proving that a healthy portion of the above argument really doesn't hold water. I do, however, draw the line at powdered wigs and any form of make-up on a man. Oh, and I'm not so big on those mutton-chop sideburns.

So, I have this idea, and a major part of what drives the story is what happens when the heroine finds her reputation compromised by the hero after a horrible incident leaves her no choice but to spend several nights with him. Yeah, I know. Such an original premise. Trust me, I have some twists in mind to give it a fresh look. Anyway, such a scenario requires a time period such as the Regency in order to give the situation the proper amount of direness.

I'm trying to think of other time periods in history that would lend itself to the same situation. Sure, for most of recorded history a woman alone with an man not her husband had a great chance of damaging her reputation, but never so much as during the Regency did anyone even care.

I guess I'm just lazy. I want to use the time period but I don't want to do the work to earn the right to do so.


Scrivener said...

What? Am I hearing right? Lynn, the compulsive researcher, not wanting to do the research to ensure that her Regency novel isn't anachronistic or full of inaccuracies? ;) That's really not like you. But, you know, it doesn't have to be that difficult. Especially when you have a friend who does know about a lot of this stuff and would jump at the chance of beta-reading... ;)

Lynn M said...

Um...funny you should pop up!! Last night I spent a couple hours researching titles and the structure of British nobility, thinking that once I had my characters and their family members all thought out, I'd send it your way for a good checking. Make sure I'm not calling a duke the wrong name.

And yeah, I do confess that I enjoy the research. I could get lost in it, really. It's such a fascinating time in history.

So be looking for an e-mail in the near future. ;)