Archive for August, 2012

Part of the romance of the English Regency lies in the elegant manners. People of the era seem more civil than we do today — at first glance, anyway. But in Jane Austen’s books you find aristocratic characters flinging insults at their less-privileged counterparts. We know from Georgette Heyer that if a debutante dances more than twice with the same guy in one night, she’s throwing herself at him (in the view of the ton) — and if she dances the waltz before getting permission from society leaders, well then she’s a strumpet.

It turns out that real fun comes in smashing up the formalities of the Regency. When Lizzie Bennet takes down Lady Catherine DeBourgh near the end of Pride and Prejudice, it’s one of the most satisfying moments in the book. (“I do not pretend to possess equal frankness with your ladyship. You may ask questions which I shall not choose to answer.” Strong stuff!)

One way I’ve had fun pushing back at the social restrictions of the Regency in my romance novels is through gender-role reversal. In For the Love of Lila, Lila Covington has received a male’s education but not a male’s privileged place in London society. She rebels, deciding to move in with a “freethinking” (female) cousin in Paris. When she gets involved with Tristan Wyndam, a barrister with an eye on a political career, he is more concerned with his reputation than she is with hers. (Good luck with that, Tristan!) Read a more detailed description and sample chapters on this page.

My time-travel, As You Wish, explores what happens when a modern American woman mixes it up with a guy from Regency England. David Traymore is used to society’s restrictions, but, as the illegitimate son of a marquess, he’s often gotten the short end of the stick. Leah Cantrell has had some rough patches, but as far as she’s concerned, the world is their oyster. For the book blurb and sample chapters, please click here.

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Art and Austen

How important was fine art to Jane Austen? And how does it influence her books? We know that Jane sketched, and so did other members of her family. A couple of her heroines draw, too — but it’s not portrayed as their calling in life. It’s more of a hobby.

Janine Barchas, an associate prof at the University of Texas, points out in her essay “Artistic Names in Austen’s Fiction: Cameo Appearances by Prominent Painters,” that Austen also alludes to artists in some of her characters’ names. In Pride and Prejudice, Darcy’s housekeeper, who shows off her employer’s portrait to Lizzie, is named Mrs. Reynolds — maybe a reference to portrait painter Joshua Reynolds? In Emma, the title character, who sketches, has a housekeeper named Hodges — maybe inspired by William Hodges? Other characters who share names with painters of the time are George Moreland in Northanger Abbey and Charles Hayter in Persuasion.

In my Regency-set romance, The Artful Miss Irvine, the title character is a serious artist, and her work plays a key role in the plot, giving the hero insights into her personality and her past. Of course, art is always open to interpretation, and her artwork also sets the stage for a misunderstanding between the characters. 🙂

For a description and sample chapters of The Artful Miss Irvine, please hop on over to the book page here. Janine Barchas’ essay is available (for a price) from Amazon here. It also appeared in Volume 31 2009 of the Jane Austen Society journal Persuasions. More on them on this this site.

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