Kathleen Baldwin visits the Lair

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Hey Banditas and Bandit Buddies, one of my favorite authors and all around fun people, Kathleen Baldwin is back in the Lair today. The last time Kat was here, we talked about her new YA book, The Diary of a Teenage Fairy Godmother, which if you haven’t read, you should just jump over to your favorite ebook retailer and snatch up a copy.

Today, Kat is back, but this time to talk about the re-release of her regency books, *which I just love!!*, beginning with LADY FIASCO, and our (both readers and writers) fascination with the Regency period of history.

Welcome back, Kat and take it away!

Our Grand Obsession.

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The Regency era onllasted from 1811 – 1820. Nine short years. Why do readers clamor for that teeny tiny window of history? For that matter, why do I write about the Regency Era? Some historians stretch the Regency from 1810 – 1830. Even so, that is a mere twenty years. Not nearly long enough to justify the thousands of books set in that brief moment in history.

 

[Illustration from Jane Austen’s Emma.] 

So why do we love the Regency? I puzzled over my obsession, and crashed head long into a dark side.

Regency Dystopia?

I could not escape the realization that in some respects the Regency was really quite horrible. It is almost a dystopian society. Sure, we write our romances primarily about the opulent upper ten thousand, the bon ton. These were the beautiful people, the beau monde, holding balls and soirees, their dining tables overflowing with stuffed guinea fowl, cream sauces, and decorated cakes, attended by liveried footmen. On one occasion, Prince George decorated his dining hall with gold fish that swan the length of the table in a special container. At the same time, London had ghettos teeming with hungry people who lived hand to mouth in unthinkable squalor and filth. Women turned to gin and prostitution to survive the miserable conditions of their lives. Children went to prison for stealing bread. The Old Bailey records the case of Mary Crawley, age 10, hung for stealing some gingham. Thousands more died in appalling conditions in prisons.

Are these real life Regency horrors much different some of our current popular dystopian fiction, such as Hunger Games?

Maybe yes, maybe no, but it certainly differs from the bucolic country life Jane Austen painted for us in her light-hearted comedies. Then it hit me – the Regency is full of stark contrasts.

Contrasts:291px-Dancing-Dress-1809

● Britain was embroiled in a desperate and costly war with Napoleon. And yet British citizens loved all things French: French hairstyles, French silks, French Fashions.

●The people were terrified Napoleon would attack their homeland. At the same time, they admired Napoleon as a brilliant leader and “charming fellow.” 

●Young ladies of quality were expected to be demure, modest and above all chaste. On the other hand, the fashion of the day called for very low necklines and soft fabrics that clung to the figure. It would be like running around in a nightgown.

● King George had been a reasonable and morally upright man. Unfortunately, he contracted a disease that rendered him mad. His son, Prince George, had never been a man of sound judgment, a spendthrift with eccentric tastes and a dreadful gambling habit, the government had to bail him out or by all rights Prinny ought to have been thrown into debtor’s prison. And yet, Parliament made him Ruling Regent of England during his father’s illness.   

● Women were expected to be tame and ‘unexceptional.’ The slightest faux paux might cost a young lady her vouchers to Almack’s. But there were flamboyant young women like Caro Lamb who dressed up like a boy and ran around with Lord Byron, openly flaunting their affair. Nevertheless, she was invited to all the great social events.

So why do we love the Regency? I think it’s because of these oddities, these irregularities, the absurd figures from history like Prince George set against the harsh realities of the Napoleonic war. These peculiar contrasts provide rich fodder for stories. It’s sexy, it’s funny, it’s unpredictable. Anything can happen in this quirky society. And of course, in our fiction it does.

This week I’m launching the eBook version of my Regency romantic comedy, Lady Fiasco, originally published by Kensington.

Lady Fiasco
LADY FIASCO 180-72
Book 1, My Notorious Aunt, A Traditional Regency Romantic Romp

Can a lady with a reputation for disaster, stumble into love?

An unusual heroine, Fiona Hawthorn grew up running free. Without a mother to restrain her, she spent her days riding her horse neck or nothing across her father’s fields and swimming like a sea nymph. But in a prim and proper drawing room she’s bound to overturn the teapot or accidentally trip the footman. Her notorious Aunt decides to takes the hoyden in hand, but amidst the strictures of the Beau Monde, Fiona is a fish out of water.

When she was young, Lord Wesmont was her hero. But he came home from fighting Napoleon a hardened man. Nothing can breathe life back into his cold heart. Nothing except, perhaps, the love of an unusual young woman who regularly turns his life upside-down.

A Humorous Regency Romance

I’m giving away three copies of Lady Fiasco today. Tell me why you love the Regency? 

 

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Comments

75 Comments

  • ki pha says:

    Welcome Kathleen!!! I just love all the gentlemenliness with all the breeches and cravats! Plus the legs and broad shoulders. And then there are the balls~ (do not think dirty; that already happened today with this saying) LOL
    Oh and you can’t forget the way they talk! Romantic~ 🙂

  • Kathleen, congratulations on the re-release of Lady Fiasco. This looks like huge fun!

    What a fascinating post. I love the Regency – partly because I think it’s such an elegant age. I love the clothes both for men and women – and the blokes were clean-shaven which is more my taste than huge beards and dundrearies that the Victorian man about town would sport. I think you’re right about the contrasts – every time you say something about the Regency, you can find an example that contradicts it. Makes for a great era to write historical romance in!

    • Hiya Anna!
      Thanks!
      Your book looks like a fun read, too. You obviously have a lot of fun writing about the Regency, too.

      Yep, I’m right there with you on the clean shaven thing. I like the wind blown Byron look. Those Victorian side whiskers were big and ugly!!!

    • Hey Anna!

      I love the fact that they were supposed to be so proper and virtuous, but on the downlow…well, they were rather lusty!

  • Oh, the rooster is for being first?
    Congrats Ki.
    I’m headed for the pillow. See you all in the morning. 😉

  • Mary Preston says:

    I love all the rules of etiquette & courting. The niceties must be adhered to.

    Of course, I love a rake who breaks all these rules too.

  • Helen says:

    Hi Kathleen

    I love the Regency for the clothing and the grand houses and manors and the country estates and of course those parties that go on for days 🙂

    So many things to love about the regency huge congrats on the release I love the sound of it

    have Fun
    Helen

    • Hey Helen!

      Don’t those manor parties sound wonderful? Picnics, soirees, dances and all the mischief that cab accompany them? Alas, my luck I would’ve been one of the kitchen help and have to cook for it all!! 🙂

    • Hi Helen!
      Love the manor houses. Or it wouldn’t it be fun to stroll along the Strand in Brighton.

      Part of Lady Fiasco takes place in Brighton. Spoiler Alert: Fiona may have to take a plunge off a pier…

  • Gretchen says:

    I’ve always been a little puzzled by our fascination for that period, too, especially when you consider that a modern American woman would likely go crazy with all the strictures and the lack of opportunities. Such a narrow world those well-to-do ladies led. Maybe the very limitations that we would chafe under make the issues very clear — how did women make a life for themselves, find an identity, find meaning even though they were expected to be like violets on a pillow. Pretty and silent and one-dimensional. Even in 2013, some of those expectations remain!

    • Hey Gretchen!

      Perhaps that’s why Jane Austen took to writing? At least she could pen her stories, make commentary about the strictures and the morays of her time AND make a little pocket money?

    • Hi Gretchen!
      Waving at you hoping you are enjoying a nice walk on the beach this morning?

      Thanks for stopping by.

      Those strictures you mentioned are one of the things that fascinate me. I love reading about how women coped with all those rigorous rules.
      Many of the remarkable women of their time worked around it quite admirably.

  • Maureen says:

    I think part of why I enjoy Regency romances is because that is what was available when I started reading historical romances and I enjoyed the balls and gowns and rules. It seemed like a simpler time.

    • Hey Maureen!

      So many of us started reading romance because of the sweet regencies, didn’t we? I’ve read Lady Fiasco and loved it. Kat does a great job nailing not only the feel of the traditional Regency book, but makes you laugh, too!

    • Hi Maureen!
      It did seem like a simpler time.
      When we wish our lives were a little hectic we can always pick up a Regency and be transported to those more placid genteel surroundings.

      In reality though, I’m awfully glad I don’t have to deal with chamber pots and plucking my own chickens.

  • Sandy Blair says:

    Loved this post, Kathleen. The Regency period is fascinating to me thanks to the very contradictions and extravagance you’ve outlined. Thanks for posting.

  • Caren Crane says:

    Welcome, Kathleen! I adore the Regency era and have read tons of books set then. I have also wondered what it is that makes it so fascinating to us.

    Just yesterday, I was watching The Crimson Petal and the White, which is set in the 1870s in Victorian London. If anything, conditions were even worse during this time than during the Regency. Although there was more of a “middle class” thanks to the rise of industry, the increased pollution due to heavy coal use was horrid. Combined with hunger and poverty, it spelled miserable life and early death for so many. So grim. And yet…so fascinating!

    As for Regency-set novels, when done well they highlight the epitome of witty conversation. That, I think, is my favorite part. Characters using words, disguised as polite conversation, as swords. It was definitely a way for a clever woman to claim a bit of power in a man’s world!

  • When I read Regency when I was young, I loved what seemed like definite rules between men and women–very appealing to a young romantic who was trying to figure out relationships. But now, I see that was only a layer of the Regency, that they used the rules to mask what was really going on. A very interesting period and one that I love very much.

    • Gretchen says:

      You said it just right — the contrast between superficial niceties and the undercurrents. Plus the men were all so pretty in their velvet and lace.

    • Hey Patience!! (Y’all, I’m trying to get Patience to stop by when her debut book hits the stands in 2014!! Quilts, Scotland and romance, who won’t love that?)

      I think the pressures that the “ton” was under to produce progeny was added to the undercurrent. I mean JA smacked us right between the eyes with the concept with her opening line from Pride & Prejudice…”It is a truth universally acknowledged that a single man in possession of a good fortune must be in want of a wife.”

      Seems like they spent so much time and effort trying to find the proper woman, doesn’t it?

    • Hiya Patience!

      The dark undercurrents of the Regency… ah yes, They were certainly there.

      It’s hard to believe though, when we delight so much in the glow of Jane Austen’s Regency world.

      I wish it had been so for more of the people of the time. I researched too much and there was a shockingly dark side to the Regency.

      Perhaps part of our fascination is with that dark side in the shadows just beyond the edge of our stories.

  • Shannon says:

    I love the Regency era because it serves up a menu of options for stories of love and conflict. Many authors dip liberally from the Beau Monde, its parties, balls, and strictures. Oh yes, the witty repartee.

    But I’ve seen authors who acknowledge the grim realities in passing in their novels. A woman might be involved in a charity; a hero might be working against the gin trade; a lord may seek solutions to the problems of enclosure. For those who like politics, the war, real debates in parliament over agriculture, voting rights, and development. And then there’s the writers who focus on the Regency as a time of discovery–the building of canals, the early experiments with steam power and even electricity demonstrated by Ben Franklin’ I the 1700ss, and the detailing of nature in beautifully illustrated folios.

    But I have agree–clean shaven men are one of the lures. And men who bathed, well some of them.

    An then there’s the attraction of place– London, Bath, Brighton, Edinburgh. All cities where it’s still possible to get a glimpse of a well-remembered era. And the manor houses where those country parties still survive. Most castles were too drafty to avoid modernity without significant renovation and alteration.

    • Hi Shannon!

      Wonderful comment!!! You’ve said it so well. Yes, I’ve seen several authors bring in some of the grimmer elements, and in such a way that it still holds with the flavor of a Regency romance that we’ve all come to know and love.

      I deal with a minor reality in Lady Fiasco. One of the secondary characters has a dental problem. Dental hygiene at the time was primitive at best. The young lady in the story has suffered through a number of cures, including alum pastes (which burned) and searing of the gums with iron rods. all of which were actual cures for gum disease at the time.

      Makes you want to rush out and hug your dentist right now, doesn’t it?

    • Hey Shannon!

      I think you are so right. The modern Regency writer takes us deeper into both the ton and the servants lives, not to mention the darker side of the period. I have to wonder, would JA or Georgette Hyer have thought to show us women and men taking on these topics while they lived in that period?

  • CateS says:

    For me it’s the clothing, house parties with people sneaking from room to room…

    • Hi Cate! Thanks for coming by.
      The clothing was so interesting; risque and yet demure all at the same time.

      The French developed the empire gown in reaction to the gaudy Georgian excesses in clothing. Following a time when being rich, or even looking rich, was likely to get your head lopped off on the guillotine they came up with the simpler less bedazzled slender Grecian style gown.

    • Cate, you are a woman after my own heart. I do think the “sneaking” from room to room was part of the fun of regency books!

      • I’ve read memoirs from the time. They really did do that sneaking around at those house parties. The trick was knowing which door to open…

        • Well, now, that’s such a wonderful premise for a farce! What if someone got ALL the doors and rooms mixed up. You could have a husband accidentally walking into his wife’s room, perhaps they’ve been estranged. Or perhaps the bad creepy old geezer, ends up in the wicked lady out-to-blackmale-the-handsome-duke’s room and be forced to marry him. Hmm, the possibilities!

          Too bad I don’t write Regency books!

  • I like the Regency period because so many of my very favorite authors write in that period. To be honest, I’d like to see more variety offered, but the publishers want what the publishers want.

    That said, I like a period that doesn’t include cell phones, cars, and tvs. Love the clothes, the balls, and maids. I surely would love to have a personal maid. LOL

  • Sabine Starr says:

    And then there’s the humor! With so many restrictions in life, I can just imagine the many funny situations in life. Jane Austin captured this aspect beautifully, as does Kathleen Baldwin. Thanks to both for wonderful reads.

    • Oh you are very funny, Sabine!
      I’ve read your hysterical Western romances.

      But yes, that’s what I love most about the Regency era. the humor and witty dialogue.

    • Hey Sabine!

      The rules themselves were rather ridiculous, which of course the very witty were not afraid to point out, but the smartest people learned to function within them…then there’s the Lydia Bennett’s of the time. So sad.

  • Kathleen, I think you’ve captured the Regency era so vividly. I was a fan before, I’m an even greater one now. Thanks.

  • Lorraine Heath says:

    Love the post. Very thought provoking! And can’t wait to read LADY FIASCO (what a great title).

  • Quantum says:

    Afraid I haven’t tried your books yet Kathleen, but I love my romance laced with humour and your books sound very tempting!

    I think I like the Regency period mainly because it has attracted some of the most talented writers in the romance genre.

    It is also mainly set in England and of course as an Englishman I love that!

    Finally the contrast in morals fascinates me. The high chivalry in the aristocracy which leads to dramatic duals at dawn over the slighting of a ladies honour. The widespread use of courtesans. The wild gambling, with Prinny as a prime example, where whole estates could be lost on the throw of a (probably loaded) dice. All contrasted with the squalor and penury of the poor.

    A very rich tapestry as background for a romance!

    • Hey Quantum! You should be as happy with all the England-set historicals on the market. The contrast between what was expected and what happened is quite fascinating, isn’t it?

    • Hi Quantum!
      Right you are. The Regency provides a rich tapestry. All those yummy dichotomies and the tumultuous backdrop of the Napoleonic wars. Tons of lush material to work with as a writer.

      Even the speech patterns provide a varied palette to work with. The colloquialisms are mad fun.

      My favorite, which I slip into almost every book is: “Stick his/her/my spoon in the wall.” It means refers to dying or someone having died . As in, “I’m not ready to stick my spoon in the wall just yet.”

      I hope we can lure you into trying a Regency.

  • Kim says:

    It’s a short period in history, yet it’s so interesting because of its many unwritten rules. American history is about the importance of the individual, whereas Regency England is about the importance of heirarchy.

  • Hi Kat!
    I love Diary of a Teenage Fairy Godmother! That was such a great idea! Looking forward to reading your latest. Regency books hook me b/c of the history. I like to learn about a different period of time. Here’s to many sales!!!

    • Hi Karilyn!
      Thank you for coming by. You’re so kind. Glad you liked Diary of a Teenage Fairy Godmother. that means a lot coming from you.

      Your paranormal romances are so much fun!

  • I love the Regency for the structure, the elegance, the manners and the slower, simpler way of life. Yes, there were horrible places, tragic lives, the poor and destitute, but there have always been those whose lives have been lived in such sorrow.

    In a time when love wasn’t always considered important and it was damned near impossible to truly get to know someone a romance, a really well-written one rises above all of the contradictions and tells the oldest story there is – love, wounded and battle-scarred, still conquers all.

    • Oh, Louisa, that’s so beautifully said. I can see why you’ve won so many awards. (Yep, I just went and checked your website.)

      Wow, girl! You must be a fabulous writer. Let me know if i can help…

      And you’re spot on – the troubles of life are universal, with us since the beginning and unlikely to disappear tomorrow.

      I believe you’ve hit upon the real reason we all love to read Regency, and romance in general. It is a marvelous, delightful, encouraging escape. [pardon the prolific adjectives]

      • Aww, Kathleen, you put me to the blush! Thank you for the kind words. I have been in love with Regency England for so very long (since I was nine years old and read Pride and Prejudice) the era and the people and everything about it never fails to fire my imagination.

        And look out! I may well take you up on that invitation to help !!

  • Rae-Dawn Brightman says:

    Lady Fiasco is an enjoyable read from the very first page to the very last… full of fun with characters that come to life and a leading lady you can’t help but love. Whoever wins is in for a special treat!

  • Jo Robertson says:

    Hi, Kathleen, sorry I’m late to the party, but welcome back to the Lair. I think so many people enjoy the Regency period because of Jane Austen. Seriously, she may not have addressed the major social issues and inequities of the day, but she definitely had that irony going about the relationship between men and women.

    I majored in history in college and always enjoyed the period b/c it was SHORT!! LOL, like US History, I didn’t have too much stuff to memorize.

  • Marcy Shuler says:

    I like the Regency because of all the inane rules. LOL And I like how the characters in books try to get around these rules. 😉

  • Waving hello & goodnight to Jo and Marcy! Thank you for stopping in. I’m so glad you came.

    THANK YOU Suzanne and all the members of Romance Bandits for allowing me to visit in the lair. It is always fun and you are a smart and fun group.

    Have a good night and a lovely week.

  • Laurie G says:

    Love the charming rogue heroes ,( the allure of the Bad Boy) who easily talks the innocents or maybe not so innocents into doing naughty things against the rules set out for these young women.
    I enjoy:
    the pageantry of the balls, the sophistication and glamour of the ton, the hierarchy of titles which are so foreign to most Americans, the demi-monde world and how the men cater to these scandalous women as their mistresses, the marriages at Gretna Green, the gambling at White’s and other men’s clubs with their betting books, the duels.

    I admire the women who want to choose their partner and marry for love but are usually forced into arranged marriages. I like how the heroines are trying to break away from the mold of being only producers of children. They struggle to become educated. The trouble they get into because they want the freedom to make choices they see widows and married women make.

  • Barbara Elness says:

    I love the clothes, the manners and the wonderful parties / balls I’ve read about, and of course all of the lords and ladies.