Love and Courtship in Regency England

I admit I’ve been out of the dating scene for (ahem) a few years now. However, from what my single friends tell me, not much has changed since I was dated. In today’s world a man asks out a woman, (or if she’s braver than I ever was, she asks him out). They might meet online, or be introduced by a friend, but eventually they end up on that first date. It might be dinner or drinks or just coffee (in my case, hot cocoa). It might involve a movie or miniature golf or a museum. It might even occasionally include another couple but it never involves parents or chaperones, and no one thinks anything of an adult man and a woman being alone together in a car or a house.

Dating in Regency England was very different. For one thing, it was called courting or wooing. But most importantly, a young lady of good breeding who wished to keep her reputation pristine so she would be a candidate for marriage never, ever put herself alone with a man. (The double standard is, of course, that the man was expected to have “sown his wild oats” and could have a very sullied reputation and still be considered a good match if he were wealthy and well-connected enough.) Therefore, courting was a very public affair.

First, they needed an introduction by a mutual friend before conversing. They often met at balls which were THE places to meet those of similar social backgrounds, but they might also meet at a dinner party, soiree, musicale, or even the opera or the theater.

If the man wished to get better acquainted with the lady he’d met, he might send her flowers the next day (but never gifts or letters), and later pay a visit upon the family during their “at home” hours where her mother or aunt or other chaperone would be present. He might take her for a stroll in one of the walking parks, with a chaperone close at hand. He might even take her riding on horseback or in an open carriage—open being the operative word since riding in a closed carriage could ruin her reputation as quickly as being alone in a house with a man.

Courting could be short or take place over a long period of time. At a ball, if she refused to dance with any other man but him, she basically announced to the world that they were engaged. If she danced with him more than twice in one night, everyone assumed she was either engaged to him or was “fast,” a terrible label for a proper young lady. If he spent a lot of time with her to the point where people began to notice how much they were together, public opinion placed them as engaged. If he failed to make an offer of marriage for her, people said he had failed to come up to scratch and shook their heads and wondered if she were unsuitable or if he were. Either way, the couple’s reputations suffered. At that point, their only option would be to marry or live with tainted reputations. Depending on his status, his reputation would probably recover but hers would likely remain tainted.

Such courting practices may sound rigid and even sterile to the modern-day woman, but I think it leaves so much open. For one thing, they relied on witty conversation rather than getting physical to get to know each other. And since the courting practices were pretty predictable, a man had to use creativity to impress a lady.

Once he felt secure she returned his affections, the gentleman would make an appointment with the girl’s father and formally ask for her hand in marriage. His income would be scrutinized and they would draw up a prenuptial agreement called a marriage settlement which included her pin money, dress allowance, jointure, and other ways he’d provide for her, as well as what dowry would go to the man. With all that settled, the father would break the news to the girl and the wedding preparations would commence.

My goal as Regency romance author is to keep in mind these social customs known as ‘manners and mores’ and yet find unique ways for my hero and heroine to meet and fall in love. I enjoy creating a unique twist on acceptable courting, throwing lots of obstacles in the way of their happily ever after, and revealing the final, happy, triumphant ending.  That doesn’t make me a hopeless romantic, it makes me a hopeful romantic.

My tagline is ‘Believe in happily ever after’ because I do believe in it. Do you believe in happily ever after?

Letters to Soldiers in Regency England During the Napoleonic War

la_rendicion_de_bailen_casado_del_alisal

                                        La Rendición de Bailén (Casado del Alisal)

During much of the Regency, England waged war with France — more specifically, with Napoleon Bonaparte who seemed bent on taking over the world. The Napoleonic War spanned roughly sixteen years, from 1799 to 1815 (including one-year of peace after which fighting broke out again.) Battles raged across much of Europe which meant thousands of men and boys of all ages, and yes, even a few women, left their homes to fight a war overseas to stop the “Corsican Monster.”

My son left his home, wife, and infant daughter, and deployed to the Middle East for an eight-month tour of duty — his second in two years. We’ve been emailing him and corresponding with him via FB and instant messages, but I recently learned from his sweet wife how important physical letters and packages are to soldiers serving overseas. Those brave men and women who serve their country want desperately to stay connected with friends and family, to feel as if they are still a part of the life they left behind. Mail call becomes the highlight of the day, with each member serving in the armed forces anxiously awaiting a note or letter or package from home.

As a history nerd and historical romance author, I did some reading about rules and conventions of sending letters to soldiers during the Regency. Normally, a lady and a gentleman did not write a letter to one another unless they were married or engaged to be married. In Jane Austen’s Sense and Sensibility, Elinor assumes her sister and the rascally Willoughby must have an agreement akin to a formal engagement because they write letters to one another.  Jane Fairfax’s letters to Frank Churchill was a clue they were engaged. Her frequent trips to the post office led people to assume they were corresponding and that they had a formal understanding.

However, as noted Regency researcher Nancy Mayer pointed out, Miss Milbanke carried on a correspondence with Lord Byron as friends before  marriage was thought of and continued to correspond after she refused him.
Apparently, parents decided to whom a young lady could correspond. That may have been partly because the recipient paid for 1813-ackermann-regency-morning-dressthe letter. I’m sure the parents’ opinion of the gentleman’s character and merit as a prospective spouse for their daughter influenced their decision. They might allow letters between the young lady and the gentleman in question if they hoped for a good match, or if they trusted his intentions.
Even a determined young lady might find it difficult to write a secret letter. Letters were put out on a tray to be mailed, so anyone could see the addresses on the outside. Also, servants delivered incoming post to the father and he distributed it. Additionally, it was customary for parents to open the letters addressed to their children. They probably stopped when the sons were of age, but often continued to do so for daughters. Letters received were generally read to the whole family. Only after a formal engagement might a girl be allowed to have her letters to herself.
I like to think that the rules might have been more flexible with writing to soldiers. Letters from home are important to a serviceman and woman’s morale, and I’m sure that truth was as important 200 years ago as it is today. Perhaps a parent during the Regency might be persuaded to break convention and allow a correspondence in the name of supporting the troops, as it were. I certainly hope so.
If you know someone serving overseas in any branch of the military, I hope you’ll take a moment to send a letter. Don’t worry, it probably won’t start any rumors of romantic involvement.  😉

Harps and Music

harp3

Harp belonging to Adrienne Bridgewater

If you’re like me, the very thought of a harp creates a magical wistfulness inside. When I was twelve years old, I had an opportunity to take harp lessons, and something came alive inside me. Instantly, more than anything. I wanted–no, had–to learn to play. It’s been an ongoing love affair ever since.

Playing the harp takes years to master, and a great deal of time must be devoted to technique, not just learning to read music. It has been said that harp is the second most difficult instrument to learn to play. (Apparently bagpipes is the hardest.)

Back when I used to perform, many people come up to me after my performance and tell me that they’d never seen a harp up close before. I assume that’s a fairly common situation. So, I thought I’d give you a few basics of a classical pedal harp’s anatomy.

The “base” is the bottom part of the harp where it stands on the ground. The little claw looking things all around the base are called “feet.” When the harp is in use, it balances on the feet and rests against the inside of a harpist’s knees as well as lightly against the right shoulder. The long, thin part at the left of this picture is called the “column.” You probably could have guessed that, couldn’t you? The column is filled with long mechanical gears that help change the strings. The column exterior is usually intricately carved. Some of the more expensive harps, like Adrienne’s harp in the picture, are also gilded with gold leaf.

harp base

Adrienne’s harp

The photo on the right is a close up of the harp’s base where you can see the feet. You can also see the pedals (the black things that stick out). There are seven different pedals, one for every note in all the octaves. For example, one pedal controls all the harp’s C strings. Another pedal controls all of the D strings, and so forth. Moving the pedals into different positions can make each string either sharp, natural, or flat, as desired. When the moving the harp, the harpist can flip the feet up using a hinge so they rest closely against the harp’s body, cutting down on the likelihood of damage.

Until about a hundred years ago, harps had an eighth pedal which opened a panel in the back to allow access to changing out strings. Today’s modern harps have oblong holes that provides the same access. Strings must be fed through these access holes, through the holes in the soundboard, and wound around the little pegs in the picture below.

DSCF8208

Harp belonging to Donna Hatch

This photo of my harp to the left is a close up of the top, curving part of the harp, called the “neck,” which also shows the harp string pegs and all those little lever thingies which are called the “action.” These levers move when the harp pedals move, which shortens or lengthens the strings to change key depending on the position of the pedal. To tune, one tightens or loosens the strings, similar to tuning a guitar or violin, but a special tool is required–one cannot turn them with fingers.

You’ll also notice that some of the strings are red, some are black, and the rest are white. The red strings are C, the black are F. This allows the harpist to easily find the correct strings, although an advanced harpist pretty much knows where the strings are by the position of their arms and hands, but everyone needs an occasional guide, especially for performance. The strings are laid out like a piano (minus the black keys)–A, B, C, D, E, F, G. Then it repeats. My harp had six and a half octaves. The full-sized concert harps have seven. Smaller harps have fewer octaves.louisxviharp

The wide part of the harp that has all the scrollwork and painting is called the “soundboard.” Large soundboards usually have the biggest, richest tone. Tone can also be affected by the kind of wood used and age–the older ones have a gloriously rich tone.

A folk harp or lever harp is similar to a pedal harp–just smaller and has levers instead of pedals to change key. Folk harpist use their hands to change keys by flipping up a lever; classical harpists use their foot pedals.

Unlike some images, the harp is played with the body of the harp resting against the harpist’s right shoulder, opposite the column. Reportedly, Harpo Marx, who was a self-taught harpist, started playing the harp backwards–with the column, instead of the body of the harp, resting against his shoulder. When he realized his error, he changed his technique which, I am sure, helped him develop his skill. Many pictures show the harpist resting the body of the harp against her left shoulder which is not considered proper technique and indeed I would find very confusing because one would have to play the treble clef with the left hand instead of the right.

Harpists spend years perfecting the art of harp playing, and if done correctly, make it look easy by the graceful motion of their hands. Because of my great love for the harp, I mention a harp or harpist in all of my novels, and in most of my short stories and novellas.

Since music is such a part of my life, I decided to write a series of  novels about musicians. The first one in the series is called Heart Strings which features a harpist and a violinist. In fact, one of my most beloved teachers was the great Phyllis Schlomovitz. I give a nod to her in my newest short novel when my heroine identifies her teacher Phillip Schlomovitz.

heartstrings2_fullHere is the backcover blurb for Heart Strings, book 1 in the Songs of the Heart Series, coming September 7, 2016, is now available for pre-order on Amazon.

Gently bred young ladies don’t run away from home to find employment, but when forced to choose between marrying a brutish oaf or becoming another man’s mistress, Susanna makes an unconventional decision. Following her passion for music, she flees to London with dreams of securing a position as a harpist. Becoming entangled with a handsome violinist who calls himself Kit, but who seems too aristocratic for a working-class musician, may be more problematic than sleeping in the streets.

Kit’s attention is captured by Susanna’s breath-taking talent, admirable grace, and winsome smiles…until a lawman exposes the new harpist as a runaway bride and a thief. With peril lurking in the shadows, Susanna’s imminent danger not only forces Kit to choose between his better judgment and his heart, but he must also embrace the life to which he swore he would never return.

Heart Strings, book 1 in the Songs of the Heart Series, coming September 7, 2016, now available for pre-order on Amazon.

Why Pirates?

Blackbeard_battle_colourPirates. Few words conjure up more dramatic, terrifying, and yet oddly romantic images than pirates. They captured the imagination of Robert Lewis Stevenson, J.M. Barrie, Walt Disney, and many others. I even used pirates in my Regency Romance Novel, The Guise of a Gentleman, book 2 of the Rogue Hearts series. But what is it, exactly that makes a pirate both the perfect villain and the perfect hero?

When I was a child, one of my favorite rides at Disneyland was “The Pirates of the Caribbean. I loved Peter Pan, Treasure Island, and any other pirate story I found. The Pirates of the Caribbean movie made millions with fans divided between Captain Jack Sparrow and Will, who pretty much turned pirate to save Elizabeth. When my husband and I were in Las Vegas, we went to the (then) new Treasure Island Hotel which used to (maybe still does?) put on a great show outside with a reenactment of the navy battling pirates. When the pirates defeated the navy, everybody cheered. Including me.

Are we all a bunch of sociopaths?

Nah. I think it goes back to the bad boy allure. They were non-conformists. They had the courage to buck the system. They wore blousy white shirts instead of those stuffy coats and ugly hats and white powdered wigs. They were totally free to go where ever they pleased and do anything they wanted. And they had the money to do it, thanks to the plunder they took. In the case of Las Vegas, the pirate captain was hunky and drop dead gorgeous, which never hurts.

We think of pirates as swashbuckling hunks who carried big curved swords, although having an eye patch and a parrot on the shoulder never hurts. Not to mention a certain allure in a map with an X that marks the spot to buried wealth. Maybe we all secretly wish we could steal from the rich, throw social norms out the window and make our enemies walk the plank.

It’s really just a fantasy. Most real pirates are nothing like the men in the stories.
TheGuiseofaGentleman_432
While researching for The Guise of a Gentleman, I discovered that pirates were first and foremost sailors. They had a hard life and faced many dangers. They also preyed upon any ship that had the misfortune of crossing their path. Then, they’d go to a nearby port and waste their money. They also often ransacked towns, tortured men, and ravished women. And they were notorious slave traders. Not very glamorous, is it?

After studying real life pirates like Black Beard, Calico Jack, and others, I decided pirates make better villains than heroes. They were for the most part, ruthless and unconscionable. Yet, I still cheered for Captain Jack Sparrow and Will Turner. And in truth, some real pirates really were good men caught in difficult circumstances.

In my novel, I created a fictional problem of having a lot of out of work sailors and captains of privateer ships now that the Napoleonic War was over, so some turned to piracy and created a pirate ring led by a peer of the realm. The hero, Jared Amesbury, is a government agent assigned to to become a pirate in order to infiltrate the ring and expose the leader.

So enjoy the fantasy about pirates. And “Argh, matey! Don’ forgit yer sword!”

The Guise of a Gentleman, book 2 of the Rogue Hearts series, is available at Amazon, Barnes & Noble, and everywhere books are sold.

Servants in Regency England

By Jean-Baptiste-Siméon Chardin - Visipix.com

By Jean-Baptiste-Siméon Chardin – Visipix.com

Servants were an indispensable part of running any Big House throughout the ages, including those in existence in Regency England. Manor houses and castles where the upper classes lived were huge and required an army of servants to keep them clean and well-maintained. Also, the owners themselves required a great deal of help from their staff. According to  The Victorian Domestic Servant, the Duke of Bedford had 300 servants in his employ, and the Duke of Portland employed 320. To be sure, not all Big Houses had quite so many, and upper class people who lived in more modest houses employed far fewer servants. However, all seemed to have servants.

In Jane Austen’s Sense and Sensibility, the Dashwood ladies had to count every penny once they were removed from their home, but they still had two servants to help them while they lived in their humble cottage. The care of clothing alone, not to mention cooking or cleaning, was a major undertaking in those days, and gently bred ladies certainly would have lacked those skills. Even members of the gentry who considered themselves poor probably had at least a maid of all work who did everything–cleaning fireplaces, laundry, dishes, dusting, sweeping, scrubbing floors, etc. and was still expected to wait on the ladies in the home. Single gentlemen who lived alone in their bachelor’s rooms had at least one male equivalent of a maid of all work, often referred to as a valet (though his tasks would have been more varied than if he were a valet for a lord in a Big House). This all-around male servant was often simply referred to as a “boy” or a “man.”

Servants’ duties mostly took place out of sight. It was good form for a servant to be silent and invisible, which is why so many houses have secret passageways–they were usually servants’ stairways and corridors. Servants arose hours before their masters and worked late into the night. They were also at the mercy of their employers and were called upon to work in any kind of weather, at any hour of the day, with few personal days off, and often had poor accommodations.

servantClasses existed in the world of servants from the top which included the head butler, head housekeeper, and chef, right down the to very bottom to the scullery maid and ‘tween stairs maid. They all knew where they fit in that hierarchy, just as businesses have a hierarchy from the president down to the janitor. Ladies’ maids were high on that ladder, often dressed well and had only to serve their lady’s personal needs, dress her, and style her hair. In some houses, the lady’s maid was also charged with caring for her lady’s clothing, but most houses sent the laundry out to a laundress. The footman was also a coveted position. His main role was to be young and handsome, wear livery (a costly uniform), and open doors as well as run the occasional errand such as carrying his lady’s packages on a shopping expedition.

Most servants were unmarried. Employers didn’t want servants distracted by spouses or children. Since servants must be at their lord and lady’s beck and call, they slept in the servants’ quarters, usually in the upper floors or attic, or on a pallet in the kitchen floor, and could be dragged out of bed without a second thought if their lord had need of them. Essentially, servants were married to their jobs. Some male house servants married, but they had very few days off a month when they could go home. Outdoor servants, however, such as stable hands, gardeners, and gamekeepers usually stayed in their own little cottages somewhere on the grounds. It was fairly common for these servants to be married and have families.

Female servants who wanted to marry did so with the understanding that their position in the house was forfeit.  Occasionally, the head housekeeper and butler were a couple, but she only joined the staff after her children were raised.

A servant’s pay was meager, the hours long, and the work often back-breaking, but there was never a shortage of applicants–after all, house servants had a place to sleep and regular meals, not something they could obtain from most other jobs such as those in a factory. In addition, their tasks usually had little to no risk of danger, also unlike factory jobs.

I admit, having a chef and maid of all work sounds very appealing, doesn’t it?

 

For further reading, I recommend:

The Victorian Domestic Servant by Trevor May

http://www.susannaives.com/nancyregencyresearcher/

https://janeaustensworld.wordpress.com/tag/regency-servants/

http://rth.org.uk/regency-period/family-life/servants

Novels told from a servants’ point of view which are well-written and carefully researched are:

Longbourn by Jo Baker

Maid to Match by Deeanne Gist

 

Medieval Music and Musical Instruments by Regan Walker

Regan Walker profile pic 2014Today, please welcome my guest blogger, Regan Walker, as she discusses medieval music and musical instruments.  Since I love music and I play the harp, I was especially interested in hearing about her take on the medieval predecessors to my favorite instrument. Take it away, Regan!

Regan Walker:

In my new medieval romance, The Red Wolf’s Prize, evenings at the manor at Talisand often featured music. Music was the chief form of entertainment of the people who lived during this time.

The oldest instrument, of course, was the human voice, and the oldest form of that was the plainchant, singing without instruments. It would be something like what we call A cappella today.

In my story, the Welsh bard, Rhodri, plays his small harp and the heroine, Lady Serena joins him in song, whether she is garbed as a servant in disguise or, later, as herself.

What kind of musical instruments did they enjoy?Medieval musicians

Well, if you happened to have a traveling minstrel on hand, it might be crwth, the ancient Celtic lyre, predecessor to both the harp and violin. The Oxford Companion to Music defines a crwth as:

“An ancient plucked and bowed stringed instrument which had a more or less rectangular frame, the lower half of which was filled in as a sound-box, with flat (or occasionally vaulted) back, the upper half being left open on each side of the strings.”

This is the instrument David played while tending sheep, as recorded in the Bible. It was used by bards beginning in the 8th century BC, then later in Rome where it was the lyra, the first European bowed string instrument. The number of strings varied, the original Celtic version having seven strings.

Celtic_Lyre_Harp
Harps became common closer to the 10th century when we find evidence of a triangular-shaped harp. It is the small, hand-held harp that the Welsh bard Rhodri plays in The Red Wolf’s Prize.

Medieval harps in general were small and portable. Travelling musicians often had to carry their instruments on foot or horseback, and the materials required to build a quality instrument were expensive. The shape and string material of harps during this time largely depended on what part of the world they were from. Welsh harps were often strung with hair; Irish harps with wire; Scottish harps with gut.

bard with a small harpMedieval music used many string instruments such as the lute, mandore and gittern (small lute like instruments), psaltery (a cross between a harp and a lyre with twelve strings), pipes and bells. They also might have a dulcimer, similar in structure to the psaltery and zither and predecessor to the pianoforte. It was originally a plucked instrument.

The lute remained almost unchanged from appearance, around the year 1000, up to the middle of 1500.

Medieval lute

Lest I forget, there were percussion instruments, too—drums of all kinds, as well as the pipe and tabor (pictured below). The pipe was something like the recorder today, wooden and flute like. And there were cymbals and tambourines.

Pipe and tabor Reading about medieval music is one thing. While we cannot know the precise sounds the medieval music conjured for the listener, we have their instruments so we can get close. It is a haunting sound that will definitely make you think of knights and their ladies.

To hear what medieval music might have sounded like, see this:

 

ReganWalker_TheRedWolf'sPrize_600x900The Red Wolf’s Prize

HE WOULD NOT BE DENIED HIS PRIZE
Sir Renaud de Pierrepont, the Norman knight known as the Red Wolf for the beast he slayed with his bare hands, hoped to gain lands with his sword. A year after the Conquest, King William rewards his favored knight with Talisand, the lands of an English thegn slain at Hastings, and orders him to wed Lady Serena, the heiress that goes with them.

SHE WOULD LOVE HIM AGAINST HER WILL
Serena wants nothing to do with the fierce warrior to whom she has been unwillingly given, the knight who may have killed her father. When she learns the Red Wolf is coming to claim her, she dyes her flaxen hair brown and flees, disguised as a servant, determined to one day regain her lands. But her escape goes awry and she is brought back to live among her people, though not unnoticed by the new Norman lord.

Deprived of his promised bride, the Red Wolf turns his attention to the comely servant girl hoping to woo her to his bed. But the wench resists, claiming she hates all Normans.

 

As the passion between them rises, Serena wonders, can she deny the Norman her body? Or her heart?

 

Twitter: @RegansReview (https://twitter.com/RegansReview)

To win a free copy of The Red Wolf’s Prize, enter here:

 

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Disclaimer: Although I know Regan to be a careful researcher and talented author, I have not read this book.

 

 

 

Today is Release Day!

My new Regency romance short story, A Christmas Reunion, the Gift of a Second Chance is available right now!!!

A Christmas Reunion new coverA Christmas Reunion, the Gift of a Second Chance

Heartbroken that her betrothed has wed another woman, Emily is determined to pick up the pieces of her life and enjoy Christmas with her family. ​

Newly returned from war, Bennett holds a secret and will do anything to ensure Emily, his only true love, never discovers it…even if it means losing her.

Fate reunites the star-crossed lovers and reveals the truth that will either unite them or drive them apart forever.

 The Gift of a Second Chance,  published by The Wild Rose Press, is available in digital format everywhere ebooks are sold.

Remember, books make great gifts! 🙂