Saturday, 5 October 2013
Guest Blog: Why not Regency? by Giselle Marks.
Last post was about Giselle's up and coming book 'The Fencing Master's Daughter' for which yours truly did the cover illustration and got the chance to read an early draft. Giselle has been asked why she writes Regencies, and this is her comment.
Why not Regency?
By Giselle Marks
So why did I write Regencies? I could argue that I’ve always enjoyed Georgette Heyer and find reading Regency Romances a relaxing occupation. Yet while those statements are true that is a far too simplistic explanation. My love of history and the period are other obvious factors but still not the whole story. Yes, the period was an “Interesting Time” with England engaged in two major wars at the same time. Wellington was busy contending in the Iberian peninsula against Napoleon’s armies while the American battle for independence from Britain was under way across the ocean.
Scientific advances were finally beginning to change the lives of the people across the classes. But the real sudden explosion of invention and progress was in its infancy. As the Regency and the end of the Georgian period closed with Queen Victoria’s accession, change was far more rapid. The combination of the industrial revolution and the hypocritically puritanical attitude of the Victorians distanced modern women from that particular era. Even the installation of something approaching modern plumbing in Victorian days does not cancel out the increased rigidity of expected female behaviour in modern eyes. Even as women began to have some small rights, they found themselves further oppressed.
The sexuality of most Victorian women was vigorously suppressed and when allowed free expression resulted in those women being considered pariahs to the rest of society. From the point of view of modern women the Victorian era is just somehow not sexy. It might be romantic but it makes modern women feel restricted and dis-empowered. The sermonising, casuistry and prurience of the Victorians complicates drawing readers into our character’s lives for a writer.
Setting romance in contemporary times does not appeal to me at present. I don’t rule out writing some but it would be raunchier and perhaps not so romantic. Modern fashions mostly eschew the silks and muslins of the Regency but the expectations in relationships are also different. The supposed sexual liberation of the sixties and the rise of feminism confused the issue, neither gender really understand their place in our modern world. Supposed equality increases the pressure on women to be sexually available, but long held prejudices against female promiscuity persist. So they are damned if they do and damned if they decline.
Nor will they be truly liberated until the older generation’s views on women’s sexuality change and the English language begins to reflect that change. Currently there is a dichotomy and inequality in language where many negative words exist for sexually promiscuous women but those describing men with similar proclivities glory in their conquests. The disappointment many modern women feel about how men treat them draws them to an older age, when men were gentlemen who would court a woman.
Earlier periods can also set romantic stories beautifully. The heroines and heroes can wear wonderful clothing, ride gorgeous horses and the speed of life is slower. I intend at some point to write in some other periods, when I have a story that needs to be told. Yet the Regency period has a strange romantic attraction, perhaps the tight fitting male costume was just a bit sexier but somehow it seems the ultimate setting for passionate romance.
Sounds good to me, Giselle! some deep thoughts there, which I'm inclined to find myself agreeing with. And if you make a foray into earlier periods, maybe we'll see something of one of Edward's ancestors...