To Ruin a Lady is Quite Fun

Helloooo, thank you to the Regency authors for letting me join your lovely group. My first Regency is releasing from Love Inspired Historical in September and it was a hoot to write. So much so that I’m at work on another.

A great regency involves just a bit of ruination…at least for the heroine in my current manuscript. But how canI go about ruining her so that she’s forced into a marriage of convenience?

As someone who has enjoyed regency romances since I was a teen, I still have so much to learn. I needed a ruination that was palatable for a Christian audience but still severe enough to force my heroine into the arms of my delectable yet decidedly anti-marriage hero. So the first place I looked was, of course, Google. My dear friend Google.

The search yielded many interesting titles but no specific reasons on why or how a lady could be ruined. I really wanted something concrete. Something unarguable. But that showed my misunderstanding of the Regency period. Thank goodness for writing friends! A dear author friend named who has been writing regencies for years informed me that all it could take is some gossip to rip my heroine’s reputation into tatters.

And so I got to work in creating ruination. After all, my hero and heroine belong together, even if they don’t know it yet!

Has gossip ever hurt you or ruined your reputation? How did you recover?

 

A Proper Prodigal, Regency Short Story (Part 2) ~ by Susan Karsten

A Proper Prodigal (Part 2)

A Regency Short Story ~ by Susan Karsten

 Upon awakening the next morning Virginia lay back with her fingertips laced behind her head. She’d just woken up from a dream. One of those that replayed again and again. A good dream, though. In it, she danced the night away with a tall man. A man who looked like Quentin Ashleigh.

A tap on the door signaled the maid with a breakfast tray, she and her mother having decided in advance to breakfast in their own rooms. The kitchen maid placed the tray on the bedside table. Next, to her surprise, a housemaid entered with a large bouquet of flowers.

“Where would ye like this put, Miss?” The maid staggered under the ungainly weight of the large display.

“Over there.” Virginia pointed to a table near the window. “Please hand me the card, Ruthie.”

Savoring the moment, she waited to open it. When both maids left, she propped and fluffed her pillows, then smoothed her hair, before prying open the envelope’s seal.

 ‘As you have danced your way into my affections, I would like to see you today. A walk in the Primrose Hall gardens perhaps? I shall call at two. Fondly, Quentin Ashleigh, Esq.’

Virginia’s hands flew up to her warm cheeks. Oh my, a beau! Nothing I ever expected here in Beckston. I’d anticipated withering away on the shelf without a backward glance. No sooner do I submit my life completely to the Lord and he brings me a man. This time, maybe a good one. The one intended for me.

There was no doubt in her mind Quentin was interested. She’d been plagued by boys and men since she was thirteen. Her looks drew them like flies and made her a target. Oh, it was sometimes fun to get the attention, but mostly it was a bother, finding a way to let them down without bruising their amour proper.

It wasn’t until Randall came her way that she succumbed to any of them. Why did it have to be? Why couldn’t Randall have aimed his potent brand of seduction at another beautiful girl? Providence could be a hard pill to swallow, but the whole experience had brought her to a place where she threw herself on the Lord’s mercy. She’d truly put it behind her. Praise the Lord the world didn’t know of her fall.

 ***

  He spotted her. She was sitting on a garden bench under an arbor, a portrait of feminine loveliness. “The maid sent me around – told me you were out here.”

Quentin picked up her hand and kissed the air above it.  He held her hand longer than necessary, then caught himself and dropped it as if scalded. “Sorry, I lost track of my mind, I mean my thoughts. For a moment.”

What a buffoon I am. Seeing her in the light of day had thrown him. He knew she was a pretty girl, but daylight revealed her true exquisiteness. Never mind that her intelligent wit and charm drew him – she was also a diamond of the first water. He hoped she wasn’t above his touch.

“I thank you for the flowers. Roses are my favorite. How did you guess?” She tapped his arm with her fan. Thank you, Lord, she’s flirting like she likes me.

“They are my favorite as well, and our succession house had some beauties in bloom. I couldn’t think of a better place for them than to grace your vicinity.”

There. That should make up for my earlier cloddishness. The combination of her lithe yet lush figure, dark glossy long hair, classic features, and soft brown eyes caused him to go silent, wanting only to drink in the sight of her.

“Shall we walk the garden paths?” She began to rise from the bench, and he slipped his hand under her elbow to assist.

“I’d love to go down the garden path with you, Miss Mortimer.” This sally brought a delightful fluttering of her eyelashes, a delicate hand to her bosom, and a smile perking the corners of her mouth. Be still my heart. She likes me so far. Good, that’s a start.

She placed her hand on his proffered forearm, and they strolled off. Quentin noticed she was just the right height for him. Not too short or too tall. He liked that.

“This is the herb garden. Mother and I make medicines and so forth with some of these plants.” She broke off a stem of rosemary, rubbed it, and passed it close in front of his face.

“My yes, I can see, I mean smell, that would be quite medicinal, Miss Mortimer.”

“Let’s go to the fountain. It’s over there.” They moved off in another direction and were soon out of sight of the house. “We should stay closer to the house, but you must see the fountain first. I think you’ll like the inscription.”

“I love inscriptions.” Quentin wanted to say ‘I love you,’ but held his smitten tongue.

“Ah, here it is.” He struck an orator’s pose and read from the fountain’s rim, “The law of the wise is a fountain of life, to depart from the snares of death. A Proverb.”

“Apropos, don’t you think?” She looked up to him, as if he held the key to wisdom.

Dropping his self-mocking pose, he grasped for a response. “Apropos? The whole of Scripture is that, Miss Mortimer.”

“I have a request, sir.” She turned from perusing the fountain to face him.

Oh no. This sounds serious. Have I spoiled it?

“Since we are going to be friends, might you call me Virginia, and I call you Quentin?”

“Indeed. Yes, that would be fine.” He almost choked with relief. She’s going to be my friend? How sweet. He’d be her best friend if she’d let him.

They moved back onto the main path and toward the house. Her parents were standing on a terrace off one of the rooms on the west side of the house. Mr. Mortimer waved. Disappointed their idyll appeared to be at an end, Quentin comforted himself that he’d made wonderful progress, both in getting to know Virginia, and in gaining her favor.

“Hello, Mr. Ashleigh. Won’t you come inside before tea? I want to show you a folio I just added to my collection.” Mr. Mortimer hooked his thumbs in his vest pockets.

Mrs. Mortimer waved Quentin on. “That’s quite fine. We’ll see you back out here for tea in a trice, when Mr. Mortimer’s done showing you his new treasure.”

The two men looked over the folio, and Quentin was taken aback when Virginia’s father shoved it in a drawer, and said, “I wanted to speak with you.”

He mustered up his courage, and answered, “How amusing, I wanted to speak with you as well, sir.”

“You first, then, young man.”

“I, sir am a man of thirty years, of good fortune and good repute and I’d like permission to court Miss Mortimer. She’s a real treasure and I must make her my wife. Do I have your permission?”

“My, you’re a blunt one. Charging right to the point, no? I’ll consider it, but there’s something you must know. She’s more fragile than she looks. I mean her spirit. You must promise to value her, never hurt her, and be a valiant champion for her. You see, she needs that, after all.”

After all? What does he mean? “You have my word on that, sir.”

“Good. Since I have your word to prize her happiness, I shall let you proceed. We can discuss settlements another time, after you’ve secured her heart.”

***

Weeks of rides commenced, Virginia always chaperoned by Lizzy, who hovered in the background. A picnic with Annabelle in attendance, dinners and lunches at both Primrose Hall and Fairbrook took the couple to the point of knowing their minds.

On a warm afternoon, Quentin found Virginia alone in the garden when he came to call. “Hallo! The maid told me where you were.”

She watched his approach, drinking in the good looks of this man who’d become so dear. Finding true love came as such a surprise, but her secret made her sad. The time had come to tell Quentin the truth about her. She couldn’t let him propose, which she sensed imminent, without knowing all about her.

“Virginia, you must know that I have something I must ask you.”

He looked down at the ground, and suddenly she knew the time had come. He was going to drop to one knee. Forestalling him, she held up a hand face out. “Before you do, I have something I must tell you.”

A shadow passed across his face. The poor man, he probably thought she was about to let him down easy. The silly man, she’d go to the ends of the earth with him, if she could. “Sit here.” She patted the bench.

Hating what she had to say, she forced out the words. “I must inform you that I was taken from here by a cad, and cruelly mislead. The good Lord saw fit to restore me to my home without anyone else finding out about my shame. Before you say anything more, I need you to decide whether you can see past this blot on my maidenly escutcheon.”

“Say no more. This must be heartbreaking for you and your parents. But I see no stain on you, my lovely. God doesn’t either, since you’ve certainly repented, correct?” He put his arm around Virginia’s shoulders and lifted her chin with his other hand.

“Of course I have, but this society of ours – so harsh on a woman who errs, and giving a blind eye to the sin of the males. Never have thought that fair.” She shuddered and Quentin gave her shoulder a comforting squeeze.

A tear rolled down her cheek and she let it fall, not caring a whit about hiding her sorrow. “Don’t rush into this. Take the night to think it over. Make sure you can forget.”

“Darling, now I must tell you a secret. The reason my sister and I moved to the country, is that she was seduced and abandoned. Removing from society seemed best at the time. The fact that I fought a duel over her lent urgency to our departure. And I’m glad we did, because that led me to you, darling Virginia.”

In one smooth move, he went down, not on one knee, but on two. Before Virginia could get out a word of protest, he asked her to be his wife.

“My dear. I would be highly honored if you would grace my life with your presence all my days. Nothing would make me happier than to settle down with you and enjoy our life together, come what may. Say you’ll be mine?”

She couldn’t resist his dark blue eyes beseeching up at her. “I will. And I will never disappoint you. I’ll always be your proper prodigal.”

The End.

Dear readers, nay, I shall call you friends…I’d love to hear your comments! Thank you for reading this, my first Regency short story. Susan Karsten

A Proper Prodigal, Regency Short Story (part 1) ~ by Susan Karsten

 

 “Miss Virginia!” The dubious butler called – nay bellowed – her name.

Virginia Mortimer jumped at the stentorian tones. She’d asked for the summons, but it hadn’t been necessary. It seemed she’d hardly slept at all. She’d been up and dressed for the last hour.

She took a last glance around the plush bedroom. How elegant it had seemed the night she arrived. In the light of what had transpired over the last few weeks, it looked tawdry now – faded and dusty in the dawn light now shafting through the windows.

The hackney must be here to take her to the posting inn. To ride a public stagecoach home to Primrose Hall would serve as only the latest indignity of her headlong fall from grace

On the floor, half under the bedside table, the corner of a book caught her eye. She reached for it, not wanting to leave a trace of herself behind. It was a slim leather-bound book, given to her by her parents. Stamped in gold letters on the front was the word ‘Psalter’. She jammed it into her capacious reticule.

Only then did she turn to the door, square her shoulders and respond to the odious butler. “I’m coming!”

The cad who’d brought her to this nadir was nowhere to be seen. She didn’t care to say ‘good bye’ and her departure wouldn’t matter to him when he stumbled in from another night of carousing.

The butler eyed her valise, but made no move to assist, but simply opened the door. No pretense of respect, he closed the door as she humped her own valise down the scrubbed white steps. She rummaged in her reticule, and handed a note to the driver before hiking her skirts and launching herself awkwardly into the hackney. The hackney gave a lurch, and she was on her way home. Back to the small village of Beckston to face her parents’ recriminations and her future as a ruined maiden.

Though the day was sunny, a high wind blew swirls of gray smoke down into the dusty inn yard where she waited, clutching her cloak about her and hoping her large bonnet hid her face. She wondered what the chances were that someone of her village would be making this same journey.

When the coach arrived, she was the first passenger to board. One by one, others entered the coach. She held her breath as each passenger mounted, letting it out when she recognized no familiar face. What would the grim-faced soldier, the plain lady in the depressing bonnet, or the elderly clergyman think of her if they knew what she really was, and that she was slinking home in shame?

Only two months ago, when she slipped out during the night, she’d left her childhood behind, naively thinking she knew better than her parents. She’d believed Lord Beckwith’s son Randall loved her and would do right by her, no matter what her mother and father said to the contrary.

Virginia had noticed Randall for the first time at the Beckwith’s annual picnic at their country estate outside Beckston.  He must have been down from Cambridge. The local gentry were invited for the day, which began with competitive games on the lawn for entire community, followed by a picnic. The gentry then joined houseguests and the noble lords of the manor for an evening dinner and ball inside, while the common folk reveled on outdoors.

Invited with her family to the dinner and ball, she enjoyed the lavish surroundings, and never expected to draw Randall’s attention. From the moment he’d lofted a crumpled note at her she’d been hooked. A note which landed down the front of her bodice. She fished it out, read the words ‘You’re beautiful’ and looked up in surprise to lock eyes with the impossibly handsome young man.

His wavy blond hair, chiseled straight nose, teal-blue eyes and muscular physique caught all the young girls’ fancy, and when he kept paying her, a mere barrister’s daughter,  particular attention, she was sunk.

As the coach rumbled out of the London inn yard, Virginia’s mind shied away from continuing this inward litany of her fall, and instead thought ahead to her arrival home. Her parents’ quick response of ‘yes’ to her note requesting them to allow her to come home came as a relief since she had only a few coins and nowhere else to go. Beyond that, she didn’t know what to expect of her homecoming.

***

Hours later, her mother sailed toward her with open arms. “Darling, you’re home!” Hugs, pats on the back, and murmurs of welcome caused the tears to flow. Virginia vowed right then and there never to disregard her parents’ wishes again. They had tried to tell her what was best, but she had defied them for Randall and his false promises.

She drew away from her mother’s embrace and girded herself to look her parents in the eye. “Mother – Father, how can I thank you? I am so sorry. How could I have been so blind, so foolish?” Fresh gales of tears followed.

“We forgive you, Virginia.”  Her father’s gentle tone only served to make her feel more quilty. “Here, you must be chilled to the bone. Put this on.” Her father moved around behind her and laid a fur-lined robe across her shoulders. “A little homecoming gift.”

How forgiving they were. In fact, they acted as if nothing had changed and Virginia’s flight of passion hadn’t ever occurred.  Mother led her to her old room upstairs, and Father trailed behind with her valise.

A dreamlike state swept over Virginia – how unreal to be back in her frilly, maidenly girlhood bedroom with its narrow bed, after the shameful deeds she’d done. Defying, sneaking away, rebelling outright and allowing herself to be deceived by a seducer.

“Put your things away, dear, and then come down for supper. We have a surprise for you.”

Virginia used the pretty china pitcher and bowl on the washstand to freshen up after the dusty travel. She’d left in London the lavish wardrobe Randall gave her. But here were all the dresses she left behind, hanging in the white-painted wooden wardrobe. How soft, simple, and demure the pale-colored muslin dresses appeared. Do I even have the right to dress as a maiden?

She had no one to hold responsible but herself. Taught from childhood to be pure, Virginia threw that teaching to the wind on the basis of a few kisses and compelling whispered words, and then allowed young love’s passion to take control. Yes, Randall was the instigator, but she alone chose sin, her own conscience told her that.

She picked a pink and white dress with a silk ribbon sash, and shimmied it over her head. Her parents must have dismissed her maid when she left, and she had to shift for herself, for now at least. She stood in front of the mirror, tying the sash into a bow, then turning it to the back. The high-waisted dress was almost too flattering to her young figure. She didn’t deserve to look so young and pretty anymore.

She sat down at the dressing table and picked up her silver-backed brush, scraping her long, glossy brown hair back into a tight chignon, wishing she could bind her sinful past as easily. But the relentless door to the future stood open, and she had to walk through.

***

“You look charming, my dear girl.” Virginia’s father pulled a chair out for her to sit at the intimate family table.

“Yes, not a day older than when you left.” Mrs. Mortimer beamed upon her daughter.

“Dear, don’t talk about that yet, let Virgie have her favorite dinner first.” He lifted the cover off a roast of beef, surrounded by potatoes and vegetables and a ring of parsley clusters.

“You’re too good to me. I don’t deserve this.” Virginia lifted her index finger to wipe away a tear.

“Remember, God’s love never fails. And we want to be like Him. Love covers a multitude of sins. His love and ours.” Mr. Mortimer laid his hand on her shoulder.

“Now let’s pray.” He bowed his head. “Dear Father in Heaven, thank you for bringing our daughter home. Thank you for this food, In Jesus Name, Amen. There, now we can eat.”

***

“But Father, we can’t have a party. A celebration for my return? How will I face the neighborhood?” They’d moved across the hall after dinner to the drawing room, where a fire crackled in the hearth.

“As far as anyone here knows, you’ve been visiting an elderly relative in the north. I felt the Lord would forgive a bit of dissembling to protect your name, unsullied, as it were.”

“Yes, we are just so grateful you are back, and none’s the wiser. We’ll just go on as before.” Mrs. Mortimer’s smile became tremulous.

“And, before you ask, we heard Beckwith’s son was given an ultimatum to join the army, else be shipped off to the West Indies to manage a plantation. He got into a duel in London and won’t be back here.  He’s probably landed on the continent by now. As a younger son, he won’t be needed, either. The eldest two all have well-established nurseries. But enough about that family.”

“Now let’s have a song, Virgie.”

She took her Psalter over to the piano and started riffling through the pages. Settling on one, she began to sing and accompany herself to Psalm 68. “This one reminds me of me.”

“God frees the captive and He sends

The blessedness of home and friends,

And only those in darkness stay

Who will not trust Him and obey.”

She hung her head a moment, then straightened her spine, and turned toward her parents. “Mother, Father, I want to make very clear that I am repentant and have submitted my life to Christ now. I know it’s belated, and you always wanted me to have the Faith. Now I do. It took my fall into the miry pit to bring me to my senses and to throw myself on God’s mercy.”

“We forgive you, don’t we Tansy?” Overjoyed, with tears spilling, Mr. Mortimer looked to his wife.

Mrs. Mortimer’s face lit up, wet with tears of joy, and she responded likewise. “Yes, Harold, we both forgive. Now let it go, dear Virginia. God forgives you too, and you need to move on with your life.”

“I was such a fool to believe Randall. He told me we’d be married, so it didn’t matter because we were in love, and that God knew we were sincere. He never intended to wed me. In fact, he ended laughing in my face, and told me to find my own way home.”

“Such a base seducer will always say anything to achieve his wicked will. Most rakes at least keep hands off well-born maidens. So sorry you had to learn such a hard lesson.” Mrs. Mortimer rose and put her arm around Virginia’s shoulders. “Now come over to the sofa, and let’s plan the party. All our friends will want to celebrate your homecoming with us.

***

Long, quiet days of healing commenced. Virginia helped around the house, doing little chores like peeling apples, mending linens, knitting socks, and helping plan the party her parents insisted on.

Dread flickered in her mid-section every time she thought ahead to the celebration, but she steeled her nerves, not wishing to disappoint her parents. They seemed so hopeful everything could return to how it had been before her disgrace.

Even though her parents thought nobody knew of her shameful fall from grace, Virginia braced herself each time someone came to the house or she ran into someone in the village. What if . . . someone knew something, and spread gossip? She’d hate that, but worse, hate the taint that would fall on her family.

The day of the party arrived. She could put off her preparations no longer. Up she went, to her boudoir, where her maid fussed around, waiting to work her magic.

“Lizzy, I’m so glad you were able to come back to work. I wasn’t gone long, but you could have easily been hired on somewhere else.”

“Miss, glad I am to be back here,” her young tidy maid said with a grin. “The only job on offer whilst ye were gone was at the fishmongers, cleaning fish.”

“Well then, let’s do my hair, and get me dressed. I’ve picked out that ivory taffeta, trimmed in coral.”

Lizzy’s deft hands created a stylish psyche knot.  Virginia approved, tilting her head this way, and that. “I love this style. I should have tried it sooner.” Maybe this party wouldn’t be a disaster. Her heart began to hope.

She stepped into the dress, and the maid fastened it. High waisted, it flattered her figure and whispered when she walked. A filmy fichu of ivory silk filled in the too-low neckline. Styles of the day tended toward the immodest, but Virginia was done with that. The coral cameo necklace her mother brought in earlier that evening complemented her coloring.

 *

“There you are!” Her mother scurried over and grasped Virginia’s elbow as she entered the drawing room where the guests had begun to gather. “You must meet the Ashleighs, from rural Beckston. They are twins, just your age.” Mrs. Mortimer towed her across the room.

Dread of facing the guests took the form of a rock in Virginia’s stomach. But she had no choice, the party had commenced whether she was ready or not.

“Mr. Quentin Ashleigh, Miss Annabelle Ashleigh, this is my daughter Virginia. She has just returned from a lengthy trip visiting relatives.” Mrs. Mortimer performed the introductions then turned and flitted off to greet more new arrivals. Virginia caught a glimpse of her mother’s crossed fingers.

Virginia made small talk with the Ashleigh twins. He had intelligent brown eyes and curly russet hair, and his sister though not identical, had similar coloring. Virginia relaxed and the rock of dread melted away under the bright beam of the twins’ sparkling personalities.

“Miss Mortimer, your mother is a darling, she invited us for tonight when she heard we were newly settled in Beckston.” Annabelle’s curls jiggled along with her words.

“She is a sweet lady, if a daughter’s opinion counts.” Virginia replied, smiling. “Where in rural Beckston do you reside?”

“We just moved to Fairbrook Manor – just a mile or so east of here – my family’s owned it for decades. My sister and I had our fill of London for the time.”

“Yes, I’m somewhat familiar with Fairbrook. One mile out isn’t too inconvenient. For shopping and church and so forth.”

“Not inconvenient at all. I hear there’s to be dancing later, Miss Mortimer, may I have the first dance? Nothing like being first in line.” Quentin’s twinkly dark-blue eyes danced between teasing and sincere, producing a pleasing swirl of enticement affecting Virginia’s equanimity. Was he flirting?

“Certainly. By all means, let me find my dance card. I wasn’t prepared.”

As she walked off to locate the card, Virginia wanted to kick herself for sounding like such a dull pattern card of propriety. She needed balance. Balance between being a frivolous fool and a staunch starchbucket.

She didn’t get back to Quentin with her dance card prior to the time dinner was announced, because she was greeted by old friends every step of the way. For the promenade of precedence into the dining room, she was paired with her elderly vicar Mr. Cranston, a widower in his seventies. As they proceeded, he said, “So glad you’re back from your sojourn. A short visit away can do wonders for the appreciation of home, no?”

Caught by the vicar’s words, she was busy deciphering them, searching for hidden meaning, and didn’t realize until the last moment that she’d been seated next to Quentin. She quashed the spurt of interest that rose up in her, and applied her attention to the vicar on her left. Why then, did her right side feel so aware, so alive?

“Miss Mortimer?” A voice intruded on the one-sided conversation she was having, rather listening to, with the vicar. Mr. Cranston’s avocation involved everything to do with bees, and it appeared he planned to tell her all he knew – tonight, at the table.

So it was with relief that she excused herself from the apiarist, and turned toward Quentin Ashleigh. “If you’d like to ask me anything about bees, I can now answer.”

He chuckled, and laid his index finger against his temple. “Nothing at the moment, but I shall remember to ask, should I need your new-gained knowledge.”

Virginia enjoyed the low-key facetious humor with which he answered, and felt quite amicable toward the young man.

“I wonder, did you bring your dance card to the dining room? You never brought it back for me to sign. Am I too late for the first dance?”

“Oh, no. I promised it. I have the card right here.” She lifted the evening reticule, a small bead-embellished pouch that hung on her wrist. She extracted the card and handed it with its attached pencil, to Quentin.

He took it from her, stroked his chin, and said, “Perhaps you’ll allow me two dances? If that’s not too greedy?” The candlelight gleamed off his hair.

Boggled at the pleasant sensations flooding her at the fellow’s kind, friendly, flirtatiousness, she answered without overthinking. “Yes, and no.”

Confusion played across his face before it gave way to wry humor.

He gave a bark of laughter. “You are quite concise, Miss Mortimer. I like that.”

And she liked him. More and more the weeks in London felt like nothing but a bad dream. Back in the loving climate of Mortimer House, the broken spirit she’d brought home had been replaced by a new heart, ready to live again.

No one had even hinted at a breath of scandal about her. She’d dodged the broad-reaching brush of the gossips and society was none the wiser regarding her fall from moral purity. She let out a grateful relieved breath upon this thought, only to have her attentive tablemate inquire as to her state of mind.

“That was a prodigious breath – almost a sigh. Do tell.”

“Nothing, just breathing, if that’s quite all right.” She quirked a smile his way to soften the string of her abrupt rejoinder.

The lengthy meal ended, and the women departed for the drawing room, the men remaining in the dining room for brandy. When the time came for dancing, Quentin bowed in front of her and they sailed off to join a set of country dances The figures of the dances took them apart, and only allowed moments to converse.

“You are a lovely dancer, Miss Mortimer.” Spoken before he sailed down the line, away from her.

The next time their orbits collided, she answered. “And you are a fine dancer, as well, Mr. Ashleigh.”  They both chuckled at the gap between their brief interchanges, before being swept apart again.

***

 Greetings, dear readers! Any guesses on the outcome here? Will he turn out to be a cad, as well? Leave a comment, please 🙂 Susan Karsten

The Men of Pride & Prejudice and A Chance to Win

In my ruminations on the male characters in Pride & Prejudice, I first decided I might discuss them from the least important (in my eyes) to the most important, Mr. Darcy, of course. Or perhaps, I would discuss them from Mr. Darcy to each lesser character. A third option might compare the men from Lizzy’s sphere with the men associated with…Mr. Darcy.

Do you begin to see my dilemma? Jane Austen wrote a book about Elizabeth Bennet and Mr. Darcy and amazingly ties each male character to the leading man in an intricate way while creating, at the same time, very individualized, stand-alone men in their own right.

So it seems I must discuss each character’s wonderful foibles and personalities (in no particular order) and how they re-make Mr. Darcy into who he becomes, the hero in one of the greatest love stories ever written (opinion mine).

Mr. Bennet

Let us first examine Mr. Bennet. Considered a gentleman, he allows his children, especially Elizabeth, to be who they want to be not who they should be. Lizzy, with her love of books and wonderful sense of the ridiculous, becomes his obvious favorite as the one most like him. And he plays a significant part in Darcy’s preference for Elizabeth.

In describing the really “accomplished” women of the day, Darcy adds, “…and to all this she must yet add something more substantial, in the improvement of her mind by extensive reading.” Darcy is already interested in that quality in Elizabeth, one fostered by Mr. Bennett.

She and her father also have their share of fun at Mr. Darcy’s expense until Mr. Bennett discovers what he believed about Darcy to be untrue. Darcy’s intervention in the case of Lydia and Wickham was the eye-opener and he was finally pleased to say to Elizabeth, “I could not have parted with you, my Lizzy, to any one less worthy.” Mr. Darcy began the process of putting himself out for others out of his love for Elizabeth.

Mr. Bingley

Next is the sweet, loveable Mr. Bingley.

I wished to start out with him because he establishes the connection with the Bennetts that allow us to be introduced to Mr. Darcy’s harsher side. We cannot learn of it any other way because the evil of Mr. Wickham cannot begin this early in the story.

But it is through this amiable relationship that we also see a wonderful change in Mr. Darcy. He convinces Mr. Bingley that Jane Bennett does not care for him, but we know it is her low birth that Darcy disdains. He will stick to his story even in the writing of his letter to Elizabeth at Rosings, “…I shall not scruple to assert that the serenity of your sister’s countenance . . . gave me the conviction that . . . her heart was not likely to be easily touched.”

He becomes forced to rethink his actions and in the end must apologize to his adoring friend. The character development of Mr. Darcy through Mr. Bingley is wonderful, compliments of Jane Austen!

Mr. Collins

Shall we move on to Mr. Collins? Who but Ms. Austen could create such a character?

He is a buffoon, a name dropper, a sniveling little man (no matter which actor of choice portrayed him) with a self-righteous piety that lasts only until his benefactress is conjured up by himself or another.

We start out believing Jane created him solely for our enjoy enjoyment, comic relief if you will. But his connection to Darcy is ingeniously interwoven through Lizzy’s best friend, married to Mr. Collins, at Rosings where Darcy has easy access. Elizabeth needed the connection of Mr. Collins at Rosings to allow us to see Darcy in a different light. Well done, Jane!

Mr. Wickham

Ah! The infamous Mr. Wickham… When he appears, we are pulled into his ruse and we can now abhor Mr. Darcy as Elizabeth does. And Ms. Austen adds the twist that Lizzy may have found her match and we sit on the edge of our seats to see.

But Wickham is nothing without his connection to Mr. Darcy. We had to see Darcy’s egotism and snobbery before we could believe the terrible accusations. And it is Wickham’s character development into total degradation with Lydia that allows us to begin to see Darcy in a new light.

New characteristics he declares are only for Elizabeth’s sake, but allow us to begin a love affair with him after chapters and chapters of disliking him heartily.

I’ll declare that Jane Austen never got a note from her editor that her manuscript needed more conflict! She is the queen of conflict in P & P.

Mr. Darcy

We shall end with our hero, Mr. Darcy. I sometimes think technology has ruined literature more than enhanced it. I have opinions on each of the actors who have portrayed this hero but I must be sure to base my thoughts on Jane Austen’s Mr. Darcy and not an actor.

Mr  Darcy - all five for Regency Reflections small
Picture courtesy of Jane Austen World Magazine

So when I sit down with the book, all faces disappear and I read and re-read the story always culminating with the picture perfect hero (my own imagination inspires the way he looks) in an amazing love story.

The changes that occur through the pages are all linked to the other male characters enough that we see Mr. Darcy become a new man, not only for the love of Elizabeth, but because he has seen his own shortcomings through the men with whom he interacts.

I look forward to hearing other readers’ perspectives on their favorite characters. I fancy there are as many opinions out there as there are readers!
pandPbookThis week we’re giving away a lovely copy of Pride and Prejudice. The book is hard cover with a ribbon book mark. The pages are rough cut to simulate the cut edges an original print would have had after binding. All comments on this week’s posts will be entered in the drawing. Must have a United States mailing address in order to win. Winner will be announced August 19, 2013.

Interview and Give-A-Way ~ Regina Scott

Interview with Regency author Regina Scott.

 

Veteran Regency writer Regency Regina Scott stopped by to tell us a little about her writing journey, as well as her love for regencies.

Regina’s first published book was The Unflappable Miss Fairchild in 1998, a regency with Zebra Regency Romance. Since then she has published continuously with 18 novels to her credit and four novellas.

In the last couple of years, she has turned to writing regencies with a Christian tone. These have found a home with Love Inspired Historicals. She has four LIH regencies to date. Her latest, The Captain’s Courtship, is out this month. Regina has graciously donated a copy for a lucky reader. For a chance to win it, please leave a comment today.

 

What drew you to write during the Regency Time Period?

I loved to read growing up, but by the time I reached college, it had been awhile since I’d found a book to truly engage me.  Then I stumbled upon Elizabeth Mansfield’s The Phantom Lover at my library.  I couldn’t put it down!  I’d always wanted to be a writer, but I knew then I wanted to write a book in this wonderful time period called the Regency.  I loved that the era had its own language, with an interplay between men and women that was so elegant and witty!  Twenty-two stories later, and I still love that period!
 

2.      Tell us what year your book is set in and why you chose that particular time.

The Captain’s Courtship is actually set before the strict definition of the Regency, in 1805.  But that time definitely has the same flavor, whether in clothes or social sensibilities.  I chose the year for the Everard Legacy series, of which this is the second book, because the series needed a time that would give rise to a true villain, someone who threatened my characters’ happiness, their faith, and their freedom.  Who better than Napoleon and his henchmen?  In 1805, England was certain “the Corsican Monster” meant to invade at any moment, and he was certainly trying to comply!
 

3.      Who is your favorite Regency Author?

I couldn’t possibly list just one!  Elizabeth Mansfield is probably my all-time favorite, as I mentioned.  Love Inspired is publishing a number of wonderful authors such as Louise M. Gouge (whom I see you had on recently!), Deborah Hale, Mary Moore, and Abby Gaines.  I’m really excited that Cheryl Bolen will have a new book out in October.  And this blog is blessed with so many talented authors!  Those of us who love Regency romances have a lot to look forward to!

 

4. What is your favorite Regency expression?

I have several:  having a nice coze for sitting down and chatting with a good friend, piffle as a sign of disappointment, and here-and-therian, a fellow who won’t commit to anything, who traveled about with no set home or preferred to chase women rather than catch them.  See what I mean about a language all its own?

 

5. What is your favorite Regency setting; e.g., London, country house, small village?

Definitely a small village.  I love developing the various characters and the relationships among them.  So far, my more recent stories keep getting set in the wildness, though—places like the Lake District and the Peak District.  I think perhaps the isolation of a single manor, far from others, allows me to focus on the hero and heroine and how they come to find love.  That was certainly the case with The Captain’s Courtship.  Though it starts and ends in London, most of the action takes place in the Lake District, when my hero Captain Richard Everard brings the heroine to meet his cousin, who she’s agreed to sponsor for a Season.

Tell us about your book.

The dashing Captain Richard Everard has faced untold dangers at sea. Steering his young cousin through a London season, however, is a truly formidable prospect. The girl needs a sponsor, like lovely widow Lady Claire Winthrop-the woman who jilted Richard years ago. Claire believed herself sensible in marrying a well-to-do viscount rather than a penniless second son. How deeply she regretted it! Now their fortunes are reversed, and Richard’s plan will help settle her debts and secure his inheritance. Yet it may yield something even more precious: a chance to be courted by the captain once more.

When did your novel release and with what publisher?

The Captain’s Courtship will be out in July from Love Inspired Historical.

Tell us about yourself:

 I always wanted to be a writer, but it took a while to convince myself that that was what I was meant to do.  I tried being a day care provider, a nanny, a technical writer, and a risk communication consultant before I heeded God’s call on my life.  Now, I feel so blessed to sit down at my computer and write!  The Captain’s Courtship marks my 22nd published story (18 novels and 4 novellas), all set in the Regency period.  The Rake’s Redemption, the next book in the Everard Legacy series, will be out in November.  You can learn more at my website at www.reginascott.com, where I also have articles about the Regency period.  You can also find me online at Goodreads (http://www.goodreads.com/reginascott), and the blog I share with author Marissa Doyle at www.nineteenteen.blogspot.com.   

For a chance to win A Captain’s Courtship by Regina Scott, leave a comment. We will draw a winner on July 31, 2012. Be sure to check back on this comment thread on that date to find out who won.

On Courtship

Authoress Amelia Opie

Whoever thinks romance and love matches didn’t exist before the 20th century ignores a lot of evidence to the contrary. If women of all strata of society from seamstresses to young ladies of the ton read novels which featured heroines pitted against alluring yet somewhat menacing men, where virtue and love triumphed in the end, this means they must have had a desire for romance. They not only took to reading but to writing novels themselves. Selina Davenport’s 1824 novel Preference, is a typical romance with a properly happy ending. She wrote 11 novels between 1814-1832. Other female authors of the period besides Jane Austen who wrote about love triumphing were Amelia Opie, Maria Edgeworth, and sisters Anna Maria and Jane Porter.

The evangelical writer Hannah More wrote, “Is a woman in low spirits? Let her console herself by writing a novel. Is she ill? Bored? Unhappily situated? Let her pour it all out into a novel.”* Do I detect a little sarcasm?

 

Almack's

Despite a young woman’s yearnings for love and romance, the regency period was governed by rules of etiquette. Numerous books were written to young men and women on the subject of how to behave in public—especially with the opposite sex. After the licentiousness of the Georgian era, the Regency period saw a rise of Evangelicalism, which stressed that women were the arbiters of morality, and it was part of their duty to make sure they didn’t tempt men, or fall victims to men’s baser instincts. Whereas in high society it was common for a man to have a mistress, an unmarried young lady must keep herself chaste and above any appearance of misbehavior. On the Marriage Mart, a woman’s purity was her highest asset.

For this reason courtship for a young lady meant being chaperoned whenever she went out (and, of course, never receiving a gentleman caller on her own). A gentleman had to ask for an introduction to meet a young lady he was interested in. After her official coming out into society, a young lady enjoyed the grown-up entertainments of balls, assemblies, concerts and other musical events, all to see and be seen. But everything was done in public. A young lady could never be alone with a young man who was not a family member or otherwise closely associated with the family.

Although parents desired a “suitable match” for their children, this did not mean strictly arranged marriages—for the most part. There is ample evidence in novels and correspondence of marriages based on love and mutual respect.

Princess and Prince at the opera National Portrait Gallery London

The most important love match of the era was that of the Prince Regent’s daughter Charlotte to a minor German prince, Leopold of Saxe-Coburg-Saalfeld. Even though her father and the British government had been negotiating her marriage to Prince William of Orange (the future king of the Netherlands), Princess Charlotte met young Leopold in the Czar’s entourage when the czar and his sister came to London during the summer of 1814. Eventually, the princess broke off her official engagement to the Dutch royal prince, causing all kinds of diplomatic furor and married her German prince on May 2, 1816, to the enthusiasm of the British people. They understood a love match. From all accounts it was a happy—though brief—marriage, since she died shortly after giving birth to their first child after only a year of marital bliss.

Matchmaking as shown in Emma also shows that romance was alive and well in the regency era. Jane Austen wrote, “Anything is to be preferred or endured, rather than marrying without Affection.”

Vauxhall Gardens

 

 

* Our Tempestuous Day by Carolly Erickson, William Morrow and Co., 1986, New York