This interview was first posted on Laura Purcell’s “Historical Fiction: Georgian Style” on March 7, 2013.
Why is the Regency Period important and why should we want to read about it?
The Regency marked the beginning of the Britannia Pax, a period of relative peace in the Europe and the world. From the time of the end of the Napoleonic Wars (1815) to the beginning of World War I (1914), the British Empire controlled the key maritime trade routes. During this period, the British Empire became the largest empire of all time. In this era of “peace,” the British Empire provided services such as the suppression of piracy and the elimination of slavery. During the early years of the 19th Century, England’s economic and social countenance changed forever. England moved swiftly from the cottage industries to the beginnings of the Industrial Revolution. The time saw the rise of the merchant middle class. Of course, social class held tight to its traditions, but the merchant class was the backbone of the nation and could not be denied.
The British dominated India, the West Indies, and the countries in the area of the present day Persian Gulf, and built its wealth and power with each acquisition. London became the most prosperous city in Europe. The years of the Regency saw a complete revolution in dress for both men and women. Commerce and industry fluctuated, but overall, greater wealth was known. Technological innovations affected the means of production. By 1815, Britain was an industrial nation without any real competition.
Who is your favorite Regency Era personality?
I am certain most people who know me would think that I would respond with the name of “Jane Austen” for this question. After all, I have written eight Austen-inspired novels, but that answer is too predictable for my nature. Unfortunately, other than Austen, I cannot say I favor one of the Regency “personalities” over another. I have a tendency to spend my leisure time research with those of the Royal Court. For a long time, I have thought of mapping out the relationships of George III’s many children, along with the princes’ and princesses’ families, lovers, etc. Of late, I have been reading passages on Harriette Wilson, the courtesan par excellence of the Regency. (In June 2012, BBC Radio 4 series Classic Serial by Ellen Dryden adapted Harriette’s memories for broadcast. Harriet’s book, Publish and be Damn’d: The Memoirs of Harriette Wilson was an instantaneous bestseller in 1825.) The list of Harriette’s lovers would rival Debrett’s list of the nobility. I hold no intention of writing a novel about Harriette, but I am fascinated by the way she conducted her life in a time when women had few rights.
Share a quirky fact from your research.
A Scottish legend brings us the gruesome tale of Sawney Bean. Bean was the head of an incestuous cannibalistic family. For some five and twenty years in the 15th Century, the Beans robbed and murdered unsuspecting travelers along the Ayrshire/Galloway coast. Reportedly, the Bean family lived in a sea cave close to Ballantrae on Bennane head in Ayshire. The tale appears in horrific detail in “Historical and Traditional Tales Connected with the South of Scotland” by John Nicholson (1843).
Supposedly, Bean and his wife killed and then ate their victims. Their family grew to 46 sons, daughters, and grandchildren, all who lived in a watery cave. Much to the horror of coastal communities, bones and skulls often washed ashore after the Beans disposed of their “leftovers.” King James IV reportedly led the mob, which searched for the Beans after a botched attack by the family. Finally caught, the Beans were taken to Edinburgh to meet a barbaric execution. The execution was a slow one: the men bled to death after their hands and legs were cut off, and the women were burned alive after they were forced to watch the execution of the men. John Nicholson tells us about the execution: “…they all died without the least sign of repentance, but continued cursing and venting the most dreadful imprecations to the very last gasp of life.”
One of historical romances hardest questions remains: Georgette Heyer or Jane Austen?
Obviously, this is an easy question for me: Jane Austen. Austen wrote stories of ordinary life. Her subject was common and ordinary, and she rendered it in minute detail. I am not criticizing Heyer. In truth, I have never studied Heyer’s works in detail. My opinion is based purely on my life-long love of all things Austen.
Tell us about your current projects.
In February, I brought out two Regency era novellas in one volume. His: Two Regency Novellas brings together two of my favorite minor characters. Lawrence Lowery is the older brother of one of the main characters in my Realm Series. He has a brief scene in A Touch of Velvet, another in A Touch of Cashémere, and a final one in A Touch of Grace. “His American Heartsong” is Lowery’s story. The second story in the volume is “His Irish Eve.” It is the story of Adam Lawrence, the future Earl of Greenwall. Adam is a regular in my stories with multiple walk throughs. He was given a major role in The Phantom of Pemberley. At the end of Phantom, he releases his mistress Cathleen Donnell. “His Irish Eve” brings us full circle some six years later.
“His American Heartsong”
Lawrence Lowery has been the dutiful elder son his whole life, but when his father Baron Blakehell arranges a marriage with the insipid Annalee Dryburgh, Lowery must choose between his responsibility to his future estate and the one woman who makes sense in his life. By Society’s standards, Arabella Tilney is completely wrong to be the future Baroness–she is an American hoyden, who demands that Lowery do the impossible: Be the man he has always dreamed of being. (A Novella from the Realm Series)
“His Irish Eve”
When the Earl of Greenwall demands his only son, Viscount Stafford, retrieve the viscount’s by-blow, everything in Adam Lawrence’s life changes. Six years prior, Lawrence had released his former mistress Cathleen Donnell from his protection, only to learn in hindsight Cathleen was with child. Lawrence arrives in Cheshire to discover not only a son, but also two daughters, along with a strong-minded woman, who fascinates him from the moment of their first encounter. Aoife Kennice, the children’s caregiver, is a woman impervious to Adam’s usual tricks and ruses as one of England’s most infamous rakes. But this overconfident lord is about to do battle: A fight Adam must win–a fight for the heart of a woman worth knowing.
On March 12, Ulysses Press will release my latest Austen-inspired novel. It is another cozy mystery based on Pride and Prejudice. It is set some six months into the Darcys’ marriage. The Mysterious Death of Mr. Darcy promises to leave you guessing.
The Mysterious Death of Mr. Darcy
Fitzwilliam Darcy is devastated. The joy of his recent wedding has been cut short by the news of the sudden death of his father’s beloved cousin, Samuel Darcy. Elizabeth and Darcy travel to Dorset, a popular Regency resort area, to pay their respects to the well-traveled and eccentric Samuel. But this is no summer holiday. Danger bubbles beneath Dorset’s peaceful surface as strange and foreboding events begin to occur. Several of Samuel’s ancient treasures go missing, and then his body itself disappears. As Darcy and Elizabeth investigate this mystery and unravel its tangled ties to the haunting legends of Dark Dorset, the legendary couple’s love is put to the test when sinister forces strike close to home. Some secrets should remain secrets, but Darcy will do all he can to find answers—even if it means meeting his own end in the damp depths of a newly dug grave.
With malicious villains, dramatic revelations and heroic gestures, The Mysterious Death of Mr. Darcy will keep Austen fans turning the pages right up until its dramatic conclusion.
What will you be working on next?
For White Soup Press, I have begun writing book 5 of the Realm series (The Scandal of Lady Eleanor, A Touch of Velvet, A Touch of Cashémere, and A Touch of Grace). A Touch of Mercy is tentatively scheduled for an early May 2013 release. A Touch of Love will follow in October. The series will finish next February with the release of a second anthology entitled “Hers” and will feature the solution to where the emerald can be found.
Ulysses Press and I are developing a new Austen-inspired for an early 2014 release.
What other books (either fiction or nonfiction) could you recommend, which speak of the Regency Period?
Kristine Hughes’s The Writer’s Guide to Everyday Life in Regency and Victorian England
Daniel Pool’s What Jane Austen Ate and Charles Dickens Knew
Amanda Vickery’s Behind Closed Doors: At Home in Georgian England
John Summerson’s Georgian London
Mary Balogh’s Bedwyn Series: Slightly Married; Slightly Wicked; Slightly Scandalous; Slightly Tempted; Slghtly Sinful; and Slightly Dangerous
Louise Allen’s A Most Unconventional Courtship; “An Earl Beneath the Mistletoe” from Snowbound Wedding Wishes; The Notorious Mr. Hurst
Girly Question: If you could design and make your perfect Regency outfit, what would it be like?
I am not a fashion person. Although I have watched every season, I have never picked the winner of Project Runway, so this was a difficult question for me. I have several Regency day dresses, which I use for presentations, etc., but for this question I wanted some “classier.” Therefore, I did an Internet search.
I particularly liked this white mull gown from the Metropolitan Museum of Art. It is from 1810 and is made from white mull with silver tinsel embroidery. The sleeves are gathered and designed to set off the slope of the shoulder. The waist is high and sports a knotted cord, which is accented with tassels. The “V” neckline is designed to accentuate a woman’s full bosoms.
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The Mysterious Death of Mr. Darcy
His: Two Regency Novellas