Tips for Writing the Regency Romance – a light-hearted guide is now on sale!
If you have always aspired to write a Regency romance, this is the go-to guide for you.
This handy guide will help you breathe life and authenticity into your stories. Tips for Writing the Regency Romance explores the intricacies of etiquette and the conventions of courting and matrimony among the bon ton that are central features of a Regency romance.
Learn how to create memorable characters who overcome obstacles, break society’s rules and find their happy-ever-after while still remaining true to their time. If writing a Regency romance is on your agenda, this handy guide is a must-have for your research shelf.
“Navigate the Regency era with this easy-to-read, informative guide.” – Jen Yates, Regency Romance author.
“The book fair bubbles along with tips and essential-to-know tid-bits on etiquette, fashion, who was who, life below stairs and the very important marriage mart. I loved it.” – Lyndsay Campbell, author of historical women’s fiction.
I’m thrilled to announce the release of The Beaumont Betrothal, Book 2 in the Northbridge Bride series. It has been ‘Coming Soon!’ for much longer than it should. I am in love with the cover designed by Tania Hutley and must thank Bronwen Evans for her developmental edit, which saw many changes and much improvement in the manuscript. Regency Romantica author Jen Yates‘ humor, wisdom, and hospitality also paved the way to publication, as did the inspiration, example, and encouragement of many others, particularly those in our C2C (Coast-to-Coast) chapter of Romance Writers of New Zealand.
Attending a SPA Girls self-publishing workshop was the real impetus towards self-publishing, and I sincerely thank Cheryl Phipps, Wendy Vella, Trudi Jaye, and Shar Barrett, not only for the initial learning but for their ongoing support. Many see writing as a solitary occupation but sharing the support, knowledge, and experience of other writers is enriching in so many ways. I’ve always found the writing community tremendously supportive; individually, at conferences, workshops and meetings, and also on social media which is integral to our craft in today’s cyber-centered world.
Book 3 in the Northbridge Bride series has the working title The Diplomat’s Daughter. I am determined Catherine and Benedict won’t have to wait as long for their HEA as did Sophia and Bruno from The Beaumont Betrothal. Wish me luck! I love feedback from readers, so if you enjoyed reading The Beaumont Betrothal or any of my other titles, please email me at firstname.lastname@example.org
“Careful. You’ll get freckles,” came a deep voice from behind her.
Startled, she spun around to see a wide-shouldered long-legged gentleman with a thick crop of peat-colored hair roughed-up by the same breeze that played with her own. His high-bridged nose bisected a pair of bold, alert eyes and she was struck by an odd sense of familiarity. At the same time, she knew she’d never met this man before. She would not have forgotten that dark, flashing glance.
A thrill flickered inside her. Despite the blustery draught, the air around her shimmered. She brought a hand to her throat and drew in a quick breath but did not look away, imbued with an unexpected recklessness.
“I rather like freckles.” She lifted her chin, aware of the wind loosening the length of colored cloth she’d tied about her head earlier in the day.
He smiled. His teeth were very white, their color echoed in the thin, gleaming scar that tracked across the lean plane of his right cheek. Perhaps it was this injury, tugging at the muscles beneath his bronzed skin that resulted in an indent near the corner of his long upper lip and softened the hard line of his mouth.
“I do too,” he said, eyeing her in a way that brought warmth to her face. His rich baritone was dangerously attractive, and his drawling enunciation told Sophia he was not a native-born Englishman.
Conversing with a gentleman when she was unchaperoned and to whom she had not been introduced breached all the rules of etiquette, but she did not care. For she held an unhappy awareness that this could be her last chance to venture beyond the bounds of behavior society, and she herself, would demand of her should she be compelled to marry Freddy.
She found herself returning his smile. “I do not know you, Sir,” she said. “And I have been cautioned throughout my life against the perils of speaking to strangers.”
His mouth quirked. “I am not particularly strange,” he said. “But that’s certainly a valid warning for a young lady. It’s one I’d issue myself.”
She dimpled, unable to resist provoking further conversation. “Then perhaps I should bid you goodbye.” But she made no move to step away, intrigued by this new turn of events and excited by the presence of a man unlike any she had encountered before.
Despite the weather, his dress was faultless; his white cravat precisely tied, his caped surtout tailored to emphasize his wide shoulders and narrow waist. Perhaps he had unbuttoned it when the rain stopped for it lay open, displaying a cream-on-cream waistcoat beneath a charcoal jacket. Tight-fitting buckskins encased long, muscled legs and his hessian boots gleamed where they were not splashed with mud. He carried himself with an easy, masculine grace and wore his garments without pretention.
Beyond him and to the right, a bay mare cropped at the grass beside the brook. Sophia was surprised her unhappy thoughts had so engrossed her that both horse and rider had been able to approach without her knowing.
After a moment or two, he angled his face and said: “What were you searching for?”
Sophia tilted her head.
“When I first saw you, you were gazing so intently into the water. I wondered what held your interest.”
Sophia caught her lower lip between her teeth. What could she say? She was watching for mating trout? She turned her face into the cooling breeze.
“Fish,” she said truthfully though with less eloquence than she would have liked.
The corner of his mouth lifted. “To… fish for… or to eat?”
She shook her head. “To watch. They are quite beautiful.” She found herself staring at his mouth, waiting for that captivating indent to appear. When it did, her heart gave a little lurch.
His eyes flashed with humor. “I don’t recall ever encountering a woman who considered fish beautiful.”
“Oh, but they are! Only last week I saw a buck directly under this bridge with the most astonishing coloring, flashes of dark red dappled with gold.” She was aware of her expression dimming. “But I should not like to catch one, for when they are out of their own environment their colors fade to dullness.” Like hers would, once she was married to Freddy, she thought unhappily.
I have lots to do today. I should be reading, writing, editing and getting geared up to promote my soon-to-be-released ‘The Beaumont Betrothal’. But it’s a rare sunny day and I’ve found myself mooching around my little house, adjusting a cushion here, flicking a duster there and shaking the odd rug. I can’t call it ‘housework’ – more like diversional therapy!
But appreciating the space where I live has reminded me of all the things that make my house a home. I’ve moved several times over the years and there’s always been a decluttering of sorts, but some things go from house to house and it’s not until they’re in place, that the new space begins to feel like ‘home’.
The old sewing table is kind of ugly but I love it. It looks to me as if it was hand-crafted by some resourceful husband back in the day when most of what you needed, needed to be made by hand. I like to think it was a loving hand and made for a loved partner. The Bentwood chair isn’t very comfortable to sit on but it fits nicely under the table and looks as if that’s where it belongs, although I do move it around the house from time to time.
I love these little pots joined at the rim. I use them from time to time, but more likely for hummus or relish than the jam or marmalade they were probably designed for. I have numerous little jugs and dishes that have come with me over the years with new pieces being added occasionally. I’m especially fond of ferreting out bits of pottery from charity shops.
This wooden apple was made from a tall pine tree that used to grow alongside the post office where my great-grandfather was postmaster. I gave the apple to my mother for a gift many years ago and now that Mum has passed on, the piece of wooden fruit sits on my shelves and I am so happy to have it there.
This limited edition print by Richard Wardle is very special to me. The picture was used on the cover of Rosamund Pilcher’s novel, ‘The Shell Seekers’ and I won it, along with a copy of ‘The Shell Seekers’ and a cash prize, for gaining first place in a nation-wide short story competition. Winning this competition gave me the encouragement to believe in myself as a writer. Subsequently, I had other short stories published along with children’s literature, and later I began to focus on writing romance.
There are many other items in my home that are truly special to me, and I’ll bet you too have treasures that you would not part with. I’d love to hear about them!
Readers in the Northern Hemisphere will be looking forward to warmer days, but here in the Southern Hemisphere, winter’s nipping at our heels. On a chillier-than-usual morning this week, I spent far longer in the shower than I should have. I did consider the electricity bill climbing as I enjoyed hot water splashing over my shoulders, but decided I could call my shower research, as I thought about bathing before we had hot water on tap. I could also call it therapy because the needles of hot water were doing wonders for my computer-cricked neck!
I lived in a rural area for 20-odd years, where we relied on rain for our water supply. At the end of most summers, we had to buy water in by the tank-load – and it wasn’t cheap. Not to mention the nine months or so I lived in a caravan near a forest where water had to be bucketed up from a nearby creek and carefully rationed. The water was heated on a small gas stove and we washed all over using a plastic basin set in the awning attached to the caravan. With those experiences behind me, I still see running water as a luxury and have never lost my appreciation for fresh, clean water arriving at the turn of a tap.
By the early 19th Century, bathing was on the cusp of change. Washing oneself all over regularly as opposed to once every few weeks (or months) gained credit not only for hygiene (a relatively new concept), but also as an activity that was beneficial for one’s health. I was surprised to discover quite sophisticated bathing apparatus had been invented by the early 1800s. The third Earl of Hardwicke enjoyed a plunge pool designed by Sir John Sloane, which held 2,199 gallons of water heated by a boiler in the basement. A Regency shower featured a pump that lifted water from a tank at the bottom of the structure to a basin at the top. The bather pulled a chain to pour water over her/himself.
Ladies and gentlemen of means during the Regency and before would have enjoyed bathing in water brought to them by servants. Their bath may have been scented with flowers, oils, perfumes or herbs. It sounds romantic, and perhaps it was for the bathers, but hard work for the people who had to lug all that water upstairs and then dispose of it when the bath was over. Poorer people were more likely to have washed in the kitchen and the water used by the whole family before being poured away – most likely directly into the street.
Artists throughout history have depicted bathers in both private, intimate surroundings and in public baths. The Impressionists often featured Eastern, harem and Turkish bath scenes, painted from imagination because men would not generally have been allowed access to Islamic women.
I’m afraid it’s just not possible to include all available information about bathing through the ages in this post but do explore some of the online links for greater insight.
I discovered soap-making a few years ago. I love whipping up a batch using lye (caustic soda), natural oils and essences but I’m certain it’s much easier for me than it was for people earlier in history. Soap-making has been around for a long time. The Babylonians were making soap with ashes mixed with fats way back around 2,800BC while the Phoenicians used goats tallow and wood ashes and soap was widely known in the Roman Empire.
By Victorian times, soap was being mass-produced, with bathing soap manufactured as a separate product from laundry soap. In today’s world, soap is made for a multitude of purposes including washing carpets, pets, cars, and children. I make it because it gives me pleasure and a rough-cut bar or two makes a special gift for friends or family. I use lavender oil for scent and haven’t experimented or veered from this recipe because it gives me a good result every time.
I’m not sure if this blog post turned out as I intended. I may have to explore this fascinating subject again before too long!
I’d almost insisted (I can be stubborn!) that writing should be a lonely job – a-starving-artist-in-the-garret kind of job. Yes, I’d joined Romance Writers of NZ a number of years ago and enjoyed regular meetings of our local chapter. I’d attended two or three writing retreats with a few writing pals, but the act of writing I saw as being something I needed to do alone.
Well, thanks to some awesome happenings this year, I’ve had a bit of a turnaround! First up, was a writing retreat in the country where a fellow author was housesitting. Seven of us gathered over a period of two or three days, some staying for shorter or longer periods depending on those pesky other commitments that are integral to our writing lives. Ranging in age from 30s to 70s the individuals in our group made an interesting mixture – a zoologist researching animal behaviour, an investigator with an extensive background in high-level police work, a Bowen therapist-in-training, a tertiary teacher, a retired primary school teacher, a couple of administrators – but we had all also worked in other fields throughout our lives. One of us had owned an antique shop, one had founded and operated a niche magazine, one had farmed a beef and cattle station deep in the heartland of New Zealand, one was elite in martial arts. We had rural and/or urban backgrounds; we were divorced, married, single, partnered with-or-without children, traveled extensively or stayed close to home. What a wealth of experience we had to share! And a magnificent dining table to share conversations over the meals to which we all contributed. And the conversations? Mostly about writing – so many aspects of writing! We weren’t all writing novels and we weren’t all working within the same genre. Goal-setting, planning, social media, websites, and job applications were all thrown into the mix and if we wanted to share, or needed advice or information, it was on tap for everyone. If you wanted to find a comfy chair in a corner and read all day, that was fine too.
Then I decided, almost on impulse (which is unusual for me) to sign up for the SPA Girls self-publishing workshop. I was so impressed by what Cheryl Phipps, Shar Barratt, Trudi Jaye, and Wendy Vella had achieved by pooling their skills and experience, sharing their ups and downs, inspiring each other, learning, and growing their writing careers as individuals within a collaborative group. As well as the workshop itself, I traveled with two other writers and the conversations we had along the way, the characterization exercise we worked on back at the motel, and the companionship and laughter we shared were uplifting. Plus, dinner at the nearby Thai restaurant was exceptionally delicious!
More recently I’ve had fun working with a couple of authors who also write Regency Romance. Jen Yates (you really must read her raunchy Regencies – Jen YatesNZ) came to stay with me for a couple of days and we talked cover design, which is something I’ve become interested in now that I’ve decided to mostly self-publish. This weekend we were joined by Caroline Bagshaw whose upcoming Regencies are set in Scotland, Caroline’s country of origin.
Yes, the act writing itself – fingers on keyboard, pen in hand, or voice-recording – are activities that probably need to be done alone, but sharing ideas, brainstorming or asking questions of someone who truly understands why you want to know this peculiar kind-of-weird detail is truly rewarding.
The companionship of other writers, fresh perspectives and new ideas not only helps me grow as a writer but enriches my life in ways that are immeasurable. Pricking the little bubble of my solitary writing world has set me free.
I think we can guarantee most of the items in the Regency Lady’s bedchamber would have been fashioned by hand. The little candlestick bases, jewelry-bowl cover, and hairbrush in the photograph certainly don’t date from that period, but perhaps they are similar to those found on a lady’s dressing table in the early 19th Century (except for the protective plastic covers of course!). Hand-worked cloths would have been the norm and perhaps a vase of flowers or pot-pouri to freshen the air.
On the chair beside the dressing table is a paisley shawl ready to be draped across the lady’s shoulders when the air grew chill. Genuine Kashmir shawls with their beautiful patterns, were prized additions to the Regency lady’s wardrobe and a light, practical accessory to add warmth whether inside or out-of-doors. I bought my light wool shawl on a visit to India and often throw it around my shoulders on chilly evenings.
There may have been an ivory fan, a pair of kid gloves and a reticule waiting to be gathered up for the evening. Perhaps a silver box of calling cards, or an enamel container for trinkets. Satin ribbons, combs and jewellery would have adorned the simple hairstyles favoured in Regency times.
The photographs show some of my ‘treasures’, things that are special to me and inspire me to imagine a woman’s life in earlier times when hours would have been spent needle-in-hand making decorative items, mending or sewing all manner of garments by hand. I have many embroidered cloths that I don’t use but would never part with! Do you have similar treasures? Things that are particularly meaningful to you?
I started out the day reading ‘The Diary of a Bookseller’ by Shaun Bythell who owns Scotland’s largest second-hand bookshop. It’s a delightful read and it’s made me think about all the readers and all the books there must be in the world (100,000 in his shop alone). Something must surely have been written about every imaginable topic. According to Bythell, books about railways are his biggest sellers and the railway section in his shop is the one most male customers immediately head for.
I recognise some of the titles he mentions and some of them I’ve read; others caught my attention, especially Any Human Heart which I’ll ask our local second-hand bookseller to track down for me.
When we say “I love to read” it’s somehow taken for granted that we mean novels or non-fiction books that inform us about a person, a place or an historical event among many other subjects. But there are so many other ways we read, without even thinking about it. Although reading appears to be a passive activity, the outcome of losing oneself in a book and scooping up words can be exceptionally productive.
Where would I have been without pattern books when my children were small and I was more involved with crafts – sewing and knitting patterns, crochet, embroidery and sideways slips into macramé and cake decorating, let alone the many I explored without venturing into the activity itself. Whether the project was finished or not, so much learning and hours of enjoyment and productivity resulted from being able to read and comprehend instructions, not only in books but in newspapers, magazines, newsletters, leaflets, mail-outs, advertising blurbs and even packaging materials.
I’ve probably spent weeks, maybe months throughout my adult life poring over recipe books and magazines. Sure, I haven’t cooked every recipe I’ve ever read and some days I’ve spent so long looking at recipes time’s run out to cook dinner and it’s been takeaways for tea; but some recipes have been standouts and remain on the menu thirty years or so after I first prepared and cooked the dish. Reading recipe books has helped me learn about other countries, cultures and traditions, introduced me to new ingredients and allowed me to feed the family on a budget, offer hospitality, be adventurous and experiment without even venturing beyond my front door.
So I began this wintry day reading ‘The Diary of a Bookseller’ in bed with rain hammering on the roof and the temperature not expected to rise above 12 degrees. After a while I reluctantly decided I really should get myself out from underneath my cosy bedcovers and do something useful. Looking for something to read while I ate my late breakfast (and not wanting to get butter and jam on Blythe’s book which had been loaned to me) I took one of Jo Seagar’s earlier recipe books from the shelf under the kitchen bench and ended up making beer bread (delicious with butter and honey) and a boysenberry cheesecake. Recipe books are useful if you want to read at mealtimes because it doesn’t matter too much if you smear the pages with food.
So, like many other days, today has once again revolved around reading, writing and ‘doing’. How lucky I am – being able to read has enriched my life in ways that cannot be measured. Have you found the same?
Writing is a solitary occupation and for a long time, when I lived in the country, I didn’t know any other writers. I barely knew I was a writer. Then I wrote a short story that won a national competition. I began to take my scribbling a little more seriously and joined a local writers group. Although I eventually outgrew that group, I learned a lot, enjoyed the experience of having other work published, and it was inspiring and interesting to be in the company of people who didn’t think writing was a kind of weird thing to do.
I began to focus on writing romance and went to a couple of weekend workshops with Daphne Clair and Robyn Donald, two multi-published authors who were willing to share the knowledge they’d gained through years of hard work and commitment to their craft. As a result of attending these retreats I discovered Romance Writers of New Zealand (RWNZ) and joined up.
I’ve learned so much from being a member of this professional writers’ organisation where members range from nervous newbies to multi-published authors and many other writers at various stages of their journeys. Wherever we are along the writers’ path, we all learn something from each other.
The core RWNZ body is separated into chapters and I belong to the Coast-to-Coast group (C2C), so named because the group includes members from the central part of the North Island and from one coastline to the other in that area (you can never be far from a coastline in New Zealand!). Through C2C I’ve met some wonderful people and forged friendships that are truly special to me. This week I’m going to introduce you to one of these special people.
Jen Yates lives in rural New Zealand and says Romance has always been her genre of choice – the sexier the better! Jen’s work encompasses both contemporary and historical romance but she says her author’s heart lies with Regency. Her latest Regency Romance ‘Her Dark Lord’ is the last novel in her Lords of the Matrix Club series. Other novels in the series are: The Earl of Windermere Takes a Wife The Perfect Duchess and The Virgin Widow.
A Permafree Prequel and Sequel to the series is also available on Amazon, although Jen says you might want to hold off reading the sequel until you’ve read the last of the series-it’s a peek into the characters’ lives 50 years on. A word of warning-if sweet romance is your preference, ‘Her Dark Lord’ and the three preceding novels in Jen’s Lords of the Matrix Club series are probably not for you!
But if you’re a Regency fan and enjoy what Jen calls ‘Romantica’ – sexy romance with elements of erotica, I do hope you’ll click on one of the links. Allow yourself to be transported back in time to the early 19th Century, to that sparkling era of exquisite style known as the Regency.
Recently my daughter lent me her copy of The Diary of a Bookseller by Shaun Blythell, who owns The Bookshop in Wigtown, Scotland’s National Book Town. I’d never heard of Wigtown—a whole town dedicated to second-hand bookshops. Not only that, Wigtown lies on the edge of the sea, the area around is steeped in history, and even more beguiling, the climate is said to be mild. It certainly looks lovely and sunny in the online pics, and I won’t let my pessimist-person chip in and tell me that photographs—especially those depicting holiday destinations—can be deceiving. Imagine staying in a town dedicated to second-hand books in a B&B above The Open Book, a second-hand bookshop by the sea! I am talked into it already. Apparently, there’s a waiting list of 18 months or so, so I would have to plan ahead—not something I’m especially good at!
But travelling to the other side of the globe requires a loaded wallet, so I’d need a little more justification than one small town full of books. Curiosity and an idle hour or two prompted me to search for other places dedicated to books. I found Hay-on-Wye tucked into the Welsh side of the border between England and Wales, “famous for its second-hand and antiquarian bookshops”. Maybe I could stay at the Baskerville Hall Hotel—although the climb to get into the bed pictured in their online info would probably leave me too exhausted to read!
And then reason prevailed. Instead of travelling all the way to the other side of the world (although I’m not counting it out altogether) I could probably trip around my own country and find some great second-hand bookshops right here in Aotearoa/New Zealand – just a day-trip away. Indeed, we have an excellent shop in my own town not much more than a five-minute drive from home. Check out Atlantis Books. I’ve picked up some wonderful buys from Atlantis without needing to spend a fortune. Even if I don’t come away with anything, browsing the shelves, or sitting on the sofas leafing through possibilities can use up endless amounts of time.
I’ve always been fascinated by other people’s writing spaces but setting aside a dedicated space for myself seems beyond me. When we first bought our little house, I thought one of the two tiny mezzanines would make the perfect writing space—in fact, these dinky lofts clinched the decision to purchase the property.
I’ve clearly been deluding myself all these years; I thought I was a practical person. It didn’t occur to me that clambering up a steep ladder and hoisting myself over the rim might be more than I was capable of—let alone the precarious descent, or the tricky operations involved to haul a desk, chair and other paraphernalia up there, especially for someone afraid of the lowest heights! The Juliet balconies seemed well-suited to a romance writer, but they’re a bit dainty for a sturdy woman like myself, although the ladder rungs make handy bookshelves.
So then I decided the wide window overlooking a narrow garden border would be perfect, light and sunny with plenty of room. But it was too light and sunny! I found the wide window too bright to work in front of for extended periods.
There are not a lot of options here, but a corner of the spare bedroom worked well during the summer and I love working at the hand-hewn sewing table inherited from a great-aunt. As soon as the weather cooled down however, it became too dark and uncomfortable to work in that particular corner. I often write from our two-seater sofa; I fit there quite snugly with a cushion at my back and my feet against the opposite arm although it requires a bit of dexterity to reach behind me for coffee and snacks. Depending on the weather I’ve worked outside but I rarely work at the dining table which is probably the most obvious space in the house!
Sometimes on weekends or days off from my regular job, especially when the weather’s dull and gloomy, I write in bed, but I’ve always been an early riser and staying in bed for half the day just doesn’t feel right – even though I’m essentially working. I must admit on cold, rainy days staying warm and cosy in my PJs with a coffee at my elbow and a favourite throw over my knees seems the perfect option.
I’ve tried writing at our local library and that worked quite well but I can’t see myself writing in a café because noise disturbs me. I think my key requirement is not necessarily isolation – in fact I don’t like being isolated from the rest of the household, but quiet is essential. I don’t mind where I am so long as there’s an absence of noise—not easy when you live with a TV-loving chatterbox!
My writing space tends to be a moveable feast so I was interested to read psychologist Marc Wilson’s column in a recent copy of the NZ Listener that mixing up your venues is not such a bad thing – it teaches you to write anywhere.