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Hi all!  What does the Reticule hold this month?
It is a 'mixed bag', so to speak, a little about life in the Regency era,
and a little about writing Regency romances.

Life In the Regency Era

Questions I Have Often Wondered About...

* More will be added from time to time.

Did they have bathrooms in their houses?

Yes And No.  Flushable indoor toilets were apparently invented in the 1770's.  It was a heretical thing, though, to have the toilet indoors - the lack of a ready way of disposing of the noxious fumes likely accounts for the reluctance to have it nearby - and most houses continued to have them outside, or located in an out-of-the-way part of the house.  In fiction, in describing a house, the author usually used the phrase 'the usual offices' to descibe where the toilet was situated.

What about premarital sex in  Regency times?

 I think some people have come to the erroneous conclusion that the modern era is the first in which both sexes have come to equally enjoy intercourse outside of the boundaries of marriage.  Nothing could be farther from the truth.  Though the invention of more reliable sources of birth control has allowed woman more freedom in that way without fear of pregnancy, (some people would argue that) both sexes always had their pre-marital and extra-marital flings.  I read somewhere recently (darned if I can remember where!) that in the early 1800's, an unusual survey indicated that a goodly portion of brides were with child on the day of their wedding.  You don't get that way without some fooling around!  Now, the Victorian era is a whole different story!

Writing And Reading Regency Romance Fiction

Q & A

Q - Are Regency Romances an accurate portrayal of how people lived then?

A - Probably not.  Mine aren't, anyway.  Though I try to be accurate about many things - dates,
historical characters, inventions, word usage - there are too many possibilities for error, and in a
lifetime of research I will never know everything.  Mistakes I have made?  I caught a doozy in
my own work the other day, thankfully in the copy edit, before it was due at the final copy stage.
I caught myself using the phrase 'mood swings'.  Hoo, boy!  Is that 1990's or what?  I humbly
begged them to take out the word 'swings'.  Hope they do it.
   The bottom line is, I didn't live then, and so everything, every character, every action, is
filtered through my millenium mind.  I can't help that, so I just strive for as much accuracy as
possible.  And I try to avoid howlers like the one above.

Q - Why the Regency era?

A - Why not?

   No, seriously, the choice of what era to write a historical romance about is controlled by
the era that appeals to you.  I have written a Victorian romance that, while pretty good
(I think, anyway) is an experience I have no desire to repeat.  I love the Regency era, the
sense of pending change, the jumbled politics, the fine balance, like on the edge of a sword,
between Georgian sexual licentiousness and Victorian repression.  And I adore Jane Austen.
I suppose if I loved Charlotte and Anne Bronte better, I would write about the Victorian era.

Donna's Regency Primer

Part One:  A Word About Words

  The Regency and Regency romance fiction has a dictionary all its own, and the uninitiated might be intimidated. What is a reticule? Or a fop? Here is a brief run-down of the lingo, couched in my own terms.  Those of you familiar with Regencies can skip on down!  If there are mistakes, they are all my own!

The ton - the ton is the high class, the titled and those who are not titled but have that cherished upper-crust background anyway.  The word may also appear as bon ton, meaning that which is considered good form for the ton.

Parson's mousetrap - marriage.

Reticule - the equivalent of a purse, often a cloth bag with a string closure.

Pelisse - an overdress or coat dress, high-waisted and full-length.

Spencer - A lady's jacket, close fitting, waist length with narrow sleeves.

Fop - An overly dressy man, too concerned about his appearance and especially his clothing.

Ape-leader - refers to a spinster, (Oh, dreaded fate... LOL) as there is a reference to a spinster's fate as 'leading apes in hell'.

Trollop, Dollymop, Bird-of-Paradise, Barque of Frailty, Haymarket Ware, Cyprians or Cythereans - All of these expressions amount to the same thing, a prostitute of some level, cheap or expensive.  The number of euphemisms would seem to indicate a proliferation of these 'ladies of easy virtue'. 

Cisisbeo - A gentleman admirer, usually of a married lady.  Handy to escort one to the opera when one's husband is caught up in the dreary business of Parliament.  And perhaps handy for other things...?

Cant - A slang expression of some sort.

  For a complete and excellent reference to cant expressions of the Regency, as gleaned from Georgette Heyer's novels, go to:
  Another excellent Regency slang site is at:

Part Two - The Aristocracy

  This is where I was tripped up when I first started writing Regencies.  In my innocence (read: ignorance) I was completely oblivious to the nuances and shading necessary when creating a titled character.  Is the Earl of Highborn called Lord Highborn?  Well, yes, but Lord Highborn's son will take a lesser title, like Viscount Almost, and be called Lord Almost until he assumes the title of earl on his father's death.  His younger brother, though, will be called Lord Samuel Neverhigh, Neverhigh being the family name. 

  It is confusing, trust me, but anyway, here goes, briefly, an explanation as gleaned from the pages of an invaluable reference book What Jane Austen Ate And Charles Dickens Knew (Yes, that really is the title) written by Daniel Pool. (God bless him for his help!!!)

  Excluding the Royal family - King, Queen, Princesses, Princes (aka the Royal dukes), et al, in order of precedence it goes like this:

  The peerage is made up of dukes, marquesses, earls, viscounts and barons.  Not peers, but still titled, are baronets and knights.  The peers' eldest sons will take a lesser family title, and others in the family will be called Lord or Lady unless they are the children of viscounts or barons, or the younger sons of earls.  Then they will be called the Honourable Mr. or Miss So-and-so.  This explanation does not begin to cover it really.  Like, can you guess what these gentlemen's wives are to be called?  And what about the children of the lesser nobility, the baronets and knights, are they entitled to the Honourable designation?

  I am not the one to ask detailed questions of.  If you intend to write Regency fiction, or any fiction with the aristocracy in it, it is worth the purchase of What Jane Austen Ate... or some other reference, to get it straight.  Trust me, people notice!  Not everyone, but the better informed.  And it will save time and trouble to get it right the first time.  I wish I had.  Instead I have to live with books published that are factually erroneous, and it is driving me to distraction!  Thank the Lord for a wonderful production editor at Kensington who is allowing my teensy changes in the galleys I am getting now.

  Another place to get information is the proliferation of GREAT Regency sites on the web.  Just get on the Regency Web Ring (see my main page, near the bottom) and surf, or use a keyword search to narrow down your needs.  A writer's work is never done (sigh).  Good thing I love reading about the Regency.

  Anyway, I hope I have told you enough to show you that it is a far too complicated subject to handle in any kind of detail here.  Writer, get thee to a library, or at least onto the net!  'Nuff said.

  For the all-time best reference site on titles and nomenclature, refer to 'Correct Forms of Address' at http://laura.chinet.com:8080/html/titles12.html

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The Regency Research Bookshelf

  I have decided, at the last minute, to include the titles of some books I have found invaluable for research.  This is by no means an exhaustive list, just exhausting.

The Writer's Guide to Everyday Life in Regency and Victorian England, From 1811 - 1901 - Kristine Hughes - Writer's Digest Books - 1998 - This reference book is a part of the 'Everyday Guide' series put out by Writer's Digest Books.  It is a great starting place for research, and will help you refine your needs.

What Jane Austen Ate And Charles Dickens Knew, From Fox Hunting to Whist - the Facts of Daily Life in 19th-Century England - Daniel Pool - Simon & Schuster - 1993 - This book wins for the most unwieldy title of any book I have ever read.  All I can say is, thank you Daniel Pool!!!  'Nuff said.

A Near Run Thing - David Howarth - Collins - 1968 - What a fascinating, eloquent, invaluable book this is for those, like me, who have written about a soldier's life during the Waterloo campaign!   Howarth has provided a fascinating look at the day of Waterloo... just one day!... through diary excerpts, letters, and eyewitness accounts.  He weaves it all into a riveting narrative in the best historical research book I have ever read.

Wellington As Military Commander - Michael Glover - Sphere Books, Limited - 1973 - Dry as dust, but oh, how valuable, even if I only ever used the appendices at the end, ennumerating the continental battles, and listing the officers who served, with their ages, battalions and regiments, and titles.

The Age Of Wellington, the Life and Times of the Duke of Wellington, 1769-1852 - Leonard Cooper - Dodd, Mead & Company - 1963 - More than just the story of the Iron Duke, it is a good examination of the political climate of the time, and of a fascinating, complex, driven, hard-nosed man of extraordinary talent, and perhaps super-human luck.  There is much in this book to show Wellington as a definitive man of his age, a time of great social change.  Lengthy, but worth the time and effort. 

Regency Romances

  I love regency romances.  I have to assume if you are at this page, that you do, too.  Who are your favorite authors?  Are there any all-time favorite books you would like to share?  Do you have a 'keeper' shelf, books you cannot get rid of for any price?  Following is my list of keepers, with a brief explanation of why.  Let me know what  your keeper shelf holds, (give me the title, author, publisher and year) and I will put an excerpt of your letter on this page!

1. Married Past Redemption - Patricia Veryan - Fawcett, 1983 (my edition, anyway)  IMHO, Patricia Veryan is the best writer of Regency romances since Georgette Heyer.  Married Past Redemption is the story of a marriage of convenience that turns into a love match, a common enough story line in Regency fiction.  But in Patricia Veryan's hands it becomes a powerful love story that transcends genre or sub-genre boundaries.  I would recommend this for any lover of historical romances.

2. The Duke's Dilemma - Nadine Miller - Signet - 1996
   This, again, follows a typical Regency story-line, 'poor companion snags wealthy duke'.  But it is much, much more than that.  Ms. Miller's heroine is decidedly atypical. She is plump, learned and yet a romantic at heart.  Emily Haliburton is just waiting out the months until she comes into her inheritance, so she can continue her father's scholarly work; meeting a dashing rogue and falling in love is not a part of her plan. The story has some interesting twists and turns, but it is Emily and her duke who are the heart of this novel.

3. Miss Billings Treads the Boards - Carla Kelly - Signet -
1993  This novel has a great cast of secondary characters. The whole band of actors is delightful.  But the heart of the novel, Katherine Billings and Henry Tewksbury -Hampton, Lord Grayson, are two people anyone would be happy to call friend.

4. The Rake's Rainbow - Allison Lane - Signet - 1996
  Ms. Lane has done that most difficult of things, created a believable relationship from the inauspicious beginnings of a forced marriage to prevent a young lady from being compromised.  Not only that, but Thomas Mannering is pining after another girl!  From this difficult opening, she manages to weave a great tale of unlikely love.

5. Winter Wonderland - Elizabeth Mansfield - Jove - 1993
  This is my favorite Christmas Regency of all time (so far, but I am open to others).  The first meeting between Miranda Pardew and Barnaby Traherne is devastating, when she makes him the object of ridicule, setting in motion a chain of events that haunts them both for years to come.  How they come together is a great story!

 So now, tell me your favorites!  What are your keepers?
Write to me with the subject line 'Favorite Regency'.

E-mail me here!

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Updated - February 5th, 2002.

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