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Monday, August 27, 2012

Hyde Park, THE Place to See and Be Seen

Hyde Park was THE place to see and be seen during Regency England. Regency ladies and gentlemen chose Hyde Park as favorite place to drive in open carriages or ride on horseback to show off clothing, or the latest rig, or horses.

The "fashionable hour" was, in fact three hours; from four thirty to seven thirty in the evening, though most ladies didn't appear until about half past five. By seven thirty, it was time to return to one's townhouse or lodgings and change into evening dress for dinner. The Ton, or members of the 2,000 aristocratic families at the height of English society, and social climbers trying to fit in, promenaded at Hyde Park, peacocking and flirting with others drawn to take part in the social rituals.

A brick wall enclosed Hyde Park in 1660 at the order of James Hamilton the Keeper of the Park under Charles II. The avenue fashionable for disporting oneself in Georgian Times was Rotten Row, a corruption of La Route du Roi. On Rotten Row one could be seen, flirt, greet friends, and show off beautiful driving clothes and equipage or mount. Gentlemen wearing the ankle length drab coat and yellow striped blue waistcoat of the Four-in-Hand club were sprinkled in the passing cavalcade.

Carriages bearing the painted and gilded family crests of the Ton and the living ornament of a dalmatian coach dog and liveried servants glide by in spotless splendor. The pair of footmen riding at the back of the coaches are as well matched as the teams of horses in their coloring and six-foot or better height. Among the carriages are those of courtesans bearing faux crests meant to remind them of the crests of their titled lovers.

C. J. Apperley writes of the fashionable hour in Hyde Park, "on any fine afternoon in the height of the London season…he will see a thousand well appointed equipages pass before him…Everything he sees is peculiar, the silent roll and easy motion of the London-built carriage, the style of the coachmen - it is hard to determine which shine brightest, the lace on their clothes, their own round faces, or flaxen wigs - the pipe-clayed reins - pipe-clayed lest they should spoil the clean white gloves…not forgetting the "spotted coach-dog, which has been washed for the occasion…such a blaze of splendor…is now to be seen nowhere but in London."

The movie An Ideal Husband shows a scene of a Victorian drive in Hyde Park, and many of my heroes and heroines go driving or riding in Hyde Park.

Wednesday, August 22, 2012

Giveaway: THE TROUBLE WITH MAGIC by Patricia Rice

Linda Banche here. If you haven't read a Patricia Rice book, now's your chance to win a copy of The Trouble with Magic, the second book of Ms. Rice's paranormal romance Magic series set in Georgian England. The Magic series is the story of the Malcolm sisters, all of whom have magic, and the non-magic Ives brothers.

Sourcebooks has offered a copy of The Trouble with Magic to one of the people who comment on this blog (US and Canada addresses only). And this time, I’m the one who will select the winner. So, leave your comments with your email address in the comment section.

And the winner is phastings! Congratulations, phastings, and thanks to all who came over.

Do you like paranormal in your historicals? I usually don't. The paranormal tends to overwhelm the history, and the book becomes a  paranormal historical rather than an historical paranormal. But some authors, like Ms. Rice, manage to keep the history foremost. I've read the first book in her Magic series, Merely Magic. My review is here.

My first Patricia Rice paranomal was Mystic Guardian, the first book in her paranormal Mystic Isle series, set in France during the French Revolution. The French Revolution isn't my cup of tea, so I took out the library copy. I read the first five pages and then ran out and bought the book and everything else of hers I could find. And then I waited in suspense until the other two Mystic Isles books came out. I have my copy of The Trouble with Magic on my TBR pile.

What are your thoughts about paranormal in historicals?

The Trouble With Magic: August 2012, Casablanca Classics

Is Her Magic a Gift or a Curse...?

All the Malcolms have some magic, but Lady Felicity's ability to read people's emotions simply by touching them or their possessions overwhelms her. She's reached a marriageable age, but how can she ever wed when she can see so clearly a man's guilty secrets?

Only He Can Tell the Difference...

Ewen Ives, itinerant rake and adventurous inventor, knows better than to underestimate the mischief of the Malcolms. But sparks fly when he encounters Felicity, and Ewen can't seem to refuse her plea for assistance...


“Rice's enchanting book is truly spellbinding.” —Booklist

“You can always count on Patricia Rice for an entertaining story with just the right mix of romance, humor, and emotion.” —The Romantic Reader

“Patricia Rice's historicals are deliciously fresh, sexy fun. Never has the battle of the sexes been more charming!” —Mary Jo Putney, New York Times bestselling author

With five million books in print and New York Times and USA Today bestseller lists under her belt, Patricia Rice’s emotionally-charged contemporary and historical romances have won RT Book Reviews Reviewers Choice and Career Achievement Awards and have been honored as Romance Writers of America RITA finalists in the historical, Regency and contemporary categories. A former CPA, Patricia Rice is a native of Kentucky and New York, a past resident of North Carolina, and currently resides in St. Louis, Missouri. For more information on Patricia’s current releases, please visit

Now where are those comments?

Monday, August 13, 2012

Arranged Marriages, a time--honored tradition we're happy to be without

The idea that we'd let our parents or guardians arranged our marriages leaves the modern day man and woman laughing--or possibly cringing. Yet this was a common place custom throughout history in nearly every country of the world.  I'm sure a few of those marriages ended up as love matches, others grew into merely a mutual amiability born of a determination to make the most of a difficult situation. Others were supremely miserable.

Such arrangements are a favorite for the romance reader and author alike, inspiring countless historical romance novels about love springing from an arranged marriage. Such was the case for my very first published Regency Romance novel, The Stranger She Married.
Which begs the question; why were arranged marriages so common?
I can't speak for other countries, but in England, the institution of marriage appears to be more a union of rank and property rather than of love. Though many popular ballads and plays of the era praised true love, in reality, practicability ruled more heavily than affairs of the heart. During the Regency era, all women, even ladies of the gentry and aristocracy, possessed very little independence. They were, in essence, property of their parents until they married, at which time they became property of their husbands. Therefore, parents cautiously settled their daughters in what they deemed were 'good matches.' They valued security over love because in a time when divorce was almost unheard of--and viewed as scandalous--marriage was a lifetime commitment, for better or worse. Parents searched for a men who would keep their daughter fed and cared for. They could only hoped that love, or at the very least, regard, would bloom later.

The Victorian era introduced the idea of romantic love and marriage among the upper classes (Think of Queen Victoria; hers was a love match).

Prior to that, while it did happen and people dreamed of it, and it happened in all of Austen's novels, it really wasn't what everyone expected.  Love sometimes happened with the wrong person which ruined families financially. Men understood that marriage was a duty.  Love itself, if it came, was a bonus.  In fact, most men had mistresses because marriage wasn't usually a romantic relationship--it was more of a business relationship.

The mistress often became an aristocratic man's ideal of 'lust and love.'  Heaven forbid a man fall into love with another man's mistress.  Such a sin often meant death to that man because it was an intimate relationship, one where men chose a woman to pleasure him, as opposed to duty being his deciding factor.  It wasn't just about the sex with these mistresses, it was finding a woman who was everything his wife wasn't.  Yeah. It makes me shudder, too. But that's how it was, according to many sources including THE FAMILY, SEX, AND MARRIAGE in ENGLAND 1500-1800 by Lawrence Stone.

One such example was the 1774 marriage between the 17-year-old daughter of the Earl of Spencer, Georgiana, and the Duke of Devonshire, a 26-year-old man of supreme wealth, power, and influence.  On the surface, the union must have appeared an excellent match. The Duke desired a young wife of high rank to provide him with heirs. Georgiana's status would be elevated to the coveted status of duchess. According to reports, the young couple met a few times, all well chaperoned, before they were wedded. Reportedly, Georgiana tried to love her untouchable husband, but he returned to the arms of his mistress. Their infamously unhappy marriage proved that money and status could not guarantee love or  happiness.

In the true story inspired Hollywood's 2008 film The Duchess, the wedding gown costume worn by actress Keira Knightly was stunning. There's a picture of it here. Gorgeous, isn't it?

Amanda Vickery's book A GENTLEMAN'S DAUGHTER argues that many people married for affection. I hope she's right. Regardless, arranged marriages were common, especially among the gentry and aristocracy in England, often with the couple only having met a few times, or not at all, prior to the wedding.
An arranged marriage born of necessity is the premise of my first published Regency historical romance novel, The Stranger She Married, book one of The Rogue Hearts Series, available in digital and print.  Their marriage, thought fraught with danger, turns out to become a great love story.

After all, I'm all about the happily ever after :-)

Wednesday, August 8, 2012

Discover Georgette Heyer

Linda Banche here. What are your Georgette Heyer moments? What’s your fondest memory of her books? And if you haven’t read her, why not? To help you out, Sourcebooks has offered a three book set (one romance, one historical fiction and one mystery) of Georgette Heyer’s works to one of the people who comment on this blog (US and Canada addresses only). And this time, I’m the one who will select the winner. So, leave your Heyer moments with your email address in the comment section.

And the winner is Laura Hartness! Congratulations, Laura, and thanks to all for coming over. Laura, I haven't heard from you yet. Please send me an email at If I do not hear from you by August 26, I will reward the books to an alternate.

Now for my Heyer moments.

If you know Regency romance, you know Georgette Heyer.

I read my first Georgette Heyer book when I was in high school. The book was Powder and Patch. I didn’t understand anything the author described: men wearing silk stockings and shoes with high red heels, and white powder and patches on their faces. Did they really? But I persisted, and I liked the book. I also read The Nonesuch, and I started, but never finished, The Tollgate.

Fast forward to the present. The next time I read Georgette Heyer was last year. I loved The Quiet Gentleman. The hero’s blond, and I love blond heroes, but he’s also what Ms. Heyer called her Mark 2 hero, what we would call Type B. (I hate alpha males.) The Quiet Gentleman also contains a mystery, and I like a romance that contains something else besides the love story. My review of The Quiet Gentleman is here.

I also read Sylvester or The Wicked Uncle, which I didn’t like as much because the hero is a Mark 1, or Type A. But it’s still a fun story. My review of Sylvester or The Wicked Uncle is here.

I also read Bath Tangle, which also is great fun, but again, I didn’t like the Mark 1 hero. My review of Bath Tangle is here.

I also read The Talisman Ring, which I enjoyed both because of the Mark 2 hero, the no-nonsense heroine and the embedded mystery.

Georgette Heyer also wrote mysteries and historical fiction. I’ve read her mystery They Found Him Dead. I like mysteries set in the 1930’s and this one is wonderful for those of you who share my enthusiasm for this type of story. Here’s my review of They Found Him Dead.

If you would like some information of Georgette Heyer's life, here’s my review of The Private World of Georgette Heyer by Joan Aiken Hodge.

Those are my Georgette Heyer moments. What are yours? Again, leave your comment and email address for a chance to win a grab bag of three Georgette Heyer books. And even if you don’t win, Sourcebooks offers some great deals on her books this month:

All Available Georgette Heyer eBooks on sale for $2.99 from Tuesday August 14th – Monday August 20th!

Get 30% off any Heyer print book during the whole month of August at the Sourcebooks store by using the coupon code HEYER at checkout!

Also, check out our Georgette Heyer Facebook page where we will be having discussions, parties and giveaways!

Now, where are those comments?

Thank you all,