Wednesday, 24 February 2010

Regency spies and harlots

One of the problems with being fascinated with a particular period in history, is that there are so many facets to explore. Just when I'm focusing one one aspect, I get distracted by another. Endless stimulation is, however, a nice problem to have!

My favourite past-time is daydreaming plots and characters... one day I'm fascinated by the merchant trade, the nabobs and new money it brought to regency england. I'm intrigued by complications increased social mobility created and how it influenced marriage and social status throughout the land. The next day I'm looking at the North of England, the rise of heavy industry and how it interacted with the rural landscape and the sophistications of London.

Yesterday I was engrossed in Dan Cruikshank's book about the Georgian sex trade, and how it shaped the architecture of London in the 18th century. My mind was buzzing with how women dealt with careers as courtesans and how their status and freedoms compared with the solidly respectable wives of 'the ton'.

Today I'm all about espionage, how it was carried out in the Napoleonic wars and who by. Somewhere in amidst all that a plot is brewing, to do with a courtesan and a spy and the hidden world that underpinned the successful conclusion of the Napoleanic wars. To further my research I'm trying to track down a book by Elizabeth Sparrow on the Secret Service 1792-1815 - it sounds absolutely fascinating! Pity it's £100 on amazon!

Tuesday, 23 February 2010

The World of Regency Fiction

When I was a little girl I was introduced to the books of Georgette Heyer by my big sisters. It was love at first sight. To my great delight after the first book (Friday's Child), there was another (Frederica) and another (These Old Shades). For a short, golden age it seemed like my love affair with Georgette Heyer's romantic fiction need never end. Until I finally got to my last Heyer and realised the stark truth.... There Is No More.

To this day, my sisters and I still have recurring dreams about finding an undiscovered Heyer. Not daydreams, real night time, deepest-stirrings-of-the-unconscious dreams. The joy of finding a Heyer not yet read! I can almost savour it now...

Unfortunately there is no undiscovered Heyer - or not one that I have ever been lucky enough to find. However, happily for me the works of Georgette Heyer didn't just entrance the women of my family - they inspired thousands of others too. In the wake of her passing, a genre was born which finds its home in publishing houses like Harlequin Mills & Boon.

It's a wonderful, addictive world to explore - a world of high glamour, celebrity, modernity and industrialisation, set against the stark reality of the Napoleanic wars. The wealth of inspiration can be witnessed in the huge array of regency romances making their way onto our bookshelves. There are plenty of pale imitators, but there are even more authors with wit, humour, sparkling dialogue and rich narrative, like Nicola Cornick, Louise Allen and Anne Gracie.

This blog is an exploration of the novels and the world in which they are set. Sit back and enjoy!