Monday, April 25, 2016

Those Pesky Regency Facts

by Vonnie Hughes

Well, here we are at it again. Everyone involved in writing Regencies at some stage or other comes up against the argument - what is genuine Regency behaviour and wording, and what is not?

On the loops we complain about 21st century attitudes and words creeping in to our Regency books. There are two sides to this story.

I'm all in favour of genuine. I cringe when a so-called Regency miss gets 'feisty' and wants to go out in the dead of night to teach some young buck a lesson. If she was of good birth, she'd be too closely guarded to get the chance to go fluttering around on her own at night. If she was careful of her reputation she simply wouldn't go out asking for trouble - it wouldn't occur to her. But there are ways around scenarios like this. They just have to sound 'period.' And there must be a VERY good reason for her to flout convention. Not just a yearning for excitement.

I don't go a bundle on the covers of books where shirtless guys bearing marked resemblance to gypsies (the old tall, dark and handsome I guess) leer down the genetically enhanced nippled decolletage of simpering young women in the throes of passion. At least I think it's passion. Some of 'em look constipated.

But I am all for writing books that are exciting for 21st century readers to enjoy. That's what it's about. A writer is an entertainer.

So a Regency author has to tread a fine line between what you can get away with (or what your editor lets you get away with) and still have that authentic flavour of the early 19th century. You can't disappoint your readers. And you mustn't have them chucking your book at the wall and saying, 'This is not Regency.' Do them the compliment of understand that many Regency readers are VERY knowledgeable about the period. They know the difference between a landau and a lorgnette. Or buckskins and a bufflehead.

I think any writer has to treat his/her audience with respect. As for Regency, it's a crowded Regency world out there at the moment and you don't want your reader defecting to a more authentic writer.

How to zap up the excitement? Don't look at me. I'm a dull, prissy writer. But I'd suggest a hero, heroine and villain out of the ordinary, or a setting that's really unusual like somewhere on the hero's Grand Tour or the cold Yorkshire moors. No more Almack's. And best, of all, I'd suggest a mystery or a crime with a villain that's not quite a villain. You know, a man who under other circumstances could easily be a friend, but he took a wrong turning. You can wring a lot of angst out of someone who is almost likeable.

The picture above is a genuine Regency miss c. 1806. She's an interesting young lady. You get the impression there are lots of secrets behind the eyes. Most all, I like a heroine with guts. Nobody wants to read a book with no conflict or danger or excitement. And I think the young lady in the sketch has a great story behind her.


Here is a little from Vonnie's latest Regency.

In the aftermath of a vicious rape, Juliana Colebrook shuns all men apart from the injured soldiers she nurses. Orphaned and alone, she desperately wants to leave Portugal for the protection of her relatives in England. However, there is still one man who invokes her admiration: Brigade-Major Colwyn Hetherington, with his self-deprecating sense of humour and innate sense of duty.

So when Colwyn is offered a dream job managing a large estate in Wiltshire, Juliana asks him to escort her back to England. But Colwyn has troubles of his own and when he is forced to reveal the nature of his woes to a stunned Juliana, everything changes. Mired in danger, who can Juliana trust? And what of Colwyn’s warning that families bring only trouble?

When Brigade-Major Colly Hetherington meets Miss Juliana Colebrook, he gives her a black eye. After the Battle of the Douro on the Iberian Peninsula he is severely wounded and only semi-conscious, but he is still coherent enough to know that he is behaving just as his father had predicted when he threw Colly out of the family home five years previously. Colly cannot be trusted around women.

Miss Colebrook, however, sees in Colly a wealth of kindness and a willingness to assume responsibility. She observes that he cares about the soldiers serving under him. If only…

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Vonnie Hughes is a multi-published author in both Regency books and contemporary suspense. She loves the intricacies of the social rules of the Regency period and the far-ranging consequences of the Napoleonic Code. And with suspense she has free rein to explore forensic matters and the strong convolutions of the human mind. Like many writers, some days she hates the whole process, but somehow she just cannot let it go.

Vonnie was born in New Zealand, but she and her husband now live happily in Australia. If you visit Hamilton Gardens in New Zealand be sure to stroll through the Japanese Garden. These is a bronze plaque engraved with a haiku describing the peacefulness of that environment. The poem was written by Vonnie.

Learn more about Vonnie Hughes on her website and blog. Stay connected on Facebook and Goodreads.


  1. Holy Batman, Vonnie! That story sounds exciting and and dangerous. Good luck and best wishes. I know you know your stuff! <s
    Emma Lane

  2. Coming Home sounds intriguing. A Regency with a meat on the bones. I am looking forward to reading it.

  3. Coming Home sounds very entertaining!

  4. I often read Regency for the historical escape from today's world and you are correct. It's a crowded genre. Sure, there are rebels in every era, but an author who makes their story sound feasible and in accordance with social mores of that time gets my vote.

  5. Great post Vonnie. I agree about readers being very clued up on the period. The voice needs to be authentic and entertaining.

  6. Couldn't agree more with you about the Regency world, Vonnie. Lovely to catch up with you again since the Musa days. Best wishes with Coming Home, looking forward to reading it.