A Short History Lesson (for me) for the Regency period

I love Regency romances and mysteries, but I don’t know enough about the history of the period to keep everything straight.  Luckily for me, my good friend M. L. Rigdon (aka Julia Donner) agreed to a Q & A to help promote her latest novel, MORE THAN A MILKMAID.

More than a Milkmaid--Mary Lou

Help me welcome her to my blog.  She’s my critique partner and close friend, and I’m also a huge fan of her writing—and not just because I’m prejudiced. I’m pretty picky about what I consider good writing. Not that anyone would know that. I simply don’t review books I don’t like or admire. And I admire her work. Her latest novel, MORE THAN A MILKMAID, is one of my favorites.

Thanks so much for asking me here today! And yes, you are biased, but for my latest venture into the Regency world, it may have to do with you providing the title. Remember? We were at a Scribes writing group and I whined about not being to come up with one. Thanks again for that!

I’ve been reading more novels than usual set in or close to the Regency period. The mystery I’m reading now makes the Prince Regent and his father, actually most of his family, look really bad. It shows the Prince as a spoiled, narcissistic hypochondriac and womanizer who’s so pampered, he couldn’t possibly rule a country. His “handlers” do it. Is this a realistic view of him? Was his father really mentally incompetent—crazy or Alzheimers—at this period?

George III reigned as one of the best monarchs until his mental condition worsened. He was admired for his devotion to his wife and family, huge contributions to charity, and his great pride in being an Englishman, even though 100% German. He was strict and pious, which unfortunately was not passed down to most of his children. His son, eventually George IV, was the opposite of his father in every way, although he did love one woman for many years. The problem was that she was unsuitable as a royal wife.

When the Regent became George IV in 1820, he burdened the country with massive debt. One estimate stated that he spent over 4 million a year on his stables. (A wealthy man spent around 5 thousand a year.) Add to that lavish parties and extravagant building projects. Since he behaved exactly the opposite of his father, George was widely unpopular and mocked.

Back to Dad, George III, the controversy regarding his illness is ongoing. In my opinion (take it as you will), the porphyria disease as the cause of his mental problems doesn’t fit. That doesn’t mean that he didn’t suffer from it, just that it’s doubtful it made him nuts. The arsenic found in the DNA from his hair also doesn’t sound like a true cause for dementia, which was intermittent. (Arsenic was an ancient remedy for many ailments, especially venereal disease, but George III was monogamous.) Bipolar fits better, especially since there are studies about neurotransmitters and George was born 2 months premature. High sex drive is often connected to bipolar and George fathered 15 kids. Hmmm…

Did the Prince go on to become a good king? Did the Hanover house lose its rule eventually? And when did Queen Victoria become queen? Close to this period?

George IV was a mess and fortunately reigned only a decade. His only legitimate heir died. The next in line of surviving brothers was William. He had no legitimate heirs, so the line moved to previously deceased Edward the Duke of Kent’s daughter, Victoria.

QE II is a descendant of the House of Hanover.

I get confused about what’s really happening in history at this time period. Is England still fighting the Napoleonic wars? When is the French revolution when French aristocracy fled to England for safety? You mention both in your books. Asterly was a spy for England against Napoleon and Cervantes’s mother fled the guillotine. Care to elaborate?

Napoleonic Wars started in 1800 in Europe. England entered the war in 1803 until 1815.

Louis XVI was executed January 1793 and Marie Antoinette 9 months later.

Reign of Terror began in the summer of 1793.

Significantly, Marquise de Lafayette returned to France and was never hassled. He was as admired there as he was, and still is, in the US.

Most of the books I’ve read in this period hint at how badly England treated Ireland and maybe Scotland, too. How bad was it? Which of your books dealt with this?

It’s mentioned in many of them but most detailed in The Dandy and the Flirt.

I’m not as familiar with Irish history, but the enclosures in Scotland were horrific, as bad as what the USA did to Native Americans.

In MORE THAN A MILKMAID, you have a wealthy father marry a greedy young bride who does everything possible to steal all of the inheritance he left to his daughters. How did inheritances for female offspring work at that time? What are entailments? How was the title and money passed on to heirs?

Primogeniture, inheritance in England of titles and properties, or entailment, cannot be sold. It follows the eldest born of the male line. Women only inherited if monies or properties, were specifically willed to them and administered through trustees or an elder male member of the family or a person of confidence.

 

In Heiress and the Spy, Elizabeth’s fortune was supposed to be administered by trustees. She directed them. In that case, I took liberties and had her late father arrange special conditions.

 

Dowry pertains to what the bride brings to the marriage. Everything she owns goes to her husband. A settlement had to do with what legal arrangements were set aside for the financial wellbeing of the wife/widow.

 

On a fashion note, the heroines in these stories wear day dresses and then dress for dinner each evening. Did they dress formally every evening?

It wasn’t unusual to change four or five times a day—clothes for the boudoir, morning dress for breakfast, carriage or walking dress, habits for riding, frocks for receiving callers. One always dressed for dinner and then there were different types of fancy dress, such as ball gowns or court dress. In the country, a woman could probably get away with changing twice a day. Men changed didn’t change quite as often but most certainly had specific attires for every event or social function.

Anything you care to tell us about this particular book?  An excerpt to tempt us?

 

I’ve gone on a bit long, as I often do when it comes to history, so will just add a blurb.

 

Lenora Asher’s happy future came to a tragic end when the lad she was contracted to marry lost his life in a fire. Grieving and rebellious, she refused to agree to her family’s plan for an alternate future. When they cast her off, she found work and refuge with an estranged aunt and settled into the struggle to survive—until one day she discovers the love she’d thought long dead was quite vibrantly alive. He returned to show her that the troubled road to happily-ever-after littered with barriers of doubt, distrust and resentment are no obstacle for a man risen from dead, one who will do whatever is needed to restore her love.

https://www.amazon.com/More-Than-Milkmaid-Friendship-Book-ebook/dp/B08426CBBF/ref=sr_1_2?crid=2XQJR2NRLJV2X&keywords=julia+donner&qid=1581613418&s=books&sprefix=Julia+donner%2Cstripbooks%2C154&sr=1-2

M.L Rigdon (aka Julia Donner)

Follow on Twitter @RigdonML

Blog: https://historyfanforever.wordpress.com/

Website http://www.MLRigdon.com

https://www.bookbub.com/authors/julia-donner

https://www.facebook.com/Julia-Donner-697165363688218/timeline

 

 

 

 

 

Mystery Musings

My critique partner and I exchanged manuscripts last week.  We read and marked up each other’s pages and exchanged them again at writers’ club on Wednesday.  I value her comments, and hopefully, she values mine.  We write in different genres, but she reads mysteries now and again, and I read Regencies and enjoy historical mysteries from 1790 to the late 1890’s (I can be had by a Jack the Ripper time period story).

Unlike my friend, I’m not an expert on either the actual events of the prince regent or Queen Victoria’s England.  But Regencies, like Jane Austen, concentrate a great deal on social mannerisms and the aristocracy, and I enjoy both.  When I think of Queen Victoria, unfortunately, I think of squalor and social injustice.   One of the reasons I enjoyed Carnival Row on Prime TV was because it reminded me of Victorian England, which might make you think that I’d love everything Charles Dickens.  But you’d be wrong.  I struggled through his books, mostly because of his writing style.  Now mind you, there’s plenty of squalor and social injustice around today, but it’s too real, so I only read about it infrequently, and only if it’s the background for a great mystery.

Once you hit World War I or the roaring twenties or, even worse, Hitler and World War II, it’s slower going for me unless the story tempts me so much, I bite the bullet and plow through the rest.  I make an exception for Agatha Christie, who did include events surrounding World War II in her mysteries, but then, she didn’t dwell on them and they’re only there to add weight to her crimes.

I was a huge fan of Georgette Heyer, and my friend, Julia Donner, writes Regencies that remind me of hers.  They mix romance and dire circumstances into a stew that keeps me turning pages.  And there’s often humor.  One of the reasons I enjoy Anna Lee Huber’s Lady Darby series so much is the time period–1830.  Men ruled the world and practically owned their wives.  They could beat them as long as they didn’t kill them, but there were always women who proved to be the  exceptions.  Lady Darby’s first husband mistreated her cruelly, and his death brought scandal on her.  But she’s smart and resilient, and her second marriage to Sebastian Gage allows her to become his partner in solving crimes.  Her books offer intriguing chunks of history with clever mysteries.

Another writer who mines historical mysteries during the Regency years is Darcie Wilde with her Rosalind Thorne series.  Again, a noble woman is reduced to restricted circumstances but overcomes her near poverty by solving crimes for wealthy ladies who’d rather keep their secrets…secret.  I read and enjoyed the second book in the series, A Purely Private Matter.

I’d be remiss if I didn’t add Gothic literature to my list of time periods that tempt me.  Anna Lee Huber’s novels often have that same dark, brooding feeling, often in an isolated area like the ones old Gothic romances employed.  They make me think of Jane Eyre, an educated woman alone, sent to an imposing house with dark secrets, who falls for the brooding, often rude, man who employs her.  What fun!

Do you enjoy historical novels?  If so, does a particular period tempt you more than others?  Is there a period that you’d rather avoid?  I go back and forth between historical and contemporary novels.  That gives me variety, which I like.  Do you prefer contemporary?  (I love comments.)

First comes love–but it’s bumpy– then..???

I’ve been reading more lately.  Some of the books are new series to me.  And most of them, no matter the genre, have a touch of romance in them.  How that plays out is interesting.

With the Jazzi Zanders series, I think I stayed pretty typical.  Jazzi, of course, stumbles across murders, but once she and Ansel met, they were always interested in each other, but the timing was never quite right.  At first, Jazzi was engaged to Chad, who ended up NOT being the one.  By the time she broke up with him, Ansel was living with Emily.  It wasn’t until they broke up that Jazzi and Ansel finally were both single at the same time.  And then things started heating up.

But how fast does an author want things to go?  I recently discovered J.D. Robb, and things got hot pretty fast in book one when Roarke and Eve meet.  They moved in together at the end of that book or the beginning of the next one (I can’t remember which).  And they finally made it official in book three.  Anna Lee Huber followed a similar pattern for Gage and Kiera in her Lady Darby series.  Lots of sparks in book one.  A deeper commitment in book two, and a marriage proposal by book three.  Book four shows Kiera biting her tongue as her sister does her best to make her and Gage’s wedding the talk of the ton, but they don’t finally say their vows until a novella between book four and five.  And then what?

For me, the books only got better as the authors balanced marriage with genre plot lines.  Couples who had solved crimes together before developed even more impressive  teamwork after they said their I do’s.  A civilian joined to a professional balance each other out well.  Jenna Bennett outdid herself in the Savannah Martin series when Savannah and Rafe not only got married but had a baby.  I was curious how Bennett would pull that off.  I mean, how does an amateur sleuth solve crimes, toting a baby carrier everywhere she goes?  But Bennett made it work, and she never made grand gestures of putting the baby in danger.  (That would have bothered me.)  But Savannah always worried about her child’s safety.

I talked to a fellow author who’s putting off having her hero and heroine become a couple because she thinks once the romance is done, the story goes flat.  But I don’t agree, not if the marriage is treated honestly and done well.  Look at the Kate Daniels urban fantasy series.  Once Kate and Curran join forces, they only grow stronger and can face more.

Now, I understand that life and timing can slow couples down.  That’s another matter.  When I first met my future DH, we were in college, and I was determined not to get married until I had my degree.  Unfortunately, DH went to a junior college, and the minute he graduated, he was drafted for the Vietnam war.  He didn’t want to make any promises once he was drafted because he didn’t think he was coming back.  Fortunately, he wasn’t in Vietnam very long.  A sniper shot him through both legs and he ended up in a hospital in Japan, then finished his draft time in Texas.  And he WAS lucky.  The bullet didn’t hit any bone or major blood vessels in either leg.  He came home alive and in one piece.  A lot of his friends didn’t.

But after surviving a bullet, the poor man made the fatal mistake of leaving the army and marrying me three days after he was discharged.  Out of the frying pan into the fire.  But life’s detours meant we’d known each other for four years before we finally tied the knot.  I know it can happen, but in stories, I’d rather it didn’t.  And if has to, I’d rather it was for a good reason, not just because the couple can’t make a commitment.

Regardless, once they take the step to be man and wife, I think the relationships, as well as the plot lines, can get even better.

September 23rd is the equinoz, the first day of Fall.  Enjoy it, and happy writing!

 

What is a supernatural mystery anyway?

When I tell friends that I finished Muddy River Mystery One and put it on Amazon, they ask, “What is it?”

Well, a mystery.  That’s in the title.  Muddy River is the town on the Ohio River that the supernaturals settled.  They found a nice, hilly, secluded area in southwest Indiana, far from mortals, to call home.

“The supernatural?” they ask.

Yup, witches, vampires, shapeshifters, and demons, among others.  Most friends know that I used to write urban fantasy.  And now I’m writing mysteries.  So I decided to combine the two.  Sort of like the Babet and Prosper novellas that I used to write.    Prosper was a bearshifter and his partner on the force, Hatchet, was a Druid.

I like writing about Druids.  Of course, I jazz them up a bit.  My Druids can call on lightning to strike and their tattoos are alive and writhe when they’re angry.  It’s Prosper and Hatchet’s job to solve crimes committed by supernaturals who break the rules.

Prosper teams with Babet, a witch, to solve a murder.  In Muddy River, Raven Black–a fire demon–teams with Hester Wand– a witch–to solve the deaths of thirteen young witches who were just starting their own coven.  Of course–no suprise here–while they work together, they fall for each other.

“Oh, a paranormal romance!” someone says.

“No, wrong emphasis.  A paranormal romance has the romance as the story’s main focus.  Raven and Hester’s relationship is more of a subplot.  The mystery forms the main plotline in my story.”

“Why is it different than an urban fantasy?  You started with those.”

“Urban fantasies are about the bad guys, usually evil, bumping heads with the good guys–the protagonist and his friends.  The battles escalate until it’s life or death at the end of the book.  This book, even though it has a few battles, is about solving the mystery.”

This is when my friends usually scratch their heads.  But fellow writers–they’ll understand.  The main plot line is what distinguishes one kind of story from another.  And this story is …a mystery with a romance subplot in a world peopled by Fae, Druids, witches, vampires, shifters, and one banshee.  And it was really fun to write!  As fun as Babet and Prosper.

A close friend and fellow writer still looks at me, bewildered.  “But why?  Your cozy mysteries are doing so well.”

All writers know that it’s dangerous to switch genres.  People who read cozy mysteries might not want anything to do with a fire demon for an enforcer.

Well, I didn’t know how well The Body in the Attic would sell when I started my second series, did I?  It came as a wonderful, happy surprise.  But I’m not sure it would have made a lot of difference.  I tend to lose interest if I read one author, one genre, over and over again, back to back.  Sorry to say, but that holds true of my writing, too.  I really do love the cozy mysteries I write, but I need to change it up once in a while, or else my writing goes flat.

I have no idea if I can find success with Muddy River, but I’d written three cozies, and I needed a witch or two to break things up.  And it worked.  I’m ready to dig into serious rewrites for Jazzi and Ansel’s fourth book now.

Whatever you’re writing, whatever your writing habits, have a great week of it!

 

Historical Fiction

My husband reads lots of nonfiction, especially history and biographies.  I, on the other hand, love a book with a historical background, but I prefer fiction.  I want a plot, a story, with a sense of a time period.

Right now, I’m reading the second book in Anna Lee Huber’s Lady Darby series, MORTAL ARTS.  Set in Scotland in 1830, it’s a mystery–a little on the dark side–with the feeling of English lords and ladies with a bit of Gothic thrown in.  I’m a fan.

I recently read Mae Clair’s END OF DAY, with a present day mystery linked to a heinous event that happened during the founding of Hode’s Hill in 1799.  The chapters from the past added depth and gravity to a curse that’s released when Gabriel Vane’s remains are stolen from the town’s old church yard.  Those scenes from the past were vivid and emotional.

Another author I return to with every new book she writes is my friend Julia Donner/ M.L. Rigdon.  I love her Regency romances.  They take me back to my love of Georgette Heyer and Jane Austen.  But she’s started a new historical Western romance series, and I love those books every bit as much.

That’s why I’m happy to share that the first book in her Westward Bound series, AVENUE TO HEAVEN, is available now on a Goodreads giveaway.  100 lucky winners will receive an e-book copy of her book.  Here’s the link:  https://www.goodreads.com/giveaway?sort=recently_listed&tab=recently_listed.  And here’s a tiny tease about her book:

Mary Lou's Avenur to Heaven twitter post

Hope you have a great week and Happy Writing!

Stan Lee

I don’t buy comic books and I don’t know much about any of the heroes, but when my grandsons lived with us, they dragged me to see a lot of Iron Man, Avengers, and X Men movies.  And I enjoyed almost all of them.  Just like the urban fantasies that I love, comic book heroes always face overwhelming odds.  Good always versus evil.  The fate of the world is at stake.  And there’s so much action.  How fun is that?  So it surprised me when I listened to a quote by Stan Lee, after his death, where he said, “I used to be embarrassed because I was just a comic book writer while other people were building bridges or going on to medical careers. And then I began to realize: Entertainment is one of the most important things in people’s lives. Without it, they might go off the deep end.”  (I got that quote from Screen Rant’s list of 10 most important quotes from Stan Lee:  https://screenrant.com/10-inspirational-stan-lee-quotes/ )

I love his words.  When I was a kid, I always wanted to do something important with my life.    It wasn’t about making oodles of money.  It was about changing the world, and in my eight-year-old mind that equated to becoming a teacher.  To me, teachers shaped kids’ minds and kids were our future.  And I didn’t change my opinion all through school and college.  That’s why I taught elementary for six years.  But it dawned on me that yes, teaching was important, but there were so many other factors that shaped a child, my influence was like a pebble dropping into an ocean.  And when laws changed, and Indiana wouldn’t hire anyone with a Master’s Degree anymore when I wanted to return to my old job, I told myself that raising two awesome daughters could change the world, too.  Still believe that.  And then when I discovered writing, I thought I’d found the perfect vehicle for more.

Somewhere in time, though, I realized that serious fiction might not be for me.  I was more drawn to genre novels.  At the first writers’ conference that I ever attended, the speaker asked us to raise our hands if we wrote genre.  My friend and I lifted our arms, and he sneered at us and informed us that we were hack writers, that we only worked for money.  (I wish).  Now, I knew that I’d never be compared to Margaret Atwood or Shakespeare, but that still ticked me off.  I took pride in what I wrote whether he thought it was worthy of literature or not.

A few writer conferences later (and I chose ones that focused on genre fiction), and the speaker asked one of the really talented romance writers why she chose to write “beneath” her.  Again, I silently fumed while the poor writer struggled for an answer.  (She came up with a good one, too.  Not that it satisfied Mr. Smirky Pants).  Since then, I’ve decided that it’s hard to write ANYTHING well.  And if you do a good job, you’ve earned my respect.  I’ve also learned that some people STILL have to have an hierarchy of what’s important literature and what’s not.  That’s their problem, not mine.  But I still fussed about the things that, in my mind, I couldn’t write well.

That’s part of the reason I had so much fun writing outside of my comfort zone for the three short stories I posted on my webpage for the beginning of October.  I’d told myself that I couldn’t write dark and dismal very well.  And when I posted those three stories, I was pretty satisfied with them.  I’d achieved my goal.  And do you know what?  It wasn’t as much fun as I thought it would be.  Because they’re not the real me.  Yes, I could write them.  Did I want to write any more?  Not really.  And that was a revelation for me.  I’m happy writing what I write.  That’s why Stan Lee’s quote struck such a chord for me.

I’m grateful to all of the authors who write the books that I love to read, the ones that bring me so much enjoyment.  Stan Lee’s right.  Offering entertainment is an end in itself.  Yes, serious, weighty volumes inspire me, but so do cozy mysteries and smalltown romances.  The world needs people who care about what they do, whether they collect garbage, perform surgeries, sing and dance, or write comic books.  Do what you feel passionate about (within reason:)

P.S.  I won’t be posting another blog until after Thanksgiving, so enjoy the holiday.  And happy writing!

For Better or For Worse

My HH (handsome husband) and I celebrated our anniversary in August.  47 years together, and we still like each other.  A few of the couples we get together with have already hit the big 5-0.  When our friends got married, they signed up for the long haul.  It didn’t work out for a couple of them, but it’s not because they didn’t try.

I always say that I’m not an especially romantic person.  HH is.  He loves to buy me flowers, loves it when he finds jewelry he thinks I’ll like.  (I can only wear rings anymore.  Metal makes my skin itch and swell.)  He buys cards that drip with sentimentality.  Me?  I love to cook for him, to see him happy.  But mushy?  It’s not in me.  When I wrote romances, though, it was fun watching two people who were drawn to each other work to get it right.  There were missteps, of course, and false starts, but by the end of the book, they’d worked things out.  And they only had one book to do it in.  Each novel had to end with a happy ever after.

Now that I’m writing a mystery series, I can take more time.  In Body in the Attic, Jazzi and Ansel work with each other.  He has a live-in girlfriend, but when she says Jump, she expects him to ask How high?  Ansel’s an easy-going guy, but he has his limits.  And Emily pushes them.  When she finally pushes him too far, Ansel’s a free man.  And a drop dead gorgeous one, too.  At six-five with white-blond hair and blue eyes, he’s one of Norway’s best exports.  By the end of the book, (and this won’t ruin any great surprise), he and Jazzi move in together.  He wants to get married.  She wants to wait.  She thinks she’s just the rebound girl, and after he licks his wounds for a while, he’ll move on.  But, hey, in the meantime, why not have a little fun?

If you’ve read Ilona Andrews’s Kate Daniels series or Patricia Briggs’s Mercy Thompson novels, you know that it takes a few books for the hero and heroine to finally get it together.  For a lot of readers, once the protagonist and her love interest make it official–one way or another–the stories get even better.  It’s fun to see them working as a couple.  But not for everyone.  For some readers, making the two a couple takes the edge off both of their personalities.  To each, his own.  But for me, endless flirting and misunderstandings get on my nerves.  I get tired of the mating ritual and want them to get it right or move on.  But then, as I said, I’m not a romantic.  And I guess I’m not all that patient either:)  But throwing Jazzi and Ansel together was fun.  And I don’t have to resolve everything in one book.  I have more in the series to go . . .

Happy writing, everyone!