Writing: historical AND male/female POVs

My critique partner, Mary Lou Rigdon, writes some of my all time favorite male characters, so I wondered, how does she do it? Is it different writing from a male’s POV instead of a female’s? How does she do it so well? So I asked her to share. She writes Regency romances under the pseudonym Julia Donner, and I’m happy to have her visit my blog again. She recently released her fifth novel in the Friendship Series—The Dark Earl and His Runaway. Here’s her author page:
Hope you enjoy our Q&A:

Hi Judy! Thanks for the invite.

1. You write some mighty fine, interesting male characters. So, my first question is—do you find it easier to write male or female characters? Does it make a difference? Why or why not?

One of the things that amazed me were the enthusiastic remarks from men who liked the two fantasy books written entirely in the male point of view. I never thought about the fact that I was writing outside my gender. For me, story is about character, how the character responds to everything thrown at him/her. Men respond to the visual. Women react to the emotional. These are not hard and fast rules. Some characters are a blend. Many cultural factors influence our behaviors, and I do believe that there is something in the genes, or heritage that can play a role. I like that the sexes are different. When it all boils down to a gob of grease, men and women have the same feelings—we just feel them for different reasons.

2. What fascinates you about the Regency period? It’s a lot of work to write, lots of research. Every button and fan has to be right.

Like most regency readers, I fell in love with Jane Austen. Pride and Prejudice is still my favorite book, and Persuasion is brilliant writing, a close second. I don’t mind adding period description and usually work to not go overboard. Having spent twenty-plus years in theater, creating a literary scene is set decoration and period style is costuming. Piece-o-cake.

3. What were women’s options during that period of history? They had few rights, correct? In The Dark Earl and His Runaway, Leticia can’t refuse a marriage until she’s 21? And can’t control her money until she’s older?

My impression from all that I’ve read, and I’m no expert on British law, is that the laws were written to reflect and establish the rights of men. Women exist in the law as appendages to men. Legally, women appear to exist in how they relate to men’s rights, especially in the upper class.(In Scotland, some titles could pass through the female line.) If there was a lot of money involved, trustees or the male head of household had the control, made all decisions. Some fathers were careful and made specific inheritance stipulations, but it had to be carefully drawn up. A woman’s property passed to the husband with marriage, that’s why wise parents and guardians had precise settlements documented to protect their daughters’ futures.
When it came to children, women had no rights. Men could take the children at any time. There are historical and court records of heartless, even vindictive husbands using the children to inflict pain on the maternal spouse. The occasional kind-hearted judge might be persuaded to allow the mother rare visitations.
The element of how the law benefited men and not women has been woven into every regency I’ve written and I never realized it until this interview. Interesting.

4. What was schooling/education like during that period of history? For boys? For girls? All of the “friends” respect and are loyal to Rave for protecting them when they were away at school. Please explain.

It depended on one’s place in society. There were charity schools for the lower classes, if the children didn’t have to work in fields or factories. Early education for boys in the upper classes was done by tutors or local clergy with the “living.” Sometimes the girls were allowed to sit in, but it wasn’t common. The higher up the social chain, the less likely a woman learned basic academics. A governess started the girls off in the rudiments, and then before the girl could “come-out” or be presented at court, she was sent to a seminary and trained to sing, play an instrument, learn some French and perhaps some Italian, drawing, a little geography. If the boys weren’t sent first to a school like Eton, they were tutored at home then sent to university. Many wasted the time there, but a few took education seriously, especially younger sons, who had to make their way in the world in the military, clergy, or with a diplomatic position.
In England, the “public” school is what Americans call a private school. Independent and the old public schools, like Eton, Winchester, were breeding grounds for brutality. Hazing and bullying, fagging, as they often called it. The older boys beat the young ones. In the case of the Eligibles, Ravenswold was larger than his upperclassmen. He had a group he protected from the worst of it. Although, he wouldn’t have babied his protégés. They had to learn to fight their own battles, as Sir Harry explained in The Rake and the Bishop’s Daughter. One of the things that astonished my husband while he was in the military was how much the Brits loved to fight.

5. I get the feeling from your Regency novels that the “friends” desire different marriages than the norm. They intend to be faithful to a woman they love, and they want her to share their bed. They don’t intend to take a mistress. What was the typical aristocratic marriage like?

Aristocratic marriages were businesslike, property and lineage paramount, unless funds were needed to keep the family estate afloat. A merchant’s daughter might be wed but rarely accepted socially, unless “polished.” Love had nothing to do with marriage, but that reality would make for poor book sales. After the heir and spare, the couples went their separate ways with discretion.
Also remember that Jane Austen wrote about the gentry, not the aristocracy. Her stories were more about the upper middle class with a few titles sprinkled here and there.

6. Just in a sentence or two (or three), please describe what attracted each of your couples to each other.

The Tigresse and the Raven:
Ravenswold was immediately impressed by Cassandra’s boldness and plain speaking. He had no stomach for girls or anyone who simpered. Cassandra wanted a man she could respect and a safe haven, while protecting a friend from her past.

The Heiress and the Spy:
Lord Asterly loved the image of his friend’s wife and used it to survive the horrors of war. He fell in love with Elizabeth when he finally met her. Elizabeth was intrigued by his clever mind and enchanted with his relentless pursuit.

The Rake and the Bishop’s Daughter:
Sir Harry spent his life fooling the world and bored with the game. Widow Olivia’s practical nature was not impressed by his looks and fame. He didn’t know that she’d fallen in love with him as a girl. Olivia never forgot a kindness a handsome youth had done for a clumsy girl, while Harry became jealous of that secret memory, never realizing he was jealous of himself.

The Duchess and the Duelist:
Duelist Freddy can’t resist the secretive Evangeline, an attraction that gets out of hand. Evangeline, worn down by years of lies to protect her child from his creepy uncle, gives in to her attraction to Freddy, who refuses to give up until he has her.

The Dark Earl and His Runaway:
Unbeknownst (I’ve always wanted to use that word) to Leticia, Lord Bainbridge has loved her since she was a baby. Only a lad at the time, Bainbridge took seriously their parent’s discussion to merge their properties with a cradle engagement that never became legal but was firmly seated in the boy’s mind. Leticia couldn’t understand the earl’s devotion offered just when she needed it. His chivalry won her admiration before her heart.

Okay, I’ve bugged you enough for answers. Thanks for visiting my blog and sharing your novels with us.

Mary Lou’s blog: https://historyfanforever.wordpress.com/
Webpage: http://mlrigdon.com

Mary Lou’s other series: http://www.amazon.com/M.L.-Rigdon/e/B0086UZFGA/ref=sr_ntt_srch_lnk_1?qid=1431382365&sr=1-1