by Anna Campbell
When I'm whizzing around the traps as I tend to do (traps being the intrinsically exciting places you can imagine!), people often ask me about research.
In fact, they ask me so often, I'm astonished. As anyone who's visited me on a blog or seen me speak in person, I get too much unhealthy excitement out of odd details of Regency life. You know, who slept with whom or who bought their china where.
OK, who slept with whom gets me slightly MORE excited!
Something else people ask me is to give them a primer on a definition of the Regency. I've come up with a nice short explanation - it's the period from 1811 to 1820 when George III was incurably mad and his son Prince George became Regent, effectively monarch in his father's place although without the actual title of king.
I then explain (quickly before eyes glaze over) that in terms of historical romance, the Regency covers anything from the end of the 18th century to the accession of Queen Victoria in 1837. I then mention Napoleonic wars, industrial revolution, PRIDE AND PREJUDICE, Georgette Heyer and men in boots (this last one has the remarkable effect of unglazing all eyes!).
Mention Colin Firth and THAT lake and eyes even reach the point of looking quite bright!
Just in case you've forgotten, I enclose this illustration to prove my point!
So I thought I'd do a quick whizz through some fun books that make a great introduction to the Regency and some of the terms that pop up with Almackian frequency in Regency-set romances.
All of these books (with one exception) are fairly readily available at the online stores like Amazon or the Book Depository. All have the benefit of being entertaining and the sort of history that is more concerned with who seduced whom (and how they addressed them in the morning) rather than who legislated what. I've also included a couple of really beeee-ootiful books that offer numerous glamorous settings for seductions and legislations.
Well, maybe more of the former than the latter!
For the general reader, I highly recommend GEORGETTE HEYER'S REGENCY WORLD by Aussie Jennifer Kloester. It takes you on a whirl through all things like the Season and Almack's and how to cause a scandal (or not). If you're a devotee of Heyer's novels - and I know from my reviews here that a lot of you are - there's the extra fun of how the historical information links to specific stories.
A book I constantly have on hand when I'm writing is Daniel Pool's WHAT JANE AUSTEN KNEW AND CHARLES DICKENS ATE. For really specific Regency questions, this one isn't great as it tends to squeeze the whole nineteenth century together in one big delicious sandwich. But if you want to know how to address that duke you've got coming to dinner and whether to sit him next to Agatha Horseface-Smythe, the bishop's spinster daughter, or the Hon. Letitia Flirty-Pants, it's fabulous.
For more specific 'history' books - you know, what happened when (and who slept with whom - yeah, I know, I'm obsessed!) - I recommend THE PRINCE OF PLEASURE AND HIS REGENCY 1811-20 by J.B. Priestley and OUR TEMPESTUOUS DAY by Carolly Erickson.
Both the Priestley and the Erickson cover the Regency proper (or improper!), between 1811 and 1821.
THE PRINCE OF PLEASURE is the one you might have trouble finding, although it seems to be readily available secondhand. I bought a first edition (1971) fairly cheaply at a used book store here in Oz years ago but only just read it. Wow, what a fabulous piece of social history. And the illustrations in the hardcover edition will have you drooling like George, the Prince Regent, drooled after his dinner (he was a big eater, was George - he was the original for Georgy Porgy in the nursery rhyme!).
Easier to get and extremely enjoyable (although the Priestley is more gossipy) is Carolly Erickson's OUR TEMPESTUOUS DAY: A HISTORY OF REGENCY ENGLAND. What I like about both this and the Priestley is that you get a real feel for the personalities of the era.
One of the best books I've read for years and considerably more exciting than you'd think a tome about the scientific revolution in the Regency era could possibly be (perhaps I could say 'electric'?) is THE AGE OF WONDER by Richard Holmes. This book offers a vivid portrait of the best minds of the time and the way they clashed and sparked off each other and created the modern world that we live in today. Highly recommended! Seriously, a lot of it reads like an exciting historical novel.
And now for some visual gratification...
No, not more Colin Firth (although now you mention it...).
One of the lovely things about writing books set in the Regency is that it was just such a darn pretty era.
I love the clothes, both men's and women's. And I love the explosion of decorative arts that took place in this first third of the 19th century. China, furniture, fabrics, doodads, just name it - they're elegant and beautiful and have lasted through time as icons of beauty and utility.
If you're a decorative arts freak ( like moi!), I highly recommend THE REGENCY COUNTRY HOUSE by John Martin Robinson and REGENCY STYLE by Steven Parissien. I gave the Robinson to a friend of mine and he referred to it as architectural p*rn. More decorously, I'll call these two picture books for adults!
Both are incredibly inspiring for a romance writer who lives too far away from Flirty Pants Hall to check it out in person. Although that's always fun if anyone wants to send me a plane ticket!
Both books are a little unwieldy for reading in bed (especially the Parissien which is both a coffee table book and a book that features coffee tables, Kramer would be delighted!). But they're both so gorgeous, who cares if you have to sit up at a table to leaf through them?
OK, must stop there or I'll still be talking research books till the next Regency! This was meant to be a quick review of four books and you see where that idea ended up!
So do you like to research the background to your romances? Or are you happy for the world of the book to be complete unto itself? Do you have any favorite books about the Regency? And do you prefer your Darcy wet or dry?