Tag Archive | Regency Romance

Every Book Has Two Stories

TheCardrosRubyThere are two stories for every book–the story in the pages, and the story behind the pages. For The Cardros Ruby, it’s story is a long one, but I’ll shorten it up.

Back in the day I’d written a story–this one–and it was good enough to final in RWA’s Golden Heart for Best Regency. That delighted me, and I went to Hawaii (and I doubt RWA will ever have a conference there again, since most of us really wanted to be on the beach and not in conference rooms). The book didn’t win, but a good friend (made at the conference), won and went on to sell–this book didn’t sell.

Now there are always many reasons why a book might not sell, even a very good book. Back then the choices were traditional Regency publishing with strict word counts of under 70K, and Historical Regency romance, but those were going hot, and have since even gone hotter. This book didn’t fit either marketing category–it’s a long traditional Regency (with a bit of a mystery in it, but not enough to make it a mystery). So it was a book without a marketing category–that used to be death for any book.  It was doomed to a shoebox life.

These days, thank heavens, it’s a different world. So…an edit later, a read through by others, and a cover, and it’s now finally out in the world.

The Cardros Ruby is–I hope–a bit of a throwback to the days when novels could be novels–when a romance could have some action, some history, some mystery, and just be a great read. Hopefully, it’s all that.

A Man with a Dark Past…

After leaving home years ago amid scandal, Captain Desford Cardros has returned home to mend his wounds, and settle an old score with his brother. But he is drawn to a beautiful woman whose brother is the target of mysterious accidents. Now Cardros must choose between repayment for past wrongs, or a love that could be his salvation.

A Lady Whose Future is Uncertain…

Helena Seaford is ready to do anything to protect her only brother, even trust a scoundrel. But will she hold to her an upbringing that intends her to be a lord’s wife, or will passion lead her into scandal?

 A Deadly Secret to Hide…

As a killing frost holds everyone prisoner in the Yorkshire country, a fragile alliance will be tested by old secrets and lies. Ultimately, the truth may be found in the story of what did happen to the Cardros Ruby five years ago?

EXCERPT

Cardros had a dislike for being of use. Army life had taught him that always meant doing something stupid and generally dangerous. Over the years, he had learned to salute and say, “Yes, sir,” and do as he thought best given the circumstances. He had not, however, learned to master his dammed curiosity. It tugged on him now, pulled like a cat with yarn to unravel. He knew he would do better to ignore it. “My dear girl, my reputation precedes me, as your aunt has said, so you must know I’m no gentleman.”

Her eyebrow quirked high again, and her mouth twitched as if she might have something to say, but she bit back the words. She had a light dusting of freckles across her nose—very unfashionable—and they no longer stood out on too-pale skin. She stared at him for a moment, her gaze direct, leaving him uneasy, feeling as if she could see through to his thoughts, to the old hurts that he took care to hide from the world. But that was only a fancy, for she pokered up again with proper manners.

“I presume too much on your time. Of course, despite aiding Havelock, you have no real interest in our troubles.”

He let out a breath. If she had pressed, he would have resisted, but this sudden capitulation—this retreat—left him with the ingrained desire to pursue. A withdrawal needed to be followed. However, he kept his tone flippant—he wanted his options left open.

“Will it help if I say I do find my interest in you growing by the minute? Probably not such a good thing for you, but shall we take that drink and see what develops?”

Crossing the room to the decanters, his stride stiff and shortened, he wondered what she thought of his limp. Damaged goods, no doubt. Less than a full man. She said nothing, however, of his injury and asked instead, “Did you happen to see my brother’s accident?”

“I didn’t, but I should think his horse slipped in the mud. Now, you owe me an answer—why on earth did my mother drag you here? I assume she must be in residence and did so, for I can’t imagine why else you’d be visiting. It’s a dull place in the best of weather.”

He poured brandy for himself, almost poured her wine, but thought better of it, so a splash of brandy to steady her nerves as well. He brought the glasses back, put them on a side table where the sharp aroma wove into the room along with the comfort of wood smoke. He settled himself on the couch next to her, and thought she looked to be carrying on an internal debate.

She sat with her hands tightly intertwined, her eyes downcast, and a frown tugging her brows flat on her forehead.

He almost reached out to smooth the lines forming, but he wasn’t quite certain of his ground yet. Always best to scout the area before choosing to engage in a skirmish. Stretching out his bad leg, he took up his brandy and sipped. Ah, good to see Ian hadn’t drunk the cellars dry of the good French cognac. The golden liquid warmed his insides like a Guy Fawkes bonfire. He couldn’t let such drink go to waste.

Picking up the second glass, he nudged her arm with it. She glanced at it as if he was offering poison.

“You may trust me on one thing—this will help,” he said.

She took the glass with a challenge in her eyes, and tossed it back as if it were water. “My grandmother raised my brother and I, and she’s Scottish. We know how to drink.”

“Well, in that case…” he rose, refilled both glasses and came back. Clinking glasses with her, he offered a toast, “To mending old wounds, and making new ones.”

 

 

Writing Workshops

I’m just starting up the Writing the Regency Workshop online for Outreach International Romance Writers, which works well since I just gave a talk on this at RWA National Conference, too. This had me thinking about what is it that folks need to get right, and I also asked the RWA Beau Monde Chapter about what they thought. Here’s the short form answer:

1 – Basic History. Even if you’re doing alternate history, you need to know some of the basics because this informs the characters–people live within the context of their world, and it helps to know what events formed their parents and grandparents and their family.

2 – —Titles & Class System.  Gossford Park is great to help us Yanks get an idea of a nuanced class system–Americans are used to rich/poor and something in between and that’s about it. Getting this right can be tricky since titles evolved over more than a thousand years, but it’s important–nothing can throw a reader out of a story faster than a title that makes no sense.
—3 – British Sensibilities.  BBC America is a big help here, so is being an anglophile.  This one is another tricky spot since you can end up with characters who don’t seem as if they’ve ever been near England.
—4. Legal Stuff.  If your story premise has anything to do with inheritance or marriage laws, it’s time to break out the research books and make sure the basic premise works. If that doesn’t work the whole story can fall apart on you.
5. —Society’s Attitudes. The 1800’s are similar to our world, but it’s also a different era–and while your characters may rebel against this, they should know what they’re up against. Folks back then knew about a woman’s place, and a man’s place, and that there were no teenagers, just adults and children. All of this can affect your characters.

6. Social/Personal Constraints. Honor mattered, so did duty–and while some folks might shrug those off, others did not and it said a lot about a character who did not take these to heart. This is also the stuff that makes for great conflict so it’s wonderful meat for a writer.

Now, of course, there’s lots more to know–but those are the big ones. We’ll get into the rest in the workshop.

Regency Coin — What Did it Cost?

Proper ConductIn Proper Conduct, the heroine spends a good deal of time worrying about money that is not there, particular after her father spends nearly 1,000 pounds on a horse.  Not an excessive sum to someone such as the Prince Regent, whose racing stud farm cost him 30,000 pounds a year.  But all these numbers seemed to need a bit perspective.

We also have to remember that back in the 1800’s England was not on a decimal system–you had to know your farthings, pennies, and shillings. And coins were far more common for use than any paper money. Banknotes–slips of paper that promised payment for a set amount–were initially issued by individual banks. In the late 1600’s the Bank of England was established and by the late 1700’s their notes were viewed as being as good as gold (or silver). But Scottish banks issue their own notes until the mid 1800’s, and other private banks o issue their own notes until the mid 1800’s, and the last English private banknote was issued in the early 1900’s.

Banknotes began to be standardized in the mid 1700’s, with ten and five pound notes appearing. These were all hand-lettered and signed–and 1821 banknotewere viewed by many with deep suspicion. A coin, after all, was to hold the value of itself within it’s metal. And for many, a bit of gold or silver in hand was better than any promise given in a bit of paper. Banknotes were much easier to forge than any coin–another good reason for anyone to prefer payment in solid coin.

So we look to coinage as the most common form of currency.

In the Regency, we have as the main coins denominations:

  • Farthing – four farthing made a penny
  • Penny or Pence – twelve pennies (or twelvepence) made a shilling
  • Shilling – five shillings made a crown
  • Crown
  • Pound – twenty shillings made a pound
  • Guinea – twenty-one shillings made a guinea

In ledgers, a pound is often written with the pound mark–£. Shilling is written as an “s” or a slash mark, as in 6/ is six shillings. And a penny is written up as “d” for denarius, a Roman silver coin that had the same value as the English penny. So 4d is four pence.

Coinage in use in the Regency included:

  • Gold for one, two, five and half-guinea coins
  • Silver for one, two, three, four, and six penny (or pence), shilling, and crown coins
  • Copper for half-pence and farthing coins

Two-penny coins were called tuppence. And there were all sorts of slang names for coins including a quid (pound), a bob (shilling), and a goldfinch (guinea).

Due to a shortage of copper and silver coins in the late 1700’s, firms began to use tokens to pay wages.  There was also a growth in payments by foreign coins at this time.

The annual expenses of a great house could run between 5,000 and 6,000 pounds a year including housekeeping, repairs, stables, parklands, gardens, home farm costs, servants, and taxes.

Mrs. Whitney’s  Boarding School for Young Ladies at Buckingham cost twelve guineas a year, and one guinea extra if tea and sugar were required to be served.

In Bath, one paid two guineas were paid for subscription balls, five shillings for concert tickets, and ten shillings sixpence for a subscription to the booksellers.

With an income of 400 pounds a year, one could employ two maids, one groom and keep one horse in London.  On 700 hundred a year, one could have one manservant, three maids and two horses.  With an income of 1,000 pounds a year, one could have three female servants, a coachman, a footman, two carriages and a pair of horses in London.

There were three to four hundred families whose income was over 10,000 pounds a year, due to vast land holdings (hence, these were called “The four hundred” — it was a small world at the top).

During the London season, the lease on house in the West End could cost as much as 1,000 pounds.

Anyone with a debt of twenty pounds or more could be sent to debtor’s prison.  However, a member of Parliament could not be imprisoned while Parliament was sitting.

The capital to secure an estate was approximately thirty times the desired income–so, if you want to make 1,000 pounds a year, you need 30,000 to secure the amount of good land that could produce such an income.

The Earl of Egremont saw a rise in income due to land rentals from 12,976 pounds in 1791 to 34,000 pounds in 1824.

In Somerset (where Proper Conduct is set) 30 acres for let went for 35 pounds per annum, with the tenant paying all taxes except land tax.

In 1801, a 100-acre estate in Sussex sold for 3,500 pounds.

In 1804, due to the silver shortage, the Bank of England issued light-weight token silver coins for one shilling, three shilling and six pence coins.

From 1811 to 1812, an estimated 250,000 people lived comfortably on more than seven hundred pounds a year each.  A half million shopkeepers made a hundred and fifty pounds a year each, two million artisans lived on the edge of poverty at 55 pounds per annum, and one and one half million laborers earned only 30 pounds a year each.

In 1813, a cow fetched about 15 pounds at the market, while a ewe went for 55 to 72 shillings.

In 1816, a new British one pound coin made of gold, the sovereign, began to be produced.

In 1820, 1,100 years after the first English silver pennies were minted, the last British silver pennies were minted.

Christmas Stories

It’s Dicken’s fault–he started the trend. Now, maybe there were Christmas stories around before A Christmas Carol (favorite film version being the one with Alistair Sim), but Dicken’s became the one trotted out every year with the trees and holly and mistletoe. And why fight success. But I actually never set out to write a Christmas story.

Under the Kissing BoughUnder the Kissing Bough started life as a short story. It was supposed to be about 100 pages, and I actually didn’t start out with a time of year, but I did want to see if I could do a novella. I’d been writing a lot of novels and hadn’t done any shorter fiction in a long time, and I actually really, really like the shorter format. It’s a challenge to work in, but can be rewarding. I forgot one thing–you cannot do a short story with lots of characters. Not and do all the characters any kind of justice.

You see, I love to give every character a ‘star turn.’ I think of them all as actors, and every actor–even ones with bit parts–loves to have that great screen moment with wonderful dialogue that moves the story (and the audience). All this mean that with large families (heroine has two sisters, and her parents; hero has father, two brothers, and a former love interest who is now married), I knew that by page seventy, no way was this story ever going to fit into 100 pages. So I put it aside.

And then my then editor at Kensington asked if I’d like to do a holiday book–a Christmas story. “Sure” is always the immediate answer I provide in such situations. And then I had to figure out what I could do for Christmas. Because I can’t just stick on some holy and call it holiday. To me, if an element is not important in the story–and to the characters–it’s got no business being stuck in.

This mean research–as in I needed to dig into English Christmas customs (not difficult since I had a grandmother from Yorkshire and a lot of handed-down family traditions). And I dug out my short story to take another look.

The December setting suited my characters very well–I’d already set up a ‘marriage of convenience’ story (always a wonderful plot to use for historical fiction). Now I could weave in the holiday customs, make them part of the plot and the story (because, in England, you really, really need a very good reason to get married in the cold of winter). There were a few things I couldn’t quite fit into the story due to the limitations of page counts (from the days when that mattered so very much in print)–as in it would have been fun to do more with Twelfth Night celebrations. But I did get other things in there that I loved adding.

And I ended up with a Christmas story.

I’m toying this year with rereading it. I don’t often reread my own work. When you’ve spent a long time writing and revising, another read seems more of a burden than a treat. But it would be fun to do another holiday story. Mmmm…maybe Guy Fawkes day.