07-14-18 Cassandra O’Leary

Thursday, August 6, 2015

Women of the Regency Era

Waving from a very warm New Zealand on a wet and windy day. It’s winter here and since I’ve had a month traveling with my sister Leigh (left at the Vancouver Art Gallery cafe) in a very hot Canada and USA, I’m shivering in the NZ cold. However, it makes wrapping up and writing, easier.

As a romance writer, I love my job, or passion, as I like to call it. It allows me to develop characters that I’d like to meet. i met some fascinating people on my travels, sitting on plans, lining up in queues for attractions etc. I'm sure some of the people I met, their personalities in particular, will end up in my books. It's hard of course, because the modern day is so different from the era I write in — Regency (early 1800's England). Men and women behave quite differently now.

I love strong, arrogant heroes, because I can show them that sometimes, if they let their walls down and open their hearts, love can rock their world. Usually that requires an intelligent and resourceful heroine—the type of heroine I can admire.

However, when writing historical romance, the game changes in that sometimes it’s difficult to show just how strong and independent a woman can be because of the restrictive culture of the day.

Generally, women in the early 1800’s, the Regency era I write in, had no real power because
they were financially dependent on men, a husband, brother, or father.

It wasn’t until later in the 19th century, with the passing of the Married Woman’s Property Act in 1870, which gave women the right to be more than chattels of their husband, that woman began to look at financial security as a rightful state. Unmarried women during this period were the most vulnerable and were still at the whim of finding employment. With little education most were in menial servant positions. That’s why you read so many stories where the heroines are courtesans. Even today, the lack of money and educational opportunities is still the number one cause of slavery (the largest form of slavery today is sexual) in the world today.

During the early 1800’s, men maintained this financial superiority by keeping women uneducated. Schooling for women was not seen as necessary. Women were there to have children and run the home. What I now find ironic is that many women still do raise children and run the home, but in addition, also have to provide financially as well, but that’s another topic.

I wanted to write a story about a woman who found an unusual way to become independent. Can you imagine what kind of woman it must have taken in the 1800’s to go against society’s norms and rules? She’d have to have been strong, thick-skinned, and very intelligent too. A force to be reckoned with.

Women’s ability to bear children was prized more than intelligence. It reminds me of the lyrics to Madonna’s song, What it Feels Like For a Girl.

Strong inside but you don't know it
Good little girls they never show it
When you open up your mouth to speak
Could you be a little weak

That’s exactly what women were expected to be in the Regency era—weak and helpless. If you had an opinion you kept it to yourself.  Women were taught that no man wants a wife who is as smart, or smarter, than him. Or at least only those men too weak to recognize what an asset a smart woman could be to them.

A TOUCH OF PASSION (book #3 in the Disgraced Lords series) out now, is a tale that deals with the problem of a ‘modern woman’ in Regency times.

Grayson Devlin, Viscount Blackwood, is in love with Lady Portia, but denies it because he feels she is too modern for him, a man who needs the backing of the House of Lords in order to fulfill his promise to her dying brother. Lady Portia is financially secure, she doesn’t care about what others think of her, nor does she need to marry a man simply for security. She set up, and runs, one of England’s most successful cider businesses.

Portia is very independent. She almost died of a lung fever at the age of sixteen and she’s determined to live her life to the full. She uses her intelligence to start a business that not only supports her, but is also used to support an orphanage. She doesn’t mean to challenge society at every turn, but she won’t live her life to appease other people’s expectations. Grayson on the other hand lost his family and is determined to live up to his father’s honorable reputation. A wild and scandalous woman for a wife is not what he needs. Or so he thinks….

Here’s the blurb:

In the latest Disgraced Lords novel from USA Today bestselling author Bronwen Evans, a vivacious thrill seeker clashes with her dutiful defender—causing irresistible sparks to fly.
Independent and high-spirited, Lady Portia Flagstaff has never been afraid to take a risk, especially if it involves excitement and danger. But this time, being kidnapped and sold into an Arab harem is the outcome of one risk too many. Now, in order to regain her freedom, she has to rely on the deliciously packaged Grayson Devlin, Viscount Blackwood, a man who despises her reckless ways—and stirs in her a thirst for passion.

After losing his mother and two siblings in a carriage accident years ago, Grayson Devlin promised Portia’s dying brother that he’d always watch over his wayward sister. But having to travel to Egypt to rescue the foolhardy girl has made his blood boil. Grayson already has his hands full trying to clear his best friend and fellow Libertine Scholar of a crime he didn’t commit. Worse still, his dashing rescue has unleashed an unforeseen and undesired consequence: marriage. Now it’s more than Portia he has to protect . . . it’s his battered heart.

I loved these two characters. They had to battle both each other, but also the time period they lived in. I guess nothing has changed. Women still have to battle to be seen as equal to men. It’s proven that men are still paid more for the same job, there are proportionally fewer women on company boards or in senior management positions, sporting achievements are more prominent for male dominated sports (and they earn way more), and parts of the world still want to suppress a woman’s right to education and freedom of choice. It appears we still have some way to go…

I hope you’ll check out A Touch of Passion. Can you name  a favorite historical romance that has a working heroine?

Amazon Canada http://amzn.to/1yUMOfv
Amazon Australia http://bit.ly/1zEw2lG
Amazon Germany http://amzn.to/1AkEo57

Just to prove that I am not writing a fantasy, and that women did own successful businesses in the Regency period, I’ll share a link to a fabulous post over at Smart Bitches about strong, intelligent, businesswomen of the Regency period, by Michelle Styles.

1 comment:

Judith Ashley said...

Thanks for an informative post, Bronwen. I do agree that things are better for many women and girls in the world but we do have a long way to go before women are paid equally, educated equally, have the same opportunities for financial security and have the same choices overall as men currently do. The countries that recognize the value of their women and girls are ahead of the game. I'm looking forward to a fantastic read in "A Touch of Passion."

I have read a few books with working women in the Regency period but they were not doing regular work. I'm remembering one was a smuggler! Several women were modistes (spelling) or seamstresses to the wealthy but I don't remember any of them being the heroine of the story!