Message From The Author
Mores and modesty, elegance and etiquette. The depiction of the Regency period in todays romantic fiction is often that of a mannered, constrained society. But was the era really so chaste and structured? Author Stella Cameron, whose new Regency-set historical, ALL SMILES, hits bookshelves this month, contends that the Regency eras illusion of strait-laced rules and regulations
hid a society that, like all others, had its fair share of debauchery.
There's so much to be said on the Regency period, Stella reavealed to us. It was glittery on the outside and squalid on
the insidein many instances. Violence abounded. Not such a nice time to live if you werent privileged.
Read on, as Stella gives RT a Regency reality check.
Q: So, Stella, what could a girl really get arrested for in Regency England? What would scandalize the pantaloons off the ladies of the ton?
A: Well, the Regency era lasted only nine years, 1811 to 1820. In fact, there was no centralized police force until 1829. Well into the period there were footpads about, but these people were privately commissioned and not for the purpose of punishing the privileged. In other words, ladiesor gentlemenof the beau monde (the generally genteel classes) would not be arrested at all.
However, the ton fattened their idle brains with gossip and mean-spirited attempts to destroy the characters of rivals. Of course this was not the behavior of the entire society, but it did tend to characterize those people who achieved fame in a period when cutting wit was the most prized attribute.
Q: And what would happen to the targets of those sharp tongues?
A: The cut direct tended to land on the unfortunate woman who managed to offend another woman in a more elevated position, or of higher rank. This could result in the victim being refused admission to such places as Almacksconsidered the most exclusive club in Londonwhich was presided over by a gaggle of grandes dames and apparently thought of as the seventh heaven of the fashionable world. Unfortunately, exclusion from Almacks might only be the beginning. The woman could be ostracized throughout polite society (I might prefer the term impolite society) with the result that her chances for an advantageous marriage were severely reduced.
Not particularly kind times and the punishment was very often unlikely to fit the crime, which could be as outrageous as being beautiful but without great connections, or being witty without great connections, or failing to show suitable humility in the presence of ones betters.
Q: Sounds like a lot of pressure for young ladies of the period. But in the first chapter alone of ALL SMILES, your heroine, Meg Smiles, talks intimately about a gentleman, dyes her hair and schemes to become the Count's mistress (not wife)! She's obviously a 90s kind of girl, trapped in a 1820s kind of world.
A: Meg Smiles is spirited, intelligent, audacious and determined to make a life for herself and her sister, Sibyl. Despite Sibyls reluctance to do so, ladies did speak intimately about gentlemenfrequently. Gentlemen were the prime subject of conversation among ladies. Some things, as they say, never change!
As to Megs experiments with artifices as old as the Egyptian empire, she reads extensively, attends lectures, researches matters she finds fascinating and, yes, she dabbles in dye. Meg doesnt set out to become a counts mistress, but to attract the attention of a well-fixed gentleman who will appreciate her wit and love of people and home.
Meg may seem a thoroughly now sort of girl, but is she, or is she just a thoroughly female female of any age? Megs toes cant
be tacked to the groundshell break free and dance every time. She has a big spirit and a big heart. Shes daring, and passionate. I like her!
Q: In general, the Regency era is often depicted as a more restrained time. For example, we often read that unmarried women werent allowed to be unchaperoned with a man.
Do you think that was really the case?
A: Together with gluttony, alcoholism and gambling, sexual excess was the order, rather than the exception, of the period. Contrary to
all the hat-tipping to careful chaperoningyoung women moved about alone quite freely. They often got into trouble of various kinds as a result of this. At house parties and around the home women didnt hesitate to be alone. This may have been less likely for women of exalted rankin fact Im sure it wasbut there really werent so many of those, even in the ton.
Q: In truth, most Regency-set novels are peopled with forward-thinking heroines who aren't willing to play the docile lady. Do you think there were really so many women willing to forsake convention and the rules of the ton for individuality? Or is it more of a way to get modern women to identify with these heroines?
A: Docile women tend to make unappealing heroines in almost any fiction and this accounts for the depiction of spirited females. I believe its possible to write about a conventional woman of the Regency. But there were so
many conventions, depending upon position. I do think contemporary women can be intrigued by a very different set of mores, such as those of the nineteenth century. However, the clever traditional Regency romance is most often a short bookunless heavily plotted and dealing with the wars and political intrigues that raged. The reason for this may well be that reading about a quiet, mannered lifestyle in another
age should be presented as a small watercolor rather than a large oil painting.
There have always been, and still are, ways to trap bodies, but minds? Unless we believe contemporary women invented dreams and fantasies, we realize that people, both
male and female, have smiled at and often acted on their mental inventions. Jane Austen is a very suitable example for our purposes. Given her restrictive family background, what she accomplished wasnt easy, but her mind refused
to be constrained.
Q: ALL SMILES is the second novel in your 7 Mayfair Square series. Will we get to meet more enchanting residents in future books?
A: I love series. The thrill of reading a book and looking forward to the next story about the people Ive become attached to is great. You bet there will be more Mayfair Square books. Ill be working on the next one soon. How could I possibly leave the area without telling Hunters story, or Adams, or Sibyls, or Latimers? And who knows what other characters are likely to worm their way into my affections?
Q: When can we expect the next Stella Cameron novel and what is that one about?
A: After ALL SMILES, Key West will be out in paperback, followed in July by GLASS HOUSES (contemporary romantic suspense). A race to get away from a villainous group of unscrupulous thieves takes Aiden Flynn (from Key West) and Olivia FitzDuram from London to New York to Seattle. From the depths of the Internet, to the seamy side of the lawand human natureAiden and Olivia dare what-
ever they have to in order to survive, and to fall in love.
Stella loves to hear from her readers. You can contact her by writing to her c/o of Curtis Brown, Ltd., 10 Astor Place, New York, NY 10033 or visit her website: www.stellacameron.com.
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