Tag Archives: Regency

The Devil You Know by Sophia Holloway

 Today’s post is from a long-standing British Armitage admirer.

My name is Sophia, and . . .

I write ‘classic’ Regency romances. Sadly, it is something one says nearly apologetically, and sotto voce, because the genre has a very poor image (not entirely unearned). Yet I am not ashamed of the books I write. I follow in the Heyer tradition with an accurate world in terms of history, the fashions, language and attitudes. I want the reader to be able to enter that world lit by candelabra, and clothed in silks, muslins and barathea, and step away from the mundane realities of daly life, from the hassles at work, the heaviness of the shopping or that pile of ironing that grows when you look away for a moment. I want them to smile at the repartee, travel at the pace of a carriage, follow the highs and lows as the romantic relationships build, and emerge in a positive and happy frame of mind. Escapism is not a dirty word! I would also say we are now in a world where sex is all about us and romance in short supply, so I wish to provide it, with floss trimming and intricately tied cravats.

I do not see readers as passive, sponges soaking up what is presented to them. I want them, expect them, to engage, to feel, to use their own imaginations. Unlike Heyer, I write far more of the male perspective, After all, the majority of Regency romance readers are female and thus know how females think, and it is nice to hear the other side of the situation. (I do, by the way, have men read the drafts to make sure I am not getting it wildly wrong.)

This expectation of interaction is reflected in two other aspects of my Regency novels – I do not have bedroom scenes, and I do not over describe the characters’ physical appearance. The primary reason for omitting bedroom scenes is not prudery, but that in the world I describe, that of the Regency social elite, unmarried girls of marriageable age were closely chaperoned, and a hint of immodest behaviour with a man would bring ruin to any chance of a good marriage. A wife was at one level merely the method of ensuring the succession to title and estates. Any doubt as to the fatherhood of an heir was potentially disastrous, and taking a girl to wife whose name had already been bandied about as one less than chaste would be foolish. Failure to marry generally condemned a woman to being a ‘hanger on’ within her family, and left her totally dependent. Thus, for the vast majority of my books, the idea of ‘bodice ripping’ is simply historically a no no.

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Having said which, the first book to be published, The Devil You Know, is set within a marriage, and yet there is no bedroom scene and merely allusions to the disastrous first night that takes place. The book is actually about two people who marry as strangers, and their path towards expunging the memory of that first night. It is also a tale of mutual desire and male sexual frustration, as George Ledbury is used to an ‘active’ bedroomexistence, (with a series of bored married ladies). He tries to be good, but finds assorted circumstances preventing ‘relations’ with the wife with whom he is falling in love. The more desperate he becomes the more mistakes that he makes, to the point he may lose the woman he realises he cannot live without. I could have had bedroom scenes in this book, but few descriptions of the conjugal act are worth reading. Many are cheap thrills or laughable in the manner of description, and if you need to know how it happens, the best answer is a biology text book! The reader’s own imagination is by far better than instruction from an author, whom I feel does better to give the broad brush strokes by allusion and hint, the atmosphere and frisson, and leave the detail to the reader. After all, the reader will pitch the encounter at the level with which they are comfortable, and indeed according to mood. I am sure most adult readers have imagined what happened ‘after the bedroom door has closed’ in books, and in a book that is well-loved, imagined it differently at different times. You, the reader, cannot shock yourself, nor yet be disappointed.

As an extension of this I do not put too much detail into the physical description of the characters. Fifty readers ought to have fifty very slightly differing images of the ‘hero’ and ‘heroine’. How often is a film ruined when the casting is such that you cry ‘but he is nothing like . . .’ as you have imagined him in that book you love.

Despite the above, this being the Armitage Authors blog it will come as no surprise that a certain tall, dark actor has provided material for many of my ‘leading men’. I have reviewed the ten in my novels thus far and confess all are baritone in voice. Mr Armitage has a voice that is an acting class in itself, can be assertive, cold, passionate, pleading, and very funny. George Ledbury is also pretty much totally Guy of Gisborne, with a better haircut and negative leather. I always found Guy’s emotional maturity of a three year old, and his semi permanent confusion, terribly appealing. Hands up those who also wanted to give him back the teddy he’d ‘thrown from his cot’, soothe his insecurity and then . . . Ah, there is where the imagination comes in!

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Of the other gentlemen, a few have little bar the voice, though all are varying levels of ‘tall’ and I am sure you would spot a couple of his mannerisms. Some have his natural colouring, or the dark versions we have seen in various ‘incarnations’. A couple are 85% plus based upon the gentleman. I will not reveal which and spoil things, and hope, if the other books reach print, that you will enjoy finding out for yourselves – and listening to ‘that’ voice when you read his dialogue.

The Devil You Know by Sophia Holloway is available as an ebook and print on demand from Amazon. (Audiobook available in the spring.)
Find out more about Sophia and her upcoming books at sophiaholloway.com

New Release: A Knight to the Rescue

Legacy fan Elizabeth Hanbury has recently released her 7th novel. Liz writes delightful Regency romance stories with wit and humor. I’ve read all her works, and I’m excited there’s a new short story to read — just in time for summer vacation!

This publication is special in it’s intention, however. All proceeds from the sale of the book will go to Crohn’s MAP Vaccine fund, a charity based at King’s College, London researching a cure for Crohn’s Disease.

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Life is a song, but love is the music…

Life is hard for Jessica Smeaton in Regency Bath. She lives in a shabby lodging house and struggles to survive on what she earns from teaching music, hoping that one day the waltzes she composes will sell.

When handsome artist Richard Knight moves into the room above, things start off on the wrong note but could he turn out to be her knight to the rescue?

And here’s a teaser from the opening pages…

The knocking from above didn’t disturb her at first. She was so absorbed in her composing.

The second bout of knocking wrenched her mind out of her music.

The third and much louder series of knocks rang in her ears and sent a hum of indignation flowing through her veins. A stream of plaster dust drifted down from above and settled on the music manuscript in front of her. Jessica jumped up from her battered pianoforte, raised her eyes to the ceiling and uttered a growl of fury.

This was too much. The unseen brute in the room above (no woman could knock with such disdain) disliked her playing and was letting his feelings be known using the heel of his boot. She was vaguely aware of a new tenant had moved in a week or more ago but she had not yet met the person. She was too busy earning a meagre living and now he was banging the floor to complain about her playing. How insulting!

Jessica walked back to her pianoforte, flexing her fingers. Defiantly, she struck the keys as hard as she could.

The reply from above was not long in coming: ban, bang, bang!

Slowly and deliberately she closed the lid. Heat seeped into her cheeks and she tilted her chin: the light of battle had entered her soul. She’d had a dreadful week and now this. Enough was enough. Stopping only to tidy her hair in the mirror and make sure she had no plaster dust on her face, she wrenched open the door, crossed the hallway and started to climb the stairs. For once she dod not notice the peeling paintwork and faded wallpaper of the rambling old lodging house. 

Jessica didn’t consider the impropriety of tackling the idiot in his lair. The landlady Miss Cardew took an unconventional and bohemian attitude to stifling society rules. She believed it helped her tenants” artistic muse to deal with each other as they saw fit with only a few rules to keep the right side of respectable Bath society, the lodging house being tucked away in a quiet street off Queen Square. Miss Cardew loved to encourage artists and offered low rents to such types, for which Jessica was extremely grateful.

Today even the benignly vague Mis Cardew would have scuttled our of the way and felt a pang of pity for the wretch about to get a piece of Jessica’s mind. She reached the door and was tempted to bang on it with her clenched first, but her old teacher’s edict to always be a lady no matter what provocation is offered flashed before her and instead she drew a steadying breath, tapped firmly and waited.

‘Come in,’ said a voice.

She was forced to admit it was a very pleasant, silky voice even if its owner lacked an taste in music.

Jessica entered. The room was scantily furnished, as were most of the rooms in Miss Cardew’s lodging house.  A few threadbare rugs were scattered over the floor. A small fire burned in the grate. Paints and Brushes were spread out over the table under the large window, through which streamed a bright afternoon sun. Various canvases were popped up around the walls. In the centre was an easel, behind which Jessica could see top boots and a pain of breeches covering muscular thighs.

Distracting. Very distracting.

She pulled herself together. ‘I have come–‘ began Jessica.

‘I don’t need any models at present. You can leave your card on the table,’ announced the silky voice.

She felt her cheeks grow pinker, her indignation deepen. ‘I am not a model,’ she said in icy tones, ‘I cam to–‘

At this the brute emerged from behind his easel, wiping his hands. Jessica stared, her mouth falling open a little.

She might have guessed how it would be. Fate delights in playing tricks. Not only did The Brute have a voice as smooth as hot chocolate, he had  devilishly handsome exterior. Broad shouldered and of athletic build, along with the breeches, he wore a white shirt with sleeves rolled up the elbows to reveal strong forearms sprinkled with soft dark hair. his shirt was splattered here and there with paint and open at the neck to reveal a tantalising glimpse of chest hair. He was clean-shaven but his colouring meant late afternoon stubble was already shading his jaw. Beautiful brown eyes were fixed on her in a disconcerting manner. His hair was disheveled and standing up on end as if he had run his fingers through it often. Jessica felt an inconvenient urge to do the same, admitting to herself that he was one of the most attractive men she had ever seen. She might be furious but she was always fair.

I think Liz must have been remembering a certain train scene as she wrote this!

For more about Liz Hanbury’s long history as an Armitage fan, check out our earlier interview with her  here and her post about North and South‘s ten year anniversary here.