Really a delight, this is a Regency romance in the Georgette Heyer tradition, with engaging characters, a clever plot, and witty dialogue.
From the blurb:
In Regency England, young ladies make their fortune by marrying it. But Cleo Cooper has come to London with a different idea – she’s going to make her fortune by stealing it. Raised abroad by unconventional parents, Cleo has no use for the rules and strictures of the ton. She’ll pretend to fit in, but she has a secret scheme.
Arthur Ramsey, Duke of Winton, is in the market for a wife. He imagines a sweet, conformable young lady who will gracefully fill the role of Duchess, secure the succession with an heir, and not interfere with his scientific pursuits. That’s what he’s looking for – but what he finds is Cleo. (Author’s Note: A Feather To Fly With is a traditional Regency. If it were a movie, it would be rated PG, or even G.)
Harmon is also the author of a cozy mystery series, and anyone who has read Died on the Vine or Bidding on Death will recognize her talent for understated humour and well-drawn characters.
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Check it out! Particularly if you like Joan Smith, Georgette Heyer, or Barbara Metzger, A Feather to Fly With is a highly enjoyable read.
(and also for Equal time – Darcy got his own post for D, and Elizabeth deserves her own post for E :-)]
Elizabeth Bennet, one of my favorite heroines of all time! Maybe she doesn’t kick ass like Katniss or solve mysteries like Harriet Vane, but she manages to push the boundaries of her narrow social sphere, with grace, style, and humour.
Elizabeth is bright, spirited, witty, and kind. She’s also pretty – not as beautiful as her celebrated sister Jane, perhaps, but quite appealing, as Mr. Darcy reluctantly admits.
“…no sooner had he made it clear to himself and his friends that she had hardly a good feature in her face, than he began to find it was rendered uncommonly intelligent by the beautiful expression of her dark eyes.
To this discovery succeeded some others equally mortifying….he was forced to acknowledge her figure to be light and pleasing; and in spite of his asserting that her manners were not those of the fashionable world, he was caught by their easy playfulness.”
Elizabeth is admirable, but not perfect. She’s too pert for Bingley’s fashionable sisters, she defies propriety by “scampering about the country” — walking miles alone to visit her sick sister — and she enjoys music but doesn’t practice enough to be truly “accomplished.”
She does prefer books to cards, which is seen as a fault by Mr. Hurst, but Darcy considers that (in general) a woman should improve her mind by “extensive reading.”
Elizabeth is the “prejudice” in Pride & Prejudice, because she misjudges Darcy. After reading his letter, where he explains the truth about Wickham and his sister, she is stunned.
“She grew absolutely ashamed of herself. Of neither Darcy nor Wickham could she think without feeling that she had been blind, partial, prejudiced, absurd.
‘How despicably have I acted!’ she cried…..‘Pleased with the preference of one, and offended by the neglect of the other, on the very beginning of our acquaintance I have courted prepossession and ignorance, and driven reason away where either were concerned. Till this moment I never knew myself.’”
Frankly, I’ve always thought Lizzie was perfectly justified in disliking Darcy, who behaved with such rudeness and arrogance. It seems hardly fair to blame her for overlooking his admirable qualities, considering that he did such a good job of concealing them.
It is another sign of a worthy heroine that she can learn from her mistakes, but not dwell on them. “You must learn some of my philosophy,” she tells Darcy when she eventually accepts his second, much-improved proposal. “Think only of the past as its remembrance gives you pleasure.”
So…who is your favorite version of Elizabeth Bennet?
Greer Garson in the 1940 MGM movie, with Laurence Olivier?
Elizabeth Garvie, in the 1980 BBC miniseries, with David Rintoul?
Jennifer Ehle, in the 1995 BBC miniseries, with Colin Firth?
Keira Knightly in the 2005 movie with Matthew Macfadyen?
Or maybe your favourite incarnation of ‘Elizabeth’ turns up in one of the contemporary riffs on Pride & Prejudice:
Aishwarya Rai in the 2004 Bollywood spin, Bride & Prejudice, with Martin Henderson? Renee Zelwegger as Bridget in Bridget Jones’s Diary, with Colin Firth as Mark Darcy?
Or Jemima Rooper in Lost in Austen, as the Pride & Prejudice fan who exchanges places with Elizabeth, goes back in time to fictional Georgian England (!)…and falls for Elliot Cowan’s Darcy?
Elizabeth Garvie was wonderful in the 1980 miniseries, and for many years I couldn’t imagine anyone better – but I was blown away by the 1995 miniseries. Not only was it a gorgeous production, but I thought Jennifer Ehle was the quintessential Lizzy. She is still my personal favourite.
Who is yours?
Who would you cast as Elizabeth Bennet in the next version of Pride & Prejudice?
Ah, Mr. Darcy! The pride in “Pride & Prejudice.” The wealthy, arrogant, Mr. Fitzwilliam Darcy, he of the 10,000 pounds a year
[*ASIDE: 10,000 a year may not sound like much, but consider that in 1810 the average laborer earned a mere 20 pounds a year. Of course Darcy had to pay for all his servants and upkeep on his vast estates, but the 10,000 pounds was his annual income — about $ 700,000 – $1 million dollars in today’s money, and only about 4% of his overall wealth. Check out this analysis from the Jane Austen’s World blog.http://tinyurl.com/6l7aws.]
Fitzwilliam Darcy is the man who has to be dragged by his amiable friend to a public assembly, and then stands around looking down his nose at everyone, sneering at the locals for engaging in such frivolous entertainment, commenting: “Every savage can dance.”
A man who prides himself on his perfect manners, but refuses to dance with Elizabeth, because “She is tolerable; but not handsome enough to tempt me.”
Tall, dark, handsome, rich – but not exactly a charmer. Which makes it so much fun to watch his reluctant, but growing, fascination with Elizabeth Bennett, culminating in one of the funniest proposals ever written:
“In vain have I struggled. It will not do. My feelings will not be repressed. You must allow me to tell you how ardently I admire and love you.”
If only he’d stopped there! Maybe Lizzie could have overcome her dislike of him, in the face of all that ardent admiration.
But no, he had to go on and explain himself [narrative in the novel; dialogue, in the 1995 BBC screenplay by Andrew Davies]:
“In declaring myself thus, I am fully aware that I will be going expressly against the wishes of my family, my friends, and, I hardly need add, my own better judgment.”
Mr. Darcy is an intelligent man, yet he has no notion of how insulting it is to tell a young lady that he loves her against his better judgment.
Which is fortunate for the reader, or the story would have ended there, instead of going through many misunderstandings and revelations en route to (spoiler alert, if you need one) the HEA.
Of the many screen adaptations of Pride & Prejudice, which Mr. Darcy is your favorite?
Laurence Olivier, in the 1940 MGM classic, with Greer Garson?
David Rintoul, in the 1980 BBC version with Elizabeth Garvie?
Colin Firth, in the 1995 BBC miniseries with Jennifer Ehle?
Matthew Macfadyen, in the 2005 movie with Keira Knightly?
Or, in some modern spins on the story —
What about Martin Henderson in the lively 2004 Bollywood version, Bride & Prejudice, with the lovely Aishwarya Rai? (and it’s nice to see Naveen Andrews outside of LOST, as “Bairah” – the Mr. Bingley role)
Colin Firth (encore!) as Mark Darcy in Bridget Jones’s Diary, with Renee Zelwegger as Bridget? (2001)
Or Elliot Cowan, in Lost in Austen, with Jemima Rooper as Elizabeth’s “understudy” 😉 ?
Have I missed any Darcys? Who’s your favorite Darcy incarnation?
Who would you like to see in the next adaptation of Pride & Prejudice? (there’s bound to be more!)
Often in Regency stories the characters will refer to “the latest crim. con.” – usually with titters, blushes, or knowing looks.
For example, in Georgette Heyer’s Cotillion, when Freddy Standish runs into his sister Meg at Almack’s, she exclaims
“Oh, Freddy, I must tell you the latest crim. con. story! You will be in whoops! Only fancy!—it is all over town that Lady Louisa Aldstone and young Garsdale–“
“Lord, I knew that before I went to Melton!” interrupted Freddy scornfully. “And you needn’t tell me Johnny Eppleby fathered the last Thresham brat, because I know that too!”
When I first read Cotillion as a young teenager, I was puzzled by the phrase “crim.con.” It was clear from the context that it had something to do with people having affairs, but when I looked it up, the definition merely said “criminal conversation.”
Huh? Were all these people having affairs also criminals? Chatting during their romantic interludes? It seemed unlikely.
Well, not exactly. I later learned that “criminal conversation” was the legal name for a tort case involving adultery, where a husband sued another man for monetary damages for carrying on with his wife. It was often, but not always, connected to divorce proceedings.
The concept was based on the notion that a wife was chattel – the legal property of her husband. If another man had an affair with her, that was a form of trespass on the husband’s “property,” and the husband was entitled to seek financial compensation for the loss of value in that “property.”
[I can’t help putting quotes around the word ‘property’ as if it were not true, but legally a wife was the property of her husband – for long before, and surprisingly long after, the Regency era]
Divorce was still extremely difficult and expensive in the early 19th century. This would punish the wife, but if an angry husband wanted revenge on his wife’s lover, he would would sue, hoping to win a sizable sum (and perhaps ruin the lover as well)
Basically, a criminal conversation proceeding was a lawsuit by Lord Cuckold against Sir Rake, for fooling around with Lord Cuckold’s wife.
Rosebery v. Mildmay
In this 1814 case, the Earl of Rosebery sued Sir Henry Mildmay of consorting with his wife, Harriet Bouverie. This was not merely scandalous but also illegal, because Sir Henry was Harriet’s brother-in-law (He had been married to Harriet’s sister, who was now deceased; still, the law prohibited marriage between a man and his late wife’s sister; likewise, a woman could not marry the brother of her deceased husband.)
The charges were uncontested, but a trial was held to determine damages. The jury awarded Lord Rosebery the enormous sum of 15,000 pounds (equivalent to about a million dollars in today’s terms) – the highest amount ever in a crim. con. case.
Lord Rosebery promptly divorced his wife. A year later, Harriet and Sir Henry married, in Germany, “by special permission of the King of Wurttemburg.”
Harriett had three more children with her second husband and they lived happily together for nearly twenty years, until her death in 1834.
George Bryan “Beau” Brummell was an English dandy of the late Georgian – Regency era, who helped revolutionize men’s fashion.
It is in large part thanks to Beau Brummell that men today wear suits and ties instead of powdered wigs and satin breeches.
The arbiter of taste and leader of high society in the late 18th-early 19th century did not come from an aristocratic background. George Bryan Brummell was born June 7, 1778 in London. His grandfather was a shopkeeper; his father was Lord North’s private secretary and later the high sheriff of Berskshire.
Young George attended Eton where he was known as “Buck” Brummell. At age 16, after a brief stint at Oriel College, he left to join the Prince of Wales’ regiment, the 10th Royal Hussars. Brummell apparently impressed the Prince with his wit and charm, and was rapidly promoted.
When his father died in 1795, Brummell inherited a fortune of about 20,000 pounds (well over a million dollars in today’s money). In 1796 he resigned his commission when his regiment was sent to Manchester, proclaiming that the city lacked culture; the more likely reason is that the Prince was in London and Brummell wanted to stick close to his powerful patron.
Brummell rejected the fussy fashion of an earlier generation – the powdered wigs, velvet knee breeches, elaborately embroidered silk coats. Instead, he advocated simple but exquisitely tailored coats in sober colors, form-fitting pantaloons, highly-polished Hessian boots, immaculate shirts, and exquisitely-tied cravats.
Where Brummell led, Society followed. During his lengthy dressing ritual, he would entertain fascinated friends by pontificating on the proper attire for a true gentleman.
Even the Prince of Wales took Brummell’s advice and changed his look.
Brummell also advocated another revolutionary practice – daily bathing. Even among the upper classes, a brief wash of the hands and a splash on the face was considered sufficient, because the common wisdom of the time held that sweating was healthy, while immersion of the entire body into water – hot water! — was deleterious. Brummell’s insistence on daily baths was a radical notion.
Brummell’s expensive lifestyle, and heavy gambling, soon diminished the fortune he’d inherited. While he was one of the Prince’s close cronies, Brummell could obtain credit based on his connections.
When the Prince became Regent in 1811, however, he distanced himself from his former Whig friends, including Brummell. At a ball he greeted Lord Alvanley but pointedly snubbed Brummell, who then retaliated by remarking “Alvanley, who’s your fat friend?”
Despite this public insult to the Regent, Brummell remained a Society darling. But losing Royal favour made it increasingly more difficult for him to pay his mounting debts. After a string of heavy losses at the gambling table, in 1814 he fled to Calais to escape his creditors. He eked out a precarious existence abroad, and died, penniless and alone, in 1840.
Beau Brummell is the subject of several biographies, as well as the eponymous protagonist in a mystery series by Rosemary Stevens.
Brummell has been portrayed on both big screen and small –by Stewart Granger in a 1954 MGM movie….
…and more recently, James Purefoy in BBC’s 2006 TV production.
There are several clips of James Purefoy as Brummell in this entertaining video, which shows the evolution of male attire from medieval knights in shining armor, to the Tudors, to the Georgian, Regency, and the Edwardian eras. (Well, really it shows hot guys in fabulous clothes 😀 Let’s hear it for period dramas!)
Almack’s was a London social club for the aristocracy. Originally founded, by William Almack, as a gambling venue for both ladies and gentlemen, by the time of the Regency Almack’s was known as ‘the Marriage Mart,’ where the young ladies of the ton sought to meet eligible bachelors during the Season (April to July).
Presentation of debutantes at the King George III’s court was a grand but somewhat routine affair; the real mark of social triumph was to obtain vouchers from the Patronesses of Almack’s to attend their weekly balls.
The Patronesses were a handful of well-connected and highly-influential women whose opinions could make – or break – a young lady’s social career. Obtaining a voucher was vital for admission to the exclusive Assemblies; being refused a voucher could blight one’s standing in Society.
Yet the balls at Almack’s, although crucial to one’s social trajectory, were hardly extravagant events. For many years only simple country dances were permitted; the fashionable quadrille and daring waltz were not introduced until around 1813.
Hours were strictly observed, and the doors closed to new arrivals precisely at 11:00 -no exceptions! Not even for the hero of Britain –the Duke of Wellington — who was denied admittance when he arrived a few minutes late and not properly attired.
The supper rooms served only unfrosted pound cake and thin slices of bread-and-butter, and beverages were limited to tea and lemonade – the absence of wine or brandy a striking feature in those hard-drinking times.
Despite Almack’s simple refreshments and restrictive rules, such was the influence of the Patronesses that attendance at the exclusive Assemblies was deemed crucial to social success during the Regency.
Hello! I’m Victoria Hodge, and I write traditional Regency romances.
What is a Regency romance? A romance set during the Regency era in England. For people unfamiliar with the genre, the easiest way to explain is: think Jane Austen and high-waisted gowns so familiar from the many productions of Pride & Prejudice.
Jane Austen Pride & Prejudice Ball
The late, great Georgette Heyer invented the genre. Although some of her Regency romances are mysteries or melodramas, most are lighthearted comedies of manners, exploring love and courtship among the gentry and aristocrats of the time.
More recent Regency authors often incorporate varying degrees of heat (little pun there, unintentional!) in their stories, ranging from spicy to steamy, much to the delight of readers.
My Regencies emulate the more traditional, classic style of Georgette Heyer – a dash of ironic humor, a little adventure, sparks fly and misunderstandings abound, all on the way to a happy ending.
A kiss is inevitable, but everything else? I leave up to the vivid imaginations of my readers!
Now available, The Magpie Masquerade:
In Regency London, an orphaned and penniless young lady hopes to earn independence from her unkind aunt by secretly working as a gossip columnist, but when a Navy captain enters the social season as a new earl (and the biggest catch on the Marriage Mart), his unexpected interest jeopardizes her plan….and her heart.
Do you have a favorite Regency romance? author or book? Comment below!