Ever since it came out, Georgiana, Duchess of Devonshire, the Whitbread Award winning biography by Amanda Foreman, has been on my TBR list. A few weeks ago, I caught up with it.

I already knew a little about Georgiana before reading the book. I knew that she was active in Whig politics, married young, amassed enormous gambling debts and lived in a ménage à trois with the Duke and her friend (and possibly lover) Lady Elizabeth Foster for over twenty years. I also knew, through my research on the history of childbirth, that she was an affectionate mother and breastfed her first child, a girl, for over a year despite family pressure and “their impatience for a son and their fancying I shan’t so soon if I suckle.” I was intrigued by all these things and not judgmental (it’s not surprising that a girl married at 17 to a man with little affection for her should run into trouble) but until I read the bio, I didn’t get a clear sense of how all these aspects of Georgiana merged into a complex and fascinating woman. I’m not going to go on and on about it, since many of you have probably already read the book. For any who haven’t, I highly recommend it.

One thing that struck me while reading is how much the raciness of the Georgian period echoed through the Regency and has influenced characters in Regency fiction, especially older heroes/heroines or the parents of younger ones. The mother of the hero of Georgette Heyer’s False Colours is much like Georgiana, married young to a man who did not appreciate her, unable to control her gambling. In Heyer’s Sylvester, the hero’s mother, a duchess, is crippled like Georgiana’s sister, Lady Bessborough and like Georgiana, writes poetry. There’s also a thread of Georgian looseness (liberal politics, playing with gender roles) in modern Regency set romances like those of fellow Risky Janet and Risky friend Pam Rosenthal. I like it. A lot.

The book is also making me more interested in the upcoming film starring Keira Knightley, which is said to be adapted from the book. Of course I have some qualms as to how far it will be adapted. Georgiana’s life was so interesting it shouldn’t need the Hollywood treatment. As for Keira Knightley, I like her as an actress but I’m not sure about her in this role. But we’ll see and I’m sure we will talk about it!

Another thing I really want to do now is read some of the published letters of her daughter Harriet (“Hary-O”), who seems to have been a clever and interesting woman and even rather sane considering the milieu to which she was born.

If you read Georgiana, what did you think? What are your favorite period bios? Are you looking forward to this film?

And do you like a splash of Georgian in your Regency?


About Elena Greene

Elena Greene grew up reading anything she could lay her hands on, including her mother's Georgette Heyer novels. She also enjoyed writing but decided to pursue a more practical career in software engineering. Fate intervened when she was sent on a three year international assignment to England, where she was inspired to start writing romances set in the Regency. Her books have won the National Readers' Choice Award, the Desert Rose Golden Quill and the Colorado Romance Writers' Award of Excellence. Her Super Regency, LADY DEARING'S MASQUERADE, won RT Book Club's award for Best Regency Romance of 2005 and made the Kindle Top 100 list in 2011. When not writing, Elena enjoys swimming, cooking, meditation, playing the piano, volunteer work and craft projects. She lives in upstate New York with her two daughters and more yarn, wire and beads than she would like to admit.
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