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Hands Across the Water, Part Two

It’s the British invasion! Here’s the second appearance of the ladies of the Historical Romance UK Blog, so sit down on the comfy chair, pour yourselves a nice cuppa, and butter that bun…

Hi! It’s great to be here on the Risky Regencies blog again. We’re a group of British Regency writers and we got together a few years ago. We run the Historical Romance UK blog so please drop by and visit us! And if you sign up for our monthly email newsletter, you can enter more competitions to win books and goodies. Just send a blank e-mail here and we’ll do the rest!
Competitions have a closing date of 28th March unless otherwise stated!


Nicola Cornick: Like some of the other authors who belong to the UK Regency Authors’ Group I have dual publication in both the US and UK and so have a great interest in the market on both sides of the Atlantic.
My most recent Regency historical, Unmasked, was published in the US last summer by Harlequin’s HQN Books imprint and is coming out here in the UK this month.

When I started reading Regencies many, many years ago (!) I think that the markets were quite different. Many of the UK books were drawing room Regencies, charming, traditional, but without the robustness and vitality that characterised some of the US writing. I’m generalising here, of course! In recent years I think that the two markets have moved much closer together in style with books by more US based romance authors appearing in British bookstores and vice versa. There are still some ideas that UK print publishers have not yet embraced: Regencies with paranormal or time travel elements in them, for example, although I was thrilled to see the TV programme Lost in Austen leading the way in this last year.

My Regencies take contemporary themes such as winning the national lottery, or being a celebrity, and look at them in a Regency context. My website gives details of books, contests, extra snippets on historical research, free stories and out-takes.


Wendy Soliman: Hi, I´ve written five novels for Robert Hale in the last three years. All of them are set in the Regency period – post Napoleonic wars. These romances all feature a mystery that keeps the reader guessing until the last chapter and, inevitably, a nare-do-well out to exploit the heroine. This, of course, offers the hero the opportunity to to act as her protector, if she´ll let him!
My sixth Regency based mystery-romance, A Reason to Rebel, is being published on 21st April by Samhain, firstly as an e-book and then ten months later as a paperback. This is an exciting departure for me and I´m greatly enjoying the challenge of dipping a toe in the US market. I found the American market requires a fast moving story, which they helped me to create by requesting shorter, sharper sentences. It was difficult always to get my point across in this way at first but when I got used to the concept I found I was cutting out unnecessary repetitions and not making points which ought to have been obvious. In my Hale books I might say, for instance, Julia looked up from her work and glanced out of the window, wondering what was causing all the commotion..´´ Samhain would split that in two. ´Julia looked up from her work and glanced out of the window. She wondered what was causing all the commotion.´ The former is more leisurely but perhaps encourages my tendancy to ramble. The latter is sharper and to the point. As far as I´m concerned, both styles work!

Samhain allowed me total freedom with the development of my characters and I was at liberty to make the book as sexy as I wanted to. In that respect it differs very little from my Hale books, published in the UK, since I prefer to leave quite a lot to the imagination and concentrate on driving the plot forward instead.

Melinda Hammond / Sarah Mallory

Hi everyone – it’s great to be here! Romance in the Motherland. Hmm, is it so different from across the pond? When I was working with my editor at Samhain on my e-book, Moonshadows, I wondered how much she would want to change – after all, I think of myself as a very English writer and I am aware of the subtle differences in our common language! I needn’t have worried: very few alterations were required and I have come to the conclusion that, to paraphrase Shakespeare (who had a couple of good plots himself) the story’s the thing.

Moonshadows is the tale of two women – one in the modern day, one in Georgian England, both pursued by rich, powerful men (one of my own particular fantasies!). They are both strong-willed women, but their actions are influenced by the society they inhabit. Can the modern day heroine learn from the mistakes of her ancestor?

I loved writing Moonshadows, which is what I would call a romance with a spooky twist, and I have an e-copy to give away if you can tell me the name of the two women featured in the book (a quick visit to my website should provide the answer.) e-mail me with the answer and the first correct answer out of the hat on 28th February 2009 will receive a free e-copy of Moonshadows.

Fenella-Jane Miller: I live in East Anglia and all my Regency books are set here. It makes it so much easier to get the scene right when you know the area well. I actually live in Essex near Colchester which is the oldest recorded town in United Kingdom; I’ve set a book in Great Bentley which has the largest village green in England and another in St Osyth’s Priory, which is the finest example of mediaeval architecture still in existence. The House Party, published by Robert Hale, is set in Suffolk, a pretty county adjacent to Essex. Here you can still drive through villages and countryside that has hardly changed since the 19th century. All my books are more historical romantic suspense than a comedy of manners with a strong plot and plenty of action, however you can be sure he and heroine always finds a happy ending. The villain is often not so lucky!

Gothic romances, along the lines of books like Jane Eyre and Victoria Holt’s novels, are also still popular in the UK. The Ghosts at Neddingfield Hall has a ‘Gothic’ feel to it. The book is set in mid-winter, in a snow storm, and the house the hero and heroine are tapped in has been inexplicably deserted by the staff and Aunt Agatha has gone missing too!! The locals stay away believing the floating lights, ghostly howls and clanking chains to be ghosts – but our intrepid hero and heroine, Hester and Ralph, battle on realising the attacks are very real. I don’t know of any US equivalents to this genre, but I’d love to know if there are any.

Joanna Maitland: Hello. I’m Joanna Maitland, a Scot living in England, just a few miles from the Welsh border. I love having access to the history of three countries as background for the Regency historical romances I write for Harlequin Mills & Boon. There are eleven so far, and they are getting more adventurous, both in their settings and in their plots, which is great fun for the author! I hope that the readers are also enjoying my spirit of adventure.

I agree with Nicola that British Regencies have become more robust and vibrant, like the US ones, but I have the impression that US publishers tend to be looking for Regencies set in England (mostly London or Bath) or perhaps in Scotland. I’m not sure that a US publisher would be totally comfortable with the kind of unusual locations I’ve chosen lately. For example, The Aikenhead Honours trilogy (to be published March-May 2009) wanders all over Europe. It features the intrigues of the Russian Emperor’s visit to London in 1814 and his return to St Petersburg (His Cavalry Lady), spies at the Congress of Vienna (His Reluctant Mistress), and the hazards of the Hundred Days in France, prior to the battle of Waterloo in 1815 (His Forbidden Liaison). There will also be a follow-up Harlequin Undone! e-book in July — His Silken Seduction — which is set in France (in Lyons) during the Hundred Days. Not a Bath drawing room in sight!

On this side of the pond, British readers can be very picky about Regency detail that US readers probably would not notice. Scots are particularly finicky (fykie in Scots) about misuse of Scots dialect, which can jar horribly. It may not be helped by factors introduced by the editorial process, such as whiskey (Irish) instead of whisky (Scotch) — not that whisky was drunk by Regency notables anyway — and the ubiquitous tartan on the covers of Regencies set in Scotland.

I admit I’ve learned to accept the tartan. I’ve been told that books set in Scotland have to have tartan on the cover if they’re to sell, even though clan tartan was illegal from 1746 to 1782 and not generally readopted afterwards, partly because of poverty, and partly because many of the weaving and dyeing skills had been lost. People is the border country, where my story The Bride of the Solway is set, never were Gaelic-speaking wearers of tartan anyway, but I think there will be some tartan on the cover when it comes out early next year.

However, like my US counterparts, I’m writing escapist romance set in the Regency period, so maybe it doesn’t matter if some of my detail is wrong, as long as I get the romantic content right. I’ll be happy as long as my readers, wherever they’re from, identify with my heroine and fall in love with my hero. I certainly do!

Anne Herries: As a writer I probably wouldn’t see much difference at all between UK / US Regencies because there are good books on either side of the Atlantic. However, as a reviewer I read quite a few and I have found distinct trends in both English and American novels. As far as the American authors go I find that the good writers often go to extreme lengths to uncover obscure facts about the period and work them into their books. Indeed, in general I find that there is often more historical content in American books than in English.

I also think that sometimes both the hero and the plots of American books are more dangerous and therefore more exciting than some English, though there are exceptions here. However, the American use of the English spoken word is not always good and can be irritating.The English authors rely on accurate period flavour and the spoken word is in most cases perfect, also the manner in which both heroine and hero behave is more accurate to the period, which in my opinion makes the book more believable.
So good and bad on both sides but everything is relative. As Anne Herries I have good and bad reviews on the same book. Some people think my books are wonderful, some think I can’t write at all. Everyone is entitled to his or her own opinion. I have written over one hundred books of various types, fifty for Harlequin Mills and Boon.

If you’d like to buy any of the UK published books and can’t find them in the US, The Book Depository delivers them free worldwide.

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Susan Wilbanks
13 years ago

I agree with Nicola that British Regencies have become more robust and vibrant, like the US ones, but I have the impression that US publishers tend to be looking for Regencies set in England (mostly London or Bath) or perhaps in Scotland. I’m not sure that a US publisher would be totally comfortable with the kind of unusual locations I’ve chosen lately.

It sounds like I need to be special-ordering some Regencies from the UK! When I first discovered the genre as a teenager in the 1980’s, I loved almost every book I picked up, but I was especially fascinated by unusual settings–Congress of Vienna, Brussels on the eve of Waterloo, anything to do with the Peninsular War, a short-lived series of “American Regencies,” etc.

I feel like there are a couple of different reader fantasies of the Regency, all with some relationship to historical reality, but none quite capturing the whole picture. There’s the Pastoral Regency, reveling in the timeless beauty of the English countryside. There’s the Glam Regency (the one IMHO currently best represented in romance), full of dukes and society intrigue. And there’s the Adventure/War Regency, with more grit and exotic settings.

I like all three, depending on my mood, but that third one is so very hard to find in romance! My ideal Regency read would be in the vein of Bernard Cornwell or Patrick O’Brian, only with more prominent roles for women…so that’s what I’m trying to write. But I’m doing it as alternative history/historical adventure instead of romance.

Linda Banche
13 years ago

OK, gushing fan here. I love all your books. I especially like authentic Regency “flavor”. I still find it consistently in M&B and HH, but it’s getting harder and harder to find in American books. American books concentrate on the romance and, sad to say, some of them have become costume dramas.

I like Regency everything–drawing room comedies, intrigues and mysteries, fast-paced and slow-paced, I don’t care. I especially like unconventional heroines, like the ones in “Her Calvary Lady” and “Unmasked”.

Keep writing your books! I’ll buy them all.

Janet Mullany
13 years ago

welcome back ladies!
Seems like UK publishers generally are less anxious to pigeonhole writers and subgenres, which I think is rather refreshing.

I’ve never understood the men in skirts thing either, Joanna. It seems to be one of those instances where a strange Romancelandia subculture has been created of medieval (or any other period) Scotsmen wearing Victorian-era tartans and speaking with a generic 20c Scots accent. I suppose it’s no more or less absurd than our other tropes–historical characters with intact sets of teeth, for instance–but it flies so happily and brazenly in the face of history you really have to wonder…

Megan Frampton
13 years ago

Hey, guys, thanks for stopping by!

Nicola, I like what you said about ours originally being robust and vital–I agree they were different from the UK Regencies back in the day. Now I think things are closer, as you say.

To ask about more fykie stuff, what bugs you guys the most about American-written Regencies?

And are there any American historical figures/time periods you would be interested in writing about/in?

Cara King
13 years ago

Welcome to Risky Regencies, Nicola, Wendy, Melinda/Sarah, Fenella-Jane, Joanna, and Anne! And thanks so much for your thoughts on the UK/US differences. Very interesting.

Cara

Lynne Connolly
13 years ago

I’m the other member of the UK Regency blog, but I’m a bit of an oddity, because I’m British and I live here, but I currently write for US publishers.
There are lots of differences between the two, and I’m afraid we just don’t see US authored Regencies in British bookshops very often, but with the advent of Amazon and ebooks, it’s become a little easier.
I love to write my historicals set in the heart of the English countryside, where the power base of the oligarchy resided.
I’ve just had a new release at Samhain, “Tantalizing Secrets” (note the American spelling!) set in my home town of Leicester.
The ladies of the group keep me focussed and keep me real. There are some wonderful books to read there, too!

Mallory Pickerloy
13 years ago

Hello, Nicola Cornick and Anne Herries. You both know how much I love both of your stories!

On Regency writings of the English VS Americans:

I believe Diane Gaston is a great example on how amazing American authors can write of the English. Though I seen many inaccurate, but not Diane. She portrays the timeline of Regency England very beautifully. She fits both history into the plot without it being overbearing and inaccurate. She has real history and the love between the persons of the story in perfect harmony.

There are times however I even seen people living in their own country getting their own history inaccurate. Like with anyone, no one’s born with the knowledge really, one has to learn it!

Louisa Cornell
13 years ago

I am a big fan of both Nicola and Joanna, having read as many of their books as I can get my hands on. I just finished Kidnapped : His Innocent Mistress and I absolutely loved it. (Give Monty a hug for me, Nicola!) His Cavalry Lady is currently on top of my TBR stack. Now I have another list of authors to add to the TBB (to be bought) list. I thoroughly enjoy the Regencies written by British authors.

And I know where Suffolk and Colchester are. I lived in Suffolk for three years and we went to visit the zoo and museums in Colchester frequently.

Like Susan, I like a variety of Regencies – everything from the glitter of the ballroom to the grit of the ballroom and the dank and dirt of underworld London.

Thanks for talking about your books, ladies. I can’t wait to get my hands on them!

Diane Gaston
13 years ago

Mallory, you sweetheart! How nice of you to say those lovely things about my books.
I do feel very lucky that I have UK editors who even walk through Mayfair to make sure I got my setting right (I didn’t)

I think people in the UK have a much better sense of the fullness of the Regency period than Americans have. We Americans probably know more about our civil war than people in the UK would know, but it still bugs me when Regency authors and editors ignore the history or get things wrong that are very easy to check, like the distances between places.

Special hi to fellow Mills & Boon authors Nicola, Joanna, and Anne. I believe HH/M&B Historical are innovative and open to different settings and time periods. And thanks, as well, to Wendy, Melinda, and Fenella-Jane for coming.

Anonymous
Anonymous
13 years ago

It is such a pleasure to meet some of my favorite UK authors here. I came across Nicole Cornick’s books a couple of years ago and was sooo enthralled that I had to glom her entire backlist. I wish I could have read all the books that were released in England as part of a series. Any chance of that happening in the US?

Now I find myself glomming the backlists of quite a few of the authors who came to visit here.

Santa

Melinda Hammond
13 years ago

Hi – it’s great to be able to swap ideas with authors and readers here! I have just noticed that there’s a typo on the closing date for my competition, it should of course read 28th MARCH, nof February! Oops, humble apologies there!

Susan – I too love the historical adventure romance and try to add a dash of action & mystery to my novels!

Joanna Maitland
13 years ago

Hi everyone. Great to be here and sorry I’m coming in a little late. Deadlines, you know???

I’m really encouraged to hear so many of you say that you like the slightly less conventional settings that I love to write. I’ll keep on doing them. And I’ll even swallow the tartan on the covers.

I do like stories that are reasonably true to the period rather than 20th or 21st century characters in period frocks. Some readers might say that we all tend to make our heoines too feisty to be real. There may be something in that, and I know that I like to write feisty heroines. But to anyone who complains, I’d also point to Lizzie Bennet in P&P. Now there’s a feisty heroine if ever I saw one. And no one can say she’s not of the period, either.

What bugs me on the fykie side? I’ll admit to a couple of things and then duck quickly!! I don’t like misuse of the Scots word ‘ken’ which I see quite a lot. In broad terms, ‘ken’ means ‘know’ in the sense of ‘be acquainted with’ rather than ‘understand’. My other bugbear is the so-called archaic use of numbers like ‘seven and ten’ or ‘ten and seven’ instead of seventeen. Not authentic. ‘Seven and twenty’ is right; ‘seven and ten’ isn’t.

Am now ducking behind my sandbags and hoping to avoid any stray missiles.

Thanks again for all the kind and positive words, Riskies. Great to be here.

Joanna
PS My website has just been updated with extracts from all three books in the Aikenhead Honours trilogy if you’d like to have a look. It’s at
http://www.joannamaitland.com

Cara King
13 years ago

Am now ducking behind my sandbags and hoping to avoid any stray missiles.

Joanna, we’ve yet to shoot missiles at our guests, honest! We’re really a very friendly lot. 🙂

Cara

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