Lady Dearing’s Masquerade and Kindle Edition Giveaway!

One of the do’s and don’ts I’ve sometimes heard at romance writers’ conferences is to avoid social and political issues (“no saving the whales”). I understand the reasoning. Authors and publishers don’t want to alienate potential readers with controversial issues. And in a romance, the love story should be central.

On the other hand, if we write about characters who are interesting and well-rounded, their views and passions are going to creep into the story, and sometimes that includes social issues.

In coming up with the idea for LADY DEARING’S MASQUERADE, I started with the heroine, Livvy. She appeared briefly in a novella I’d written earlier, so I knew she was a childless, wealthy widow with a bad reputation and no desire to remarry. But when I started to think about her, I learned that she really wanted children. So it was natural for her to become involved with London’s Foundling Hospital.

The Foundling Hospital was founded in 1739 by Thomas Coram, who was appalled by the plight of abandoned children in London. The Hospital raised the children, provided a basic education and helped them find jobs. (Today, the Coram foundation continues to serve vulnerable children.) The Hospital took in foundlings but also had days during which mothers brought babies to the Hospital, generally because they could not afford to care for them. As there were always more babies than the Hospital could take in, admission was by lottery. The mothers who “won” cried as bitterly as those who “lost”. As a mother, I choke up whenever I think of this. Tokens (trinkets or scraps of fabric) were left with the children to aid in identification. Sometimes, though not often, parents were able to reclaim their children.

Strange as it may seem, the Foundling Hospital was controversial. Some people of the upper classes said it was immoral to succor children who were likely to have been born out of wedlock. I find this ironic, because many of the mothers bringing babies to the Hospital were servants who’d been impregnated by “gentlemen” of the households in which they served and in consequence, either lost their jobs or were in danger of losing their jobs.

While I was writing this book, I worried about the mix of elements. Could a story deal with such weighty issues and still be romantic and sexy? But in the end, I think I pulled it off, and I’m happy to be giving the story a new life in e-book form.

What do you think about social issues in romance novels? Should authors avoid them, or are there ways to make it work? Do you have any favorite romance novels that feature characters who feel passionately about some cause?

From comments on this post, I’ll draw five names to receive a Kindle edition of LADY DEARING’S MASQUERADE. If you win, you can also suggest a friend who will receive one as well. You can comment through Friday (one entry per person) and I’ll announce the winners next Saturday.


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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23 Responses to Lady Dearing’s Masquerade and Kindle Edition Giveaway!

  1. Green Otter says:

    I like a bit of controversy in my romance personally. So long as it is there to drive plot and not just to show what a nice person the hero or heroine is. Nothing wrong with historical accuracy either, it’s all to the good.

  2. I already knew of this particular bit of history.. but sure found your photo of various tokens most interesting. I like the historical accuracy bit along with a bit of a twist in character development that goes in a slightly different direction!

  3. JaneA says:

    I do not mind controversy in the books I read, particularly in historicals where I don’t have an emotional investment in the subject. It is quite a bit different to discuss politics during the reign of Henry VIII say, vs today.

    As far as the Foundling Hospitals, I find your research fascinating as well as very sad. Those tokens are particularly heartbreaking.

  4. Virginia says:

    I don’t mind a little controversy in books it kind of adds to the story. I like the historical accuracy because I learn from it, but it don’t have to be perfect either.

  5. Maria says:

    I definitely think an author can write social issues into their books…your point about the fact that many of these children born out of wedlock were to the servants who were impregnated by their “gentleman” employers is definitely a good point…..the author just has to be careful about the presentation of the subject and not do it in such a way as to come off hostile or preachy…the love story (or mystery/suspense) does have to remain the focal point of the story though. Lady Dearing’s Masquerade sounds absolutely wonderful! Tnanks for the contest.

  6. says:

    There is no better way to learn history than reading a well-researched historical novel, romance or not. I look forward to this one.

  7. Barbara E. says:

    I like reading about social issues in romance novels. It adds a bit of weight to the story and there’s nothing wrong with that. I enjoy learning about some of the issues that occurred and seeing the heroine (or the hero) involved in trying to make life better for those less fortunate. It adds to their character to see that they care for more than balls and shopping.
    A favorite is Eloisa James’ Desperate Duchesses series, especially This Duchess of Mine. In it, the Duke of Beaumont was very active in Parliament, trying to come up with solutions to the country’s problems.

  8. oneredboot says:

    elizabeth mansfield’s “A Grand Deception” is one of my favorite regencies with a socially conscious heroine. the heroine runs away to work as a school teacher in a charity school. she ends up disillusioned, but i’ve always loved that she learns how to work for change from within her own social position. it’s light and charming and doesn’t take itself too seriously and doesn’t suggest solutions–which i think is important if weighty issues are going to be addressed!

  9. Diane Gaston says:

    In Chivalrous Captain, Rebel Mistress, the heroine takes up the cause of unemployed soldiers and organizes an illegal demonstration.

  10. Elena Greene says:

    I’m glad to hear there are readers who appreciate stories that touch on issues, and the books you mention sound interesting.

    JaneA, you make a good point that this is easier done in historical romance. Some issues cool down over time. But I also think some of them stay with us, in different forms. Sadly, there are still people who look down on children born out of wedlock, as if it were their fault.

  11. Sapskull says:

    In general I like political stuff in any book…as long as it doesn’t infuriate me. I do agree that historical political/social issues tend to be less contentious; they just kind of fit in with the setting and aren’t jarring when you read them (unlike in some contemporaries). Plus I like nonfiction about that sort of thing, so combining that with a genre of fiction I enjoy is always nice.

  12. Heather says:

    Social issues in romance are fine as long as they feel natural and not forced. Also the issue should not overpower the romance which should be central.

  13. librarypat says:

    I read about your book on another site and a link to the Foundling Home’s catalogue of items left with children. From the quality of the fabric and buttons some of these children were wearing, some mothers were well off. I can’t imagine how heart wrenching it would have been to have to leave a child, even with hopes of being able to come back for them later.

    I see no reason for not addressing issues in romantic fiction. I couldn’t tell you the name of the books right now, but I have read several that have done so and it fit well with the story. Of the issues addressed have been conditions for miners, conditions for soldiers after the war with Bonaparte, conditions for girls in schools that were basically workhouses, care for orphans, conditions for the insane (or those said to be),and many more. Each was a solid part of the story and added to the plot and action.

  14. Na says:

    I welcome and enjoy romance novels that tackle social issues. It makes the story more meaningful for me and can definitely work with the right setting and characters. Some story needs this to be told to be appreciated, whereas others don’t and using them can trivialize them. I enjoy when these social issues are addressed in a manner that gives it justice, but is also true of the characters and how they would handle them.

  15. I don’t mind controversy in the books I read. My only issues is when those storylines override everything else. It becomes more about the controversy than the love story.

  16. Dalila G. says:

    Hi Elena!

    Please do not enter my name in contest, already have it! 🙂

    I enjoy reading historical romance books, I also like it when the author does mention a particular cause.

    Either one or more of the characters involve with issues is ok.

    As long as it fits in with the story, it’s fine. I rather they not go on and on and on about said cause, it takes away from the story.

    After all, I did buy the book for a HEA.

    Yes, there were loads of problems back then, but I really do not need for the auhor to get on her soap box about it in a romance book.

    When the facts are some what accurate and the story flows, it does give a book that extra edge on times gone by.
    What the ‘other’ classes had to deal with day in and day out.

    After all, not everyone had balls to go to and fancy clothes. Some were just happy for food.

  17. chey says:

    I don’t mind social issues in books as long as the issue don’t take over the story.

  18. readnknit says:

    This comment has been removed by the author.

  19. readnknit says:

    I like social issues in romance novels. They don’t have to take over the story and you learn something. It gives you something to think about.

  20. zh. says:

    I don’t have a Kindle so don’t pick me, but I like social issues in romance novels. I just finished “A Duke of Her Own” by Eloisa James (again) and the duke in question runs a retirement home for men injured in a glassworks. He feels very strongly about it and it helps bring him and the duchess closer, so … romance! It’s a great book.

  21. Sheree says:

    A bit of social controversy is okay as long as it’s historically accurate and true to the character.

  22. Historical issues are fine if used in such a way as to throw the protagonists’ lives into the spotlight – as is accuracy as far as it can be attained. I’ve yet to visit the Foundling Hospital even though I’ve stayed nearby several times.

  23. bookloveroh says:

    As long as the issue is integral to the plot, I have no problem whatsoever with it — particularly in historicals since I am somewhat divorced from the issues being written about. For contemporary stories, I know what pushes my buttons and tend to stay away from those stories unless they are highly recommended.
    Enjoyed your info on the Foundling Hospitals — I have just finished Annie Gracie’s His Captive Lady and was going to search her site and Google to find out more about the hospitals.
    Would love to win a copy of your book, it sounds great.

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