Regency,  Writing

Anachronism vs. Anomaly


I am currently writing a fluffy historical, sometimes called a wallpaper historical–this is the kind of book where the period is there for mere decoration (hence the wallpaper comment), and period experts will rightly say, “That could never happen in the Regency!”

And usually, I cock an eyebrow when a heroine of any time decides to have sex without considering protection, or the consequences, no matter what time period it is.

But in this book, my hero and heroine will not be going all the way until I’ve figured out how to make it work, in any context (not so much the act itself; I do know how that works).

But my heroine will be doing some heavy petting, so to speak, prior to making a commitment to the hero. I don’t think this is anachronistic behavior; I do believe that human beings of any time did things they perhaps should not. I prefer to think of it that my heroine is extraordinary in any time, although in this period she is an anomaly, particularly as a young aristocrat. Young ladies generally did not do such things. But my heroine, in specific, is.

Perhaps it’s justifying what I’m writing, perhaps it’s just looking at the time through my 21st century eyes, but I am okay with it. The characters are having fun figuring themselves, and each other out, and that shouldn’t be anomalous, no matter when it happens.

Meanwhile, I am glad I have something warm to write when it is so cold outside! Hope everyone is bundled up, sitting at home with a good book and a great cup of tea.


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9 years ago

If young ladies and gentlemen never got carried away there would have been no need for someone to advertise in magazines such as Le Beau Monde their availability to assist ladies in an “inconvenient” situation.

So, indeed, a couple who give in to those powerful urges are not anachronistic at all. Giving in without worry or guilt at the time or shortly after? Less believable.

I’m looking forward to your take on this! You go, Megan.

Diane Gaston
9 years ago

I’m with you, Carolyn. I have no problem with your hero and heroine doing anything hot and heavy. It is how they think about it that puts it in the context of the time period.

A Regency heroine who makes love and never thinks of the consequences is unrealistic. A specific Regency heroine who makes love and damns the consequences could work for me.

Jane George
9 years ago
Reply to  Diane Gaston

Yep, that would work for me too. Looking forward to this one!


9 years ago

I’m sure that “getting carried away” has always happened, and that’s the reason girls were so closely chaperoned in the Regency period (and other periods). So the heavy petting could, I think, have happened if the H and h had been alone enough before that scene to get to know one another better than was usually possible. But I also think that the consequences had been so dinned into them that it’s unlikely that they would have taken that final step – there’s always a moment when the mist clears and you can say “yes” or “no” to yourselves. And I find it very difficult to imagine a Regency heroine who would “damn the consequences”. So all kudos to you if you manage to write it well enough to convince me!

This is a serious question: if you’re only using the period as decoration, and want to write things that others will “rightly say” wouldn’t have happened in the Regency, then why are you writing it as a Regency?? Why not write it as a contemporary? I’ve just always wondered why authors do that, and now I can ask!

9 years ago

Yeah, people felt desires then as now and who knows how many may have acted on them–that’s the sort of thing they didn’t tend to write about in journals or letters, so we’ll never know for sure. Fiction is about what might have happened. Just don’t ignore the potential of consequences–the possibility of being caught, being expected to become engaged if that happens, etc…

Elizabeth Kerri Mahon
9 years ago

I definitely think in any era, there were young men and women who got around the conventions and chaperones of the time, to have a little pre-marital fun. It just depends on the character of the hero and heroine. If you’ve written her to be a prim and proper little miss, you’d have to come up with a good reason for her to allow herself to possibly be compromised. But if she doesn’t care a fig for the conventions, spends her time perhaps going out of her way to do things she shouldn’t because she thinks it’s exciting or boring to follow the rules, then of course it makes sense. It all comes down to the characters. I know from my research for Scandalous Women, that when anyone says that a young woman of that period wouldn’t do something, I can find at least a few women who did.

Isobel Carr
9 years ago

If you’d like documentation for your heavy petting scenario being perfectly realistic for the period (and who wouldn’t!) you can cite Fatal Secrets and the French Fertility Transition from Population and Development Review Vol 21, No. 2 (June, 1995). It’s available for free on MyJSTOR.

Isobel Carr
9 years ago

Hopefully this will work

9 years ago

To answer your question, EJ, the period is a setting and a mindset and provides inspiration for all kinds of story ideas (for me, at least). I have to tweak with the reality of the times to suit the fictional aspect of the book, but that doesn’t diminish the appeal of the period for me, if that makes sense. I grew up reading Regency books and have the whole setting kind of imprinted in my brain, so it feels natural, even though I do need to tweak. Does that make sense?

Isobel Carr
9 years ago

There are, of course, real life examples of Regency misses who didn’t guard their virtue. One of my favorite is Julia Johnstone, who grew up in Hampton Court, lost her virginity in a dalliance with an officer there as a teen, and then became one of the most celebrated courtesans of her day (some people even think she was Brummell’s first love).

I think you can get away with almost anything if you ground it the real life examples we have and properly motivate your characters.


[…] the same time Megan posted Anachronism vs Anomaly, I was editing a section of the story with a lot of sex scenes. I mean lots. It took until almost […]

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