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I received the author copies of A Not So Reputable Gentleman? last Friday, and there is nothing like seeing the book in its tangible form. Even ebook-Kindle-loving me savors holding the book in my hands and flipping through its pages.

I’ll do an “official” introduction to the book near its release date of July 24, but revisiting the book after several months reminded me of some of the essential elements of the story.

My hero and heroine were secretly betrothed before the book begins. Secret betrothals, while favored in fiction (e.g. Edward Ferrars and Lucy Steele in Sense and Sensibility; Frank Churchill and Jane Fairfax in Emma), were frowned upon in the real Regency world. In fact, it was considered a serious moral lapse.

Unmarried men and women in society were not permitted to be alone together and were expected to meet only in carefully chaperoned circumstances, like balls and other society parties.

Before a betrothal, young men and women were forbidden to use each other’s Christian names. They could not correspond by letters. They could not exchange gifts. They could not touch in any kind of intimate way and certainly could not kiss.

My hero and heroine had broken nearly all these taboos, although they, of course, considered themselves betrothed. In public, however, any show of particular attention or lapse of correct behavior would have given them away. Society was quick to assume a serious attachment on any sign of particular attention between a couple.

A secret engagement typically meant that there were reasons parents would not approve of the match. During the Regency a parent’s approval was expected if the child was under 21 years of age. Parents naturally wished for socially and financially secure marriages for their children. At the time of my book’s beginning, my hero was neither financially secure or socially acceptable.

By the 1800s a betrothal became more of a gentleman’s word than a contract between families. Even though suing for breach of contract was no longer the norm, a gentleman was expected to keep his word if he asked a woman to marry. A gentleman was disgraced if he broke an engagement and his fiancee was considered damaged goods. The lady was the only one who could “cry off” but then she was considered a jilt.

This, of course, makes great fodder for Regency Romance Novels. In reality, it is what led Wellington to marry Kitty Pakenham. When Kitty had been young and vivacious Wellington had courted her, but his suit was not accepted by her family. When he returned from India, Kitty had become pale and sickly, but Wellington realized that she had considered them betrothed all that time. He felt duty-bound to marry her as a result.

A secret betrothal held no such protections for the couple. By its secrecy, words–and hearts–could be broken without any social cost, although the emotional cost could be enormous.

In matters of marriage, the Regency was, like in so many areas, a time of change. In the 17th and 18th century society marriages were arranged by the parents and were secured for financial gain or rise in social status. By the Regency, couples wished to marry for love. Some blamed this foolish notion on the reading of novels.

Do you like secret betrothals in Regency romances? What about arranged marriages?

If you would like a chance to win a copy of A Not So Reputable Gentleman?, enter my part of the Harlequin Historical Authors Summer Beach Bag Giveaway. For more chances at other prizes and the grand prize of a Kindle Fire, enter daily. See details here.

I know some people don’t see the connection when chick lit is compared to Jane Austen, but I can’t help seeing many parallels between her world and ours. Maybe one of the reasons her works are classics?

A few days ago, I watched a show involving the new concept of speed-dating. At least, I think it’s a fairly new thing, I’ve been out of the dating scene (is it still called a “scene”?) for over 17 years. Yikes! Anyway, for anyone else who is terminally behind the times (when I first got spam about Paris Hilton I thought there must have been a scandal at a Parisian hotel), speed dating apparently involves couples seated at rows of tables who get to talk for something like 8-10 minutes before moving on to another partner. By the end of the evening, anyone who enjoyed their brief time together can arrange for a longer date.

Is this a hip and clever new way of weeding out people one would hate to be stuck with for a full-length date? Perhaps. But is it so different from Regency balls and assemblies, ranging from the exclusive events at Almack’s to the public assemblies held at inns and such in towns and larger villages all over England?

Think about it. Singles at a Regency ball were expected to have a range of partners; no more than a couple of dances with just one. And given all the action and intricate movements, were they left with much more than 8-10 minutes to converse?

A fairly efficient way for a busy aristocrat (one of those who actually minds his estate and his duties to Parliament) to interview potential brides.

But I’m also sure it was a good way to identify the partners a lady would rather NOT take a carriage ride with the next day. The aging roué with sawdust padding out his calves (Regency equivalent of a lounge lizard). The lisping, mincing dandy. The bored rake who despises country dances? (Which I happen to think are good fun.) The bluff country squire with long stories of his hunting dogs, who steps on your delicately embroidered hem with his BOOTS since he couldn’t be bothered to change into regular shoes for a ball. Oops! I think that last one has appeared on more than one Regency cover, impersonating a Hero. I’d better stop while I’m ahead…


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