Our guest today is Kate Dolan who writes traditional Regency romances for Blush (formerly Cerridwen) Cotillion as well as a variety of other totally unrelated books and articles. Her third Regency, Deceptive Behavior, comes out today in ebook format. And she shares her home with both dogs and a rabbit. That’s her version, so I’ll add that she’s a brilliant and productive writer, a very well-informed historian, and a good friend and critique partner. The thing I love about Kate’s books is that she includes some very risky topics and that makes her a natural here.
So naturally she’s chosen a very non-PC topic. And, oh yes, she’s offering a free download of Deceptive Behavior or one of her print backlist to one lucky person.
For the third book in my “Love and Lunacy” series, I wanted a hero who was a bit different. The challenge was to devise characteristics that would make him seem odd and even unmanly to those in Regency society, but still masculine and appealing to modern readers. He needed to be athletic, but without engaging in the traditional exercise of gentleman, such as hunting and fencing.
I made him a fast runner, but Regency gentlemen did not compete in track meets, so I needed a reason for him to run – and chasing after the heroine didn’t count.
Then I remembered a sport introduced to my husband by one of his colleagues: beagling.
Definitely doesn’t sound very masculine, does it? The sport is very similar to fox hunting, but the quarry is a hare and it is usually chased on foot. So by making my hero a beagler, I gave him an opportunity to become a good runner.
Modern hunts tend to proceed rather slowly with the field walking along behind the beagles, but sources indicate that it used to be a running sport. The Trinity Foot Beagles, a history of a Cambridge club written in 1912, is full of cartoons of men running and the theme song of the group includes a verse that says “It’s the deuce of a run, And I’m pretty well done…It’s lucky by gad, For I think every lad, Has pretty well used up his breath.”
Beagling is now outlawed in the U.K. as a blood sport, but it still has aficionados in the U.S. While clubs such as the Roscommon Hounds proclaim that it “is a dark day if anything is ever killed” during a chase, that too was obviously not true in the past. The lines I deleted from the quote from the Trinity Foot Beagles song talk about the quarry being near its death, and later lines describe the hounds “breaking up” the “pussy,” which was apparently the term of affection for the rabbit that was chased and ripped to shreds.
While “pussy’s death knell” might have a place in some romance stories, it really didn’t fit a traditional Regency, so I was fortunate that in my story I never had to depict an actual outing. My hero did chase a rabbit for a few hundred yards, but then the rabbit stopped so there wasn’t much challenge after that. (Rabbits in my yard do this all the time. They run away frantically and then just stop in the middle of the yard, somehow thinking my dogs and I can no longer see them.)
The Trinity Beagles history describes a “most rotten joyless day” of chasing a hare through turnip patches in the November drizzle, losing the quarry twice and finally giving up after at least 45 minutes of running. “And yet,” the author notes philosophically, “where there is no disappointment, there is no sport. Good days are those which exceed expectation, or they would not be good; and the red letters of the good days would not stand out in bold relief were there not the deep black shadows of the rotten, joyless ones.”
This is of course true for more than just beagling, or any other sport—it applies to everything.
So I wish you many red letter days, but remember that there is an important purpose served by the “rotten, joyless days” as well.
Please weigh in on the advantages or disadvantages of having characters who engage in pursuits now no longer socially acceptable (and we don’t mean with each other), and how do you think this is best handled when writing about such a bloodthirsty age? Or, tell us your favorite dog or rabbit stories. We’ll pick a winner tomorrow!