Tuesday, March 11, 2008


by Christine Wells

When I was eight, my best friend was Tabitha. She told wonderful--and extremely imaginative--stories about the things she did when she wasn't at school. Now, for all I know, she really did live as magical and eventful a life as her namesake from Bewitched. But for the most part, I devoured Tabitha's stories with a hefty pinch of salt. I was never sure whether she really expected to be believed.

Another friend used to say, Why do you hang around with that girl? She tells lies.

Not about things that mattered. Tabitha never lied to get anyone into trouble or get herself out of punishment. So she embroidered, embellished and sometimes downright fabricated stories about talking to animals or the enchanted pottery fairies her mother sculpted and glazed. Tabitha made life more interesting. She was a good friend, and her stories seemed to give her that extra, sparkly shine.
But then I've always been a sucker for glamour.

I write historical romance. I love research. I love delving into the English Regency period, a time of social upheaval, war, extravagance, poverty, marvelous architecture...

...And great hats.

And psst, I hate to admit this, given I'm *serious* about research--getting details, atmosphere, attitudes and expressions as accurate as I can, given reader expectations--but the thing I love most about the Regency era is the glamour. I love reading about aristocrats and balls and house parties.
The wit, the intrigue, the social mores and rituals, the sense of honour and tradition, the wealth of art and architecture, gardens and landscapes those old families collected, built and preserved.

The glamour of the Regency era wasn't limited to aristocrats, though. Highwaymen (or women), smugglers, spies, war heroes--for me, all of these glitter with a special kind of story magic.

Ordinary, middle class people finding love in a cottage? Not so much.
But glamour isn't just about wealth and beauty. It's about story, too, making it bigger, deeper, more. It's about high stakes and wrenching emotion, thrilling adventure and momentous, life-altering events. I think there's a place for the mundane, the ordinary, the obscure--but it's not in Regency historicals. I want the excitement, the thrill. I want the glamour.

And great hats.

So now you know my guilty secret. And that, as we say in the lair, is in the vault.
If you're a reader, what attracts you to a particular setting or subgenre? And if you're a writer, pretend you're my friend Tabitha. How would you 'glam up' your story?

And if you care to win a signed copy of Scandal's Daughter, plus some good old Aussie TIM TAMS, pitch me your most glamorous Regency historical in twenty words or less. It can be as fantastic or as silly as you like.

Just don't--please don't--make it mundane.


Helen said...

Is he still in Australia

Have Fun

Christine Wells said...

Yes, I do believe he is! Congrats, Helen! The GR must have heard about those snow storms way up north:)

Helen said...

Yes I am sure he is enjoying the weather over here at the moment.

Great post Christine I love the Regency because of the glamour and balls and the Ton the way they lived with servants to do everything for you and the fashions are just so beautiful all that satin and silk and I love hats as well. I too love the spying that went on during the wars and all the intriuge that went with it.
The way you authors write these stories for us readers is amazing to me they have me travelling to the most glamourous places and country estates that I often feel as if I am there and the characters in the stories are so real to me I love it.
Have Fun

Christine Wells said...

Oops, forgot the servants! Good point, Helen. I suppose if I traveled back in time I'd end up a scullery maid or something like that but it's much more fun to imagine yourself a duchess, isn't it?

hrdwrkdmom aka Dianna said...

Well, I was close but the GR didn't wait for me did he? Congrats Helen, he is just not ready to face the snow and cold over here.
I love historicals myself, though I have been reading more contemps here lately not to mention some paranormal. Fae can put on the glam with a spell you know. I would like to do that, just get up and put on a glamour spell. Like you Christine I am drawn by the glamour, the silks and satins, the teas and 7 course dinners. So there you have it, food and clothes get my attention LOL.
I have often said at work that I read to escape and if I am going to escape I might as well escape all the way to historical England as long as I am going.

Christine Wells said...

Dianna wrote: if I am going to escape I might as well escape all the way to historical England

So true! That reminds me of Marilyn M saying if she's going to fall in love, it's just as easy to fall in love with a rich man...

Shallow as puddles, we are:) And proud of it!

Caren Crane said...

Christine, I love the glamor too! As much as I love a good Reformer and gnaw my nails about the Corn Laws, I really adore descriptions of balls gowns and beaded slippers. And weren't Regency misses so smart to protect their fair skin from the sun all the time? That's what we need now - more hats!

Okay, my pitch: Girl inherits a fortune on the passing of an obscure relative. She sets up house in London and spends enormous sums of money on clothing (and hats), fending off fortune hunters and falling in love with a dashing rake - who moonlights as a highwayman!

What could you NOT do in such a book? Okay, there's no motivation or much conflict on the surface, but there could be balls and routs nightly! *g*

hrdwrkdmom aka Dianna said...

LOL, I like that...Shallow as puddles.
Food and clothes make women happy, what can you say? It is a fact of life and you may as well roll with it.
I just love the feel of satin and silk, I love the way it "flows". One look at me and you can tell I love food as well. When I was young I was always wearing long dresses at any given chance because I loved to feel the skirts swishing around my ankles. I have a very long inseam so it was always a luxury to wear something long enough. I am not necessarily tall, just a lot of leg. I would have been a great debuatante, I just know it.

Christine Wells said...

Fantastic pitch, Caren! But of course there's conflict! Does the highwayman love her for herself...or her hats???

Balls and Routs Nightly. Sounds like a plan.

Christine Wells said...

I would have been a great debuatante, I just know it.

Dianna, that's so cute.

And the food. Dang! Forgot about the food. Which is so unlike me...

Kirsten said...

Great pictures for the blog, Christine! I also love the glamour of the Regency. I always laugh when people say they want more reality in their historicals. As if I want to hear about how uncomfortable it was to wear all those clothes in the middle of summer, or how crappy the air was because of all the coal they burned.


I'll let you in on a little secret of my own: I don't read romance for reality. ;-)

Don't tell. What gets said in the Lair, stays in the Lair.

It's in the vault.

I think glamour can be found in all sorts of romance settings. We glam up corporate law, detective work, being a Navy SEAL...SEX. Boy do we glam up sex.

(Unless perhaps I'm missing something, and you all have husbands who can perform two or three times and night, with gusto.)

By and large I think when you open a romance you want to be taken away from everyday life. The last thing you want is to have everyday life described in detail.

So glam it up Christine! We love to read it!

Maureen said...

I do enjoy reading about all the balls, gowns and gossip in Regency romances and, of course, the jewelry.

Jeanne (AKA The Duchesse) said...

MUNDANE? In the Lair? Never! :> Great post Christine. I love the Regency because of the clothes too, and the hats, oh and the description of the food.... And you know, you gotta love a hat that can cover all sins. And they so seldom took them off, so who cares about hat hair?

All in all, as Kirsten says, who cares about reality? Even in the reality based contemps, nobody seems to have unshaved legs, an unfortunate mole, or too much month left at the end of the money. Ha! Or if they do, you just know the gorgeous plastic surgeon will take care of it...and a few other things too.

I'd glam up the reality too, if I'd lived back then, for sure. But then...ya'll don't call me Duchesse for nuthin' Snork!

Michelle Buonfiglio said...

Buongiorno, Banditas! Thanks so much for your fabulous hospitality yesterday! Christine! Love this post, especially because, as I revealed yesterday, I, too, am a nut for historicals. The Regency ball gowns get me every time, especially when they're scandalous, and are worn by a bluestocking heroine whith whom the alpha, naughty-mouthed roque's already fallen in love but just doesn't know it yet. If mad jealousy ensues over her ensemble, more's the better.

Like Kirsten -- whom I really like cause she tends to think exactly as I do, which always works for me -- I hate jealousy, rage, idiot alphas in real life. But it gets me going in romance. So please feel free to include them in yours, if you wish. (hint, hint)

Michelle Buonfiglio said...

Oh, and by all means, glam up the sex. Nothing like a strapping wounded-in-his-soul veteran of the Peninsulars who's larger-than-life. In. All. Ways.

Subtlety isn't a prereq in the Lair, is it?

Donna MacMeans said...

Great post, Christine! Finding those pictures must have been great fun.

I love historicals for the gorgeous clothes and - the hats! Of course, I love the whole concept of frock coats, skin-tight breeches, and being honor bound to treat women as treasures.

Glam it up, Christine, but promise to take me with you *g*

Christie Kelley said...

Christine, I have to run off to a termite inspection (doesn't that sound glamorous?) but I had to tell you about the pictures I have of my great-aunts. They were taken in the late 1800s, early 1900s and they had the best hats on ever! They were huge! Had to be at least a foot off their heads, puffy, lacy and beautiful. If I knew where I'd packed them, I could scan them and post them. You'd love it.

Minna said...

Who needs reality to their histoircals? When I want reality, I read something else than historical romances.
Most glamorous Regency historical? Well, the last one I read was The Unknown Heir by Anne Herries. It had it all: a family, that had lost their fortune thanks to some gambling relatives, a dashing hero, a bad guy who wants to destroy the family...

Marie-Nicole Ryan said...

For TIM TAMs, I'm willing to embarrass myself in this public forum. Twenty words is tough.

Masked jewel thief breaks into LadyX's bedchamber. She invites him to her bed. He turns up at her next ball.

Kim said...

This is the nerd in me coming out but I first started reading historicals because I love to study history. A well written/researched novel can be a great learning ground. I also love all the "properness" of Regency England. Everything had to be just so and that just makes my heart sing. LOL.

Here's my pitch Christine. Because I love Cinderella stories so much.

Diana is a scullery maid for the very mean Duchess of Evall. Diana's past is mystery. She's always lived at this estate and only remembers a well dressed man that smelled of leather and ink, he would pat her on the head and feed her a sugared plum. In comes the Earl of Savior who must find the lost child of the Prince of (insert some obscure European country). His investigations lead him to Diana and the Duchess.
Of course Diana is the missing princess and the Earl falls head over heels in love with her. The Earl gives the Duchess hers by shoving her in a wagon full of horse dung. Cue HEA.

umm, that might be more than 20 words. Please don't take away my Bandita secret decoder ring!

jo robertson said...

Sqawk, Helen!

As usual, great post, Christine!

What draws me to historicals is thinking about the unknown and perhaps ordinary men and women who live and love against a backdrop of greater social movements.

Who were these people who lived quiet and no-so-quiet during the early California statehood or World War I, for example? When Puerto Ricans got citizenship or the James brothers roamed the west?

I like to make up pretend stories about them.

Cassondra said...

20 words or less? Pfffft. Fuhgedaboudit. (that's one word, btw.)

Michelle, subtlety? Us?


I like some of the hats--the ones with wide brims. the ones that look like turbans? Well...not so much.

I don't want reality in my historicals--at least, not the body odor, missing and rotten teeth, chamber pot reality.

I think there is a decent amount of reality in some of what I read. We at least get a glimpse of what it was like for women--having NO rights--being, basically, property and often a bargainning tool and potential baby machine. So I think that actually has some value. It reminds us of how far we've come.

I think if the writer handles the reality well, it's okay.

But I LOVE the dresses. What girl doesn't like to dream of dressing up like that? And having a french lady's maid who knows how to take care of your skin and how to do your hair in just the perfect way?

We don't read them for reality. We read them to escape. I think the people who "want more reality in their historicals" don't have clue what "reality" actually was back then. Ick. And I think that might be more of an historical novel in the larger, more literary sense, than "historical romance" which is pure wonderful entertainment.

Christine this was a great blog. Love the pics!

flchen1 said...

Woohoo! Congrats, Helen! The GR wants to stay warm :)

Christine, what a fun post! I agree with Kirsten--I definitely read for the glam, whether it's the gowns and hats or the houseful of servants or the incredible stamina of the hunky hero ;) Just call me a puddle ;p (although we've driving through some relatively deep puddles in our day!)

Hmm... a 20-word pitch? Duke's secret love child seduces her step brother to thwart his engagement to her detested rival but falls in love... (Wearing a glamourous hat, of course... perhaps not much else? ;) Scandalous!)

Aunty Cindy said...

WTG, Helen! I know the GR will enjoy his stay with you and all those books.

Thanx for popping by Michelle! It was such a BLAST having you hanging out with us in the Lair yesterday. And as I'm sure you figured out, subtlety is in pretty short supply around here, what with our cabana boys, gladiators, bucket boots and Bandita booty! :-P

GREAT premise, Marie-Nicole! Have you been secretly attending private parties in the Lair? Duchess of Evall and Earl of Savior, Kim? I'm ROFLOL on that one!

And YES, I agree, we read romance to ESCAPE REALITY whether historical, contemporary or paranormal.


Anna Campbell said...

Christine, what a great post. And what fabulous pictures! I love the one of the guys losing their heads literally (although not in a French Revolution sense!)in those huge bonnets!

Yeah, I love the Regency clothes - but it's the men's stuff I like! High boots and tight breeches on a nice lean thigh and those wonderful high-collared coats and cravats. Oh, my! Even the men's hats were cools - or at least the high-topped ones. Not so keen on the Napoleon look! And I love the high-spirited horses! And the carriages! And dancing the night away in a rake's arms. And...

Yeah, Christine, I guess I'm a sucker for glamour too!

I love the premises so far. Marie-Nicole, your highwayman has distinct possibilities ;-)

Michelle, lovely to see you back. Your visit yesterday was an absolute hoot!

Kim said...

HA! AC, glad you caught that one;)

Christine Wells said...

Kirsten, it's in the vault!*g* This fictionalized Regency world authors have built, layer by layer, doesn't bear much scrutiny, does it? But that's the place most Regency historical fans want to escape to, I think.

And there's the glamour attaching to the silks and the balls etc, but in Oliver Twist, Dickens made London's rookeries glamorous (IMO) with fantastic characters and stirring events . And, of course, an uplifting ending.

I think a skilled writer could do the same for a Regency historical. But they'd have to be very skilled and I think there'd still have to be some connection with aristocratic society. I can't recall any historicals set amongst the middle class, though. Now I'm sure someone will prove me wrong and cite a wonderful example. I'm all ears!

Christine Wells said...

Hi Maureen! I tried to find pictures of opulent Regency jewelry but the examples I found were far too delicate and tasteful to be called glamorous. I think the fabulous jewels must still be locked in family vaults!

Christine Wells said...

Yes, I was sure you'd have something to say on the subject as our highest ranking noblewoman, Duchesse de Snork!

I've read some fab categories where the story could have happened in real life but I'm always drawn back to the drama and the passion of historicals. Could glamour be the secret to their success?

Christine Wells said...

LOL, Michelle! No, subtlety has never been our strong point here. Thanks for coming back. We LOVED having you in the lair.

The alpha is perfect for the Regency setting, isn't he? An aristocrat is the ideal repository for alpha tendencies. In those days, political power and glamor tended to coincide a bit more than they do now:) I'm thinking of our current world leaders and giving an extra, delicate shudder when it comes to our PM.

And the sex...well, who would have guessed it? I thought it was all very realistic in historicals...*g* Although the DF seems to be making an appearance in some...

Christine Wells said...

Donna--to the woman who has a pink corset-shaped handbag, I'm sure there's NOTHING I could teach you about glamour. *g*

Christine Wells said...

Ooh, Christie, yes! I'd love to see those photos. Hats can be absolute works of art, can't they? I love hats. Maybe even better than shoes...

Running for cover in case Tawny or VA hear.

Christine Wells said...

Minna, that Anne Herries book sounds like classic glam!

Christine Wells said...

Marie-Nicole--glam-tastic pitch! Love the jewel-thief angle. You're a strong contender. Anyone care to challenge?? Tim-Tams, people!

Christine Wells said...

Kim, snorked at the Duchess of Evall! Yes, if our heroine must be poor at the start, make her a princess by the end!

And no, I'm not going to be strict about word-count. You can keep your decoder ring. *g*

Christine Wells said...

Jo, ordinary people doing extraordinary things is another way of glamming it up, I think. They don't have to dress in silks and satins to be interesting, do they?

Christine Wells said...

Cassondra, you're right--I think what a lot of people who want reality really want to write is straight historical fiction. But the hisfic market is tough. Tougher, I think, than the hisrom one. What they seem to be looking for in hisfic is another Philippa Gregory--women in the centre or on the periphery of stirring historical events. They don't want ordinary, either.

Christine Wells said...

ROTFL, Fedora! That was utterly glam-tastic! I was wondering how many hooks someone could get into 20 words. Great work.

Christine Wells said...

Hi AC! I'd be interested to know from you suspense authors what you think is glamorous about suspense. For me, I love the high stakes and danger. And the great action heroes...

Christine Wells said...

Great point, Foanna. Men's fashion has never been so flattering to the physique, IMO. Just think of Sean Bean in Sharpe. Mmmm. I had a wonderful contemporary portrait showing a man in all his broad-shouldered snowy-white linened glory but it wouldn't load so I gave up. Maybe I had too many pictures this time. Those cartoons really tickled me, too.

jo robertson said...

Oh, no, Michelle, we save the subtlety for our books, not allowed in the Lair.

I'm with you -- nothing like a soldier, wounded in body and soul, as far as I'm concerned.

I, too, love the historical clothing, although I'm more a Victorian kind of girl. I especially love when the heroine (as in Jennifer Donnelly's THE TEA ROSE) decides to leave off with the corset b/c it's too constrictive.

I'm with you Dianne; my legs are long from knee to thigh so I have to wear pants or long dresses to accommodate my weird legs LOL.

Amen, Sister Cassondra, we read for the fantasy-escapism! I have my husband and kids for reality!

Christine Wells said...

Jo, I wish I had your leg problem.LOL Mine are in proportion to the rest of me--ie short.

doglady said...

Lovely post, Christine! Very glamorous! and all too true! Shallow as a puddle and proud to say so!

My reality is Wal-Mart for God's sake! Tacky, saggy, baggy, too small, inappropriate, boobs hanging out, black thongs under white Daisy Dukes. Why WOULDN'T I want to escape to the Regency with fabulous gowns, glorious hats and those men in those TIGHT TIGHT breeches and boots!

Oh please, Michelle, subtlety is completely overrated! Especially from a group that approaches cover models wearing shirts that say SURRENDER THE BOOTY!!

Its the glamour of the clothes, the manners, the estates, the townhouses, the balls and all of the things unique to the Regency that make me want to climb inside a well-written novel and live even if it is only for an hour or two.

How about Lord Hunkahunk courts Duchess BatsinBelfry because he really needs the money. Secretly he is in love with the duchess's social secretary Miss Sweetbutbroke. When he decides he can't go thru with it and jilts Duchess B, the old bat, I mean the poor lady shoots him and he lands in the ornamental pond. Miss S dives in to rescue him while Duchess B glides down the staircase for her portrait sitting saying "I am ready for my close up, Mr. Gainsborough"

Can you tell I LOVE old movies???

Jeanne (AKA The Duchesse) said...

Ohhhhh, Sean Bean in tight britches and Hessian boots...or better yet, Alan Rickman in uniform....oh, bestill my heart (and other things...)


Michelle, thanks for dropping back in, it was SO fun to have you here yesterday! And as several have said, no, subtle isn't notably prized. Puns on the other hand, are. And Glam. And Booty (of all sorts)


Jeanne (AKA The Duchesse) said...

Doglady, you owe me a new keyboard. SNORK!!! I'm wiping the Diet Coke off so I can type. I was laughing my fanny off (please, can I really DO that?) over both Wal-Mart and the hysterical pitch.

MsHellion said...

Hellion's Historical (sorry, it's not a Regency though!)

"PRIDE & PREJUDICE meets CITY SLICKERS when a Bostonian travels West to become a cowboy and meets the rancher's daughter who shows him how."

(I'm over by 4 words. Ah, well, DISQUALIFIED. *LOL* But I do have "high concept", of a sort.)

limecello said...

I love regencies - when I really got into reading romances, regencies were all I'd read. (In fact, I only branched out because I'd exhausted the collection at my library.) I love the glamor and random history - and there's just so much material.
I've never had TIM TAMS - though I hear they're fabulous.
Hm my glamorous regency historical has princesses - because nothing is more glamorous than royalty. Spies, long lost siblings, lots of balls, theft, going into hiding, and a rags to riches story. (That'd be one of the princesses...) - yeah, still a work in progress ;-)

Anna Campbell said...

Pam, you gotta get published! You just gotta!!! I love that story. Especially the nice historical detail of Mr G getting a look-in at the end, snork! Christine, I know she had more than 20 words, but my vote goes to Pam!!!

Aunty Cindy said...

I'd be interested to know from you suspense authors what you think is glamorous about suspense. For me, I love the high stakes and danger. And the great action heroes...

All of the above, Christine! :-) Danger always seems to up the sexual tension to me. And of course there are often spies, thieves, dastardly villains... just like in the historicals.

Does it get any more glam than Bond in his Armani sipping his martini?


Jeanne (AKA The Duchesse) said...

Oh, I forgot to answer that, Christine...What's glamourous about suspense? What isn't? Grins. Not the gritty, evil parts, I guess, but the intrigue, the dance of the hero, heroine and villain, usually in plain sight without anyone getting the upper hand. :> As AC said, there's Bond, in Armani. Or a built Navy Seal in a wetsuit. Yum. I mean, c'mon, can we say Ranger? Grins.

ellie said...

The vivid characters whose lives are always intriguing and beset with the most amazing and sometimes strange occurrences. I love historicals for their decriptions of the countryside, their feeelings and the surroundings.

Christine Wells said...

Pam wrote: Especially from a group that approaches cover models wearing shirts that say SURRENDER THE BOOTY!!

What a great idea:)

Snorked my nose off at your story, Pam. Are you by any chance a writer??

And of course I'm not holding anyone to the word restrictions. Sheesh! Anyone would think this was an RWA chapter contest, not the bandit lair.

Christine Wells said...

Hey, MsHellion, that's a strong pitch! And fugeddabout the word count! That's no problem at all.

Are you pitching at National? We must do a blog or two on pitching. We have some real masters of the art here in the lair.

Christine Wells said...

Limecello, you have more hooks than a hat stand there. Well done!

Christine Wells said...

Jeanne and Aunty, you're so right about the danger upping the ST. And I think grit can be glam if you do it right:)

Christine Wells said...

Ellie, I think I like all that about historicals, too. I like it when someone can make fantastic things happen, but still really ground those events in vivid detail of the period. That's a perfect historical to me.

Jeanne (AKA The Duchesse) said...

grit as glam. I like it. :>

Kirsten said...

Michelle, please, come back and agree with me anytime!! :-)

(gal after my own heart, clearly! Love the alpha in the books, but in real life -- no way.)

Loved all the pitches and ideas - cinderalla and rags to riches stories definitely reign supreme around here. Along with tight pants and big hats. Hmm.

wish I could hang out all day and play with ya'll. dratted Big Brother. Dianna, I'm sure you would have been a fabulous deb, esp with those long lovely legs. Minna, I will have to look for that glam book! And Marie-Nicole, great pitch! You'll have to come back again and teach us how to leave 'em hanging.

Kim, hilarious pitch! And Fedora, very neat and tight. You could do one of those 60-second pitch conferences and get requests from everyone.

Pam, I'm definitely using Lord Hunkahunk in my next ms. Or is it taken?

Ms. Hellion, impressive use of the high concept pitch! Limecello, you mentioned one of my favorite plot twists--the long lost siblings!

ellie, you must be a writer! glam prose to describe glam!

Kim said...

OMG, Donna has a pink corset purse!?!?!? I wanna see!

Suzanne Welsh said...

Very fun post, Christine!

I have to agree with the elegance of the balls being a drawing factor for me. And with men having such big ideas about honor, villians get to be extra smarmy. (I love that word!)

Suzanne Welsh said...

Jeanne!!! I love your taste in men and their clothes. (Sean and Alan....yummo!)

Suzanne Welsh said...

Pam...I love your Regency version of Sunset Boulevard!

Caren Crane said...

Jeanne and Suzanne, I just watched Sense & Sensibility the other day and had the great good fortune to see Alan Rickman in his regimentals once again. *swoon* (Though Sean Bean in Sharpe gives him a run for his money!)

Keira Soleore said...

Christine, I'm late, late, late in commenting here. But your tribute to Tabitha was beautiful. I hope she had a chance to read it.

SIGH, the hats. That's one thing that I loved about the late Princess Diana, she brought hats back into fashion, except in Kentucky where they've always been in fashion, or Audrey Hepburn, who always wore them with such panache.

And that's certainly not a jaunty feather. That feather'd kill ya if you gave it half a chance.

Keira Soleore said...

Tim Tams for Pam.