Thursday, March 26, 2009

The Regency 'Look'

Every era has its own vision of female beauty. It is a composite of hair-styles, make-up, physical attributes, and clothing--a 'look'.

Our current look in 2009 depends on thinness--faces are defined by bone structure, enhanced by subtle but often heavy make-up; clothes are sleek on wand-thin bodies, hair is coloured and often straight.

The 1980's look was defined by big shoulder pads, big hair and bright makeup highlighting strong facial structure.

The 1960's look focussed on the eyes--wide eyes with absurdly long mascaraed or artificial eyelashes. Mini-skirts were the fashion focus, and boy-cuts--short feathered 'dos were popular for hair.

In the 1930's the ideal face was round, eyebrows were a bold half-circle, lips were bright and full, noses small, and marcelled hair was styled short to increase the 'round' look.

I've been struck over the years by the Regency look. Portraits don't display the look clearly, because any good portrait artist will at least try to illustrate his subject's individual face. But the look becomes clear as you study Ackermann's fashion plates, and any of the other period fashion illustrations.

The ideal Regency face was oval--either short or long, but always egg-smooth, without defining cheek or jaw bones. The lips were small verging on tiny, a rosebud of a mouth. Noses are shown as surprisingly substantial but always straight. And the eyes--well-opened and innocent--are very wide-set.

The garish makeup--white lead, red rouge and patches--of the 1700s had disappeared, and the Victorian prohibition on paint and powder had not yet taken effect. Make-up in the Regency was used sparingly, subtly, but it was there, reddening lips, lightening complexions. Hair-styles were generally high, elongating the oval, except for those brief periods when cropped curls were popular. And of course, the straight-skirted, high-waisted fashions of the time further elongated the fashionable tall, slender figure.

What do you think defines the Regency 'look'?

Till next time,


Saturday, March 21, 2009

Learning about titles

One of the key structures of Regency society was the system of aristocracy that ruled England. One of the most difficult things, it seems, for authors--particularly North American authors--to grasp is the system of titles that organized that aristocracy.

We use a great many titles in Regency romance. It is part of the fascination of the period for readers. Regency historicals seem to be particularly fond of dukes. That is surprising for there were never very many around and most of them were royal. But the imaginary world of the Regency is overrun with them. Likewise there have never been many marquesses in England, but I have one of those among my heroes. These days I seem to be leaning more to viscounts and barons, but who knows when another earl or marquess will pop up!

If an author is going to use titles, she must do her characters the courtesy of addressing them properly. The feminine side of the peerage nomenclature is equally as important as the male. A working knowledge of the system should be the first thing every Regency romance author pursues.

I've read two books Regencies recently in which a baron or baronet (eg. Sir Firstname Lastname) was called, repeatedly, Sir Lastname. It always, always, always, is Sir Firstname, and I find this an unforgiveable error. It's so easy to look up, and there are plenty of reference websites and books available to help:

- Bestselling author Jo Beverley has one of the best summaries of the system

- Nancy Mayer, researcher extraordinaire, has a great section on titles

- Burke's Peerage has a brief section on titles and lots of other fascinating information

- Wikipedia is also useful. Check out the following pages:
British nobility
Peerage of England

- "Titles and Forms of Address: a guide to their correct usage" by A & C Black Publishers, 22th print ed. 2007 is an impeccable resource

- Emily Hendrickson's "The Regency Reference Book" has a great section on titles. You can purchase it on CD-ROM.

- Debrett's Peerage and Baronetage is probably the ultimate authority.

This is admittedly a vast field of study. I'm still learning about it. But the basics are easily picked up. I hope every author of historical romance takes the time to do so.

Till next time,

Saturday, March 14, 2009

I'm a Guest Blogger; New Release

Rather than cross-post, I'm going to refer you to the blog at which I am guesting today. Please visit me at Prairie Chicks Write Romance. I'm there all day today, Sat March 14, answering questions and comments. We're talking about scheduling new releases, the juggling act that writers do sometimes, and other authorly problems. Please join me at Prairie Chicks.

I'm delighted to announce that my new release, "Emilina's Conquest" is now available at Uncial Press This is my fourth Novel Byte and will be followed in October this year by a fifth, "Lost in Almack's".

And by the way, do check out my Regency Fancies store again. We have updated it and added new products.

Till next time,


Thursday, March 5, 2009

Picturing the Regency

I have a new contest up on my website. If you'd like to enter it, please visit the home page and go to the guestbook to sign up and be entered in the draw. The prize this time--for March and April--is a blank, lined journal with Shakoriel's Regency art on the cover. The journal is from our CafePress store, Regency Fancies

When we started the CafePress store, I just wanted Shakoriel's Regency art to find a bigger market. It is so good, so evocative of the Regency period, that it seemed to me it deserved a larger audience than it could find if it remained only on my website.

I am so fortunate to have a resident artist. And I am so lucky she doesn't charge me an arm and a leg for every illustration. She's just starting out, glad for the commissions, and I'm happy to give her the work. Because you see, there just isn't a lot of Regency art available for use, for reasonable prices.

I need art for website information, for book trailers, for promotional materials and for covers. I comb out of copyright books (thank goodness for Google Books and Project Gutenberg), free clip art sites and Dover's invaluable clip art series for appropriate illustrations. There is a Regency romance writer who does a great deal of promotion, and she uses literally dozens of the grand Regency artworks to illustrate her essays, blogs and newsletters. I don't know how she affords it. I certainly can't. Most of the Regency art that you will see on book covers, websites and various publications is all copyrighted at stock art agencies. It costs a fortune to use original Regency art--at least $300-$500 for a single time use. Places like Mary Evans Picture Library, and, and, are invaluable, but they cost, big-time.

If the picture is from a book, you can't use it without permission or licensing. If it's on a website, you need to make sure it hasn't come from somewhere else without permission. I tried to get permission from the publisher to use Barbosa's art from Theresa Chris' out of print book. They didn't even answer my letter. So I am using it but with full attribution, and even then, it's a risk. The Internet is a huge problem for artists--as much as it makes their work available to the world, it also makes it available for pirating. As I work in the creative field, I am concerned about pirating. And I want my illustrations to be legal and above-board. But I do want to have lots of Regency art.

As I've said before I'm a visually oriented person. I want to see what the Regency looked like and I want to show my readers what it looked like. Shakoriel helps me do that.

Thanks, Shakoriel!

Till next time,