Here with me today is historical romance author Shehanne Moore. We go back a ways, Shey and I, so when I heard about her new book The Writer and the Rake, I asked her to come visit the blog. She kindly agreed to write a guest post, and, wow, she has provided quite a read about Georgian England, women, and the writing process. Now, let’s give Shehanne Moore the stage.
Let’s be clear here, this is not a paean of praise to Francis Dashwood’s exclusive club for high society rakes. When meetings often included mock rituals, items of a pornographic nature, much drinking, wenching and banqueting, what kind of a person do you think I am? And while the hero of my latest book has every selfish reason to appear enlightened about women, he has a point. Women were not able to walk into a tavern and drink in these days, the way they do now. In fact, a woman’s lot in 1765 was one to die for and not as we have come to know that term either.
Firstly, let me thank this very special woman, Christy Birmingham, for asking me, a romance author, to her blog today. It’s a great pleasure to be here and to know Christy, one of the most supportive women I know, a tremendous poet and an intelligent advocate for us ladies. My home town, Dundee, gave the U.S. Fanny Wright, lecturer, writer, freethinker, feminist, abolitionist, and social reformer, born here in 1795.
Where the lot of Georgian women was concerned it’s a pity she hadn’t been born a bit earlier and hadn’t been lost to across the pond.
My idea in writing this latest book was to take Brittany, a young woman from today’s world and have her flit between Georgian England and the present day. You know ,I even thought how nice, gracious and sedate that Jane Austenish world would be, that within hours of arriving, she’d be so calmed by the green-fielded pleasantry and ladies in rustic bonnets everywhere, she’d fall totally in love with this charming world. DUH. What is it they say about the best laid plans? The more I looked into this alien galaxy and the lot of women, the clashier, not classier, this became. And not just between my hero and heroine either. What was interesting was the things I had to go to bat for re this book.
The hero is a rake but before anyone thinks too badly of him, a lot of upper crust men from that era were because most society marriages were arranged. Sometimes affection grew but not for my hero, whose shy, awkward, naïve, young wife, he was railroaded into marrying at sixteen, hated him on sight, so he joined the ranks of men who went elsewhere. At least he didn’t force the issue which he would have been perfectly within his rights to do.
If, as a woman, you think you would have been free to say no, or choose your spouse, think again. You and your belongings, all these nice shoes, bags, books, everything in fact you thought were yours, were, in fact, your hubby’s. Take the case of rich heiress, Lady Mary Bowes, an ancestor of Queen Elizabeth 2nd, and the subject of The Luck of Barry Lyndon, by Thackeray. Her second husband kidnapped her, beat, gagged and carried her around the countryside on horseback, in winter, all to stop her divorcing him and keep his hands on her fortune.
And to think my editor initially complained after my hero, at the end of his tether and really not understanding why my heroine wouldn’t do what he asked, stuck her under a water pump.
Mary Bowes escaped only with the help of loyal servants. The initially sympathetic public were affronted to learn of her affair with her lawyer’s brother and felt she was quite wrong not to hand her money over to her abusive, swindling, husband.
Interestingly, that was another editorial clash where no questions were raised over my hero but some shock was expressed that my heroine had a history of getting drunk in the present day and went with random men.
So, that’s marriage. Next up? Childbirth. In Georgian England, public opinion was against contraception within marriage. Romance writers Google all sorts –ahem—let’s face it, these things have to be looked after.
And, I understand sheep’s intestines were all the rage for prevention. Soaked in water, of course, for an hour beforehand and torture to get on. Small wonder my hero quite welcomed the contents of my heroine’s bag. Childbirth was one of the most dangerous threats to a woman’s health and life. Up to 20% of women died during or after childbirth. Small wonder too my heroine wants back to her time.
Childbirth wasn’t the only killer. Noblewomen—and we are talking noblewomen here, although the lot of a poor woman was as bad in different ways— noblewomen caught diseases passed on from their husband’s prostitutes. They suffered barbaric ‘bleedings’ during pregnancies, developed lead poisoning from their make up, indeed as my heroine Brittany thinks–
And before anyone thinks their lives were frivolous in their smelly gowns—wash day once a month, baths very seldom—their powdered wigs it took hours to arrange, the lady of the house was tasked with running that same house, of getting up early to instruct the servants on their daily duties and supervise the kitchen, because the servants were mostly illiterate and couldn’t write things down, meal choices, polishing, etc. before sitting down to breakfast at eleven. My heroine thinks the eleven bit is quite civilized but that’s it.
So I think we get the picture that a Georgian lady’s lot was anything but happy. Live in that time? Thank you. No. As for whether Brittany finds anything to recommend it, you’d have to ask her.
Extract from The Writer and The Rake
While it might not pay to underestimate this man, what if this morning was an aberration? Now that he saw how domestic she was, he’d go away again and drop this nonsense about instructing the servants. In what way? If she wrote Regency romance, she might know but she didn’t and frankly she’d other things to consider. Besides she couldn’t. If she was successful he wouldn’t need her.
She slipped her gaze back, bestowed her kindest smile on the young man opposite. Mitchell Killgower took another sip of brandy.
“God-fearing, you say?”
“It is what one of us, I can’t remember if it was you, or me, or even Fleming here, told Christian. Or maybe, she told us. But, obviously it is a condition that prevents me from giving too many orders. And frankly I feel it solves everything.”
“Do I what? Darling, I’m sorry I don’t know what you’re on about.”
“The fact that this condition solves everything.”
She kept her gaze firmly on the wool. Her hands winding it too. Mitchell Killgower sounded quite happy for him. Satisfied as he nursed his drink.
“So as conditions go, it does not prevent you from sitting on your backside?”
“You know, I almost think you’re taken with my backside, the amount of times you mention it.”
“Sometimes your thoughts fail to come remotely close to what I’m really thinking. To do that you’d have to fully think.”
She smothered a grimace. “Oh, I think all right.”
He set the glass down as if he’d made up his mind. She hoped it was to let her win this battle.
“Good, then you’ll have no trouble coming with me, seeing as you’re so God-fearing, Brittany. After all, a God-fearing wife obeys her husband.”
“Well, they must be several sandwiches short of the proverbial picnic. Anyway.” She stopped winding the ball of wool, tilted her chin. “I didn’t think God-fearing wives were your cup of tea, or that you expected a woman to obey you? Except in certain places.”
The Writer and the Rake Book Blurb
Is having it all enough when it’s all you’ll ever have?
When it comes to doing it all, hard coated ‘wild child’ writer, Brittany Carter ticks every box. Having it all is a different thing though, what with her need to thwart an ex fiancé, and herself transported from the present to Georgian times. But then, so long as she can find her way back to her world of fame, and promised fortune, what’s there to worry about?
He saw her coming. If he’d known her effect he’d have walked away.
Georgian bad boy Mitchell Killgower is at the center of an inheritance dispute and he needs Brittany as his obedient, country mouse wife. Or rather he needs her like a hole in the head. In and out of his bed he’s never known a woman like her. A woman who can disappear and reappear like her either.
And when his coolly contained anarchist, who is anything but, learns how to return to her world and stay there, will having it all be enough, or does she underestimate him…and herself?
Now back to reading and writing here,