They probably all start with daydreaming. Going way back to the early years of grade school when I began to learn about former times, I’d imagine what it would be like to live in that era. I usually start with a situation. Large-scale battles don’t interest me much. But what if one of my brothers, especially the youngest one, tells me in secret he’s going to go fight in the American Revolution? Should I cut my hair and try to pass as a drummer boy, to keep an eye on him?
What if my brothers fought for opposite sides in the Civil War? Or what if I was an Indian girl out gathering herbs and I find a boy of about my age who seems to have fallen out of the sky?
I particularly like visiting historical places where the people on site wear the clothes and follow the customs of another era. Places like Hugh Mercer’s Apothecary Shop and the Rising Sun Tavern in Fredericksburg, Virginia. Or Williamsburg of course.
I liked Jane Austen’s books. And I was fascinated by all that went on behind the scenes to see that daughters were suitably matched. As I thought about it, it seemed I would be a bit of a problem. I can be bookish. And talk too much. And forget my manners. And try to outride my brothers, even if I was forced to use a side saddle. So what would happen? Would I spoil all my prospects and wind up as a spinster governess?
My sister and I are “Irish Twins,” meaning that our birthdays are less than a year apart. We are very similar in some ways and vastly different in others. As young girls we sometimes (often?) got into spats while washing the dishes after dinner. Though the differences seem less dramatic now, even as adults we can still butt heads from time to time.
So one day while I was mentally casting about for a starting place for a new book, I began wondering about sisters during the Regency period. They might have servants to tidy up the dinner dishes, but, if close in age and somewhat different in personality as my sister and I are, I wondered what they would have conflicts about. That’s when I began to imagine what is now the opening scene of London Frolic.
One of us would be a bit more reckless. And come up with longshot schemes that could possibly save the day but often didn’t work out. That was not based on any real life experiences, I just got wondering what would happen if…..
Then the story took on a life of its own.
Bridgerton has been the most popular English language series of all time on Netflix. Thanks largely to show creator Shonda Rhimes. In bringing books by Julia Quinn to the flatscreen, Ms. Rhimes turned some of the conventions of the Regency genre (and Quinn’s books) on their head.
First and foremost by featuring a multicultural cast. The Duke that all the families are dangling for in the TV series is portrayed as an elegant, aristocratic Black man. The Queen and other characters are also portrayed as persons of color. I am sure there were naysayers, but 80 million viewers tuned in to and delighted in the drama.
In contrast, my books are “traditional” Regencies, written in the fictional genre created by Georgette Heyer before Ms. Rhimes and others demonstrated that a wider view might be possible. Also, my stories, while sometimes suggestive, are not as steamy or as inclusive the Bridgerton TV series.
I am curious about “arranged” marriages. Or marriages of necessity. Of course these days, our notion is that we marry for love. But in the Regency period and some others financial considerations were paramount. Which went well beyond the couple involved. A good match could save a family that was on the ropes for one reason or another and in so doing pave the way for the younger siblings to make good matches also, and have more say in the matter.
And that’s what first got me going with Mayfair. Wondering how I would behave under pressure to behave in a way I had no interest in, to conform to conventions for the sake of others.
I also like the idea of transformation. And that sometimes what seems like the worst thing can turn out to be the best thing.
It delights me when I find that someone has hidden talents that I didn’t know about it. Sometimes that even they don’t know about it. It may be a hobby like recently finding out a friend is an expert in Persian rugs. Or a talent, like a friend who has a great singing voice. The character Molly surprised me.