Dec 3 2013 2:30pm

Did the Victorians Ruin Everything?: The Importance of Accuracy in British Historicals

Today we're joined by author Kate Pearce, whose most recent release “My Heart's Desire” is an erotic historical story in the Gift of Desire anthology. Kate's next release, The Sinners Club, begins the start of a new series. Kate writes erotic romance set in many time periods, and while she writes hot, she also takes pains to write accurately. She's here to talk about historical accuracy in British historical romances. Thanks, Kate!

Historical accuracy is important to me. I grew up just outside London, and spent my childhood being taken around some of the most amazing historical sites in the world. I have a keen appreciation of my country’s history, which I try to get across in my books. Some details are easy for every writer to access on the Internet, but others, particularly those of ‘class and status’ are harder to pin down.

I can’t explain how the moment someone from the U.K. opens their mouth I will instantly catalogue their accent to the nth degree—where they came from, what social class they belong to, and where they fit in relation to me in society. It’s so automatic I don’t even think about it. So when I read historical romances set in the U.K., I do the same thing and I notice when things aren’t quite right.

Now, as I write mainly for the American market, you’d be correct in saying that those little details don’t really matter, and yes, that’s true. But the big honking misconception about how ‘the Regency was just the Victorian era with high waisted dresses’, bugs me. The prissiness of Queen Victoria was a direct result of the licentiousness and shocking behavior of her predecessors. King George III’s sons were a bunch of hard drinking, womanizing, gambling disgraces who after Princess Charlotte’s death rushed to conceive a child in wedlock to inherit the crown. Rumor has it that poor George III actually had fifty-six illegitimate grandchildren before one of his sons managed to produce the legitimate Victoria.

Can you imagine what effect that had on her as a child? She became a big old prude, and, quite frankly, I don’t blame her.

Which brings me to my books. Yes, the Regency folk did have a lot of sex, yes, there were a lot of brothels and yes, the word ‘fag’ does come to us from Eton for a reason. Just because the British are extremely good at presenting a public face doesn’t mean that they aren’t getting up to all kinds of kinky stuff in their real lives. From the late 1700s, a book called Harris’s List of Covent Garden Ladies was a guide to the prostitutes of London and sold over 250,000 copies.

And let’s not even talk about the aristocracy. The things they got up to behind closed doors were remarkable, and in that typical British way if everyone pretended not to know about it, it didn’t exist. So dukes occasionally married their mistresses or lived with their wife and their lover, or went to opium dens, or gambled away their wife’s fortune. It was a time of great change, revolution and war and out of that uncertainty came some remarkably reckless behavior.

So, no, the Regency wasn’t the Victorian era when the more sordid side of life was pushed firmly behind a screen of morality and ignored. In the Regency, it was in your face, and as long as no one referred to it to your face, everyone got along famously.

Learn more or order a copy of Gift of Desire by Samantha Kane and Kate Pearce, out now:

Buy at AmazonBuy at Barnes & Noble



Learn more or order a copy of The Sinners Club by Kate Pearce, available December 30, 2013:

Buy at AmazonBuy at Barnes & NobleBuy at Indiebound



Kate Pearce is the author of the erotic Regency-set House of Pleasure series and the upcoming Sinners Club. You can find her at http://www.katepearce.com

Her mystery persona, Catherine Lloyd who writes Regency cozy mysteries, the first of which, Death Comes to the Village is available on November 26th. http://www.catherine-lloyd.com

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Jennifer Proffitt
1. JenniferProffitt
This certainly does explain why so many historicals are set in the Regency--if the king and all of his relatives could be naughty, so could everyone else!
2. KateRothwell
Let's not forget the Victorians had some wickedly naughty types, like Walter who wrote that pornographic memoir, My Secret Life.
3. Taneasha
It's interesting how the fashion trends are so contradictory to reality. The Victorians went around telling everyone they were virtuous, basically, yet every piece of women's clothing was designed to accentuate their "assets" to the fullest.
4. HJ
Thank you, Kate, for writing just what I think about the Regency and books set then! And about that cataloguing we do in England (I can't judge the rest of the UK so well), based not only on accent but...
Lynne Connolly
5. Lynne Connolly
Hear, hear!
I don't like the Victorian era, and I don't write anything set in it. I even feel sorry for the Regency children, knowing they would grow up in that time! I adore the Georgian era, not just the Regency, although it was cruel and unfair, it was also robust and it didn't appreciate humbug.
I think that Georgette Heyer might have had something to do with this, because she took the upper middle-class Regency attitudes and the attitudes of her own childhood, and applied them to the aristocracy. She skated past most of the antics of the period and created her own world. Accurate, but she chose the facts and details she wanted to present. She's the founder of the Regency genre, and wrote so well that everyone writing Regencies today owes something to her, whether they realise it or not.
6. Layna Pimentel
Loved this post Kate, and you've raised some valid points. I personally love writing my erotic romances based on the regency era. People were bold, most especially royalty and aristocrats.

There were certainly more than enough naughty people to inspire our books. ;-)

I've never heard of the book you mentioned above in my research, but I'm definitely adding to my list to look into.

Cheers, and thank you for sharing!
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