Happy Monday, everyone! I am so excited to welcome back author, Sophie Turner to Austenesque Reviews today. You may recall that Sophie is in the midst of an extensive sequel series for Pride and Prejudice titled Constant Love. So far this series has focused primarily on Mr. and Mrs. Darcy and Georgiana and her new husband, and just last month, Sophie released the third installment – A Season Lost! We hope you enjoy Sophie Turner’s post as she shares more about the Georgette Heyer influences in her writing!
I’ve written a lot about how I wanted to merge the worlds of Jane Austen and Patrick O’Brian in writing my Constant Love series, but another influence I haven’t written as much about is Georgette Heyer. In many ways, Heyer’s world is justas disparate as Austen’s and O’Brian’s, even though they’re all set within the Georgian/Regency eras. Although Heyer sometimes set her romances within the countryside, I think her most memorable novels are the ones that bring us within the rarefied air of the London drawing rooms, ballrooms, and gentlemen’s clubs of the Regency ton.
It’s a world of rakes, corinthians, rogues, dandies, and the charming young (or almost old enough to be on the shelf) ladies who fall in love with them. Jane Austen gives us characters who belong within that Heyerish world – Fitzwilliam Darcy, certainly, would have fit among that cast – but we see them almost exclusively in the countryside, or occasionally at a watering-place. No Austen heroine participates fully in the season: Sense and Sensibility I believe spends the most time there, but it is to advance the plots of romances begun in the country, and Emma is probably the only female lead with sufficient fortune to have been a part of the ton, yet she is the most firmly stuck in her home village.
Yet I knew as I was working on my series that just as Darcy moved within that set, his wife would now be expected to do so as well. I also felt that neither of them was likely to be particularly enthusiastic about it; as an introvert Darcy would have some close friends he enjoyed seeing, but the full whirl of the social season is exhausting for him. His wife, meanwhile, would not like the falsities and gossip that formed such a society. When I think about the London ton, I envision it as a “Mean Girls” sort of high school situation, full of backstabbing and people trying to claw their way to the top.
Georgette Heyer’s female leads often innocently make their way into this world, which makes them endearing both to us as readers, and to the (very often jaded and bored) men who fall in love with them. Heyer also does something that Austen did not need to: she recreates that Regency world in very rich detail, most notably in descriptions of location and fashion, and in her slang. Her characters speak quite differently than anyone in Austen’s novels, and I have to think Austen, who of course actually listened to real people speak at that time, was the more accurate one. But then again, she was not necessarily listening to young Regency bucks speaking to each other in private. We do know of slang words from the time, so someone was using these words to someone else, although I’ve also read that Heyer invented some of her own slang so she’d have a little telltale if another writer used those words.
Dialogue aside, I do enjoy spending a few hours in Heyer’s Regency world, and that was something I wanted to infuse into my own work, that chance to escape into another place for the length of a book. I needed to strike a balance, however, because I wanted the novels to have a tone that could follow after Pride and Prejudice.
Consider this, from Pride and Prejudice: “She had dressed with more than usual care, and prepared in the highest spirits for the conquest of all that remained unsubdued of his heart, trusting that it was not more than might be won in the course of the evening.”
Compared with this, from The Grand Sophy: “By the time Sophy had changed her travelling-dress for an evening-gown of pale green crape, festooned at the bottom with rich silk trimming, and confined at the waist with a cord and tassels, Cecilia had completed her own toilet, and was waiting to escort her downstairs to the drawing-room. Sophy was trying to clasp a necklace of pearls round her throat while the gaunt maid, adjuring her not to be so fidgety, was equally determined to button up the cuffs of her long, full sleeves. Cecilia, tastefully but not strikingly attired in sprigged muslin, with a blue sash, supposed enviously that Sophy had had her gown made in Paris. She was quite right: all of Sophy’s dresses came from Paris.”
Leave out Northanger Abbey and I think there might be more description of dresses in that passage than the other five of Austen’s novels! Even Northanger Abbey does not go into that level of detail:
“Yes, I know exactly what you wills ay: Friday, went to the Lower Rooms; wore my spriggedmuslin robe with blue trimmings—plain black shoes—appeared to much advantage; but was strangely harassed by a queer, half-witted man, who would make me dance with him, and distressed me by his nonsense.”
So perhaps the level of detail I was looking for in my series might best be described as Henry Tilneyesque!
A good portion of A Constant Love took place in town, and both foul air and foul society wore on Elizabeth, in particular. A Change of Legacies was set largely at Pemberley, and A Season Lost has the characters far more geographically disparate. So disparate that while I was waiting for some of them to get back to where they needed to be, I wanted an additional plot line for the Darcys, and decided it was time for Elizabeth to return to town and have a somewhat different experience there. She is befriended by Countess Esterházy, one of the famous patronesses of Almack’s, and while that seems like it should have nothing but upside, it’s not quite that simple.
Despite her new jewels, Elizabeth could not feel particularly enthusiastic about the ball that evening. Sarah, however, not privy to what troubled her employer, had enthusiasm to spare, and she had readied what seemed her favourite of the new ball gowns, as well as jewellery, slippers, and hair ornaments. The dress was yellow silk, heavily trimmed about the bosom and cut in tight just below it, flaring out to a much wider skirt than Elizabeth was used to, also heavily trimmed. Sarah gasped when Elizabeth opened the box from Hadley’s, and immediately agreed the new diamonds should be used in place of the set that had formed her plans. She suggested keeping things simple for Elizabeth’s hair, with such a dress and jewellery, and Elizabeth agreed readily; she could hardly be brought to care about such a thing on such a night, but moreover she realised Sarah was now plying her trade to the extent that it was art, and an artist ought to be allowed her vision.
Sarah’s vision, when finally it descended the stairs to the entrance-hall, was an intricate but non-voluminous coiffure, accented with a pearl hair comb and three little feathers, an acknowledgement of the larger ones many ladies would no doubt be wearing, but of a delicate refinement Elizabeth liked so well she did not care if it was not found to be fashionable, for it had become her own preference as soon as she had seen it.
It had an effect on her husband, at least, for his visage upon seeing her seemed to indicate that she had – at least temporarily – put his worries out of his mind in favour of admiration for his wife, and he said,“You, my love, look positively stunning.”
“It is all your jewellery and Kelly’s handiwork. I am fortunate her family are our tenants, now, so she has very strong ties to our family, otherwise I fear someone will try to steal her from me.”
He smiled. “They may try, but let us hope they do not succeed. I suppose you are going to ask me to increase her wages again, and I would believe them well-earned at five guineas a year more. The hair is particularly inspired. It shows off your eyes remarkably, particularly with the diamonds – I am pleased to see I was right about them, although neither the diamonds nor your maid could achieve this effect without such a foundation to build upon.”
Elizabeth smiled, blushing a little under the heat of such an admiring gaze. “You are looking very handsome as well, although rather old-fashioned. I cannot recall the last time I have seen you in knee breeches in the evening.”
“I feel rather old-fashioned, but rules are rules.”
“Trousers are against the rules?”
“They are, as is arriving after eleven, so we had best be going.”
Elizabeth suffered a moment’s panic that something in her attire might be against these sacred rules of Almack’s, which she had never paid any attention to, then settled herself with the thought that surely Sarah would have researched them in advance. And upon their arrival, Elizabeth was greeted with great warmth by Countess Esterházy, who immediately said, “Oh, look at you – beautiful, simply beautiful. The hair and the necklace, I adore.” The countess, of more voluptuous proportions than Elizabeth, and very much able to put them to good display, was equally deserving of compliments on that evening, and Elizabeth candidly gave them.
How beautiful Lizzy must look…I love the descriptive detail that helps us picture her ensemble and coiffure in this scene! However, I do wonder at her spirits…what troubles her? Is it something to do with Mr. Darcy or someone or something else? I can’t wait to find out!!!
Connect with Sophie
Today Sophie offers 1 copy (Kindle or Paperback) of 1 of the 3 books in the Constant Love series (winner’s choice!) – A Constant Love, A Change of Legacies, and A Season Lost for me to give away to 1 lucky winner!!
To enter this giveaway, leave a question, a comment, or some love for Sophie below!
- This giveaway is open worldwide. Thank you, Sophie!
- This giveaway ends December 17th!