Snarkling Clean

Snarkling Clean- because you don't have to cuss to make fun of stuff. Two dedicated readers discuss romance novels- from what made us weep with joy to what made us want to poke pencils through our eyeballs.

Sunday, March 12, 2006

History Ho Part Three: Tea and Crumpets A-GoGo!

First, let me thank all the newcomers who have dropped by the site for this discussion. I'm a little humbled that serious history ho's have linked here, for I'm no renowned scholar.

But I do know what I like.

And I like regencies. I know, I know, they're overdone. There was such a glut in that particular genre that a lot of fans tuned out. Don't worry, romantic suspense's day is coming. The thing to remember about regencies- you'll get interesting facts about whist and Weston's and Prinny's palace, but the rest of it is total fantasy. For example, except for the servants of our hero/heroine, there is no lower or middle class.

I have never, ever, ever read a regency about a class lower than Austen's gentry. Occasionally some randy earl might fall for a gentry lass he thought was a milkmaid, but no real class-switching goes on. And the daughter of the manor who ran away with the hunky footman always comes to no good. Several characters might marry beneath them, but not lower than country gentry or *shudder* upper middle class trade.

Regencies always focus on one thing. This must be what all those female readers are dying for, because you'll find three-page descriptions every time it's seen. No, it's not the sumptuous manor. Not the sculpted garden, nor the sights of Vauxhall or Astley's nor even the ballroom at Almack's. I'm talking about the fashions.

These books are the only ones I know that zero in on what our heroine is wearing even if she's just thrown something on to go and stop her lover from duelling with her brother at dawn.

"She could not let one of them be killed! It was nearly dawn; she must hurry. She selected a simple pale yellow muslin with a gathered waist that emphasized her slim figure and creamy skin."

She'll invariably be a countrified dowd who goes to London and becomes the favorite of the French modiste who designs her dresses. After that, plot goes out the window as we are treated to lengthy descriptions of every freaking dress the girl now owns. Fabric, color, cut, frills, lace, furbelows, fabric roses, matching hats, shoes, shawls, pelisses, kid gloves, and- a detailed examination of the decolletage, complete with our blushing girl's anxiety about whether or not she's going to catch pneumonia.

I always wonder why it takes a maid, sometimes two, to get the girls into these incredibly intricate outfits, yet the hero can get her out of it in two seconds flat. They can go have Swooning Tonsil Swabs or go ahead and indulge in Crumpets in the library or the garden or an alcove or darkened spot on the terrace, usually in the middle of a ball that's been pronounced the greatest crush of the season and a thousand people are there. Then, the hero, or just the heroine, can get her back into the gown and back in time for the dance she's promised to the nephew of her neighbour, nary a tear, wrinkle or grass stain in sight.

Another example: I can't help but chuckle at the incredibly trim waists and slim hips of our protags with the ventricle blocking meals they had. Hearty breakfasts with eggs and bacon and grilled kidneys and chocolate. Even cold luncheons were piled high. Afternoon teas featured muffins and teacakes and pastries. And supper? Seven course meals filled with entrees swimming in creamy sauces. How did these people move, let alone dance? Yes, I know wine helps the average European eat rich food without heart disease; but the heroines of these novels only drink lemonade or punch.

And finally, I must ask my friends in England one question. How can the 9,756,876 barons, lords, viscounts, marquis, earls and dukes (and their spacious country estates) that have appeared in Regencies possibly fit in a small island nation? For all these noble gentlemen to have country houses with acres and acres of land, England must have a dimension shifting ability to grow it's actual land mass to that of China. If you can get past all that, enjoy!

Next: Oh, come on, you know I have to say it. Westward Ho!

13 Comments:

Blogger December Quinn said...

I like the regency period, but I too very rarely read Regencies. Not only do I prefer medievals because "that's my period", but it seems it's in Regencies that we find that woman so beloved of Regency writers everywhere: The Bluestocking.

I get very, very tired of these heroines. Always writing treatises on the rights of women when they're not healing the sick/taking food to the poor/running an animal hospital right under their wicked uncle's nose/caring for fallen women and their children. Always, always, always. And then they do catastrophically stupid things, like running down to the docks in the middle of the night by themselves to escape a marriage they don't want.


All romance subgenres have their share of TSTL/Mary Sue heroines, but I've always found Regencies to be the worst.

But then, I might have just read a bad sampling. :-)

1:48 AM  
Anonymous Michelle said...

LOL! I think you've nailed that one. Can't wait to hear the next installment. :)

3:29 AM  
Blogger Jolene*Marie said...

rotfl loooove it. I've always wondered the same thing! How did they stay sooo slim?! And about the maid thing..haha. I think they just feel more special when a maid hasta get them into the dress.. That's what I think!

~Jo

4:46 AM  
Blogger Bernita said...

I love this blog.
Actually, in the Regencies I've read, the heroine does not seem to eat much, no matter what the rest of the population do, and there do seem to be enough over-weight types around -usually a kindly godmother/ aunt or a heiress-hunting, imitation Brummel.
Maybe I've just not read enough of them -or just am way too literal this morning.
I love this blog, did I say that?

5:28 AM  
Blogger Robyn said...

december- yes, TSTL heroines abound in regencies, especially...the breathless...ones from...Barbara Cartland.

And true, Bernita, they seem to pick at their food. I guess that's why they fainted so much. No food + corset= swoon.

6:48 AM  
Blogger December Quinn said...

LOL, Robyn.

And yes, corsets make it hard to eat a lot-but you need someone to help you get into one, and they aren't too easy to get out of either! Somebody has to undo all those laces. They don't just fall open as soon as you untie them.

7:51 AM  
Blogger Missie said...

I am always amazed at the ability of the bluestocking, who usually has no clue about men, to totally capture the interest of the rake to the point where he changes his ways and vows eternal love, and dazed society remarks that it must truly be a "love match". E-N-U-F-F already.

In real life, sadly, men don't tend to pay much attention to the bluestockings of our day, unless she's really hot. I know this is why it's called fantasy, but sometimes, it's hard for me to swallow that someone who is only interested in her books and dresses like a little brown bird can attract the notice of the "most notorious rake in society, a love them and leave them bloke who breaks off dalliances when the lady begins to speak of hearth and home."

And is it a good idea to perpetuate the notion that "my love can change him"? Isn't that where alot of women have gotten in trouble over the years, usually after marriage and a few kids, realizing that the tiger's stripes have not changed a whit?

But all that said, I do love me a good Regency.

10:29 AM  
Blogger Abby said...

I too wonder about the 8 billion dukes in England. Aren't dukes the top of the top? How come they're all young, hot, and single? I think real-life dukes looked more like Prince Charles with gout and an extra 200 pounds. Oh, and they're busy exploiting the colonies when they're not molesting the maids.

Oops, I think I'm cynical. Still, it would be nice to see a story about regular folks.

1:17 PM  
Blogger Abby said...

I too wonder about the 8 billion dukes in England. Aren't dukes the top of the top? How come they're all young, hot, and single? I think real-life dukes looked more like Prince Charles with gout and an extra 200 pounds. Oh, and they're busy exploiting the colonies when they're not molesting the maids.

Oops, I think I'm cynical. Still, it would be nice to see a story about regular folks.

1:17 PM  
Blogger Abby said...

Sorry about the double post - Blogger went mad....

1:18 PM  
Blogger Gabriele C. said...

Lol, here's a real life duke who is quite attractive. But married. ;)

I'm afraid the rest is more like your description, and there are only some 20 or so.

2:05 PM  
Anonymous nessili said...

yeah, I'm a sucker for Regencies too. I think the thing with 800 billion+ noblemen running loose is on par with all those studly Highland chiefs of non-exisent clans.

For the reality of Regency England, try An Elegant Madness (by some chick whose name I've forgotten, and now I've misplace my copy of the book). I was amazed how outrageous the time period really was.

And I must put in a plug for my all-time favorite Regency--Mrs. McVinnie's London Season, by Carla Kelly. My mother and I have read our copies almost into tatters (tho' I must admit, I was dreadfully disappoint with Kirkcudbright when I actually visited there).

7:13 PM  
Blogger Marg said...

Really enjoyed your snark!!

8:05 PM  

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