Proper gentlemen, perfect ladies, and the fun of seeing them mussed

In a winter so cold the Thames freezes over, five couples venture onto the ice to find a love to warm their hearts.

It’s no surprise that my usual reading pleasure — historical romance set in Regency Society — is popular. After all, gorgeous healthy young man in a coat he has to be poured into, tight breeches, and stockings that show every curve of his calf muscles? What’s not to like?

Add to that the courtliness of the times. Passionate gentlemen who, nevertheless, act politely in the company of ladies. Clear rules about appropriate behaviour.

In any romance worth its salt the main characters care about one another, and behave with respect, but in cis Regency romance, the stakes are high. Our heroes have all the legal power; our heroines need love and respect in order simply to be safe, let alone happy.

Of course, the real Regency was also classist, sexist, and all kinds of other ists, so part of the fun of writing Regency stories is playing off the reality and the fantasy.

My newest release, Melting Matilda, which has just come out as a novella in the Bluestocking Belles collection Fire & Frost, has a heroine known as the Ice Princess, and a hero dubbed the Granite Earl.

He is all about convention and proper behaviour. She, even more so. I had great fun persuading them to relax and get mussed. Here’s the blurb for Melting Matilda.

Her scandalous birth prevents Matilda Grenford from being fully acceptable to Society, even though she has been a ward of the Duchess of Haverford since she was a few weeks old. Her half-brother, the Marquis of Aldridge, is convinced she will one day be wooed by a worthy gentleman, but Matilda has no such expectations. The only man who has ever interested her gave her an outrageous kiss a year ago and has avoided her ever since.

Charles, the Earl of Hamner is honour bound to ignore his attraction to Matilda Grenford. She is an innocent and a lady, and in every way worthy of his respect—but she is base-born. His ancestors would rise screaming from their graves if he made her his countess.

When his mother and her guardian begin collaborating on Her Grace’s annual charity fundraiser, neither Charles nor Matilda sees a way to avoid working together. And neither can forget the kiss they once shared.

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Excerpt:

If the two of them made it out of the near-invisible city streets alive, Matilda Grenford was going to kill her sister Jessica, and even their guardian and mentor, the Duchess of Haverford, wouldn’t blame her. Angry as Matilda was, and panicked, too, as she tried to find a known landmark in the enveloping fog, she couldn’t resist a wry smile at the thought. Aunt Eleanor was the kindest person in the world, and expected everyone else to be as forgiving and generous as she was herself. Matilda could just imagine the conversation.
“Now, my dear, I want you to think about what other choices you might have made.” The duchess had said precisely those words uncounted times in the more than twenty years Matilda had been her ward.
When she was younger, she would burst out in an impassioned defense of whatever action had brought her before Her Grace for a reprimand. “Jessica is not just destroying her own reputation, Aunt Eleanor. Meeting men in the garden at balls, going out riding without her groom, dancing too close. Her behavior reflects on us all.”
Was that the lamppost by the corner of the square? No; a few steps more showed yet another paved street with houses looming in the fog on both sides. Matilda stopped while she tried to decide if any of them were in any way familiar.
Meanwhile, she continued her imaginary rant to the duchess. “Even in company, she takes flirtation to the edge of what is proper. This latest start — sneaking out of the house without a chaperone or even her maid — if it becomes known, she’ll go down in ruin, and take me and Frances with her.”
Matilda had gone after her, of course, taking a footman, but she’d lost the poor man several mistaken turns back. Matilda had been hurrying ahead, ignoring the footman’s complaints, thinking only about bringing Jessica back before she got into worse trouble than ever before. Now Matilda was just as much at risk, and she’d settle for managing to bring her own self home to Haverford House, or even to the house of a friend, if she could find one.
Home, for preference. Turning up anywhere else, unaccompanied, would start the very scandal Matilda had followed her sister to avoid. If Jessica managed to make it home unscathed, Matilda would strangle her.
In her imagination, she could hear Aunt Eleanor, calm as ever. “Murder is so final, Matilda. Surely it would have been better to try something else, first. What could you have done?”

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