Not surprisingly, since I write Regency-set historical romances, I’m a sucker for anything Regency—the beautiful clothes, the sparkling conversation, the fascinating foibles of the leaders of the ton, the gripping politics of the Napoleonic wars. Most especially I love the Regency rake. That dashing dude who whirls the heroine around the ballroom, and seduces her in the dark, velvet confines of his luxurious carriage.
But this period of history, as we know, wasn’t all ballrooms and glitter. There was a dark side, one that was violent and dangerous, providing a fascinating contrast to the glamorous life of the aristocracy. It’s in the intersection of these two worlds that we often find some of the most intriguing and exciting stories in historical romance.
My next book, Sex And The Single Earl, delves into that dark and dangerous underbelly. But not in London, where so many stories are set, but in that most genteel of spa towns, Bath.Yep. You heard me—Bath. One of the most beautiful towns in England. Nestled along the Avon River, the houses climb in glorious terraces of honey-colored stone up the surrounding hillsides. Fanny Burney lived here, as did Jane Austen. When we think of Bath, we think of Anne Elliott and Captain Wentworth. We think of the Royal Crescent and the Circus. We imagine strolling in the Orange Grove or sipping the waters in the Pump Room. Bath is the epitome of gentility, designed by its architects as a Utopian spa where the wealthy would gather to rest, relax, and amuse themselves with dancing, card-playing, and drinking lots of tea.
We don’t associate Bath with poverty, crime and disease. Yet there were neighborhoods during the Georgian and Regency periods—and beyond—that were almost as bad as the infamous rookeries of London’s East End. The worst of the slums was situated in Lower Town, along the Avon River, home to the city’s wharves and to the constant mercantile traffic that flowed into Bath.
The center of this blight was Avon Street. For decades, it was a sanctuary for thieves and gamblers, and notorious for every type of criminal or unsavoury behaviour. In the latter half of the 18th century the area held an astounding number of alehouses: one house in nine or ten had a license to serve alcohol. On Avon Street, the number was one in eight. This part of Lower Town, a site of continual drinking by all accounts, was also the haunt of “the nymphs of Avon Street,” as the local prostitutes were sometimes referred to.
In Sex And The Single Earl, my heroine—a gently-bred young lady—is determined to save an innocent young girl from a life of enforced prostitution. Her one-woman crusade takes her, and the hero, into the depths of Bath’s seamy underworld. Now, I made sure to include plenty of the fun stuff, and the glitter and glam that we love so much about the period. But the contrast with that lesser known side of Bath allowed me to create a really exciting story, one with drama, danger, and a hero and heroine brought to the very brink before they realize how much they love each other.
So my question for you, dear readers, what’s your favorite kind of Regency story? Do you prefer the genteel world of Jane Austen? The dark and dangerous underworld? Or maybe a little of both?
Regency Romance That Sizzles