The Risk of Rogues takes place partly on St. Valentine’s Day, which was celebrated even then. Before Christmas cards became a thing in the Regency, St. Valentine’s Day cards were exchanged with loved ones. These were usually handmade and decorated, although in 1815, companies started mass-producing Valentines. In the Victorian age, a class of cards called “mocking Valentines” (“vinegar valentines” in the U.S.) started to be produced. Essentially, they insulted the person who received them. Can you imagine getting one of those in the mail? Especially since, at this time, it was the receiving party who paid the postage. Talk about adding insult to injury! Anyway, you can see a variety of Valentines from the period on my Pinterest page.
Did you know that the first British pre-printed greeting cards were valentines and not Christmas cards? Before the late Georgian era, people were sending elaborate hand-made valentines, with actual fabric lace and ribbons and other pretty trimmings. In 1797, a book was even released to provide unpoetical gentlemen with valentine sentiments: The Young Man’s Valentine Writer. In fact, handmade valentines out-sold pre-printed ones until the Victorian age began. It’s no wonder, when artists like Elizabeth Knipe Cobbold were creating intricate cut paper valentines with their own hand-written poetry, like this one on my Pinterest Guide to Regency valentines.
I learn something new every day. I don’t know why it didn’t occur to me before, but Regency era theaters were fully lit during the entirety of performances. There was no turning down of the lights, because the “house lights” were candles in sconces and chandeliers! Can you imagine lighting all those, and then blowing them all out, then lighting them again, etc.? It would take forever and be utterly impractical. As for the stage, they had foot lights, which were also candles but set in reflectors. Here’s a drawing I found of them on Pinterest. I collect tons of Regency era images on my various boards, so follow me on Pinterest so we can journey down the historical picture rabbit hole together!
Regency era women of the ton wore beads (glass, not plastic) all the time . . . but on their dresses and reticules and even shoes! There’s a lovely example of a Regency beaded gown here. Just imagine how much time it took to sew all those colored beads on, not to mention drawing out the design in the first place. Years ago, I made my own wedding dress and sewed tiny pearls on just portions of it, and it took hours of work for my simple decoration. This is far more complex. So I would imagine only the rich could afford such a gown.
You were probably unaware that the study in Armitage House in London (Sheridan’s townhouse) looks out on a courtyard with a garden Sheridan stares at when he needs solace. The English have enjoyed gardening (and gardens) for centuries, to the extent that some of their landscape gardeners became celebrities. Lancelot “Capability” Brown comes to mind, although it was his successor, Humphry Repton, who coined the term “landscape gardener.” They were known for “creating” charmingly informal vistas, where there were fake ruins (which exist at Armitage Hall in the country), manufactured ponds and lakes, structured slopes, and ha-ha’s (hidden ditches that prevented animals from grazing near the house, essentially), all of it intended to look utterly natural. The style was popular for a century or more. If you want to be impressed, look up Capability Brown and you’ll discover the sheer volume of parks and gardens he designed in his lifetime. It has its own category on Wikipedia!
My favorite part about doing research is stumbling over real stories of people. We tend to have misconceptions about the past: Everyone married only once and died young is a popular one. The last part in particular isn’t true, because the data used to determine life expectancy factors in all the many children who died of illnesses that we now vaccinate for—polio, smallpox, measles, mumps, rubella, etc. Here’s a case in point. The Duke of Leinster and his wife, one of the famous Lennox sisters, Emily, had 19 children. Of them, only 10 survived to adulthood. One died on the day of her birth although I couldn’t discover if she was stillborn. The last child was actually Emily’s illegitimate son by William Ogilvie, the tutor to her eldest son, although her duke husband claimed him. After her husband’s death, she married Ogilvie and had 3 more children, only two of whom survived to adulthood. She lived to the ripe old age of 82 and he died at 91. He was 18 years younger than she, but they lived happily together for 40 years. She must have been one amazing woman, and he must have been an amazing man. The woman bore 22 children in all. How incredible is that?
If you ride horses or deal with them regularly, you might already know the info in this tidbit (even so, you might find this more detailed article interesting. For the rest of you, here’s something you may not know. Horses were used in different capacities in the Regency. That’s why Sheridan considers raising money by selling some of his. A gentleman might have saddle horses for riding and carriage horses for pulling his carriage. A rich gentleman might also have Thoroughbreds for racing. Then, if their racing days are over, the owner might keep them for putting out to stud and charge stud fees. So Sheridan kept the moneymaking horses and (very sadly) sold some of the saddle horses.
Beyond taking chemistry in college, I know very little about it, so I did a great deal of research for this particular book. I spent FAR too much time watching videos of experiments, but at least I got a direct sense of how certain chemicals reacted to each other. And I found some funny stories about early chemists. There was Christian Friedrich Schönbein (inventor of the fuel cell and guncotton and discoverer of ozone) who, in 1845, despite having promised his wife not to experiment in their kitchen, was doing so while she was away and used her apron to sop up a combo of nitric acid and sulfuric acid. Then he hung the apron over the stove to dry and it ignited and burned to ash so quickly that it seemed to vanish! I sure hope it wasn’t his wife’s favorite, although I can totally see Olivia doing something like that (accidentally, of course) to her husband’s nightshirt. Ooh, that could lead to some sexy times, couldn’t it?
Guns during the Regency were sometimes things of beauty, like the one I describe in The Bachelor that Thorn offers to Joshua as payment for his being bodyguard to Gwyn. If you want to see what it looked like, I based it on an actual set of dueling pistols, a picture of which is on Pinterest here and here. I also have an image of Joshua’s seven-shot flintlock pepperbox pistol, made by Henry Nock of London around 1800, which looks big enough to use as a club after you run out of loaded barrels. Of course, it would take you a while to run through them all since the barrels had to be turned by hand! My Pinterest page for the book also features a number of blades in canes, pistol canes . . . everything you need to be a bodyguard.
My Royal Brotherhood series is about three illegitimate sons of the Prince of Wales, whose term as Regent is what gave the period the name of “Regency.” Two of the three sons are actually considered legitimate by the laws of the time, so those two are able to have titles. English law dictated that if a child was born into a marriage, the father was legally the husband, no matter what he might say about it. And of course there was no way to tell in that period that the child was of a different father. Also, having a child by the Prince of Wales wasn’t exactly frowned upon, especially if the husband looked the other way. In fact, I loosely based Marcus, Viscount Draker and the hero of the second book, on George Lamb—fourth son of the first Viscount Melbourne—who was widely rumored to be Prinny’s son. It didn’t seem to have hurt him—George married a duke’s daughter!