Etiquette for Victorian Ladies. Wait, what? Oh, heck no.

My head is spinning. I have been doing extensive research for my new series of Victorian novellas focusing on a trio of extremely independent women in the late 19th century.

I believe that research in historical romance should be treated like a seasoning. Generous enough to enhance the flavor, but too much will distract from the delicious meat of the story. That being said, most women in history were expected to follow a strict set of societal guidelines and etiquette. We often find that heroines in historical romance novels often defy these expectations.

What is a writer to do?

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In order for my heroines to break the rules, I need to know exactly what they were required to know. Only then can I defy convention. Who doesn’t love a little bit of rule-breaking?

I went out and found as many sites and books I could find that discussed proper etiquette for ladies and gentlemen of the era. Some of these manuals were written during the era, not by historians. I know I’m getting accurate information.

Research can be overwhelming, so I take it in small doses. This post isn’t about my research or even how to research. No…this post is for me to vent about the INSANE amount of etiquette and social propriety that was expected of both ladies and gentlemen of the Victorian era. Oh good gravy, I would have died.

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If I had a time machine and travelled back to the 1890s, I would have been outed for a fraud within moments. Even though I know these rules from researching them, my brain isn’t wired to follow them. I’d have been ostracized within an hour.

There are a few rules I personally found so contradictory to my personality that I would never survive the Victorian era. They also give me a HUGE respect for the freedoms that I have now.

Ready, here’s my list:

~ “An unmarried young woman, up to the age of thirty, must always be accompanied by a chaperone when she goes out.”

Yup, that’s not going to happen. Sorry. It’s bad enough that my kids follow me everywhere I go.

 ~ “A lady avoids all exhibitions of temper before others.  Whether grief or joy, emotions should be subdued in public and only allowed full play in private apartments.”

Oh crap. I wear my emotions on my sleeve. This would be darn near impossible for me. I’m a passionate, expressive person by nature.

~ “A lady never looks back after anyone in the street, or turns to stare in a public place.  She should never walk alone in the street after dark.”

Sorry, no double take when that handsome gentleman passes by on the street. No staring at someone while you’re trying to figure out where you saw them before or if you met them at your cousin’s birthday party two years ago. And heaven forbid I want to go out alone after dark.

~ “For riding, stallions were too frisky for ladies.  Mares and geldings may be used, but women and children favored ponies.  They were smaller than horses and easier to handle.  In rare instances where women drove horses, they usually drove a one-horse carriage.  “Four-in-hands” were too much for a woman to handle.”

As a horsewoman myself, I find this to be frustrating. I’ve both learned to ride and drive. While stallions and four-in-hands can prove challenging, I enjoy a good challenge once in a while. Also, have you met any ponies, they can be nasty creatures. I’ve noticed in my experience the smaller horses were much more temperamental than larger breeds. And don’t even get me started on side-saddle. I’d rather be risque, to be honest.

My personal favorite:

~ “Double entendre is detestable in a woman, especially when perpetrated in the presence of men; no man of taste can respect a woman who is guilty of it: though it may create a laugh, it will inevitably excite also disgust in the minds of all whose good opinions are worth acquiring. Therefore not only avoid all indelicate expressions, but appear not to understand any that may be uttered in your presence.”

Oh man. I can’t. I’ve always been aware of my company when conversing. Sometimes it such speech is not appropriate for the company. That I understand. But to avoid it completely and pretend I don’t understand it. I. Can’t. Do. It.

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If these have captured your interest, let me give you a few of my resources so you can see how insane etiquette actually was for the time period. Of course, the social classes would be different when it came to expectation and adherence to societal rules. But for the most part, I focus on the servants and the nobility/upper class.

This website is a good one to easily see the different functions and expectations. I took some of my examples directly from this site:

http://www.literary-liaisons.com/article031.html 

I have these books that were written during the era. Some of them are free on Amazon. Dig around, most of them you can find for free since they’re in the public domain now.

A Hand-book of Etiquette for Ladies by Anonymous

The Ladies’ Book of Etiquette, and Manual of Politeness: A Complete Hand Book by Florence Hartley

The Book of Household Management by Mrs. Isabella Mary Beeton

A Word to Women by Mrs. Humphry

Manners for Women by Mrs. Humphry

Manners for Men by Mrs. Humphry

And if you want a resource dedicated to smoking etiquette of the era, I found this awesome article: http://etiquipedia.blogspot.com/2014/05/victorian-to-early-20th-century-smoking.html

As you can see, research can be daunting, but when you find solid reliable sources, it can really help put you in the correct mindset for the era. I still find it difficult to keep my “head in the era” while I’m writing. But hey, that’s what the editing phase is for, right? It’s extremely difficult to keep modern ideals and sentiments from bleeding into a historical story.

Fortunately, there were always rule breakers no matter the era. These pioneers are a huge help for authors when it comes to creating conflict and tense situations to foster the plot of our stories. Scandal is a main force in most romance novels. *wink*

Do you have any resources or research you’d like to share on the topic? Feel free to comment.

Are there any rules of etiquette from the era that you know would be extremely difficult for you to follow? I’d love to hear your responses.

Thanks for the visit. I hope my little tirade was amusing and educational. I know it makes me a little more appreciative of the freedoms I have as a woman in the modern era. ❤

Remember, don’t take life too seriously, you’ll never get out alive. 😉

Until we meet again, may your bookshelves be full and your hearts even more so.

All my love,

Kirsten

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Creative Update: Current Projects

I thought this week I would write a little post to let you all know what projects I’m working on.

Prohibition Story (tentatively titled Mississippi Moonshine)

Virginia is a tomboy. Having been raised by her father and seven brothers, she lacks all the grace and sophistication a woman should have according to society in 1923. But she’s a river rat, born and raised near the Mississippi River outside of Alton, Illinois. When she discovers her family’s secret distillery hidden deep in the woods, she stumbles into a horrible confrontation with a rival shiner.

Nathaniel shed his proper English gentleman persona to become the most infamous shine runner on the Mississippi. His suppliers in Illinois and Missouri provide him with the most coveted moonshine in the country. But when a gang attacks his most lucrative supplier, he finds himself saddled with more than a financial loss. He finds a river rat stowed away on his boat.

Interesting huh?

Stage play titled Confessions of a Fangirl

We’ve all had our moments of fanaticism. This play is meant to be a visual depiction of the five stages of fangirling and how the seemingly innocent obsession can quickly consume us and ruin our relationships in real life.

I didn’t want to use one specific actor…so I combined three of my favorites to depict a much broader fandom (and not point any fingers since this isn’t about shaming or blaming, just showing the reality and the consequences).

This is my first attempt to write a play. I’m hoping it will help me hone my dialog and plotting skills…even more, I am hoping it will enlighten the world to the wonders and dangers of being a fangirl/boy.

Angus’ story, Book 3 in the Shadow Guardian series, working title A Wicked Shadow

Angus has been bothering me since I started writing A Shadow’s Kiss last fall. He’s begged and pleaded for me to tell his story next. So I am. I have planted the seed of his tale in A Shadow’s Kiss. His love interest is much more…unconventional than Madeline and Evelyn, who are both unique women in their own rights.

I will be plotting his story over the next few months and plan to write it for National Novel Writing Month in November of this year. My first two books were NaNo babies, so Angus’ will be too.

A book of poetry (if anyone had an interest to read it, I have no idea)

I’ve been writing poetry since I was in 8th grade. I have notebooks full of poetry, and so I’ve debated the idea of self publishing a little book of poetry. It’s the project I have spent the least amount of mental energy on, since poetry is such an underrated creative medium. Perhaps one day I will follow through with it if there’s enough interest. I thought it might be fun to just have some printed and sell them on etsy. 🙂 Who knows…I may need a push to do that at some point in the future.

I also have some ideas started for a series of Regency/Victorian (haven’t decided which yet) stories.

There are always notes and ideas floating around for stories to write. I always find a new character who speaks to me, begging me to tell their story. I promise to update you on the status of my projects.

If you have any questions or comments, please don’t hesitate to post them. I love hearing from my readers.

Also, check out my blog posts at my writer’s group site The Sarcastic Muse. I focus on my writing process and romance in those posts.

Talk to you again soon! Have a great week.

❤ Kirsten

What Inspires You?

One of the questions I always ask my fellow writers is: Where do you get your inspiration?

Every one of them answers that question differently. Me…well it really depends.

When I’m in a creative rut, I use writing prompts to get the word count going. My writer’s group, The Sarcastic Muse, has a page on Tumblr (click HERE for link) where we post daily word counts for anyone to use them. I find those come in handy when I’m stuck for a starting point or I don’t have a current project waiting for my attention. I’ve had several stories blossom from these writing prompts. I highly recommend trying it if you’re in desperate need for inspiration.

I also find I draw inspiration from watching movies or TV shows, sometimes a line or a scene or even a character can spark an idea that sets my creativity on fire and I find I NEED to write, to purge what’s in my head. Some people do this and create fan fiction, which is fantastic, I love fan fiction and there are some talented authors out there who write nothing but fan fic. So don’t think I’m knocking it…I’m not. What I’m saying is that I take that spark of inspiration one step further and let my mind morph the idea into something unique and fresh and completely mine.

That leads me to my ultimate source of inspiration. MEN…to be more specific, these life ruiners right here.

Tom Hiddleston

For those of you who don’t know, the term “Life Ruiner” is defined as:

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THEY inspire me. These men who spark fantasies and ideas through the characters they play and their interactions with their fans. They are the heroes of my stories, the cast I choose when selecting my next pirate, alpha male, prince, bounty hunter, street racer, bootlegger, assassin, etc. When they spark an idea, I listen and write.

If you’re curious, Joe Manganiello inspired my Shadow Guardian, Gerard Butler inspired my street racer in Full Throttle, and Richard Armitage is the inspiration for my bootlegger on the Mississippi River. My actor in the play I’m writing is a combination of Tom Hiddleston, Benedict Cumberbatch, and David Tennant.

Tom Hiddleston…well, he’s a different story all together.

So I’ll ask you all…what inspires you?

Thanks for stopping by today.

~Kirsten