Masquerade by Victoria Vale
Top Ten Facts About Life in the Regency Era
The Regency era has long been romanticized in film, TV, and literature, and with good reason. The period is rich is culture, and the decadent lives of the London ton are fascinating to those of us who are addicted to all things Regency. Here are my top ten facts about the era we all love, and think we know—yet there always seems to be something new to learn about it.
- If you’ve ever wondered why in a Regency novel your hero and heroine can carry on an entire conversation during a dance … well, that’s because dances lasted a long time! This was a wonderful way to engage in conversation, which could be helpful if you were scoping out potential mates. A pair of country dances lasted half an hour, so if a gentleman signed you card for a set, you’d have him in your clutches for thirty whole minutes!
- While romance novels give their hero and heroine a lot of leeway—how else could they get together for those sweet little trysts—courtship was actually very strict in the Regency era. So much so that a man was no even allowed to call the woman he was courting by her first name. Perhaps he could after they were engaged, but a courting pair must refer to each other formally—by title, or for those without titles ‘Mr.’ and ‘Miss’.
- Ever read about a Regency hero who has been educated at Cambridge or Oxford? It’s the standard, especially for a first son set to inherit his father’s title someday. What many don’t know is that young men were sent to university for reasons other than receiving an education. The primary purpose of going to university was to make connections with other young men, who could prove your political or social allies in adulthood. Education was important, but still secondary to this goal.
- While many of the ‘scandals’ you read about in Regency romances can border on the outlandish, in reality, it took very little to ruin a young woman’s reputation. Thus the reason they were always monitored and chaperoned so closely. A chaste kiss is nothing by today’s standards, but in the Regency era, it would have been enough to force a couple into marriage if they were caught.
- Unmarried ladies during these times knew virtually nothing about the act of sex until the night before the wedding. Young debutantes on the marriage mart were kept in the dark concerning intercourse, and if her mother felt particularly squeamish about discussing the act, the poor thing might go to her marriage bed with nothing more than this unhelpful advice: “Just close your eyes and think of England”!
- While the Regency era was all about rules and propriety, almost anything was overlooked as long as ‘discretion’ was used. Even a woman could have her share of fun … so long as she was married and had given her husband and heir. In fact, it wasn’t uncommon for a married woman to be escorted about in public by a man who was not her husband. It might even be common knowledge among her peers that she indulged in an affair with him. As long as she was discreet and had done her duty by her husband, her peers would look the other way.
- Mean Girls has nothing on the women of the Regency era. Because Regency era life could be so boring, gossip was a legitimate form of entertainment among the people of the ton. When someone was indiscreet, or did something that others perceived to be unseemly, their reputations could literally be ruined. The ton could be a vicious animal, loving its members one day, and tearing them to shreds the next over what we might think of as the tiniest things. Giving someone the ‘cut direct’ in public was one of the worst things you could do.
- It didn’t matter how rich you were, absolutely EVERYTHING was about bloodline. Even if your estate had been exhausted and you had squandered every penny, your name still carried more weight than a merchant who was rolling in cash. Titles were passed down from father to son, and the older your bloodline and wealth, the higher your standing in society. Your money might buy entrée into society, but you would always reek of ‘new money’ among the people of the ton.
- Women weren’t the only ones who wore corsets. Men’s fashion was just as important as women’s’, and if you didn’t have the figure for the style of clothing that was popular at the time you could always manufacture one. Padding for shoulders and thighs were not uncommon, and a portly man could cinch his waist with a corset. Of course, a Regency romance hero always fills out his coat and breeches without the assistance of padding or stays!
- Beauty could only get you so far on the marriage mart. Of course it helped if you were a diamond of the first water. However, a plain Jane with a large dowry was far more attractive to potential husbands—especially the ones who needed to marry for the sake of money.
Margaret Seymour is bored by the stifling constraints of society dictating her behavior as a debutante in search of a husband. Her prospects are promising by the standards of London society, yet, not one of them causes her heart to flutter, or her head to fill with scintillating, forbidden fantasies. Those feelings are reserved for Camden Rycroft, Duke of Avonleah—a man who isn’t even aware of her existence.
While attending a scandalous Vauxhall Gardens masquerade, Margaret finds herself in the duke’s arms. His promise of a night of pleasure is tempting, but is it worth it when Avonleah is a known rake notorious for his short attention span and avoidance of marriage?
Camden Rycroft is intrigued by the masked vixen he encounters in the Gardens. After one night with her leaves him hungry for more, his desire for her turns into a fiery obsession. Despite the scandal that could ensue from their affair, he finds himself unable to extract himself from a situation destined to end in pain. When faced with losing Margaret to a potential husband, will he rise to the occasion, or risk living without her?
“You must know how many hearts you’ve stolen just by walking into a room. Many a night, I have watched you take a lady into your arms to waltz with her and wished I could be her. To be so close to you, moving together … to know your scent and your touch …” She paused, realizing she’d said far too much.
Camden circled behind her, placing his hands upon her shoulders. His lips brushed the back of her neck and she shivered.
“I cannot deny knowing you have watched me from afar all this time does not bring me pleasure, Maggie,” he murmured, his lips tracing a path toward her ear. “When you watched me with those women, did you wonder if there was more to our association than a simple waltz would suggest?”
She nodded in response, unable to speak when he nibbled on her neck, teasing the most deliciously sensitive spot just beneath her ear.
“You wondered if any of them would accompany me home, didn’t you? You thought about what I did to them.”
She groaned as he took the shell of her ear between his teeth.
“Yes,” she sighed. “I did.”
“How did you feel when you thought about it—when you imagined all the wicked things I did to those other ladies?”
His hands worked at the buttons running down her back, sliding them loose one by one, opening her gown.
“Jealous,” she admitted.
He gripped the sleeves of her gown and pulled, lowering it to the floor to pool around her feet. His hands took her waist and he pulled her against him, his lips trailing along her shoulder.
“Did you fantasize about me, Maggie? Did you wonder what it would be like to be one of them?”
“I did,” she said, her voice low and husky. “At night, alone in my bed, I closed my eyes and tried to imagine what it was like to be with you.”
“Oh, Maggie,” he said, his voice tinged with amusement and mock horror. “Never say you were ever so naughty.”
She giggled, bit her lower lip, and leaned back against him, resting her head on his chest. “I was.”
“You touched yourself when you thought about me, didn’t you?” One of his hands slid across her stomach, lowering slowly toward the apex of her thighs. “Did you pleasure yourself to fantasies of me?”
He cupped her mons, his fingers massaging gently and drawing moisture from her core.
“Yes,” she gasped, her voice strained as he continued to tease her. “Yes, I did.”
“Show me,” he whispered, removing his hand.
She groaned in agitation, wishing for his touch again. Yet, he seemed to be waiting for her to fulfill his command.
“Show me how you pleasured yourself, Maggie,” he said, his voice a bit rougher this time—a demand she dared not refuse. Not if she wished for more of the pleasure he could give her.
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Victoria Vale has written over two dozens Romance and Young Adult novels under various pseudonyms. As a lover of erotic romance, she enjoys nothing more than a sexy hero paired with a sassy heroine, flavored with a dash of spice and lots of heat. A wife and mother of three, she enjoys reading (of course), cooking, sewing … and other activities that aren’t appropriate for inclusion in a biography.