When I first decided to begin writing Regency romances, I do not believe I fully anticipated how much time I would spend learning about the courtship and marriage rituals of England in the early 1800s.
I am not talking about reading other Regency romance novels, but non-fiction books on the true history. Books likes Courtship and Marriage in Jane Austen's World
by Maria Grace (and, no, I have not read about the history of ice cream
... yet), or the renowned but out-of-print The Regency Companion
by Sharon Laudermilk and Teresa L. Hamlin. Not to mention the courses I have taken through Regency Fiction Writers on the subject.
At this point, I think I know more about courtship rituals in Regency England than I do about our current practices.
Reading all this material provided me with critical information to set up key plot points in my upcoming book, To Redeem an Earl, wherein courtship and marriage rituals create a perfect storm for the heroine to maneuver.
The depth of understanding to be attained from reading the research inspired story ideas—credible situations brought about by those rituals. It pays off to not gloss over the subject but to dive deep into several sources and texts so that the ideas can fully mature.
So many rules existed around courtship. For instance, and you may have encountered this in novels you read, if a debutante turned down a dance with a gentleman, she was required to sit out the remaining dances for the evening. Or that there must always be a chaperone present with a courting couple, unless he took his lady on an open-carriage drive (one assumes it was popular to finally have a chance to talk without an audience).
Learning the rules and rituals can lead to interesting plot points and story twists. In Book 2 of Inconvenient Brides
, you will encounter a young woman trying to avoid the parson's noose, an earl who needs to make amends for his dishonorable past, and far too many courtship rules. I took full advantage of these wooing challenges to put my characters' ... um ... characters to the test.
In case the below image confuses you (why is that gentleman holding a fan you might ask) it will help to know that the title is The Dancing Master. It would appear that he is schooling the young women on aforementioned rituals beyond the dancing itself.