Falling in love in 19th century England

Falling in love in 19th century England

by Ivana blumenschein, 26th February 2016

Everybody falls in love. They fall in love with another person, they fall in love with their children, they fall in love with places, some people fall in love with things, some fall in love with money or power.

I fall in love very often. I fall in love with characters, with stories, with books. Though my love is strong and passionate, I’m an unfaithful mistress always in search for a new lover. I roam the bookstores, recently more the libraries, sometimes my own shelves, rarely other people’s shelves, looking for him. Some would call me a bookworm, some a booklover, those who know me well would probably use the name bookjunkie,  bookoholic, maybe book maniac. I always smile at those names. .

I read different kinds of books, depending on my mood. I listen to  people’s suggestions, maybe some recent reviews but mostly I go through a stack of books ultimately letting my inner junkie decide if it’s my kind of fix.

Recently I fell in love with a number of counts, viscounts, marquises, barons and some commoners. Yes, your guess is right, I recently became a fan of love novels. But not just any love novels -they’re all 19th century romances taking place in England, the so called regency romance. And I can’t seem to get enough of them.

I was always more of a mystery, thriller, fantasy, sometimes classics, always a vampire lover. Love stories were not my kind of thing. Up until recently I avoided them and thought them to be quite shallow, predictable and un-tempting, not counting the classics. So how did I end up devouring  titles such as The Devil in Winter, Scandal in Spring, The Viscount Who Loved Me, Always a Scoundrel… and authors such as Lisa Kleypas, Julia Quinn, Suzanne Enoch, and others. What is about 19th Century England that makes me tingle?

Do not think I’m fooled. There are recipes for these novels and they are very much alike, with each author adding their own bleng of spices.. The novels are predictable: there is a happy end, the two characters who fall in love usually can’t really stand each other in the beginning, they are definitely not the “typical couple” for that time. There are the strong, handsome, smart  men, often stubborn, lustful scoundrel, not really interested in falling in love, with women usually ahead of their time,untameable, naturally beautiful, smart and often even more stubborn than the men. A cliché. So what is it about these kind of books that makes women always come back for more? Make no mistake, they always d!

For me it’s the time and customs that make regency romance so appealing. It a time and a place where words like ‘courtship’ have meaning. I find myself trying to imagine someone taking me out for a walk in the park or out for a carriage ride,  not being allowed to touch my hand, let alone kiss me, but still trying to express his interest. I’m trying to imagine the tension, the expectation building up. It was a time where just a deep look, or a kiss on the hand that lasted a little too long, had significance. Today, in the fast moving society where we consume everything with such speed that we hardly take a second look at what’s in front of us,especially at love and relationships, these books are quite refreshing. I think most women  deeply yearn for tenderness and courting and attention that most people today have no time for. We live in a time where it seems ridiculous for someone to send you flowers once a week or to write letters of how you make him feel. A rose for Valentine’s and a brief text is usually what most of us can hope for.

I sometimes wonder, has modernity  killed romance? Even when you hear some crazy overly romantic story about how someone proposed, most people will wear an  ‘ick’  on their face, some women will say “ahhhhh, how sweet!” but most will think it’s plain corny.

Having the opportunity to reform a scoundrel, make a rake truly fall in love, go against his own reason but still fall at your feet consumed with passion and Love – with the capital L – is a secret dream most women share. And if the gentleman in question is handsome, intelligent, eloquent, rich and a count owning a quarter of England what more can a woman ask for? If you add to that being  the woman who was ahead of her time, not  bound  by manners or social decorum, extraordinary and untameable,  but still managing to be the one to win such a gentleman, well need I say more? Even when I wasn’t reading love novels I had a very vivid imagination about what  this would look like.

So why do women come back to regency love novels? I’d say it’s the courtship, the fantasy of balls and carriage rides, the time when gentleman in the true form of that word existed, the romance that was somehow imbedded in the time more than it is today, and of course Love.

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