Help A Bitch Out

HaBO: Regency House Parties

Book CoverAh, the days when “house party” meant something very different than today’s definition. Marie Brennan asks:

Later this year I hope to work on a just-for-fun novel which will take place largely at a Regency-era house party.  I don’t know a lot about such events, though, and any attempt to search the Internets for information just drowns me in pages about the PBS reality series.  I therefore turn to novels and the Bitchery: what are some well-written Regencies that feature house parties?

Aside from the Julia Quinn novel (Dang it, which one was it?) where the heroine goes after the hero on the first afternoon of the house party when no one would think to look for either of them, and Tessa Dare’s “Regency House Party Massacre,” better known as Goddess of the Hunt, there are many that feature happy house parties. Which is your favorite?

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  1. 1
    Chani says:

    Couple of suggestions off the top of my head that largely take place at house parties and that I liked:

    “It Happened One Autumn” by Lisa Kelypas. Loved the hero/ heroine, wasn’t so keen on some of the plot devices.

    “Slightly Dangerous” by Mary Balogh. My favourite Mary Balogh novel. While a lot of the action takes place at a house party, the novel takes place over about a year, which I like more than the meet-and-fall-in-love-in-2-days stories.

  2. 2
    Throwmearope says:

    Georgette Heyer, Regency Buck, one of my all time favorites.  They go to a couple of house parties as I recall.  Lovely book.

  3. 3

    A Regency Invitation to the House Party of the Season (aka A Regency Invitation) by Nicola Cornick, Joanna Maitland and Elizabeth Rolls is definitely what you’re looking for. It has three stories that happen during the same house party, and you get hostess, servant and companion points of view… and that’s just the women. Also, it’s a really great read.

    Available from Harlequin in ebook form, or with luck from a UBS.

  4. 4
    Betty says:

    Escapade by Joan Smith and At The Bride Hunt Ball by Olivia Parker are my favorites.

  5. 5
    Janet W says:

    Throwmearope—snaps! I was just about to post that—the thing about the house party in Regency Buck is that the behaviour that is totally expected/applauded there is definitely not so OK back in London. How about Friday’s Child—again by Heyer and again, house party mores don’t translate so well! The 2nd of Balogh’s new series has an extended house party, Then Comes Seduction.

  6. 6
    Niveau says:

    I agree with ms bookjunkie; A Regency Invitation is exactly what you’re looking for. Also, The Diamonds of Welbourne Manor, another Harlequin anthology, features stories by Diane Gaston, Amanda McCabe, and Deb Marlowe, each of which takes place at a house party.

  7. 7

    Never, ever use a contemporary written novel for research. Never. I know some of the writers mentioned here, and they would hate it. Even if the writer gets it right, they’ll have their own take on it, their own angle.

    JB Priestley’s “The Prince of Pleasure” is a great book about the Regency with lots of anecdotes and accounts of parties. And pictures. Mark Girouard’s “Life in the English Country House” has a great chapter on the Regency. Not a lot of reading, if you’re short on time, but either of them is better and you’ll have the references. If you want more, go to the Georgian England website here:

  8. 8
    Lia says:

    Have you seen the movie Gosford Park?
    It’s a favorite for me because of the music; but the plot is set during a house party, though not during the Elizabethan era, it’s set around late 1910.
    It’s perfect for you to see things from the servants’ pov as well as the house guests.

  9. 9
    Rose says:

    Sarah, the Quinn book you were referring to is The Viscount Who Loved Me. It’s really good.

  10. 10
    AgTigress says:

    I would most emphatically support what Lynne Connolly says.  Although there are many well-researched novels set in the Regency (for example, there are house-party scenes in several of Amanda Quick’s books, and Jayne is very, very careful about historical accuracy:  she was trained as an historian) it is always a sound basic principle to go back to non-fiction sources.

  11. 11

    Also don’t believe the Regency House Party British TV series, which was very odd, altho it did have a wonderful moment when one of the dowagers announced, in her extremely posh accent, that she was “very pissed orff.” I second Mark Girouard.

    And, ahem, I did a Regency house part in A Most Lamentable Comedy. I had a lot of fun but I wouldn’t swear by it for historical accuracy. It centers around an amateur Shakespeare production.

  12. 12
    AgTigress says:

    Yes, the TV series was suspect in many respects.  Definitely not to be used as a reference or source.  In fact, I watched only the first couple of episodes and gave up, because it was so full of questionable material.

  13. 13
    Linda says:

    “High Society in the Regency Period”  by Venetia Murray might be a useful (also published as “An Elegant Madness”). I’m not sure if it’s got detail about house parties in it (my copy is currently 500 miles away), but it has has got lots of interesting historical detail (though it’s not what I’d class a text book)

  14. 14

    I hate to contradict you, Linda, but not the Murray book. It’s packed with inaccuracies. The pictures are good, though.
    One example – there were two Lady Jerseys in the Regency period, mother-in-law and daughter-in-law. The older was the mistress of the Prince of Wales, and a bit of a wicked woman, the younger was the opposite, Patroness of Almacks and a stickler for manners and good social behaviour. Murray makes them one person.
    Check the Amazon reviews for more examples.
    I’d go with the Girouard. One chapter only, shorter than reading a whole novel, and spot-on. If you want more, shout out. But if you write historical, you should be prepared to do a decent amount of research, IMO.
    Just so I can read it. Please. I’ve read a lot of blurbs recently because I was looking for a great historical to review. Didn’t find one that I wanted to read more of. If you have one, point it my way, please. Because I really want to read them again.

  15. 15
    Lola says:

    The Dangers of Deceiving a Viscount by Julia London. That house party was filled with misunderstandings and finding real identities but was really good.

    Also, The Viscount Who Loved Me. Second best Julia Quinn book. Ever….well to me at least.

  16. 16

    Amanda Foreman’s biography ‘Georgiana: Duchess of Devonshire’ is a good read, and an excellent source for authentic Regency hijinks and historical persons.

  17. 17
    Stacia K says:

    I agree on doing research from research books or at least books written during that period, and not modern novels (this isn’t to imply any of the novels mentioned aren’t well-researched, but you can never be certain what minor liberties they’ve taken. Doing research by reading other people’s fiction is perhaps a good starting point—it can be, certainly—but if you want to write historical you need to be prepared to do your own research as well). Try “What Jane Austen Ate and Charles Dickens Knew.” I forget who it’s by but it’s a fantastic reference for all things Regency—though be aware it convers a wider range of dates than just Regency—and a fun read, too.

  18. 18
    Stacia K says:

    Why can’t I edit my comment? Sigh.

  19. 19
    Stacia K says:

    Okay. Sorry for the multiple comments but I wanted to add in my original comment (aside from fixing the typo) that I don’t mean to imply Ms. Brennan isn’t aware of how to research—my comments on writing historical were meant more generally, rather than being directed at any one person.

  20. 20
    liana svea says:

    Lovely meeting you today at the Brooklyn Book Festival!

    That said, I would have to say the never ending party at Lord Westcliff’s (Secrets of a Summer Night, It Happened One Autumn) … mostly because of the rounders games.

  21. 21
    Kaetrin says:

    Stephanie Laurens’ On a Wicked Dawn (I may have got the title wrong – there were 2 about the same time, they were about the twins Amelia and Amanda.  I refer to Amelia and Luc’s story…) – she seduces Luc at a house party. 

    I don’t know if it was accurate, but I sure liked it!

  22. 22

    Thanks for the recommendations!

    I should hasten to add, before I get pilloried in the Square of Do Your Research, that I’m well aware of the value of nonfiction and primary sources.  (I’ve not-so-jokingly referred to my current series as my home Ph.D. in English history . . . .)  But it also helps me to see what kinds of stories other people have told in that setting, and it can be really useful for helping my subconscious take all the facts it’s read and imagine them in context.

  23. 23
    mingqi says:

    That said, I would have to say the never ending party at Lord Westcliff’s (Secrets of a Summer Night, It Happened One Autumn)

    it was actually several house parties…but Lord Westcliff does always seem to have house parties…so it does seem like a never ending one.

    I second Julia Quinn, Lisa Kleypas, and Mary Balogh books that others have already mentioned.  Connie Brockway’s Bridal Favors involve a sort of house party…the heroine is a Victorian-age wedding planner and the hero owns the house and there are lots of people there.  And Julie Ann Long’s A Love like No Other also involves a house party.  Eloisa James’ Duchess in Love and A Wild Pursuit both involve a house party too…but they are her weaker novels.

  24. 24
    Elizabeth says:

    Also, The Viscount Who Loved Me. Second best Julia Quinn book. Ever….well to me at least.

    First best Julia Quinn, for me. ^_^  Followed by The Duke and I.

    Quinn also had a small house party in Splendid.

    For a house party in the American Midwest c. 1910, rather than a Regency, I’d recommend Carney’s House Party by Maud Hart Lovelace.  It’s one of the later Deep Valley (Betsy-Tacy) books—sort of a companion to the main storyline that followed Betsy.  It’s about Carney, Betsy’s friend, who throws a house party one summer, while back at home from Vassar.  I haven’t read it in a few years, but it has a very sweet, old-fashioned romance.

  25. 25
    SB Sarah says:

    Sarah, the Quinn book you were referring to is The Viscount Who Loved Me. It’s really good.

    THANK YOU. Gosh. My brain is one big HaBO sometimes. The one! With the girl! And she was wearing a dress!


  26. 26
    Randi says:

    Elizabeth: OMG, I had no idea there was were so many books in the Betsy -Tacy series!! I only read the first five!! Thank you for reminding me about them.

  27. 27
    SidneyKay says:

    One of my favorites, if my memory hasn’t played tricks on me, is The Houseparty by Anne Stuart, written in 1985.  I even think it’s written in first person, which I dislike intensely now.

  28. 28
    Strategerie says:

    I’m chiming in to mention that “The Viscount Who Loved Me” is my favorite Julia Quinn, too. What a wonderful book.


  29. 29
    Kat says:

    Totally off topic, but Lynne, I learned about J.B. Priestley from my grandmother. I only have one of his, and of course, I just put it away the other day and can’t find it to tell you the name…

  30. 30
    vic says:

    Sofia Nash has some terrific links on her website to info about the Regency era.

    Eloisa James most recent series Desperate Dutchesses are set in the earlier Georgian era, but you will find some house party settings in them.

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