Today I’m chatting with Darcie Wilde, author of the Rosalind Thorne mystery series. Rosalind is the heroine of the series, and in the first book, A Useful Woman, she finds herself in reduced circumstances after her father ruins the family and runs off, taking Rosalind’s sister with her, and leaving Rosalind to care for her mother and figure out a way forward for herself. Rosalind’s story is heavily based in Regency history and in research, and – this is the fun part – a lot of gossip.
During our conversation, we discuss the role of genteel employment for women in society who couldn’t overtly be seen working for payment, and we talk about the ways in which Lord Byron was a complete and utter heel. We also cover the scandals that surrounded Almack’s, the court, and Regency society, and the ways in which court politics are immutable in every era. And we discuss the presence of people of color and marginalized groups in Regency London, and in the series.
The character and story of Rosalind Thorne presents a fascinating venue through which to examine and explore the history and experiences of people in precarious positions, especially because so little has changed in so many ways. If you’d like to hear gossip about people who are long dead, including the patronesses of Almack’s, this episode should be very dishy indeed.
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Here are the books we discuss in this podcast:
You can find Darcie Wilde at her website, DarcieWildeAuthor.com.
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Sarah Wendell: Hello, and welcome to episode number 306 of Smart Podcast, Trashy Books. I’m Sarah Wendell from Smart Bitches, Trashy Books. With me today is author Darcie Wilde. Darcie Wilde is the author behind the Rosalind Thorne mystery series. Rosalind is the heroine of the series, and the first book, A Useful Woman, she finds herself in reduced circumstances after her father ruins the family and runs off, taking Rosalind’s sister with her. He leaves Rosalind behind to care for her mother and to figure out a way forward for herself. Rosalind’s story is very heavily based in Regency history and in research and – this is the very fun part – a lot of gossip. During our conversation, we discuss the role of genteel employment for women in society who couldn’t overtly be seen working for payment, and we talk about the ways in which Lord Byron was a complete and utter heel. We cover the scandals that surrounded Almack’s, the court, Regency society, and the ways in which court politics are immutable in every era. We also discuss the presence of people of color in Regency London and in the series. The character and story of Rosalind Thorne worked for me very much as a venue through which to examine and explore the history and experiences of people who were in precarious positions, especially because so little has changed in so many ways. So if you would like to hear about gossip about people who are very much dead for a very long time, including the patronesses of Almack’s, this episode should be very, very dishy indeed.
Now, I have some news – yay, news! There will be a live podcast recording at RWA. Yay! So if you are going to be at Romance Writers of America national convention in Denver, I hope that you will save Friday, July 20th, at 4:40 p.m. – not 4:20, because that would be very funny, but 4:40 p.m. in Tower Court B. We are going to be playing Cards Against Romance Tropes, and it is going to be ridiculous fun, so I hope that you will come and join us. If you would like to attend, please head over to the show notes. There will be a link to register and sign up so that I can save you a space, or you can go to bit.ly/RWALiveShow. That’s capital R, capital W, capital A, capital L, i-v-e, capital S, h-o-w. Or you could just go to the show notes at smartbitchestrashybooks.com/podcast. I will have links to sign up, and I hope that you will join us! And thank you to RWA for giving us a room so that we can create silly shenanigans and mayhem.
This episode is brought to you by Read Bliss.
Sarah: No, it is not brought to you by my dog. It is brought to you by Read Bliss. Zeb, this episode is not for you. Oh, you can be in the room, but you can’t bark. Anyway, let’s try that again. [Clears throat] Professional time.
This episode is brought to you by Read Bliss. Read Bliss is your new video destination for all things romance and reading. Watch readers and romance experts weigh in on their top romance picks, what romance means to them, and more. With the latest book recommendations, author spotlights, and enough romance to make your heart skip a beat, you will not want to miss a single moment. Visit readbliss.com and subscribe to Read Bliss on YouTube to watch and discover your next unforgettable romance read. Don’t forget to check out Read Bliss on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram to join the discussion. Watch, read, and love.
This week’s transcript is brought to you by my cats, who are jumping on the table, and also by everyone in our Patreon community. Each episode receives a transcript which is handcrafted by garlicknitter. Thank you, garlicknitter! Transcripts make the podcast accessible to everyone, and I am deeply, deeply grateful to the Patreon community for making sure that every episode will have a transcript. Thanks, y’all!
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Without further delay, let’s do this podcast thing! On to our interview with Darcie Wilde.
Darcie Wilde: My name is Darcie Wilde. I am an author of Regency romances and also Regency mysteries. My most recent series stars Rosalind Thorne, and the first two titles are A Useful Woman and A Purely Private Matter.
Sarah: I am so excited to talk to you, because we are going to gossip about dead people.
Darcie: Oh yes.
Sarah: I love this! Okay. So I found –
Darcie: I dish about dead people.
Sarah: I love it! I found your book A Useful Woman on a bunch of different lists of recommended historical mysteries, specifically for the audiobook, and I have been listening to both book one and book two. They’re phenomenal, by the way.
Darcie: Oh, thank you!
Sarah: Thank you so much for those, and the recording is exquisite! You must have been so excited!
Darcie: Isn’t it brilliant!
Sarah: Oh my gosh, she’s good!
Darcie: Oh, she is! I mean, I was, I was feeling a little weird. I had never listened to someone read a work of mine. I did some playwriting way back in the day, so I’ve seen actors, you know, bring my stuff to life, and it is the coolest feeling, but that hadn’t happened for a long time. So I’m driving around listening to this, and I’m thinking, you know, I should not be driving while I’m doing this, because I am not paying attention to the road.
Sarah: Your narrator, Sarah Nichols, did an outstanding job with the series, especially in, in casting Rosalind’s voice. The minute I hear her –
Sarah: – and Adam Harkness and even Winterbourne, she’s –
Sarah: – she’s great at those voices!
Darcie: She does; every character is really distinct, and that is tough to do.
Sarah: It really is. So how did this series come to be?
Darcie: Well, I started writing this because nobody would let me write Mary Bennet as a detective.
Darcie: Seriously –
Sarah: She would be a great detective! A very judgmental detective –
Darcie: Well, she –
Sarah: – but a great detective!
Darcie: Oh my God. So that was actually my initial idea. I had this flash that Mary Bennet, obviously the, the younger, nerdy, sermon-reading sister from Pride and Prejudice, I had this vision of her waking up the morning after the wedding –
Darcie: – and looking around at her younger sisters and her mother and going, I have got to get out of this house.
Darcie: And running away to live with her relatives in Cheapside and trying to find some way to support herself. But when I initially came up with this – okay, this is a long story, by the way –
Sarah: That’s fine!
Darcie: – and the, the path of it is long. When I initially came up with this idea, I was told that there was kind of a glut of Jane Austen spinoffs on the market and that the, the, the lesser characters, that was a hard sell? I’m traditionally published, and I didn’t, at the time, have the time to go there with an indie publication.
Darcie: So I put the idea aside for a while, and I went on to other projects, and I started really researching the institution of Almack’s, Almack’s Assembly Rooms.
Darcie: And I read this novel written in the 19th century called Almack’s by Marianne Spencer Stanhope Hudson.
Sarah: She got a lot of names, and she had a lot to say, right?
Darcie: Oh, she got a lot of names. Yes. And this was billed as a gigantic expose of what really went on at Almack’s. And buried in this book, which was a fascinating read if you’re into long, rambling, strange, 19th-century trivia, which I am, buried in this was a mention of a woman who never appears in the book, but who had fallen into what they called reduced circumstances and who was getting along because people kept inviting her to their houses. And she’d be invited to stay for a couple weeks, for a month, over Christmas, and while she was there, what she’d do is help out. She’d drop off calling cards that the lady of the house didn’t want to have to be bothered to drop off.
Darcie: She’d work with guest lists, she’d help organize events, and what they said was she was a useful woman –
Darcie: – and my instant response was, why have I never seen this character?
Darcie: Why have I – [laughs] – why have I never known that this was a thing? So –
Sarah: ‘Cause she couldn’t have been the only one.
Darcie: No! If she’s in a novel, this was something that was happening and happening a lot, although, you know, obviously taking fiction as your historical source is problematic, but anyway –
Sarah: Yes, of course.
Darcie: – she sounds really, really plausible. So I wrote up a sample of what was going to be a traditional romance starring a, a useful woman, and I sent it to my editor, the fabulous Wendy McCurdy, and Wendy was the one who said, you know, this ought to be a mystery.
Sarah: Yes! I, I think she has good ideas too. I’m liking this.
Darcie: She does. She does! And so I’m like, okay, I just finished reading all about Almack’s; I’m going to drop a body in the ballroom! [Laughs] And that’s how we got Rosalind.
Sarah: As you do.
Darcie: As you do!
Sarah: Wow! You mentioned that, when we were emailing about the series, that you have read all this gossip about Almack’s and about the society in general. Please tell me all about this book by Marianne Spencer Stanhope Hudson, ‘cause you told me that it was so scandalous that a law was passed to stop another book like it from being published.
Darcie: Oh my God!
Sarah: Is this book still available in places?
Darcie: Yes! Yes, it is! You can get it! It’s been digitized?
Darcie: Ohhh yes. Okay, now, I warn you, you know, for the modern reader, it’s, it’s –
Sarah: Oh, it’s a different style.
Darcie: Oh, it, it way is. But she wrote this utterly scathing introduction; you know, to that petticoat board that rules society with an iron fist to whom there is no appeal and from whom there is no escape, this book is affectionately dedicated from an old subscriber.
Sarah: Holy cow!
Darcie: Oh my God! That’s how the book starts. Yes –
Sarah: And then it’s all just glorious from there, right?
Darcie: And then it is glorious dish. It is – so what happened was, when the book was published, you know, it’s, it’s very, very clearly, and everybody knew, it was thinly veiled references to actual people, to the actual board of Almack’s. Now let me back up a second here. Almack’s Assembly Room was run by a board of anywhere between five and seven women. They were a rotating cast of characters, but the, sort of the, the leader of them was Lady Jersey, and this was the premier sort of, the only phrase for it is “meat market,” in Regency London.
Sarah: You read about it all the time in historical romance.
Sarah: It’s, everyone wants to get their vouchers for Almack’s and in a lot of novels it’s just sort of like a, oh, we have vouchers; it’s fine, and what I was surprised by when I was reading A Useful Woman is that getting a voucher for Almack’s was a serious process. It wasn’t like, oh yeah, I have one; no big deal.
Darcie: Oh my God! So the book, the plot of the book centers around a woman who gets invited to be on the board!
Darcie: She has, she’s fashionable; her husband is, is brand-new in politics, but he’s a rising star; she is connected with one of the embassies, and all things foreign at the time were really fashionable. They were especially into Russians at the time, and in fact, one of the members of the board was a woman named Countess Lieven, and Countess Lieven – true fact – was the person who introduced the waltz.
Sarah: Ohhh, scandalous itself!
Darcie: She was also probably a spy.
Sarah: Oh, even better!
Sarah: One of the things I loved about this book and the, and the portrayal of the world and the way in which you included this history is that everyone was desperate to get into this place that had bad food and boring drinking. Like, no drinking.
Sarah: Like, everyone was desperate to get in –
Darcie: And that was –
Sarah: – and the food was terrible.
Darcie: And that was deliberate. They deliberately kept out the alcohol and made the food bad because they wanted the men to stay in the ballroom. They did not want the young men to be off drinking and eating!
Sarah: That is brilliant.
Darcie: They wanted them to stay in the ballroom with the girls.
Sarah: That is brilliantly evil.
Darcie: Yes! Oh, in fact, there was a great big, huge argument – I think I allude to it in the, in the book – about whether to have a card room.
Darcie: And that was one of the few arguments that Lady Jersey ever lost with the board. To loop back around, what happened with this book was it was such a success that what the publisher did was, he had a key published to who the people, the characters were actually, you know, what the characters were, the, the real people that the characters were based on!
Sarah: Oh my gosh, you can’t see my face, but my mouth is wide open. So he basically treated it like a giant blind item and was like, here’s your code key!
Sarah: Oh my gosh! [Laughs]
Darcie: And people, people lined up! It was huge! I mean, everybody was reading this, and of course Lady Jersey was a little pissed.
Sarah: Oh, just a bit, I’m sure.
Darcie: And literally, this went to Parliament, and they changed the libel laws –
Sarah: Holy cow.
Darcie: – so that you could argue a fictional portrayal was libelous.
Sarah: [Gasps] Whoa!
Darcie: And this is still true in England.
Darcie: Yes! And it was because of this book, and I finally found that introduction.
Sarah: Okay, bring it on.
Darcie: Do you want this?
Sarah: Yes, yes, I do.
Darcie: [Laughs] Okay, here we go.
“TO THAT MOST DISTINGUISHED AND DESPOTIC CONCLAVE, Composed of their High Mightinesses THE LADIES PATRONESSES OF THE BALLS AT ALMACK’S, The Rulers of Fashion, the Arbiters of Taste, The Leaders of Ton, and the Makers of Manners, Whose sovereign sway over ‘the world’ of London has long been established on the firmest basis, Whose Decrees are Laws, and from whose judgment there is no appeal; To these important Personages, all and severally, Who have formed, or who do form, any part of that ADMINISTRATION, USUALLY DENOMINATED THE WILLIS COALITION CABAL, Whether Members of the Committee of Supply, or CABINET COUNSELLORS, Holding seats at the Board of Control, THE FOLLOWING PAGES, Are with all due respect, humbly dedicated by AN OLD SUBSCRIBER. “
Sarah: “With all due respect” is, it’s like, that’s just, that’s like a layer cake of scathing, absolutely fierce condescension with teeth –
Darcie: They do not write ‘em like that anymore.
Sarah: Oh my God! And “with all due respect” is like the little cherry on top. Good gracious! Okay, so I imagine the people of Almack’s were pissed off.
Darcie: They were really pissed off. Not only, because also one of the things that kept Almack’s exclusive was that the process of how things got decided was kept a secret.
Sarah: Oh, of course, ‘cause then you couldn’t influence it, influence it.
Darcie: Yeah, exactly! I mean, the, and, and the process I outline in the book is pretty much what Marianne Spencer Stanhope describes: first of all, you could not get a voucher unless you were on the visiting list of one of the board, one of the ladies on the board, and of course you couldn’t get on her visiting list unless she had agreed to receive you and had come to your house; both things had to happen.
Darcie: So you first had to get introduced, then you had to get brought in, you had to make a good enough impression that she would agree to come visit you, and even then that was no guarantee, because she had to put you and your qualifications up to the board, who would have to vote!
Sarah: Oh my gosh. And just imagine the terror of knowing that you’re going to receive this person, and everything has to be perfect.
Darcie: Yes. Yes. And, you know, the machinations of getting an introduction, particularly if you were new on the scene, and your daughter, of course, only had a limited time –
Darcie: – to get this to work. I think it’s like, five seasons was considered the length of time before you were, you know, you were on the shelf. So, yeah, the pressure was enormous, and I do, in the book, describe a, a big crowd waiting around to see them all come out of Almack’s, and that’s, Marianne Spencer Stanhope Hudson does describe that as well, and so does, I think, Captain Rees Gronow.
Darcie: He is one of the memoirists from whom we’ve got a couple of scenes about Almack’s. He wrote a memoir called Recollections of the Camp, the Court, and something else that I’m blanking on [Recollections and Anecdotes of the Camp, the Court, and the Clubs], but he sets down the story about Almack’s that most often gets repeated: they also had a very strict dress code.
Darcie: Yeah, the, the white breeches; you had to show up in the white breeches, and one day the Duke of Wellington showed up.
Sarah: Yes! I’ve heard this story!
Darcie: [Laughs] Yes, and he was in trousers and got turned away at the door.
Sarah: Of course!
Darcie: Of course, ‘cause, you know, you have to maintain your standards!
Sarah: One of the things that you do with this information in the book is that you introduce each chapter with a segment from mo-, usually these two books, although the second one has more of the history of Bow Street as well added in. What, some of the sort of stories that you read in the books that you, like, really wanted to add into the book but didn’t get a chance to? You actually sent me a list of relevant scandals; do you just want to just attack your scandal list? Like, you sent me this list, and I’m like, oh my God, this is going to be the greatest conversation. Just, just hit me! [Laughs]
Darcie: And, and I forgot, and I had to add one!
Darcie: I forgot about Harriet Wilson!
Sarah: Oh, you can’t forget about Harriet Wilson!
Darcie: Nooo! Okay, so if you can read me my list, and we’ll just take it from the top here.
Sarah: Okay. So the list that you sent me includes: who exactly was the Prince Regent sleeping with? I’m assuming that was more than one person.
Darcie: The, the Prince Regent was, at the very least, a bigamist.
Sarah: Oh my!
Darcie: That is, yeah, that is pretty clear. He had an illegal marriage with a woman named Mrs. Fitzherbert.
Sarah: Oh, you know what? I will not spoil this, but there, there is a book whose main character – it’s also historical mystery, and the main character is loosely based on a daughter of the Prince Regent who would be legitimate if she presented the proof to the court and would make the entire royal family illegitimate, so she keeps it secret.
Darcie: Only one?
Sarah: Well, you know what, it’s –
Sarah: – there’s, it’s a, it’s a singular series, so, you know, that’s that character. [Laughs]
Darcie: No, no, only one illegitimate child – okay, so what you’ve got to understand: the Prince Regent had five brothers. I think there were five. He had a lot of brothers. Every last one of them had a mistress.
Sarah: Of course.
Darcie: At least one. Between the lot of them, they produced about fifty-two children.
Sarah: Good God!
Darcie: Only two of whom were legitimate.
Sarah: Good heavens.
Darcie: One of those children was Queen Victoria.
Sarah: Oh boy.
Darcie: And there’s questions about her paternity. [Laughs]
Sarah: [Gasps] So basically, everyone was banging everyone else, and there’s a buttload of illegitimate royals just running around.
Darcie: Yes! Which leads us to our second scandal, Hymen’s War Triumphant, and I did not make that up.
Sarah: Hymen’s War Triumphant. Hymen as in the indication of virginity.
Darcie: Hymen – your maidenhead.
Sarah: Right, right.
Darcie: Okay, so the Prince Regent was probably already married to Mrs. Fitzherbert illegally. He got into an arranged royal marriage with an acceptable person. Now, you’re going to have to forgive me here. There is another fact about Regency life, and that is all the women were named either Caroline or Charlotte.
Sarah: Oh, that doesn’t make things confusing.
Darcie: [Laughs] And I get my Carolines and my Charlottes mixed up, because his mother was Queen Charlotte, and he married Princess Caroline, I’m pretty sure. Okay. But they did not get on at all. They may have only slept together once.
Sarah: Oh my goodness!
Darcie: And they produced one daughter, Charlotte.
Darcie: Somebody’s going to, going to get me on this, but Charlotte was very popular –
Darcie: – and she married an Austrian prince, but she died in childbirth, along with the child –
Sarah: Oh dear.
Darcie: – and it was very tragic, and actually, there’s some thought that she, her death may have been caused or the symptoms exacerbated by porphyria, which was what made George III mad. So okay. Anyway, the single legitimate heir to the throne just died.
Sarah: Oh dear.
Darcie: So we have, so we’ve got all these brothers who have produced all of these children, none of whom can inherit, and who suddenly all have to put aside their mistresses and run over to Germany to find Protestant princesses who they can marry, and thus produce legitimate heirs.
Sarah: Oh my.
Darcie: And they are all doing this at the same time. And the papers had a field day. And they labeled it “Hymen’s War Triumphant.”
Darcie: And, in fact, what never gets talked about is the guy who succeed – okay, so Prince Regent became George IV. He dies without legitimate issue. His next brother, William, comes to the throne. William never produces a legitimate heir, but he has a dozen illegitimate children, all of whom he acknowledged – he was a decent guy; he, he acknowledge them – but they make big pains in the butt out of themselves.
Sarah: Well, I mean, what else are you going to get out of your life if, if you’re the illegitimate son of a royal?
Sarah: If you’re the illegitimate daughter of a royal, your options are limited. You’re, they’re –
Sarah: – they’re almost in the same place Rosalind ends, almost in the same place Rosalind is in, which is not quite good enough for top shelf –
Sarah: – but really, really close, and high enough –
Sarah: – that you can’t ignore her.
Darcie: Yes, and with no other real way to make a living! Rosalind’s problem is that she is not educated to work. She is not plugged into any of the ways that women can work –
Darcie: – and there were some. Plus, the second she starts openly making money –
Sarah: Yeah, she drops –
Darcie: – her status goes away in a way it would not go away if she was just having an affair.
Darcie: It’s not the sex; there were ways to do that. It’s the money –
Darcie: – that tarnishes gentility.
Sarah: So with the, the scandals of dead people –
Sarah: – you, you mention a lot of Lord Byron.
Darcie: Oh –
Sarah: Do you want to give me, like, the top three horrible things that Lord Byron has done in history? ‘Cause I mean, he’s a terrible human being.
Darcie: Oh, he is a dreadful human being. Let’s count it down, shall we?
Darcie: Okay, so we’re going to, we’re going to save number one for, for the end here, but Lord Byron had a very public affair with Lady Caroline Lamb. Lady Caroline was married to William Lamb, who would one day become Lord Melbourne, Queen Victoria’s first prime minister. But the two of them had a hot and heavy affair. She was seen entering his chambers at all hours; sometimes she was dressed as a page boy.
Sarah: Oh my.
Darcie: When he broke up with her to marry somebody else, she, he, he did it very badly. He, in fact, did it via a friend. He, he had one of his friends do the breakup, ‘cause he was a jerk.
Darcie: Yeah, and she kept stalking him through the ballrooms. There are rumors that she tried to throw herself out a window –
Sarah: Oh goodness.
Darcie: – that she actually slit her wrists in public –
Sarah: Oh, honey!
Darcie: – and his letters are all about, you know, she’s just, she’s just mad! I don’t know! I never loved her! What’s, you know, what’s her problem?
Darcie: So, okay, that’s, okay, that’s number three –
Sarah: Oh, lovely.
Darcie: – on the list of scandals – [laughs] – if I was going to go for the top three. Lord Byron and Lady Melbourne: Byron was a social climber. Byron understood the power of the hostesses of London, so he started cozying up to everybody once he got to Town. Absolutely everybody. Byron was in debt. Byron had no way to pay his debts, so he was essentially making a living, or at least an existence, as a party guest, and he was a very popular party guest. You know, people would, you know, what he did that night would be published in the paper, so everybody wanted him at their party. Lady Melbourne – you may have heard the name Melbourne before – she is the mother of William Lamb, who was married to Caroline Lamb. You with me?
Sarah: Uh-oh. I’m still with you.
Darcie: She was also on the board at Almack’s.
Sarah: Oh my.
Darcie: ‘Kay? So it all fits.
Sarah: Yep, so it all commits, it all comes back to Almack’s. I love the idea that he was a sought-after party guest? That, like –
Sarah: – having him at your party was a success. I, I, I know there are celebrities who now get paid, maybe a couple hundred grand, to show up at a specific party to make it an event? I love how that’s just a, historically always been a thing.
Darcie: Him, Lord – not Lord – [snaps fingers] – Beau Brummell –
Darcie: – was one of the first who could make a living as a professional partygoer, and in fact, that’s what I based Rosalind’s father on! Her father –
Sarah: Oh, how interesting!
Darcie: Yeah, her father was a professional party guest, and he worked that persona very hard before things happened. Anyway, okay, so Lord Byron is cozying up to Lady Melbourne while, and at the same time, carrying on an affair with Lady Melbourne’s daughter-in-law, Caroline Lamb!
Sarah: Oh gosh.
Darcie: Lady Melbourne is, Lady Melbourne married for the title and the connections and had a legitimate son, a spare, and then proceeded to sleep around – in fact, was sleeping with the Prince Regent, and her fourth son George is probably the Prince Regent’s son.
Sarah: Holy smoke.
Sarah: These people got busy!
Darcie: Oh my God! So when you’re reading a Regency romance –
Darcie: – and the people are – and I love Regencies. I adore Regencies. I cannot tell you how much I love Georgette Heyer – Hay-er; I know that’s how you pronounce it – but when they’re talking about how there must not be a single breath of scandal –
Sarah: [Snorts] Yeah, right.
Darcie: – [laughs] – I would like you to remember this conversation.
Sarah: Yeah, because this was basically what everyone talked about.
Darcie: And it’s not only what everyone talked about, but it’s what everyone did, and in fact, Lady Caroline’s problem was not that she was sleeping around, which she, you know, she was – Byron was probably not her first lover, and he definitely wasn’t her last – but was that she wasn’t doing it properly. She was not –
Sarah: Oh dear.
Darcie: Yes, she was not being discreet! She couldn’t keep it under wraps.
Darcie: In fact, she was probably – I’ve been doing a lot of reading about her because Lady Caroline and Lady Melbourne are major characters in the book I’m writing right now – she was probably bipolar. She certainly exhibited signs, but she exhibited them from an early age, and so on top of this, they did the only thing you, they knew what to do with a girl with “high spirits,” and they started giving her laudanum –
Sarah: Oh geeze.
Darcie: – when she was, like, eleven. So that’s not going to help anything.
Sarah: No, that’s really not going to contribute much.
Darcie: Yeah. So anyway, so back to Byron and Lady Melbourne: Lady Melbourne falls in love with Byron. Their letters are pretty clear. These, these letters still exist; you can find them. Lady Melbourne has two agendas: she wants to keep Byron near her, and she wants to end this very public affair with her daughter-in-law. So she, knowing Byron’s got money trouble, urges him to marry her niece, Annabella Milbanke.
Sarah: Oh dear!
Darcie: She figures this will, you know, this, this’ll be a two-for-one. She’ll get to keep Byron near her. She’ll end the affair with Lady Caroline. Byron will be put on a proper footing, and that’s really important that Byron be put on a proper footing, because of scandal number one.
Sarah: Oh yes. In the top slot – there used to be, like, VH1 reality programs where people’d be like, The Top Ten Scandals of Fleetwood Mac. Like, I feel like there should be a Regency program where, like, let’s just count down the absolutely tawdry scandals you would not believe.
Darcie: [Laughs] This is the one, no, this is the one that made him have to leave the country.
Darcie: And it wasn’t that he slept with men. That wasn’t okay; it was illegal; don’t get caught.
Darcie: But it was done. [Sighs] This is where we come to Mrs. George Leigh.
Sarah: Oh dear.
Darcie: Mrs. George Leigh was Byron’s half-sister Augusta. I am not sure I need to say where this went, but, yeah, Lord Byron had an affair, an ongoing affair, with his half-sister. They both –
Darcie: They both knew. Her youngest daughter –
Sarah: This is like the original Game of Thrones. We got siblings sleeping together –
Darcie: Oh –
Sarah: – and we’re all adjacent to a crown.
Darcie: Yes. Yes.
Darcie: Mrs. Leigh was, in fact, a lady-in-waiting to Queen Charlotte!
Sarah: Oh snap.
Darcie: And her husband was in debt for gambling, so if she lost her position as lady-in-waiting, the family would go into ruin.
Sarah: Right. Because that was a –
Darcie: So –
Sarah: – way of, it was a way of making money where you weren’t overtly making money.
Darcie: Exactly. That was one of those, you know, you had an al-, you weren’t getting paid; you had an allowance.
Sarah: Right. But you were protected; you had food; you had a, a wardrobe, or at least an allowance for a wardrobe.
Darcie: Yes. You were –
Sarah: You could send money to your family.
Darcie: Mm-hmm. And you went –
Sarah: It was genteel employment.
Darcie: Yeah. And you went to visit houses; you visited a lot of friends. One of the things I learned doing all this research was that those house parties were one of the ways that families that didn’t have a lot of money survived. Yes, they were expensive to go to; you had to keep your clothes up and appearances, but you could shut down your own house or only rent and then, you know, close that out and go stay with friends for half the year –
Darcie: – and you could survive that way.
Sarah: Of course! Because if your three basic needs – well, in this particular society you have shelter, food, clothing, and no loss of your social status.
Sarah: You could make that happen. You can make that happen.
Darcie: Mm-hmm. Because via connection – you know, that, that horrible scene in Pride and Prejudice where Mrs. Bennet is talking about the girls being thrown in the path of other rich men? She was, she was not being subtle there, but that’s what everyone needed. They needed, if they were in reduced circumstances, what they needed was their kids to make proper connections –
Darcie: – to the money or the titles.
Sarah: Which is one of the more interesting fundamental subversions of Regency and historical romance, that over and over and over and over were reading and writing stories about people who were essentially making economic transactions for the benefits of their families, but then in the stories that they’re, that are being written, they’re choosing their partner, they’re marrying for emotional satisfaction, and they’re, they’re, they’re creating personal and private, emotional and sexual connections on top of or instead of what should have been an economic transaction, so it’s subverting all of that. Course, those are –
Darcie: Yes, and it, it’s one of the –
Sarah: – whitewashing a lot of it, but I’ll get to that in a minute.
Darcie: Right. Well, we’ll get, yeah, we, oh, yeah, okay. But –
Darcie: But it is, that is, that is one of the things I love about romance is that it is the genre that celebrates women’s choices –
Darcie: – that you get to – because they’re, you know, if you look at classic literature, if you look at 19th century literature, you can start naming the books where, if a woman makes her own sexual choice, what happens is she dies.
Sarah: Yes, the wages of sex are death or disease or both.
Darcie: Yes! Yes, or sometimes you have to get rescued from the vampire. [Laughs]
Sarah: Sometimes, yes, that also happens.
Darcie: Because that’s, of course, what Dracula is about.
Darcie: But, but, you know, that’s the real subversion; that’s the transgression of modern romance, is that you make your own choice, and you not only live, you thrive. And that’s still a controversial outcome!
Sarah: Yep. Yep! I mean, just having your own orgasm and being in charge of it –
Sarah: – is controversial and, and shocking and – yeah.
Darcie: – ohhh. Yeah, okay. [Laughs] So we’re in agreement there!
Sarah: Yes. It’s one of my biggest frustrations when there is a debate about whether romance is feminist? Romance is constantly negotiating the space within the patriarchy where women live, and sometimes that means that the books are going to reinforce patriarchal, sexist elements, because we are, we are swimming in all of those all the time, but we’re still negotiating the power choice and sexual autonomy and making personal choice in a world that for the most part treats us women as the subject of financial transaction.
Darcie: Exactly, and when you look at, you know, not only the history of what is presented in the romance novel, which the modern romance novel really began in a period between, like, 1826 and 1846 –
Darcie: – with the creation of a genre known as the fashionable novel or the silver fork novel, which Almack’s falls into the category of the silver fork novel.
Sarah: The Marianne Spencer Stanhope Hudson –
Darcie: Stanhope Hudson, yes. [Laughs]
Darcie: She, that was just one of this prolific genre of, of books that sort of fills the gap between Jane Austen and the Brontë sisters. And –
Sarah: So basically, social novels with a lot of rich people in ‘em.
Darcie: Yes. Yes.
Sarah: Okay, yeah!
Darcie: Yep, and they were really, really popular! Go figure.
Sarah: We’re still writing those; now that’s just billionaires, rock stars, vampires, werewolves.
Darcie: And fewer moral, moral homilies and tragic deaths for, for getting out of control in London.
Sarah: Yes! I do like that part.
Darcie: Which – yeah – which was, which was really a popular theme. But the women who wrote them, this, writing has always been a feminist act. The women who wrote them were writing them to do things like support their families?
Sarah: Oh yes.
Darcie: Because their husbands or their brothers couldn’t manage it? They –
Sarah: [Laughs] It’s so funny; one of the notes I took reading – I was going to tell you this – one of the notes I took reading the, during the first book, when I was listening to it: men fuck up everything, I swear!
Sarah: Like, oh my God! That was like, you said that, and I was like –
Sarah: – so that’s the subtext of your entire series: men, men are the problem.
Darcie: [Laughs] That, I mean, that’s, that’s a whole ‘nother show, but yep, you’re right.
Darcie: Well, it is, and the problem was that the, when you place half the population at the absolute dependence of the other half of the population –
Darcie: – there is, you know, and you make the, the, the top half absolutely responsible for everything so that if they fuck up, it doesn’t just affect them; it affects everyone they’re in charge of –
Darcie: – this is a messed up system, and it’s messed up for the men, and it’s messed up for the women. There’s almost no way – [laughs] – that this is going to work on a consistent basis!
Sarah: Nope. And then you end up with situations like Rosalind’s, where her father has to leave in ruin, takes one sister with him and leaves Rosalind behind with their mother, who is a, a, a very unhappy and probably mentally unhealthy person –
Darcie: Yes, yes.
Sarah: – and she has to bear the brunt of everything that someone else did that she didn’t have a thing to do with.
Sarah: And that happened to so many women.
Darcie: And because they cannot divorce, and because they are not legally recognized as separate people –
Sarah: Yes, hence criminal conversation.
Darcie: Oh, criminal conversation, oh yes.
Sarah: Which is the whole point of the second book, so I won’t spoil that for people; don’t worry. [Laughs]
Darcie: Yeah, well, it was researching that second book when it finally began to sink in to me all the ways in which this would touch your life.
Darcie: You know, the fact that, okay, so your husband abandons you, and he leaves you with this big house. You can’t leave. You can’t leave because you cannot sign a lease on a new place, because you can’t sign a lease. You can dismiss the servants, maybe, but you cannot hire new ones, because you can’t enter into a contract. You can buy things if you’ve got the money, but you can’t get to a bank account, unless one was set up in your own name beforehand. So if your husband abandons you, he takes your legal existence with him.
Sarah: And as the daughter, Rosalind has that almost similar experience; she has very little options. One of the things that I love about her perspective in these books is that she’s constantly talking about, here’s the situation that I am in, and here is the social training that I have, and there is absolutely no way for me to navigate the situation in a way that is appropriate, because it has never happened before. There’s no etiquette in place for this situation; there are no rules. What the hell do I do?
Darcie: Yes, and that was something that, I wanted to work with that aspect of her character because, you know, I don’t want to anybody to get the idea that these books have any grimdark in them, but –
Sarah: Oh no. They’re very, they’re, they’re, they’re not cozy mysteries; like, there’s not a bakeshop and a dog?
Darcie: [Laughs] Or a cat.
Sarah: Or a cat. There’s always a cat or a dog or a bakeshop. But –
Sarah: – they are not grim and miserable; like, Rosalind does not, Rosalind is not in, in moral or, or personal peril a great deal of the time. She gets herself into sticky situations, but it’s not like you’re going to witness her being assaulted or violated or something.
Darcie: But she does like rules, and she does like structure –
Darcie: – and that is a consequence of her life having been blown apart at a young age.
Sarah: Of course!
Darcie: So she tries, this is what she hangs onto, partly because, you know, this is one of the things that happens to you when your life has blown apart, and partly because when she was rescued by her godmother, her godmother, with the, you know, best intention in the world, really hammered home that the way you’re going to survive is by sticking to rules.
Sarah: Right, you can be, you must not be mentioned with scandal at all, because scandal’s already on you.
Darcie: Right, exactly.
Sarah: And it’s not yours. Don’t make any of your own; that just makes it worse.
Darcie: Right, the only way you are going to continue to be welcomed into the houses which you are now dependent on is if you are absolutely above reproach.
Sarah: Right. With, with Rosalind, one of the things that I really admired about her, ‘cause she likes rules, she’s also aware of power structure, both in society and then on the surrounding society. She, she knows when she would be noticed or not noticed; she knows how powerful exclusiveness is; and she knows about social politics, which is not really a valued art, but it has immense value and power, and it still does.
Sarah: Do you look at situations in the present day and, and think, oh, this is what Rosalind would do? Because these, it’s, it’s fascinating to me when you read about these stories about people – this was two hundred years ago, three hundred years ago –
Darcie: Mm-hmm, mm-hmm.
Sarah: – and these things still have value, but they, but they’re not, you can’t get paid for them as easily.
Darcie: Court politics does not change. It is –
Sarah: No, it really doesn’t! [Laughs]
Darcie: It is immutable! Whenever you have a hierarchical structure, whenever you have one person, usually a guy, at the top – and I say this as someone who reads a lot of court politics; court politics fascinates me – up and down, across cultures, you get the same structures coming up around the powerful person.
Darcie: And everybody knows it, and it is all about access. How close can I get to this powerful person? Oh yes, you see it. You know, nothing has changed. You know, I certainly don’t want to bring up the current resident of the White House –
Darcie: – [laughs] – because that’s just painful, but if you look, the exact same structures are building up.
Sarah: Oh, of course. Especially when you know that the centrality of the power structure is inherently unstable.
Sarah: You know that this structure is unstable, but it’s the only one you have, so you have to play your way into it as best that you can –
Sarah: – using the methods that they’re going to use.
Darcie: Mm-hmm. Everybody at some level in this world, if you were in the aristocracy, if you were in the haut ton, you were a courtier. If you weren’t a courtier directly at the Court of St. James, you were a courtier at one of these other great families, or you were trying to get yourself up –
Darcie: – into being a courtier. That was just the business of your life.
Sarah: And it, it was a safe business. If you had that position, you could count on your top four things being taken care of! Food, shelter –
Sarah: – clothing, and maintaining your social connection and power. Now, speaking of the, the repetition of history, one thing that I just was so delighted by was the presence of characters of color and minorities in your portrayal of London, that the men who made up Bow Street were all different backgrounds and races, and they’re described as such. And at one point, I was so pleased, and then I was even more amused at my own delight, at seeing a Jewish character. Well, of course there were –
Sarah: – of course there were Jewish characters and, and people who were Black and people who were Indian, and, and all of these different people were there, but as you probably know from reading romance, there is a lot of whitewashing of our history, and –
Sarah: – and, and Beverly Jenkins once said on a panel that if you read American history you think that the Black people were there for slavery, then they left the planet for a couple dozen years and then came back for the civil rights movement, but between those two things, they just disappeared; like, they just aren’t there. And that happens in a lot of our historical romance; it’s very, very whitewashed, and yet I’m read-, I’m listening to your books. Like, while I was cooking I had to put down my knife. I’m like, hold up, that dude’s Jewish. I believe it was a jeweler –
Sarah: – and his name was Cohen? Con?
Darcie: Yes! Hold on –
Darcie: I hate it when I forget my own character’s name, but yes! There was a thriving, although mostly ghettoed, Jewish community in, in London, and –
Sarah: Of course!
Darcie: Yeah. They had, you know, they were excluded because of religious laws from a lot of professions, but they had, you know, there was, there was, you know, they, they did a lot of the traditional things that, that Jews in the Diaspora did. They were, you know, they banked; they traded in gold and silver; they were artisans; they were doctors; they were, as always, scholars and researchers and writers. You know, supported their relatives overseas, helped families in the Napoleonic Wars. The history is – and, and of course, you know, went through the complicated negotiations and all the fears and insecurities that come from knowing that this country you are living in has kicked all your people out before.
Darcie: You know, so yeah, I was pleased to be able to bring that in. England was, this is the cusp of what we come to understand as the great British Empire.
Darcie: Technological changes, in terms of sailing and the, just the mechanics of the ships; the winning of the Napoleonic War; Europe being in ruins meant that England was running the board, for much the same way America ran the board after World War II. England’s infrastructure was intact. Their, their businesses, their economies, their cities, they were the last man standing, so they could exploit new trade routes, open up new markets, get further faster than other people, than other nations could, so this was when England really started to get rich, and the cosmopolitan London, which was always there, really opened up, and people came to London from everywhere, and also remember, people in, you know, they had colonies in the Caribbean, in Barbados, the trade in Africa and India was really starting to open up, and all of these people, they came to London, they set up shop, they set up homes –
Sarah: And yet the, the books that we read about this period of time in romance don’t have any of those people in them, and so I’m, hence my own amusement at my own delight of seeing a character that I could identify as not white. Like, oh look, there you are! I found you! I’m so excited. Hi! [Laughs]
Darcie: Yeah, I’m, I’m happy to be doing my, you know, a little bit –
Darcie: – to help correct the problem, because it’s on us.
Sarah: Oh, it absolutely is, and it’s on readers too –
Darcie: We’re the ones who –
Sarah: – to be like, hold up –
Sarah: Yeah, readers have to also say, uh, no.
Darcie: And they have to stop saying things like, well, there weren’t any.
Sarah: Right, ‘cause that’s not true.
Darcie: No. No.
Darcie: So not true.
Sarah: With Rosalind, there’s a lot going on in, in the first book and in the, in the second book. Is there going to be a third book?
Darcie: Oh yes!
Sarah: Oh goodie!
Darcie: That’s how I know so much about Lord Byron!
Sarah: Oh no!
Darcie: Oh yes.
Sarah: Are you going to kill him? You going to create a doppelganger and kill him?
Darcie: I can’t kill him.
Darcie: I can’t kill him; he’s not in the fricking country.
Sarah: Nah, it’s true.
Darcie: He is off getting Mary Shelley to write Frankenstein. That’s –
Sarah: Well, you know, the thing is, he’s a shitful human being, and yet, because of him, we have some kickass ladies in the world, so –
Darcie: We do, we do –
Sarah: – fine.
Darcie: – and we not only have Frankenstein, but we also have Dracula, and there is a direct line between Byron and Dracula.
Darcie: I hate Byron, I really do. He was such a jerk.
Sarah: You know, you are not alone. One of my writers, Carrie, keeps talking about someday she’ll drink – she doesn’t drink – she’s like, I just need to get drunk and rant about Lord Byron; it’ll take six hours.
Darcie: [Laughs] Can I be on the phone?
Sarah: Yeah, I think this might be like a, a very special edition: We Hate Byron: Here’s Why!
Darcie: [Laughs] And I have got historical documents; I have a primary source.
Sarah: So you have receipts Byron is a complete turd.
Darcie: So when Byron left the country, because he wouldn’t stop sleeping with his half-sister, he went on a tour –
Sarah: [Laughs] He had to leave the country because he was banging his half-sister and he didn’t want to stop. Oh my stars. Okay!
Darcie: And I can back all of this up; I can cite.
Sarah: Oh, I’m sure!
Darcie: [Laughs] The letters –
Sarah: I’m sure. It’s, it’s evident in the books; every chapter begins with the, the historical source of some of what’s happening in the – I love that part, by the way. It’s like, ooh! Ooh, oh! That, that quote is scandalous! What’s this chapter going to be? It’s like the opposite of a cliffhanger.
Darcie: Well, so the, the best part of working on the third book has been going through everybody’s letters. We’ve got Lady Caroline’s letters; we’ve got Lady Melbourne’s letters; we’ve got Byron’s letters; we’ve got Byron’s buddies’ letters. All these letters have survived, and the reason Rosalind gets involved is found in a chain of exchange in the letters, and I’m going to have that exchange starting the chapters of the third book. So the readers –
Darcie: – if you know it’s there, you can follow it.
Sarah: Oh my!
Darcie: So, oh, I’m having so much fun –
Sarah: I can tell!
Darcie: – but I’m having fun. Anyway, okay, so Byron traveled with a doctor whose last name was Polidori. I think his first name was John, ‘cause, you know, everybody’s name was John, if it wasn’t George.
Sarah: John, Charlotte, George, Caroline.
Sarah: Got it. That’s how everybody – that’s everybody.
Darcie: Now Polidori was there at the famous stormy night, let’s all write a ghost story party that brought us Frankenstein.
Darcie: Polidori wrote a story. He was in love with Byron, but he knew Byron was a jerk, and Byron was probably sleeping with him, we’re not entirely sure, but he was treating him very badly. We’ve got, again, there are letters.
Sarah: Byron, Byron does seem like the type of person to recognize that someone has affection for him and then see what he can get out of it.
Darcie: He –
Sarah: Do you think he was a sociopath? You know, using our, our –
Darcie: I think he was a narcissist, and I think he –
Sarah: Ah, that –
Darcie: – definitely had narcissistic personality disorder. He has got all the traits; he has got all the traits of – I read this very good, very disturbing book called How He Gets into Her Head, which is a psychological study of, of abusers, and the term the psychologist used is skilled abusers. And –
Sarah: Yeah. I’ve met some of them.
Darcie: Yeah. Byron ticks all the boxes. ‘Cause he did this, he did it repeatedly, he did it to everybody. He gaslit his wife.
Sarah: Oh, of course.
Darcie: Really, really clearly. But Polidori’s story was called “The Vampyre,” and he based the Vampyre on Byron. We know that Bram Stoker read ”The Vampyre.”
Darcie: So straight line: Byron -> Dracula.
Sarah: Wow! When you start writing Rosalind and you have all of this gossip and interrelated politics and manipulation and utter douchebaggery running around –
Sarah: Is there a story, if you’re talking to people, where you’re like, you’re not going to believe this? Like, you could seriously do your own podcast of, here’s all the gossip of dead people.
Darcie: Oh my God! That’d be worth doing.
Sarah: Yes, yes, it would.
Darcie: I honestly think it’s the fifty illegitimate children.
Darcie: [Laughs] The, the fifty illegitimate children of the royal family. You know, that, that these men at the top of society – and those are the ones we know about.
Sarah: Yes. Those are the ones we know about.
Darcie: You know, I didn’t, when I started writ- – okay, when I started writing Rosalind, I didn’t know all this stuff about Byron, and, in fact, I didn’t know all this stuff about Byron until I had given Wendy McCurdy, my fabulous editor, a set of, you know, thumbnails, here’s some possibilities for the next Rosalind book, and she picked – the title is And Dangerous to Know, because Byron –
Darcie: – was described, of course, as –
Together: – mad, bad, and dangerous –
Sarah: – to know.
Darcie: Mm-hmm. And, and I didn’t know until I started looking into it how I had bounced off the Byron scandals, and I knew that, for example, Lady Jersey was a defender of Byron. She did not – Lady Jersey, you will recall, is the head of the board of patronesses of Almack’s.
Sarah: Right, she’s, the, the most powerful and the, the least easily manipulated.
Darcie: And she, for a long time, was in denial about the affair between Byron and his sister, and –
Sarah: It’s amazing how familiar so many of these things seem.
Darcie: – and, in fact, she very famously invited them to a party to show that she was on their side.
Sarah: Oh my.
Darcie: Oh yes! Acknowledged them publicly! And it was only after that that somebody, we don’t know how, but it was after that that she found out, and that was a major social problem for her.
Sarah: Right. What ultimately brought down Almack’s and the patronesses? They have all of this power; what causes them to no longer have this power? Did somebody finally wake up and go, look, y’all, the food is terrible! Let’s go somewhere else!
Darcie: [Laughs] Actually, it was, it was changes in fashion –
Darcie: – that did it. Almack’s, as an institution, made it all the way into the mid-Victorian era and kept its power.
Sarah: That’s substantial amounts of power. That’s like –
Sarah: – some of the secret clubs you hear about that still exist.
Darcie: Yes. This was, this was a ladies’ club. This was, well, it was very, it was very useful!
Sarah: Mm-hmm. It had a purpose.
Darcie: To – yeah – to the, to the, the women and the hostesses of London, this was how they were going to – because everybody who came to Almack’s, I mean, the reason, the reason for the system was not just to enforce exclusivity. It meant that every gentleman in there was pre-vetted.
Darcie: The lady patronesses had already done the work. They checked out the family. Ideally, they had checked out the finances. They, you know, they had been to the home. So they had done a lot of the social labor –
Sarah: It was –
Darcie: – that went into finding an eligible match.
Sarah: So it was profitable, it was curated, and, and –
Sarah: – and vouched for, and it had value and purpose because, so long as there was an exclusive club at which you could present your children and arrange profitable marriages –
Sarah: – then that power, ‘cause there was profit, was going to continue.
Darcie: Right, and it was perfectly safe to bring the girls to.
Darcie: It was properly chaperoned. It was, you know, it, talk about curated? So, you know, so it was, in addition, it provided a great measure of social safety. What we think about the necessity of the institution, what we think about the personalities who ran the institution, it was fricking brilliantly conceived, and it was very, very stable.
Sarah: Right. And one thing about people in power is that they tend to hold onto it.
Darcie: Yes, exactly. And so, you know, and each lady on the board chose her own successor. It had to be voted on, of course, but so it was a great big network of who you knew.
Sarah: Right. And the, the cont-, the, the self-consciousness and the awareness of class were always –
Sarah: – going to further empower these women, because they were the ones who were determining who was and wasn’t of their class.
Darcie: Mm-hmm, yes. Absolutely, and –
Sarah: So this was like the biggest and most profitable sorority.
Darcie: Oh yes, that is an excellent way of looking at it; that’s exactly what it was.
Sarah: And it’s going to sustain, it’s self-sustaining in that way –
Sarah: – because you aren’t someone unless we say you’re someone, so we have to be here to, so you know who someone is.
Darcie: Mm-hmm. And it wasn’t until, it was in the late Victorian, the mid- to late Victorian when the Industrial Age came in, when manufacturing came in, when the big fortunes began to be made from something other than land and name that Almack’s started to fall apart, because there became, the, the access to wealth expanded out so far, and you had not only more options but more necessity –
Darcie: – to get out of the old network to find a profitable marriage, or at least an eligible marriage, for your children, so Almack’s very slowly lost – its fashionability faded with its grip as a gatekeeper.
Sarah: Right. Basically, when it’s no longer profitable, it’s no longer powerful.
Darcie: Right, exactly.
Darcie: When, you know, the, it ceased to be useful. Back to that word again.
Sarah: Yep. Useful, profitable. It’s often –
Sarah: – very overlapping.
Darcie: Lots of interconnection on that Venn diagram, yeah.
Sarah: So when you look at historical romance and you read it with the history that you know, do you see a sort of divide between the way that we’re presenting historical London and the way historical London really was?
Darcie: Sometimes it’s the Grand Canyon.
Sarah: I was going to say, maybe it’s a whole, like, separation of planets? Like, how far is Mars? Is that how far we are?
Darcie: [Laughs] Yes, and, and partly that’s a function of, of imitation? People write what they read, and we are getting six, eight, ten, twelve generations out –
Darcie: – from the books that were closest to the time period –
Sarah: Right, of course.
Darcie: – so we’re, we’re Xerox-, we’re getting bad Xerox copies. This is not to say that, you know – but there’s some very good Regency romance; there’s some very solid, beautiful characters; but there’s also some moments where I go, oh, don’t do that.
Darcie: For example, I don’t remember the book, but there was one that I just, I had to put it down, because it was so clear that what she was having the hero do was invent Amazon.
Darcie: Yeah. It was blatantly clear, and I’m like, wait just, just a modicum, just five minutes, you would have found Henry Colburn, and you wouldn’t have had to do this.
Sarah: Oh my goodness.
Darcie: And I just, I couldn’t, I couldn’t. I, you know, I’m willing to give a lot of latitude –
Sarah: Oh yeah.
Darcie: – because –
Sarah: I’ve joked that I’m willing to let the duke drive a Porsche to Almack’s and walk in in, like, Nikes; I don’t care. I know that will make your heart stop, but –
Sarah: – if the dialogue is bad, I’m out.
Sarah: I had a wider range of historical tolerable-ness.
Darcie: Yeah. I’m reading a really great book right now called Dark Desires by Eve Silver. It’s a Victorian Gothic. I am loving this to bits, but she’s got a problem with her breakfasts, you know?
Sarah: [Laughs] One of my writers, Redheadedgirl, calls it, calls that potato rage?
Sarah: Because potatoes were a New World food, and there were times when you would never have seen a potato, and she just calls it potato rage.
So I always ask people – I’m sure you know, ‘cause you listen – what are you reading right now that you want to tell people about?
Darcie: Oh, so many things! Okay, so I already mentioned Eve Silver, Dark Desires. I haven’t quite finished it yet. I really, really enjoyed it. I love the characters. It’s a, it’s a Gothic. I had to kind of skim some of the descriptions of the, the hero is a doctor –
Darcie: – and he does anatomy studies, and the heroine is his artist. She’s really good at sketching and he isn’t, so she’s drawing the anatomical subjects, and I had to skim some of the descriptions.
Darcie: Ah. But, otherwise, love the characters, love their relationship, totally forgive her the scrambled eggs.
Darcie: Yeah. Scrambled eggs and bacon.
Sarah: Not a thing, huh?
Darcie: At the time – okay, I’m not going to go down the side road of how scrambled eggs and bacon became a thing in the 1920s. Not going there.
Sarah: Okay! Let’s go!
Darcie: [Laughs] But no. If they had been eating eggs, they would have been coddled or poached. But seriously, the book is really good, and I’m really enjoying it.
Darcie: I just finished The Romance Reader’s Guide to Life, which is not really a romance? It’s a sisterhood tale?
Darcie: And it’s, it’s beautiful! It’s gorgeous. I enjoyed it so much!
Sarah: Oh, that’s lovely!
Darcie: I’m reading Sarina Bowen’s hockey romances, all of which are fantastic. I love hockey anyway and, you know, hockey players. I can totally do this.
Oh, A Princess in Theory –
Darcie: – Alyssa Cole, which if everybody has not read that, they need to read that right now.
And I did, I do this thing where I will, I call it reverse show-rooming. I’ll download a whole bunch of samples, and I’ll read the samples, and if I like them, I’ll, like, order the book from The Ripped Bodice, ‘cause, you know, support your local independent. But there’s one called Falling into Forever by Phyllis Bourne that I’m really, really looking forward to, and another one called Bounce by K. M. Jackson, which starts off in a situation and, very unusually for a romance – you know when you read a lot of romance, you start to be able to pick up on how this is going to go – I have no idea how this is going to go. None!
Darcie: This shouldn’t work, and yet her writing is good enough that I want to find out how she makes it work.
Darcie: So, yeah, I’m really looking forward to finishing that one.
Sarah: Very cool! And when is Darcie three going to release on the world? Is it, is it going to be this year or next year? You still, are you still writing it?
Darcie: I’m still writing it. I, ideally, turn it in at the beginning of July. So I don’t have a firm publication date yet, but if you go to darciewildeauthor.com –
Darcie: – you will be able to sign up for my newsletter, and as soon as I have a date on that, you will have a date on that.
Sarah: And that brings us to the end of a very dishy, gossipy episode. I hope you enjoyed our conversation as much as I did. I want to thank Darcie Wilde for hanging out with me, and if you would like to find her website, it is darciewildeauthor.com; that is D-A-R-C-I-E-W-I-L-D-E author dot com.
I will also have links in the show notes to her website and, of course, to all of the books that we talked about, including the really, really dishy ones about everything that everyone did behind closed doors during the Regency, ‘cause, well that was fun!
I do have news! Do you want to play Cards Against Romance Tropes with me? I hope so, ‘cause if you’re attending the RWA national convention in Denver, you can come and hang out and do a live podcast taping and play super inappropriate, ridiculous games that I love so much. This is actually a pretty rare game; this was created by the Chicago North chapter of RWA for their convention – gosh, I have no concept of time, but it was definitely more than four years ago – and those of us who were attendees as guests got a, got a set, and it’s a very limited edition, this set, so I’m really excited to bring it with me to Denver and play Cards Against Romance Tropes. Tower B, 4:40 – not 4:20, 4:40 – Friday, July 20th. If you head over to the show notes or go to the website, there is a link to sign up and register to reserve a space for yourself. There’s no fee to attend, but I need to know how many people are coming. I hope that you will come and join us if you are going to RWA. Bring some wine, make yourself even more happy.
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This week’s transcript is brought to you by everyone in our Patreon community. Thank you, y’all! Every episode receives a transcript compiled by garlicknitter. Thank you, garlicknitter. [You’re welcome! – gk] Transcripts make the podcast accessible to everyone, and I am very grateful to the Patreon community for helping make sure that each episode is transcribed completely. And if you would like to sponsor a transcript, please email me: Sarah with an H, S-A-R-A-H at smartbitchestrashybooks dot com [Sarah@smartbitchestrashybooks.com]. You can tell, ask me, tell me things. I, I just generally like hearing from you, so you can email me any time.
Now, I also want to thank some of the Patreon folks personally, because the Patreon community makes a very appreciated difference in the continuation of this here show. So to Laura, Kathryn, Sarah, Megan, Kat, and Holly, thank you so, so much for being part of the Patreon community.
Are there other ways to support the show? Yes. Seriously, I’m going to put this in iambic pentameter at some point. Leave a review wherever or however you listen; tell a friend; subscribe; yell out the window; whatever works. If you are listening, I am deeply grateful. Thank you, thank you very, thank you, thank you, thank you. I’ve always wanted my own radio show, and now I have one, and it’s super cool and I love it! So thank you for hanging out with me. It would be weird if I just stood here and talked into a microphone in a box and then no one listened! But then on Friday on Twitter, everyone’s like, I listened to the episode! And I’m like, oh my gosh, actual humans hear it. That’s so cool!
The music you are listening to, as always, is provided by Sassy Outwater. This is the Peatbog Faeries’ Live @ 25 album; this track is called “Humours of Ardnamurchan.” You can find this album on Amazon, on iTunes, wherever you buy your funky music, and you can find the Peatbog Faeries at peatbogfaeries.com.
Next week on the website – ‘cause there’s a website that goes with the podcast, and I am assuming that you knew that – we have reviews for new books, including some historical and contemporary romance. We have a Bachelorette recap and a roundup of romantic memoirs that I’ve been working on. Plus, we have books on sale and Cover Snark, which never fails to make the week more fun. I hope you will come and hang out with us.
Now, I have a bad joke. This joke is so bad. I love it so much. Just thinking of the punch line makes me start laughing, so I’m going to try to get through this without cracking up like a dork, but it probably won’t happen. Are you ready? Okay. [Clears throat]
What is the difference between Beer Nuts and deer nuts?
Give up? What’s the difference between Beer Nuts and deer nuts? Well, I will tell you: Beer Nuts are a dollar ninety-nine, and deer nuts are under a buck.
[Laughs] Deer nuts are under a buck! [Laughs more] Oh goodness, that one made me really stupid happy. I think I texted that to, like, ten people! So yes, there you have it: deer nuts under a buck. [More laughing] Okay, I’m going to stop being unprofessional now. No, actually, I’m not.
On behalf of everyone here, I want to thank you for listening. I hope you have a most excellent weekend, and we wish you the very best of reading. Have a great weekend. We’ll see you here next week.
Deer nuts! [Laughs]
This podcast transcript was handcrafted with meticulous skill by Garlic Knitter. Many thanks.