Monday 23 September 2019

An Author’s Inspiration: How to Catch a Wicked Viscount by Amy Rose Bennett #Regency #HistoricalRomance @AmyRoseBennett

An Author’s Inspiration
How to Catch a Wicked Viscount
 By Amy Rose Bennett

Hi Mary Anne, and you so much for having me on Myths, Legends, Books, & Coffee Pots again! Today I’m here to chat about a source of inspiration for my latest release, a Regency romance entitled How to Catch a Wicked Viscount. It’s Book 1 in my brand-new Disreputable Debutantes series.

How to Catch a Wicked Viscount (and the other forthcoming titles in the series) all explore the theme of ‘scandal’ and the resultant aftermath—societal disgrace. I’ve always been fascinated by how the strict rules of etiquette during the Regency era governed the lives of young women. Having a pristine reputation was everything if you hoped to be accepted by polite society and marry well. Just think of the anguish Elizabeth Bennet and her family go through when they learn young Lydia has run off with the roguish Wickham in Jane Austen’s Pride and Prejudice. Indeed, Mr. Darcy goes out of his way to contain the scandal for Elizabeth’s sake—and don’t we adore him for it? The notion that a scandal could destroy a young, single woman’s reputation and thus ruin her chances in the marriage-mart was one I was also keen to visit.

Pride and Prejudice 1894 edition.

The heroine of How to Catch a Wicked Viscount, Miss Sophie Brightwell—as well as her three friends—face social ruin when they are expelled from a young ladies’ academy for ‘conduct unbecoming’. The free-spirited Lady Charlotte ‘Charlie’ Hastings instigates a late-night ‘dorm party’ so Sophie and the other young women can experience pastimes bachelors are fond of, but women are largely forbidden to take part in: drinking spirits, smoking cigarillos, and learning about the ‘ins and outs’ of sexual congress as depicted in licentious reading material and lewd prints. Charlie reasons that they all need to understand the male of the species before they make their debuts. Of course, our aspiring debutantes are caught red-handed, a monumental scandal ensues, and Society’s doors are firmly closed on them. Even after three years, when Sophie (whose family is sliding into genteel poverty) is afforded a second chance to have a Season courtesy of Charlie and her father the Earl of Westhampton, she and Charlie still bear the label of being ‘disgraced’.

During the Regency era, the ‘bad boys’ of the ton—rakehells—were given rather more leeway by Society and could get away with just about anything as long as their debauched antics weren’t too publicly outrageous. For instance, Lord Byron who was infamous for his sexual escapades and licentious behaviour in general, really only faced public condemnation which drove him from England altogether, when rumours of an incestuous affair with his half-sister could no longer be ignored.

Lord Byron.

The ‘wicked viscount’ in my book, Nate, Lord Malverne, while definitely a rake—and whose wild exploits appear with alarming regularity in the newspapers—isn’t quite so dissolute as Byron. Nate is the older brother of Sophie Brightwell’s best friend, Charlie—and despite the fact Charlie has warned her that Nate is ‘not the marrying kind’ whatsoever—Sophie has a huge crush on him which she can’t seem to shake. Considering his own notoriety, she hopes he might overlook her besmirched reputation.

Society’s hypocrisy about the consequences of scandal for men versus women is reflected upon by Sophie when she hears about one of Nate’s racier public escapades…

It must be lovely to be in a position like Lord Malverne’s. Not only was he rich, handsome, and titled, it seemed he could do whatever he pleased and society didn’t really give a fig. Whereas she would always be watched, pointed at, and judged, rather like a pilloried prisoner, or one in the docks awaiting sentencing. Any misstep off the narrow path of decorum could end her just as effectively as the hangman’s noose. To have the same amount of privilege that circum­stance had bestowed upon Lord Malverne would be heady indeed.

To give the reader the impression that the judgmental ‘eyes and the ears’ of the ton are everywhere, the chapters of How to Catch a Wicked Viscount begin with an excerpt of an article from a ‘high society’ newspaper, the Beau Monde Mirror related to the action; although it purports not to be, my fictional publication has the reputation of being little more than a scandal rag.

I had initially imagined the Beau Monde Mirror as a scandal sheet. However, according to the Oxford English Dictionary and Merriam-Webster’s the term ‘scandal sheet’ wasn’t used until 1904. And the Beau Monde Mirror really needed to be more than just a gossip pamphlet. More research on my part was clearly required to come up with the perfect style of ‘scandal rag’ for How to Catch a Wicked Viscount.

In the Regency era, there were certainly a multitude of newspapers available. Author Cheryl Bolen notes in an article for the Beau Monde Chapter of Romance Writers of America, that in 1816, thirty-one national newspapers were published in Britain including fourteen in London. Daily papers included: The Morning Chronicle, Morning Post, The Times, The Morning Herald, The Sun, The Globe, The Star, and The Statesman. The Mirror of the Times was a Saturday only publication.

When researching the history of newspapers, magazines, and gossip rags to decide on the nature and an appropriate format for the Beau Monde Mirror, I discovered that newspaper gossip columns began appearing in the early eighteenth century. Author Roger Wilkes, in “Scandal: A Scurrilous History of Gossip,” mentions that in 1704, Daniel Defoe began the first “informal chatty newspaper column” in The Review (Pollock, 2015). Defoe also apparently devised the technique of keeping names secret by only including the gossiped about individual’s initials (Guinness, 2003); my fictional Beau Monde Mirror employs a similar technique.

While many Regency era British newspapers reported on parliamentary proceedings, social issues and other important events, they also pedalled gossip as news. According to Roger Wilkes, reporters would purchase scurrilous stories from loose-lipped servants and ladies and gentlemen willing to expose their friends. The John Bull newspaper which established a reputation for publishing scandalous stories, first appeared in England in 1820. Queen Caroline, the estranged wife of Prinny, was apparently a favourite target of The John Bull’s editor, Theodore Hook (Gaston, 2008).

Regency era magazines popular with women included Le Beau Monde, or Literary and Fashionable Magazine, 1806-1810, and La Belle Assemblée. Laudermilk and Hamlin, the authors of the Regency Companion, write that La Belle Assemblée: "… contained a wealth of information on a wide range of women's concerns. It was a true women's magazine with celebrity anecdotes, instructions of manners, cosmetic advice, and beauty aids. Dress and fashion were covered in delightfully colored fashion plates—the best of which were from 1809 to 1820. Fashion plates were presented with lengthy, written descriptions, and modish gentlewomen pounced on the latest monthly issue… The magazine was filled with advertisements that touted the wonders of various rouges, depilatories, powders, and corsets."
Until the 1820s, La Belle Assemblée also apparently published original poetry and fiction, non-fiction articles on politics and science, book and theatre reviews, and serialized novels.

I was also initially drawn to the idea of using Tatler for the title for my fictional publication because of the homophone ‘tattler’ and its gossipy connotation. Indeed, there have been various publications named Tatler over the years. In 1709, Sir Richard Steele—writing under the nom de plume Isaac Bickerstaff—published a literary and society journal of that name. A thrice weekly publication, it contained news of high society balls, charity events, race meetings, shooting parties, fashion and gossip. The Female Tatler appeared in 1709, three months after the original Tatler was published (an unknown female writer using the pen name "Mrs. Crackenthorpe" was apparently the author). Other incarnations of the ‘Tatler’ over time include: the Northern Tatler, the Tatler Reviv’d (eighteenth century publications), and The Tatler: A Daily Journal of Literature and the Stage (1830). And then of course, there’s today’s well-known British high society lifestyle and fashion magazine, Tatler which was first published in 1901.

Sir Richard Steele.

In the end, the inspiration for my newspaper-cum-scandal-rag, the Beau Monde Mirror was an amalgamation of the concept behind the original 1709 Tatler and the modern Tatler, early nineteenth century ‘gossip’ columns and newspapers like The John Bull, and Regency era magazine’s catering for women such as La Belle Assemblée and its rival, Le Beau Monde, or Literary and Fashionable Magazine. The Beau Monde Mirror certainly reports gossip as news in its ‘Society Page’, but there’s are also an ‘Essential Style and Etiquette Guide’ and a literature review section. 

Here’s a snippet of the first Beau Monde Mirror scandal-mongering ‘headline’ that appears at the beginning of Chapter One in How to Catch a Wicked Viscount.

Disreputable Debutantes in the making!
A shocking scandal of epic proportions at a certain London school for “Young Ladies of Good Character” shakes the ton.
Does your genteel daughter attend such a den of iniquity? Read on to discover ten things one should consider when choosing a reputable academy...
The Beau Monde Mirror: The Society Page

I hope readers enjoy the gossipy Beau Monde Mirror excerpts at the start of each chapter and the ‘scandals’ contained within. I certainly had fun researching and writing How to Catch a Wicked Viscount!

How to Catch a Wicked Viscount
By Amy Rose Bennett

A young lady's tarnished reputation might cost her everything in this first book in the Disreputable Debutantes series.

Shy, bookish Sophie Brightwell is expected to make an advantageous match to improve her family's fortunes. However, Sophie's plans to make a spectacular debut go horribly awry when she and her three closest friends are expelled from a young ladies' academy for unbecoming conduct. Since the ton will be sure to close their doors on these disgraced debutantes, they determine that unconventional means need to be employed in the husband-hunting market. Rakehells—the beau monde's wickedest members—might be the only men willing to overlook a young lady's besmirched reputation. 
But how does one catch a rake?

Nate Hastings, the devil-may-care Viscount Malverne, is the older brother of Sophie’s best friend, fellow disgraced debutante Lady Charlotte. When a terribly foxed Nate accidentally compromises Sophie, Charlotte strikes a wicked bargain: in order to avoid a scandal and the parson's mousetrap, Nate must help Sophie snare a husband. But as Nate fulfills his obligation and begins to instruct the lovely Sophie in the art of luring rakes, he soon finds himself battling his own fierce attraction to her.

Pick up your copy of
How to Catch a Wicked Viscount

Amy Rose Bennett

Amy Rose Bennett is an Australian author who has a passion for penning emotion-packed historical romances. Of course, her strong-willed heroines and rakish heroes always find their happily ever after.
A former speech pathologist, Amy is happily married to her very own romantic hero and has two lovely, very accomplished adult daughters. When she’s not creating stories, Amy loves to cook up a storm in the kitchen, lose herself in a good book or a witty rom-com, and when she can afford it, travel to all the places she writes about.

Connect with Amy Rose: WebsiteFacebookTwitterBookBubPinterest Amazon


Bennet, Bliss. “The Real Regency Scandal Sheets?” Susana’s Parlour. December 21, 2015.
Bolen, Cheryl. “The Proliferation of Newspapers in Regency England.” The Beau Monde. March 22, 2012.
Decker, Cathy. “Le Beau Monde, or Literary and Fashionable Magazine, 1806-1810” Regency (accessed August 21, 2019).
Decker, Cathy. “John Bell's La Belle Assemblée, or Bell's Court and Fashionable Magazine Addressed Particularly to the Ladies, 1806-1868.” Regency (accessed August 21, 2019).
Gaston, Diane. “Scandal! Gossip! Research.” Risky Regencies. August 25, 2008.
Grace, Maria. “Newspapers, Gossip Columns, and Scandal Mongers.” English Historical Fiction Authors. March 12, 2018.

Guinness, Daphne. “Scandal: A Scurrilous History of Gossip 1700-2000.” The Sydney Morning Herald. March 15, 2003.

Laudermilk, Sharon, and Teresa L. Hamlin.  The Regency Companion. New York: Garland, 1989
Schroeder, Anngela. “Scandal Sheets.” January 18, 2017. A Covent Garden Gilflurt’s Guide to Life.
Pollock, Michael. “America’s First Gossip Column, and Eating on Subways and Buses.” The New York Times. October 2, 2015.
Wikipedia contributors, "La Belle Assemblée," Wikipedia, The Free Encyclopedia, (accessed August 21, 2019).
Wikipedia contributors, "Richard Steele," Wikipedia, The Free Encyclopedia, (accessed August 21, 2019).
Wikipedia contributors, "Tatler (1709 journal)," Wikipedia, The Free Encyclopedia,
Wilkes, Roger. A Scurrilous History of Gossip. London: Atlantic Books, 2002

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