Music-Less Historical Romances

Having recently gone on a bit of a period drama-rewatching spree, something has occurred to me: there’s almost never any music in historical romance books.

In fact, the new fad is for female characters in historical romances to reject ALL things that might be considered even slightly feminine. (ALL the cool kids hate sewing – and can’t sew. ALL the cool kids hate dancing – and can’t dance.). Of course they’re crap musicians – ALL the cool kids are!

What I consider to be the most emotionally powerful scene in the 1995 adapatation of Pride and Prejudice is the one that begins with Elizabeth Bennet playing and singing for the Bingleys and Darcys. Then Mr Darcy’s sister takes over, while the clueless Miss Bingley makes a cruel comment and upsets everyone.

The whole scene, while telling you a bunch of other things about the characters and the plot, is about the music. Imagine what a dull – and quiet – evening it would have been without any women with some musical ability!

Watch it below:

In both Pride and Prejudice the book, and every television and film adaptation, Elizabeth and Miss Darcy bond over music, and the snobs use music as a chance to show off.

Then there’s Anne Elliot from another Jane Austen book: Persuasion. There’s that scene where she sheds a quiet tear while playing the piano so the others can dance. There’s no crying in the 1995 movie version, but the scene below at 37:20 shows you exactly how crucial music was for an evening in the Regency era:

Also, in Poldark, Demelza’s triumph over the society ladies comes when she sings at the Christmas party. (As an aside, TV Demelza, Eleanor Tomlinson, did such a good job with her singing in the show that she’s releasing an album!).

Sure, there are some book heroines who enjoy their music. Faith Merridew and Helen Ravenel come to mind. However, we are very much in an era of publishing (and life in general, actually) where authors think that it’s somehow antifeminist for women to anything remotely artistic or creative.

Music isn’t just an art form; it’s to people of two-hundred years ago what television and the internet and evenings out are to us today. It was an essential part of a person’s social life, as it was one of the only ways to break the silence over long, pre-electricity evenings, and to entertain in an era before today’s technology existed.

I do think some authors avoid heroines who play and sing because they – ridiculously – think it’s demeaning to their gender.

However, I also think it simply never occurs to some authors that this was a major aspect of a Georgian/Regency/Victorian person’s day-to-day experience. It’s a little odd.


V-J Day!

Celebrations in Australia 1945, after six years of war.

I was stunned the other day to come across a group of Americans didn’t even know we were involved. We joined right at the start, in 1939, thousands of us were there with everyone else on D-Day, more bombs were dropped on the Darwin than on Pearl Harbor, and Australia saw the war through to the end.

The problem might partially be that we fought many wars in history as part of the British Empire, and all of us – Australians, Canadians, Kiwis etc. – got lumped in as Brits.

However, I also think Hollywood has a lot to answer for. They’re always portraying the US as singlehandedly fighting and winning the war. It was, after all, a *WORLD* War.

A Convenient Bride for the Soldier by Christine Merrill

A Convenient Bride for the Soldier by Christine Merrill

Please ignore both the clunky title and the trashy blurb! I liked this book a lot!

Ex-soldier Frederick Challenger may own a share of London’s most secret gentlemen’s club, but he has long since stopped sampling its delights…until a beautiful woman auctions her innocence. 

Georgiana Knight’s plan had been to lure in a villain, but instead she’s trapped the devil himself. And now, to protect her reputation, she must marry him! But if Frederick has hopes of taming this temptress, he’ll have to think again… 

A Convenient Bride for the Soldier by Christine Merrill

I really liked this book, and read it very quickly. It develops the friendship and then love between hero and heroine slowly, and shows real character growth. It’s also full of great historical expressions – and funny.

However, I practically groaned when A Convenient Bride for the Soldier came up for review and I read the blurb. The “virginity auction” is likely THE most ridiculous of all historical romance tropes. On the other hand, I trust the Harlequin Historical line to almost always to deliver a great read, and the author’s name was familiar to me, so I dived in.

The heroine of this one is naïve in some ways, and far more worldly than she is given credit for in others. Young – nineteen – she is frustrated with her innocence (not her virginity; her ignorance of so many things in the world). And it is not helped by everyone treating her like a child and a bother to be handed off to someone else.

I loved that she was age-appropriate, and also liked her because no matter how much everyone, especially the hero at first, tried to “tame” her out of her personality, she was determined to cling to it.

The hero was interesting because he was sometimes hard to like. His life has shaped him into a very rigid, rule-following man (despite the club he runs), and he historically-accurately expects the wife he never wanted to fall into line.

However he has a strong moral code and sometimes finds himself slipping. Even though he is older than the heroine it is he who has to grow the most.

It was also great that the author resisted the temptation to tie up either characters’ family situation in too many bows.

There was so much fun in amongst all of this. It wasn’t slapstick, but it was funny. I laughed at a few points in this (the bird!), usually at the dry, offhand comments.

I also loved the language, and by that I mean that the author peppered her book with archaic terms without making it impossible to understand. Even though I knew otherwise, I went back to check because the prose (apart from a couple of teeny slip-ups) read as if it was written by a Brit.

Despite the promises of the blurb, this is not a book filled with sex; as I said, the relationship takes LOTS of time to develop. However, hero and heroine are on the page together almost the entire book, so it’s not like there’s a lack of romance. In fact, I don’t always love it when the two are in most scenes together, and yet I enjoyed both of them so much I really liked it here.

This was one of the review books I’m going to buy my own copy of, so I guess that’s a strong endorsement.


Review copy provided by NetGalley.

Sarah MacLean: How Trump killed off my romantic lead

The Day of the Duchess (Scandal & Scoundrel #3) by Sarah MacLean US American Cover

What an article! This piece appeared in the Washington Post a few days ago and I enjoyed it even more because I’ve just read the book in question:

How Trump killed off my romantic lead

That hero? The one I’d lovingly crafted in that mold of masculinity that romance readers have loved for centuries? Sure, I had plans for him to see the promise of gender equality, but at that moment, I wanted him gone. This dude wasn’t just aggressively masculine. He was toxic. Indeed, I suspected he would have voted for Donald Trump. And I wanted nothing to do with him.

Suddenly, there was no promise that he would change. That hero — the one whom so many others in the genre have written for centuries, the one who grows into his awareness that everything is better with equality of partnership — he wasn’t enough. I wanted a hero who had that awareness from the start.

On this day: a President Resigns

In Times Gone By...

Oliver F. Atkins' photo of Nixon leaving the White House shortly before his resignation became effective, 9th August 1974.

These images, taken by Oliver F. Atkins on the 9th of August, 1974, show US President Richard Nixon leaving the White House after resigning. The resignation came into effect shortly after.

Nixon-departOliver F. Atkins_ photo of Nixon leaving the White House on Marine One shortly before his resignation became effective, August 9, 1974.

Republican Nixon gave up the Presidency following the Watergate scandal, in which he tried to cover up his involvement in a break-in at the Democratic National Committee headquarters.

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New Pride and Prejudice

It was only yesterday I was thinking that it was time for a new, less “pop culture” version of Pride and Prejudice to be made – I’ve been on a re-watch spree of the 1980 and 1995 versions. So it was pretty funny to see this news about a new adaptation only a few hours later. However, this upcoming version is is not what I wanted.

That the producers are bragging it will be “less bonnet-y”, and that it will be “dark” seems patronising. No silly historical stuff for you. That’s SO 1995!

Why do we need another hair-down, pigs-and-mud version? I’m assuming “less bonnet-y” means something along the lines of Keira Knightley’s 2005 movie. As for “dark”? The last version was about zombies!

Pride_and_Prejudice_2005 Keira Knightley Pigs Mud Barefoot Anachronistic

Georgian lady barefoot and covered in mud where visitors to the house can see her? No.

Pride_and_Prejudice_2005 Keira Knightley Hair Down Anachronistic Elizabeth Bennet

Georgian lady goes visiting her “betters” with her hair down and dressed like she just rolled out of bed? NO!!