For the Love of Three Men
My love affair with the Regency era commenced with a journey that I can sum up in three words:
Knightley. Darcy. Wentworth.
In that order.
Pray, allow me to explain.
When I was a girl I read Emma. Everything familiar was there to draw me in: small town, father-daughter affection, social machinations, loyalty, misunderstandings, vanity, good intentions, humor, matchmaking, modest misbehavior, chagrin, secret love and profound friendship. Everything I read in that story was things I imagined I already understood, yet they were set in a world of sublime elegance. And the speech delighted me — the whimsical tones, the clever phrasing, the economy of words amid a richness of syntax.
But I have a core of romantic love in my deepest soul. My devotion to early nineteenth-century England truly began with Mr. Knightley. Oh, Mr. Knightley! The first grown man I fell in love with. How couldn’t I? He charmed. He cared. He was fabulously rich and lived next door. He traveled to London at a moment’s notice. He was already related through a beloved sister! (I have four sisters; these bonds of affection I do not take lightly.) But his love for a woman did not make him afraid to teach, to chastise, and most importantly to sacrifice. Dreamy sigh. I had discovered the perfect gentleman!
Then I met Mr. Darcy.
Pride and Prejudice introduced me to an England I’d only glimpsed before — to grand estates and high society, to balls and wicked sisters, to spectacular set-downs and scandalous seduction, and above all to passion. The passion of wit and humor and attraction and desire. And, naturally, the passion of pride.
This last probably propelled my conversion to the era. You see, in my secret identity I am a professor of medieval history. In the Middle Ages, pride was considered the most heinous sin for very good reason. It aroused passion that unbridled human emotion far more dangerous than any other Deadly Sin like greed or anger or even lust. Pride could too lead a man to passion, and human passion once unchained was nearly impossible to check. One shudders to imagine humanity’s downfall if ruled by such a vice! (And trust me, lots and lots of medieval commentators shuddered when imagining it, which they did with prurient relish, I might add.)
But Mr. Darcy and Elizabeth Bennett taught my young heart something very important about passion. They taught me that passion needn’t be destroyed or even bridled. Rather, when wed to intellect and compassion, passion could make a good man into a better man, and a clever girl into a wise woman.
And so my affair with English society during Austen’s era continued along its way, inspired by the joyful majesty of Darcy’s humbling love for his lady.
Until Captain Frederick Wentworth sailed into my sights.
Then the game rules changed. Dramatically.
Here was passion beyond what I had seen before. Here was heartbreak and loneliness and buried longings and a quiet devastation of years. Here was pain born of loving too much and trusting in that love too little. Here was a man who had gone into the world believing himself unloved who himself had never ceased loving, despite his efforts to do precisely that. And here was a man who made himself a hero not only to one woman, one family, one community, but to all of Britain.
My adoration of Britain in the early nineteenth century has everything to do with the mature love that Wentworth and Anne come to after their nine years of separation. Wentworth is a man of the wide world, Anne a woman of local society. Together, combined, they became to me what England and its empire were during this era — a kingdom seeking to rule the world and succeeding at it, winning riches across the globe that fueled the decadence of high society, all the while remaining a land of country villages and parish churches, grouse hunting and humble farmers, tea taken with old friends and the small-world phenomenon of bumping into close acquaintances while far from home.
Captain Wentworth’s nine-year sojourn upon the high seas sent me beyond the British Isles into the world of British Empire, an exciting, rich world of wonders I hadn’t dreamed before. But after amassing his fortune and helping to win the war for England, Wentworth went home — to his Anne — whether he knew all along that he would, or not.
Admission: my novella, A LADY’S WISH, is an offering of thanks to Jane Austen for her Persuasion. First, Persuasion changed my notions of what love could be. And second, in falling in love with Frederick Wentworth, at once I fell in love with seafaring heroes and Britain’s power upon the sea in the early nineteenth century.
So now I write both — stories set in the Regency era, with all the comforts of villages and farms and small-town assembly room balls, as well as all the adventure of heroes who’ve traveled across oceans and continents seeking their fortunes and, above all, seeking the women that are daring and clever enough to steal their hearts.
It’s a love affair for a lifetime.
Katharine Ashe writes stunningly sensual, adventure-packed Regency historical romances for Avon Romance, which reviewers have called “page-turners” and “keepers.” Her CAPTURED BY A ROGUE LORD, featuring a rakish earl who moonlights as a pirate with a Robin Hood complex, is nominated for “Best Romantic Adventure” in the Reviewers’ Choice Best Book Awards. On February 28, her WHEN A SCOT LOVES A LADY hits bookshelves everywhere!!!
One lucky visitor will receive an autographed copy of Katharine’s CAPTURED BY A ROGUE LORD. Leave a comment below or earn extra opportunities to win by making connections on social media through Rafflecopter. The giveaway will run through Thursday, March 1. The winner will be announced on March 2 along with the regular February giveaway winners.