Sunday, August 20, 2006

How Do You Start a Regency Ball? by Diane Perkins

First I must respond to Candy’s plea that I give you my news. It isn’t MY news, really. It is the news of my alter-ego Diane Gaston, who writes Regency historicals for Mills & Boon and Harlequin Historicals. You see, Diane Gaston’s A Reputable Rake won Romance Writers of America’s prestigious RITA award for Best Regency Romance. The winners were announced on July 29 at RWA’s national convention in Atlanta, and, I tell you, Diane Gaston has been impossible to live with every since. She has this annoying tendency to flit around the house, singing, “I won! I won.” Pullllesssse. Enough already.

While she’s humming in the corner (annoying me to tears), I am busy revising Desire in His Eyes, my Warner book #3, also known as Blake’s story. Most of the story takes place in Brighton, a town made fashionable by the Prince Regent.

The story is set in 1816, before Prinny’s Pavilion is completed.
1816 was also known as “the year without a summer,” because of unseasonably cold weather persisting throughout Europe and North America. Still, Brighton was the place one spent the summer, if one was fashionable. The Castle Inn and the Old Ship Hotel held card parties and assemblies throughout the summer. As I was rewriting a scene at one of these assemblies, I was stumped about how the Master of Ceremonies might start the dancing. Would he announce an old fashioned minuet or the very modern waltz? How about a quadrille or a country dance?

Diane Gaston is tapping me on the shoulder to remind me that I danced Regency dances at the Atlanta Beau Monde soiree (Regency writers RWA chapter) with Joanne Carr, one of her Mills & Boon editors. This was right after the winners of the Booksellers’ Best Awards were announced. She didn’t win that one, I tell her. She huffs and says her The Mysterious Miss M won the Readers Choice Award. “Who cares,” says I. My The Marriage Bargain was a Romantic Times Reviewers Choice nominee, and I also danced Regency dances in the Assembly rooms at Bath, where Jane Austen danced. She reminds me that she was there, too.

Anyway, to find out what dance would open a Regency ball I went to Yahoo and keyed in “Nineteenth Century Dance.” I found a bunch of lovely sites discussing the variety of dances of the time period. I even came upon this wonderful site.

Videoclips of dance from Renaissance to Ragtime!

From the Library of Congress! That’s where my husband works. And my friends Virginia and Helen.

Play the videoclips, especially the early nineteenth century ones! You can actually see dancers performing the steps of the dance. You can also read dance manuals of the various time periods.

This is the stuff that gets me excited about writing historicals. I love to find evidence of how it really was in the Regency!

Of course, I still need to discover which dance should open the ball.


Diana Holquist said...

Wow, Diane...that's a lot of work. No wonder I don't write historicals. I'd just start making it all up and then no one would read me...

By the way, you (er, that other lady) look great with RITA.


Diane Perkins said...

For me getting the history right is half the fun! And I know I never get it exactly right. There is still so much I don't know.

Shari Anton said...

Lovely pictures, Diane! And congrats on winning the RITA to that other Diane!

I love, love, love writing historicals just so I can read all those lovely reference books and visit old, old places. Yes, that's probably wierd, but it's part of the work.


Kimber said...

Awesome information!
Love the dress too.

Shelley Bates said...

I belong to the Bay Area English Regency Society and loooooooove dancing Regency dances. Mr. Beveridge's Maggot, the Duke of Kent, Black Nag, you name it--I love them all.

At our dances, the band just strikes up the opening chords of a country dance or (gasp!) waltz, the leader holds out his hand to his lady, and they take the floor. Everyone rushes to take their places (longways, for as many as will) down the floor, and the band launches into the dance.

Shelley B.