WOW ~ Word of the Week ~ Swell

WOW ~ Word of the Week ~ Swell

Cloak Room at Clifton Assembly Room, Rolinda Sharples, 1817.

Cloak Room at Clifton Assembly Room, Rolinda Sharples, 1817. This painting is no doubt familiar to many Regency Romance readers as it is to found (at least in part) on over twenty book covers.

August is Romance Awareness Month, but what exactly is “romance?”

As a noun, romance is defined as the excitement associated with love, and can be everything from exquisite feelings of nostalgia and tenderness, to unrealistic expectations, exaggerations, and fantasies. Romance books and romance movies are considered idealized and sentimentalized presentations of love. As a verb, romance means to court or woo through means of love or flattery, or to engage in a love affair.

That’s a broad perspective for one simple word. No wonder Oscar Wilde swung so to and fro on the pendulum that is Romance.

To love oneself is the beginning of a lifelong romance.

They spoil every romance by trying to make it last forever.

Deceiving others. That is what the world calls a romance.

So if romance lends itself to both idealization and nostalgia, perhaps it is fitting to search out some desirable male specimens from the Regency Period that set hearts aflutter. In celebration of Romance Awareness Month, of course. It’s time to examine the “swell.”

Swell (noun)

Portrait of an Artist, Michael Martin Drolling, 1819.

Portrait of an Artist, Michael Martin Drolling, 1819.

A gentleman, but particularly a well-dressed gentleman. A family man with plenty of the ready who cuts a genteel figure is said to be in swell street. Sometimes, when speaking of a particular person but without drawing attention or naming names, the gentleman is styled the swell.

In modern, American slang, swell has come to mean excellent or very good. For your delectation, I present my interpretation of swell, both vulgar and modern American.

The prolific portraitist Sir Thomas Lawrence (13 April 1769 – 7 January 1830) was a very dab hand at painting several swoon-worthy swells. Whether literal facsimiles or idealized interpretations, I leave it for each romantic heart to decide.

Arthur Wellesley, 1st Duke of Wellington, date unknown, Sir Thomas Lawrence date unknown

Arthur Wellesley, 1st Duke of Wellington, date unknown, Sir Thomas Lawrence date unknown

Henry Brougham, 1st Baron Broughan and Vaux (1778-1868), Detail, 1825, Sir Thomas Lawrence

Henry Brougham, 1st Baron Broughan and Vaux (1778-1868), Detail, 1825, Sir Thomas Lawrence











Portrait of Hart Davis Jr, date unknown, private collection, Sir Thomas Lawrence

Portrait of Hart Davis Jr, date unknown, private collection, Sir Thomas Lawrence

The 4th Earl of Aberdeen, 1829, Sir Thomas Lawrence, private collection

The 4th Earl of Aberdeen, 1829, Sir Thomas Lawrence, private collection











And two distinguished older gentlemen, swell swells, if you will.

Sir Graham Moore, 1792, Sir Thomas Lawrence

Sir Graham Moore, 1792, Sir Thomas Lawrence

Portrait of Sir Harford Jones Brydges, Sir Thomas Lawrence, John Lucas-Scudamore Collection

Portrait of Sir Harford Jones Brydges, Sir Thomas Lawrence, John Lucas-Scudamore Collection











For more portraits by Sir Thomas Lawrence, considering visiting ABC Gallery.

The definitions for romance were adapted from the American English version of the Oxford Dictionaries. All definitions and/or examples for swell were taken from Online Etymological DictionaryCant: A Gentleman’s Guide, and/or 1811 Dictionary of the Vulgar Tongue.

Say What?!  Words That Probably Need to Disappear From Regency Romance

Say What?! Words That Probably Need to Disappear From Regency Romance

Abraham Lincoln selfie, ca. 1858.

Abraham Lincoln selfie, ca. 1858.




Sometimes, anachronism is just easy to spot.




Bayeux Tapestry of Anachronism

Bayeux Tapestry of Anachronism




Other times, it can go by unnoticed, when everything else looks spot on for the time period.


Oops, there it is: fly-by anachronism. Troy, 2004, Warner Bros.

Oops, there it is: fly-by anachronism. Troy, 2004, Warner Bros.




And then there are the times when, despite everyone’s best efforts, anachronism sneaks in and ruins a whole scene.





I know, I know . . . why cry for accuracy in a genre known for universally ignoring the sketchy dental care, prevalence of body odor, and the more common physiques of short and/or pudgy men and women. These are my secondary issues – issues that aren’t deal breakers to me when I read a story because their inclusion or omission doesn’t have any historical significance.  It’s almost too common to mention: if the Regency standard was wonky teeth, poor hygiene, and less-than-svelte body types, then these are characteristic givens. They are terms of aesthetics rather than distinctive, singular attributes.  When authors specifically write about their hero’s tall build or the heroine smelling like lilacs, these are unique characteristics worth putting to page.  Plus, I’ve yet to read a contemporary romance that talks about the smelly, sweaty billionaire at the gym or the reeking cowboy in the manure-strewn corral.


But just because some aspects of the Regency period are best left in the 1800s doesn’t mean I can whitewash all the facts or say whatever I want when writing. I may not want to draw attention to the fact that a ballroom likely reeked like a wharf in summer, yet I cannot move so far to the opposite end of the spectrum and declare as it was unbearable hot, the Countess of Essex held a co-ed swimming party in her back garden.


For me, the distinction lies in whether I want to write fiction and romance set during the Regency, or if I just want to write stories where people dress hoity and don’t have day jobs. Setting a story during the years between 1811-1820 is a bit more complicated than just remembering not to have characters hop a plane to France or ring up their friends for a car ride to Surrey for the weekend. Writing stories set somewhere in time – without benefit of research and verification – moves said stories into the realm of fantasy rather than antiquity. Just because it’s fiction doesn’t mean it has no basis in fact, or that certain timely truths can be ignored.


Research doesn’t stop with customs and practices of the time period; it also involves word etymology. Should my happy heroine be chuffed (1860) or diverted (1640s)? Would my hero smoke a cigarette (American, 1835) or cheroot (late 17th century). I’m no high stickler that believes words just appeared in usage the same year they were officially added to the lexicon, but documentation is a rally point for an author. Think about the word “selfie.” It was inducted into the OED in 2013, but Lester Wisbrod claims he originated the action behind the term in 1981, although he called them “Lesters.” And the first documented self portrait with a camera was taken by Robert Cornelius way back in 1839. So should the heroine of a civil war romance refer to the picture of her beau as his selfie (or Lester)?but thats none of my business kermit Obviously not, but I don’t think the term must be reserved for stories set post-2013. Authenticity can – and really must – be looked for in the small stuff of verbiage, but fudging a few years on either side of the “official” year a word entered the dictionary is forgivable, in my humble opinion.


Writing novels set during the Regency – or any period in history – requires knowing something about that time period. That does not mean the results need to be dry as kindling or as interesting as the ingredients on a bottle of shampoo: it is possible to write in period style with period characters and period plots without droning like Mr. Collins reading a sermon from Fordyce.


what did i just read


Words that should probably disappear from Regency Romance:

bounder (1882)
cad (1838)
sod (1818, but literally meant sodomite, not the slang term for chap from the 1950s)
bugger (1923, unless you literally mean someone being sodomized, 1590s)
heir and spare (first coined by American Consuelo Vanderbilt, after birth of sons at turn of
     the 20th century)
feisty (1896 for spunky; previously cur dog or fart) – Probably don’t want gassy heroines!
OK (1838 Boston; okay is not a word)
bossy (1882)
fiancé/fiancée (1837; a couple could be affianced, however, just to confuse the issue)
upper ten thousand (1844 America)
chaise lounge (1830 American corruption of longue)
French doors (1847; they were called French windows during Regency)
French letter (meaning condom, 1856)

edgar allen poe what did i read

Words that surprised me with their anachronistic selves and need to flee the Regency novel:

sheet music (1857)
replay (sporting jargon from 1862)
mount (noun meaning horse, 1856) – This one is scattered all over my first novel!
mesmerize (meaning enthrall, 1862)
negligée (it does mean loose gown, like a chemise; if you mean Victoria’s Secret
     humina-humina gown, that’s 1930)
décolletage (1883) – whaaat?!
neckline (1900)
sex (as in intercourse, 1929; and no to sexuality and libido, too)
scandal sheet (1939)
ego (the Freudian concept of conceit, 1891; self-centeredness, 1840; selfish, 1879)

words play they do i've seen them

Words that are OK (see what I did there?) but seem out of place:

darling (1562)
sweetheart (1570)
honey (as term of endearment, mid 14th century)
brain (as in knocking someone in the head, late 14th century and Shakespeare’s Tempest)
hoity-toity (1590s; if you mean haughty, not til the late 1800s)
kremlin (lower case, citadel or fortress, 1660s)
prototype (1600)
skyscraper (not the building, but the light sail at the top of a mast, 1794; name of
     a racehorse, 1789)
egotism (talking about yourself too much 1714; self-conceit/selfishness 1800)
egomania (this one is close to the Regency at 1825)


Did I leave out any biggies?  Are there any words on the “disappear” list that are simply too good to omit? I shudder to think what words I’ve missed, or what blunders I’ll make in my next novel…


WOW ~ Word of the Week ~ Blunder

WOW ~ Word of the Week ~ Blunder

One of my favorite movies is The Princess Bride. It’s equal parts snarky, comedic, and lovely. I think I spent the better part of my high school years quoting it at random moments. The inconceivably erudite Vezzini gives perfect illustrations of this week’s word.

Vizzini and his classic declaration of blunders, The Princess Bride, 1987.

Vizzini and his classic declaration of blunders, The Princess Bride, 1987.


Blunder (noun)

Source is mid-14c., from the verb blunder “to stumble about blindly,” from a Scandinavian source akin to Old Norse blundra “shut one’s eyes.” Meaning “make a stupid mistake” is first recorded 1711.

The word bull is defined in many ways in Francis Grose’s 1811 Dictionary of the Vulgar Tongue; one usage means blunder.

Bull. A blunder; from the story of Obadiah Bull, a blundering London lawyer during the reign of Henry VII. The false hair worn by women was also called a bull, and we all know what a monumental fashion blunder those were.


All definitions and/or examples taken from Online Etymological DictionaryCant: A Gentleman’s Guide, and/or 1811 Dictionary of the Vulgar Tongue.

Regency Romance Turns 80

Regency Romance Turns 80

George Gordon, Lord Byron, perusing another Regency Romance from his TBR stack.

George Gordon, Lord Byron, perusing another Regency Romance from his TBR stack.

Happy Birthday, Regency Romance! 80 Years looks great on you!

While the Regency itself was only nine years in length, from 1811-1820 (when the Prince of Wales ruled in place of his incapacitated father, King George III), the term Regency Era has come to mean a much broader time, covering the years 1795 (when King George III had his first “spell”) to as late as 1837 (the end of the reign of the last of King George’s children, King William IV).

Regardless of whether you’re a strict constructionist or a “there can never be too many years defining the Regency” person, the impact of the period is undeniable.  An era so rich with changes (some good, some bad) in architecture, industry, economics, society, the arts, culture, fashion, and politics was destined to be an object of fascination.  Regency romances bring this time period to life!

The Beau Monde, the chapter of the Romance Writers of America that specializes in the Regency, is celebrating this eightieth anniversary by hosting a year-long commemoration of the woman who started it all: Georgette Heyer.  She wrote the first such romance, Regency Buck, way back in 1935, and a new genre was born.

Please join us in our celebration, and stop by The Beau Monde blog to share your comments, discover new authors, and reminisce with other devotees of the genre.  I will update the links at the bottom of this post as each new article is published.

Regency Romance Turns 80 Posts:

The Beau Monde Celebrates the 80th Anniversary of Regency Romance

In Which We Inspect the Regency Social Ladder

In Which We Inspect the Regency Social Ladder

"The more things change, the more they stay the same." Viscount Horatio Nelson (1758-1805) Before the Battle of Trafalgar 21 October 1805, by George Lucy Good (1854). Also titled Nelson Meditating in the Cabin of the Victory.

“The more things change, the more they stay the same.” Viscount Horatio Nelson (1758-1805) Before the Battle of Trafalgar 21 October 1805, by George Lucy Good (1854). Also titled Nelson Meditating in the Cabin of the Victory.

“In marrying your nephew, I should not consider myself as quitting that sphere. He is a gentleman; I am a gentleman’s daughter; so far we are equal.” Pride and Prejudice, Chapter 56

The Regency period has always held a fascination for me even before I knew there was a little epoch of time niched into the overall Georgian period. I’m intrigued by the dramatic changes in the political, economic, and social conditions. It was a time when Napoleon either wreaked havoc by running rampant all over Europe, or inspired fear that such would happen should he escape his island prison. Politics grew increasingly global rather than merely continental. Art, literature, and music flourished with experimentation and newness. Industry morphed to encompass not just the laborers in the fields but also the new mechanization and automation of the cities.

Earlier this week I wrote about the mingling of the classes at the theatre (or most any public entertainment) during the Regency. At this “Common Garden,” if not for the contrast between their dress, it was hard to differentiate between the behaviors of the lower orders and their so-called betters. People will be people in the perceived anonymity of a crowd or entertainment.

“Do not make yourself uneasy, my dear cousin, about your apparel.  Lady Catherine is far from requiring that elegance of dress in us which becomes herself and her daughter.  I could advise you merely to put on whatever of your clothes is superior to the rest—there is no occasion for anything more.  Lady Catherine will not think the worse of you for being simply dressed.  She likes to have the distinction of rank preserved.” Pride and Prejudice, Chapter 29

The Quality Ladder, Isaac Cruikshank, 1793 (Lewis Walpole Library, Yale University).

The Quality Ladder, Isaac Cruikshank, 1793 (Lewis Walpole Library, Yale University).

So while the Regency period did see the rise of a larger middle class and cries for relief from the impoverished workers – among other social alterations – the dividing lines between and compositions of the classes remained relatively unchanged despite being in the midst of enlightenment and progress. There were plenty who tried to maneuver themselves up a level or two, and indeed a few more rungs were added to the ladder, but the overall structure of the classes in society remained static.

They were in fact very fine ladies; not deficient in good humour when they were pleased, nor in the power of making themselves agreeable when they chose it, but proud and conceited. They were rather handsome, had been educated in one of the first private seminaries in town, had a fortune of twenty thousand pounds, were in the habit of spending more than they ought, and of associating with people of rank, and were therefore in every respect entitled to think well of themselves, and meanly of others. They were of a respectable family in the north of England; a circumstance more deeply impressed on their memories than that their brother’s fortune and their own had been acquired by trade. Pride and Prejudice, Chapter 4

The folks at Hierarchy Structure have a helpful chart for those seeking the delineations between the levels of society in the Regency period. Rather than numbering the classes, I prefer to picture them as strata, or as Cruikshank drew near the end of the 18th Century, treads on a staircase.

Regency Period Social Hierarchy from

Regency Period Social Hierarchy from


WOW ~ Word of the Week ~ Common Garden

The Boxes, Thomas Rowlandson, 1809

The Boxes, Thomas Rowlandson, 1809

Ah, Society.

During the Regency, there were only a few places that all strata assembled at the same time. Thomas Rowlandson captured one such place – the theatre – with startling clarity. To his jaundiced eye, there is more commonality than difference between the behaviors of the classes.

You can click on the image at left to enlarge it. Rowlandson captioned his work with a quote from Hamlet, Act 1, Scene 3: Oh, woe is me, t’have seen what I have seen, see what I see!

When all the levels of Society get together, the only thing separating them is the level of their box in the theatre.

Common Garden (noun)

This district in London between Charing Cross, Drury Lane, and the West End. From land seized by Henry VIII after the dissolution of the monasteries. The area during the Regency was chiefly comprised of brothels, taverns, and coffee houses, and was skirted by theatres. Also Covent Garden or Convent Garden.


All definitions and/or examples taken from Online Etymological DictionaryCant: A Gentleman’s Guide, and/or 1811 Dictionary of the Vulgar Tongue.

A Baron for Becky by Jude Knight ~ The History Behind the Story

It’s my pleasure to welcome Jude Knight, author of Candle’s Christmas Chair and Farewell to Kindness. She’s also one of the fabulous Bluestocking Belles. I’ve asked Jude to give us some insight into the history behind her new release, A Baron for Becky. She sent along an informative peek into the role of women during the Regency, and has a gift for one lucky commenter!

A Rake's Progress, William Hogarth

A Rake’s Progress, William Hogarth

Sex and the City

Life in the real Regency wasn’t all Almack’s, balls, and house parties. Even in the households of the rich and titled, a woman’s comfort and happiness depended very much on the character of whatever man headed her household—father, brother, husband. And a highly structured society where women were expected to be chaste and modest, and men to have broad experience, meant an ever-present potential for disaster.

In the lesser ranks of society, a woman might be valued for her skills, her personality, her knowledge, or whatever underpinned the economic contribution she could make to her family. A slip from chastity could be forgiven. Even a child out of wedlock was not necessarily an irretrievable disaster. An extra pair of hands was, after all, an extra pair of hands.

For ladies of the gentry, any smudge on the character threatened the wellbeing of the family. Ladies were decorative rather than useful; educated for little beyond amusing themselves and running a household. Their economic value lay in the family connections created through their marriage, in the children, or more particularly the sons, they would bring into the world.

English landowners practiced primogeniture, a form of inheritance designed to keep an estate unified. Primogeniture meant that lands, titles, and rights were passed intact to the deceased lord’s eldest son. If the right to rule will be passed from father to son, then a family has a great deal invested in making sure that a wife sleeps with no one but, and certainly no one before, her husband. Virginity became a necessary precondition for a good marriage.

Assuring a potential husband of the virginity of a particular maiden meant—as we who read historical romances set in those times know—setting all kinds of restrictions around young ladies. It wasn’t enough to be a virgin; a marriageable girl of gentry class must never be in circumstances that allowed gossips to speculate about what she might, or might not, have done. Reputation was everything. The loss of reputation was the end of a girl’s (and her families) hope of a ‘good’ marriage.

Our romances offer many paths to those who fall from grace. Her family might rally round to prove our heroine’s innocence. An angry father or brother might force a marriage which becomes a love affair, or the other party to the offence might volunteer. Exile to the country might lead to her true virtue being discovered by a neighbour, or she might be pursued by her seducer who has finally realised that he truly loves her.

In some books, the heroine becomes one of the tens of thousands of women earning her living from the sex trade in Georgian London. Generally a mistress of a man or a succession of men. More rarely, a prostitute in a brothel or in the streets.

That’s the premise for my character, Becky. In the novel, we meet her nine or ten years after her father threw her out. Just think of it. A gently-born girl, raised with few skills beyond flower arranging and embroidery, always treated with courtesy and respect, taught nothing about her own sexuality, suddenly cast into the streets to make her own way. What must that have been like?

In historical romance, our heroines survive the horror and the abuse (or, in some books, manage to bypass it all together) to eventually find the mandatory happy-ever-after. In real life, few were so fortunate. An early death was more likely: from sexually transmitted diseases, complications of pregnancy or abortion, drink and drugs taken to dull the senses, or all of these together.

A Baron for Becky has a happy ending, though not (I hope) an entirely predictable one. In the end, I found myself writing about marriage rather than prostitution. Becky has had a hard life, and it has left scars. Her happy ending does not come easily. But then, that’s life.

About the Book ballerina script

She was a fallen woman when she met them. How can they help her fall on her feet?

Becky is the envy of the courtesans of the demi-monde – the indulged mistress of the wealthy and charismatic Marquis of Aldridge. But she dreams of a normal life; one in which her daughter can have a future that does not depend on beauty, sex, and the whims of a man.

Finding herself with child, she hesitates to tell Aldridge. Will he cast her off, send her away, or keep her and condemn another child to this uncertain shadow world?

The devil-may-care face Hugh shows to the world hides a desperate sorrow; a sorrow he tries to drown with drink and riotous living. His years at war haunt him, but even more, he doesn’t want to think about the illness that robbed him of the ability to father a son. When he dies, his barony will die with him. His title will fall into abeyance, and his estate will be scooped up by the Crown.

When Aldridge surprises them both with a daring proposition, they do not expect love to be part of the bargain.

A Baron for Becky is rated R for implied sexual content, 2 out of 5 flames.

BfB cover final small


Aldridge was early. She crossed to the sideboard where she kept his favourite brandy, and was pouring him a glass by the time she heard his steps in the hall. Two sets of steps? Who did Aldridge have with him?

The other man was as tall as Aldridge, but dark to his fair. He must once have been stunningly handsome, and one side of his face was still carved by a master; subtle curves and strong planes combining in a harmonious whole that spoke of strength and, in the almost invisible network of lines at the corners of his eyes, suffering.

On the other side, dozens of scars pitted and ridged the skin, as if it had been torn and chewed by an animal; an animal with jaws of flame by the tell-tale burn puckers. Thankfully, whatever it was had spared his eye, which, she suddenly realised, was glaring at her.

“Well,” he demanded, and she was shaken anew by his voice, rich and mellow. She had been staring. How rude. But for some reason, she didn’t apologise as she should, but instead blurted, “I was just feeling glad that what injured you spared your eye.”

He looked startled, and suddenly a lot friendlier. “Thank you. I am glad too.”

That voice! That voice! He could read a linen inventory and she would listen for hours.

“An unusual approach to an introduction,” Aldridge observed. Becky collected herself and smiled at her protector. “No one is more important than the man who keeps you,” a mentor had once told her. “When he is present, you notice no one else except as it reflects well on him.”

And Becky had never before had her attention so focused on a guest that she had been unaware of presenting her cheek to Aldridge for his kiss, giving him the expected squeal in return for his squeeze, and returning the kiss.

“An introduction would be polite, Aldridge,” she said.

“My dear, you have heard me speak of my friend, Baron Overton.”

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About the Author ballerina script




Jude Knight writes strong determined heroines, heroes who can appreciate a clever capable woman, villains you’ll love to loathe, and all with a leavening of humour.

Jude KnightJude Knight is the pen name of Judy Knighton. After a career in commercial writing, editing, and publishing, Jude is returning to her first love, fiction. Her novella, Candle’s Christmas Chair, was released in December 2014, and is in the top ten on several Amazon bestseller lists in the US and UK. Her first novel Farewell to Kindness, was released on 1 April, and is first in a series: The Golden Redepennings.

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The Giveaway ballerina script




Jude will give an ARC copy of A Baron for Becky to a commenter chosen at random from those who comment by 25 July. Don’t forget to leave your contact information when you comment below! ↓↓↓