From Michelle: A few years ago, I asked fave-of-readers-and-writers Loretta Chase why chicks dig Regencies and the peerage so much. I was certain it'd have to do w/ Americans' senses of inferiority to British class system, even tho' we spanked 'em back in the 18th C. Nope. Says Ms Chase: It's all about the breeches. Today, as Loretta takes a break from her wicked-busy schedule to visit, please offer her your warmest, "It's kinda hawt when they keep their Hessians on" Bella buongiorno...
From Loretta: Ciao, Bellas. I’m so happy to be back among you again.
Here’s my story:
In April, my good friend, historical fiction author Susan Holloway Scott and I spent a few days time-traveling in Colonial Williamsburg. One night we attended an 18th Century dance performance. A lone flute and several couples performing what looked like very calm square dancing. Lady Gaga it’s not. But Susan & I sat entranced by the candlelit room, the sound of dancing footsteps, the swish of silk, the sensual bounce of hooped petticoats, and . . . men’s legs.
Don’t know about you but I grew up thinking of our Founding Fathers as old men in wigs and weird clothes. I didn’t think deeply about what a young man might look like, up close and personal, in 18th C clothes, until I needed to do a court presentation scene for "Don’t Tempt Me." My book’s setting is the early 19th C, when hooped petticoats are horribly out of date (Grandma’s clothes!), but 18th C style is what you wear to court, like it or not.
My heroine Zoe, who’s lived in another culture, recognizes, as I did, the seductive power of the hoop. I also knew, intellectually, that a girl had to feel a charge when she saw a stunning man like the Duke of Marchmont in snug breeches and white stockings that showcased his long, muscled legs. Still, I had no idea what a tingly charge it could be until I experienced it firsthand.
So back to the dance. One interpreter, demonstrating the art of bowing, explained that the man begins by putting one leg forward--“his good leg”--IOW, the handsomer of his lower limbs. (Yes, that’s where “put your best foot forward” originated).
Suddenly, I became extremely conscious of the masculine leg in its elegant white stocking and . . . ooh, the images my mind conjured.
Madam, I show you my very handsome leg. Sir, I make alluring eyes over my fan, and sink into a curtsey, layers of hoops and petticoats and silk and satin, rustling, like whispers in the dark.
I had no trouble understanding why this was so sexy once upon a time, because it still is. Later in the trip I saw a couple of 18th C-dressed men on horseback. I nearly swooned. I swear I could see the testosterone shimmering in the air.
I’d entered another world, where men in velvet and satin and silk and lace were incredibly virile, where a bow and a curtsey before dancing could seem like a delicious invitation. Dangerous Liaisons, indeed. I’ll never look at white stockings the same way again.
What say you, Bellas? Is it delicious to you? Do you think some settings--and the attire that goes with them--are just more romantic than others? When you’re choosing what to read, what time and setting most appeal to you and why do you think that is?
***Encore! "Don't Tempt Me" is featured here at "Unabashedly Bookish!"
Encore due! Check out Loretta's "Lord of Scoundrels" reissue GuestBlog here.