Tag Archive | Joan Smith

Lydia M. Sheridan: Wodehouse and Benson, Unsung Masters of Regency Style

Wodehouse and Benson, Unsung Masters of Regency Style

As much as I adore Jane Austen, she is not necessarily my favorite authoress of traditional, or classic, Regency romances.  I think this largely stems from one too many male profs having no idea, firstly, that there were any other female writers worth a second glance (they were wrong, of course), and secondly, heaven forbid they should be forced to consider tales of love and romance which ended in happily-ever-afters as Great and Powerful Litrachaw of the ages.  Jane, therefore, became a great contemporary writer of biting satire and witty social commentary.  No doubt true, but we all know she was really writing about the trials and tribulations of young women finding love.  The satire and commentary were just super-fun extras.  (N.B.  These profs were the same ones who insisted that the Wonderful Wizard of Oz was about the social upheaval and financial catastrophe of the early 20th century, insisting that the Wicked Witch of the West’s silver shoes were a parody of the gold and silver monetary standard of the time.  [insert eyeroll here] Every woman on the face of the earth, of course, knows that Baum’s stories were about the strength and beauty of home, family, and friendship.  Oh, and shoes!  There’s a reason MGM changed the silver to ruby.  No wonder I only managed a C in that class.  Yeesh.)

If I had to choose my favorite Regency authors, they would be Georgette Heyer (all hail), Joan Smith (Aunt Sophie’s Diamonds never fails to make me snort), P.G. Wodehouse, and E.F. Benson.  The first two authors are obvious:  Heyer is the godmother of us all.  Her books are hysterically funny (The Talisman Ring), blueprints on what traditional Regency plots should be (Frederica), and, unlike Austen, concocted the amazing, colorful language of the Regency genre.  I might be wrong, but I can’t think of a single instance in which Jane used slang or thieves’ cant in her works. I’m sure Mr. Darcy was bit by the barn mouse on occasion during his time at university, and Captain Wentworth certainly did the blanket hornpipe before meeting Marianne, but as we are not privy to those moments, we are not treated to the richness and variety of the vulgar tongue.

Heyer, on the other hand, gloried in it.  Her heroines, of course, are never caught out in such appalling lapses of “bloody” this or “bugger” that.  Had they done so, they would have been instantly ostracized by society and considered no better than they should be.  Subsequently, they are invariably limited to an occasional “fiddle.”  But no such restrictions are laid upon the men in her books.  From Jimmy Yarde, the petty thief in The Corinthian, to virtually any of the teenage boys in her books who are anxious to be all the crack, the gentlemen are allowed the use of the most colorful slang terms of the time.  Heyer incorporated the 1811 Dictionary of the Vulgar Tongue so skillfully into her books that her style and word choices have become the expectation of readers of classic Regencies.

Pelham Granville Wodehouse, of course, was by no stretch of the imagination a Regency writer.  However, he managed to create a world which never truly existed, but which is so charming, that we have come to think of whenever we think of England.  In his eternally carefree, upper-crust world of aristocrats and devoted servants, Wodehouse fashioned what we have come to regard as the classic English society.  In this world, gentlemen are chaps, valets rally around, and aunts are appalling.  His stories have that light, frothy touch of a classic Regency, in which a world which never existed has come to be considered the truest of British society, one which we admire and want desperately to live in, or at least visit.

E.F. Benson, perhaps the least known of the lot, is the author of the delightful Lucia series.  In these six books, Benson has also created a world which has become more real than reality.  While not the pinnacle of a brilliant, delightfully silly society, Lucia, Georgie, Miss Mapp, et al, are upper-crust enough to consider anything other than a life of leisure an appalling misfortune.  Dahlia, poor enough to barely afford a maid, is the only one who needs money badly enough that she takes a job.  She opens a tea shop, as genteel an occupation as one might find, and one which affords her the leisure to spend large amounts of time drinking tea and playing cards.  The fascinating part of Benson’s creation is that we find out what people actually do all day when they don’t have jobs, don’t have to do housework, and who live in, if not Society, certainly on its fringes.  They shop, gossip, play bridge, gossip, golf, gossip, play piano, gossip, and engage in metaphorically bloody battles of social one-upmanship.  And all of this is done, once again, with the deftest of light touches.

As a reader, I go back time and again to these authors and revel in their fizzy, frothy worlds.  As a writer, I try to absorb and reproduce their light, bubbly cadence and phrasing which bring to life the worlds they created, and which bring us so much vicarious pleasure.  When your stock of Regencies runs low, do give them a try.

Available Books

Ventre a Terre

coverWhen the schemes of Miss Rosamund Hilliard are discovered, she must outwit her two suitors in order to safeguard her reputation — and stay out of Newgate Prison.

Ventre a Terre is a humorous, traditional Regency short story of approximately 16,000 words, or forty-one pages.

The Counterfeit Cavalier, Volumes 1-4

cover_counterfeitUtter mayhem breaks out when the Grey Cavalier once more robs and plunders near the village of Oaksley. The villagers could not be more delighted, since tourists and their money are now pouring in, including the mysterious Mr. Dalrymple. Unfortunately, this good news for the village is bad news for the Lady Katherine Thoreau, especially when the unthinkable happens. She and Mr. Dalrymple must work together to save an innocent from the gallows, and ensure their own future in the midst of highwaymen, counterfeiters, dragoons, and performing pigs.

Q & A with Lydia M. Sheridan

Q:  Why did you want to write?

A:  When I was a kid, I really wanted to be Judy Garland and go to Oz.  (My mother swore up, down, and sideways that the movie was all true and I believed her until, well, along about last year).  I still intend to be a big band singer or a concert pianist, but until those miracles happen, I write.

Q:  Why is Lord Philip such a goober?

A:  Poor Philip! [laughter]  He’s not a goober!  He’s just an extremely young man who is smart, but very bored, and subsequently gambles, boozes, and tries very hard to wench, except that he has no luck whatsoever with women.  He first appears in Ventre a Terre (a story I’m embarrassed to say begins with vomit and ends with horse manure) and continues his gooberness in The Companion.

Q:  Will he ever find love?

A:  Yes, I promise!  On January 18th, to be precise.  Philip grows up and falls in love for the last time (I hope, but you never know with that man) in School for Scandal.

Q:  Do you have a website?

A:  Er – probably I should do that, except Hostgator and I have developed a deep and meaningful loathing of one another.

Q:  How can folks get a hold of you if they have a comment or question?

A:  I’m on Facebook, or they can contact me at lydiam.sheridan@yahoo.com.

Q:  What’s next on the agenda for Lydia?  Assuming the concert pianist thing doesn’t work out.

A:  Hey!  [more laughter]  Next up is a six-book series about six sisters and a castle, unless I change that to five sisters, because that’s just way too many s-es.  I refuse to give up on the castle, however. That stays!

Q:  Anything else you’d like us to know?

A:  The Counterfeit Cavalier, a book which I literally wrote twenty-five years ago and had to piece together from three different computers and bits of dog-eared papers all over the place, is on sale at Amazon through January 6th.

Q:  Thanks for being with us today, Lydia.

A:  My pleasure.  Thank you for having me!

About the Author

author photoLydia M. Sheridan has yet to fulfill her childhood dreams of becoming a gold medal-winning figure skater, wicked-famous opera singer, or archaeologist, but she has written a couple of books, and that’s pretty cool, too. Her hobbies include losing at Scrabble, scarfing Milk Duds, and wearing extremely bright lipstick.



Spotlight on Regency Author Joan Smith + Giveaway

I’ve been making my way through two shelves of Joan Smith books for quite some time (guaranteed fun reads), and the other day when I found one that I felt was truly outstanding, it occurred to me that it was a shame that few young people—who may not have been born in the 70’s, 80’s, and 90’s when Joan Smith was producing her delightful Regencies—have had the opportunity to read her work. (Note: Joan also wrote as Jennie Gallant; don’t overlook those titles when you come across them.)

Oh, you can find them in used bookstores, and nearly 70 of them can be found in the Kindle store for $3.99, not to mention on the Regency Reads web site for $5 a pop, but let’s face it, authors’ backlists don’t get the sort of promotion the newer titles do, and most younger people will probably never know what they missed.

So I decided to do my part in getting the word out. What sort of reader would appreciate Joan’s Regencies? Anyone who enjoys

  • traditional, “sweet” Regencies. Her stories will never be outdated.
  • spirited heroes and heroines with a sense of humor
  • witty dialogue à la Georgette Heyer without the superfluous narrative found in other books
  • three-dimensional, memorable secondary characters
  • well-crafted plots and believable scenarios
  • lively romps through Regency society in a variety of English locales

The Virgin and the Unicorn

the virgin and the unicornThis is the book that inspired me to write this post. I wrote this review for Amazon:

Miranda has known the Herscham family all her life; thus, she knows better than to set her cap for Lord Rotham, the oldest son, who has proven to be a ramshackle young man of the worst sort–not to mention the one who had played fast and loose with her older sister’s affections all those years ago. Miranda has been sent to stay with the Herschams, ostensibly because of her younger sister’s bout with the measles, but Miranda knows her parents are hoping she will make a match of it with Pavel, the younger Herscham son. It seems hopeless, though, since Pavel is only eighteen–the same as Miranda–and they’ve always been more like siblings.

Lord Rotham unexpectedly returns from his post at the Vienna Congress, and although he has a serious problem on his hands, he finds himself inexplicably drawn to Miranda, who proves to be immune from his practiced charm. It gives him pause to realize how his antics of the past have tainted him in Miranda’s eyes, and this latest escapade of his–having stolen a valuable French tapestry from a cathedral on a lark–is not showing his character in any good light either. Still, there’s no keeping secrets in that household, especially after the tapestry is stolen and the servant left guarding it seriously wounded. Since this matter is likely to cause an international incident, somehow they have got to figure out who stole it and get it back again.

Rotham knows what he wants almost from the first, and even his affectionate parents see it before Miranda does. But how can she take this rogue seriously when he was the cause of her sister Trudie’s anguish in the past? No doubt he had cut quite a swathe through the great ladies at the Vienna Congress before returning home. And hadn’t she seen the looks he’d exchanged with the beautiful comtesse who was also lodging with the Hershams? No, Miranda is far too sensible to have her head turned by a gentleman with HIS track record.

And yet…is Miranda truly so cautious and staid herself? Perhaps the truth is that she’s been waiting for an opportunity to have an adventure herself…and who better but an experienced rogue–one who is feeling seriously remorseful of his misspent youth–to accompany her?

I love the characters, the close family relationships, the witty repartee, especially Pavel’s remark about the lump on Rotham’s forehead giving him the look of a unicorn, a reference to the famous tapestry of “The Virgin and the Unicorn”. (No need to worry; it was a minor injury that soon faded.) The implication being, of course, that Miranda was the virgin who had tamed the unicorn without really trying to; he had voluntarily laid his head in her lap in a gesture of eternal surrender.

Joan Smith is a talented author; it is to be hoped that her books will be released in ebook format for the enjoyment of newer readers, who do not often get the chance to read such delightful Regencies these days.

Who is Joan Smith and What’s She Up To These Days?

This is the bio you will find at the end of most of Joan Smith’s books and on web sites. (It’s dated, as Joan hasn’t published anything since 1998, as far as I can tell.)

Joan Smith is a graduate of Queen’s University in Kingston, Ontario, and the Ontario College of Education. She has taught French and English in high school and English in college. When she began writing, her interest in Jane Austen and Lord Byron led to her first choice of genre, the Regency, which she especially liked for its wit and humor. She is the author of over a hundred books, including Regencies, many with a background of mystery, for Fawcett and Walker, contemporary mysteries for Berkley, historical mysteries for Fawcett and St. Martin’s, romances for Silhouette, along with a few historicals and gothics. She has had books in the Doubleday Book Club and the Literary Guild, been on Walden’s Bestseller list, had two Regencies selected for the Romantic Times ten best ever Regencies, and had one book condensed in a magazine. Her favorite travel destination is England, where she researches her books. Her hobbies are gardening, painting, sculpture and reading. She is married and has three children. A prolific writer, she is currently working on Regencies and various mysteries at her home in Georgetown, Ontario.

Update from Joan as of April 22, 2013:

The bio you have pretty well covers it. Still following the same interests, along with a keen interest in healthy cooking. I’m a widow now, enjoying time with the growing family of grandkids and great grandkids.

Have you read any of Joan’s books and if so, what do you like best about them?

Joan Smith Giveaway

In case you haven’t had the pleasure of reading any of Joan’s books lately, I’m offering one lucky commenter the following six books from my Joan Smith collection. Do make sure you leave your email address in the comment so I can contact you if you happen to be the lucky winner.

The Barefoot Baroness (1992)

After one disastrous Season, Laura Harwood had no designs for snagging a husband. She hardly felt qualified to accompany her cousin, Olivia, Baroness Pilmore, to London for her debut.

However, Olivia’s fears of social failure proved unfounded—although meeting the Season’s social lion, Lord Hyatt, whose artistic talent was rivaled only by his masculine perfection, was a bit troubling.

His interest in painting Olivia’s portrait put Laura on her guard. Was it Olivia’s aesthetic countenance or her fortune that Hyatt found so appealing? Moreover, Laura found Hyatt’s attention to herself most disturbing. Alas, she knew it was simply a matter of time until he saw her for the provincial miss that she was.

The Royal Scamp (1989)

She had her pick of dashing gentlemen, but was one among them a common thief?

Naturally, eyebrows rose when Esther Lowden, a lady of quality, turned her family estate into a country inn. But business had never been better, thanks to the notorious highwayman whose midnight escapades encouraged fearful travelers to stay the evening.

Dabbed the “Royal Scamp,” he was rumored to be quite the gentleman, bestowing kisses on his more comely victims. Indeed, Esther suspected, he might even be one of the dashing new arrivals at Lowden Arms.

Well, no proper businesswoman would harbor a criminal. But which gentleman wore the mask of a highwayman…and which wore the face of love?

Reprise (1982)

No one ever dreamed that Prudence Mallow, who wrote novels and was not London’s most ravishing beauty, would ever capture the heart of the dashing Lord Dammler. The fact that he wrote poetry was, of course, a bond with his beloved. But he cherished her most for her beauty of spirit and her lively intelligence.

Alas, one day Prue unexpectedly visits her fiancé at his home only to discover his former mistress prancing about in appallingly few clothes. Naturally this leads her to believe that Dammler has renewed his erstwhile erotic relationship.

And so Prue decides to get even—in a very novel manner.

Valerie (1981)

Valerie was a lioness!

Tall, sandy-haired, with golden feline eyes. What better model could her eccentric aunt find for the heroine of her latest anonymous romance novel?

But the plot of life proved far richer than fiction. For when Valerie arrived at her aunt’s country estate, she suddenly found herself in the midst of high society séances and chicanery…where secret passages hid stolen jewels, where money changed hands as fast as Val changed gowns. And where distant French cousins and dashingly attractive, if poor, scholars, turned out to be as intangible as ghosts, as flimsy as certain “famous” fortunes, and as illusive and longed-for as love.

Tea & Scandal (1996)

There was much ado about something at Wildercliffe!

Exceedingly wealthy Lord Pargeter had married his housekeeper…then expired, leaving the woman an heiress. There was something havey-cavey about the whole business, especially when the woman’s niece, Jane Lonsdale, arrived unexpectedly from her teaching position at Miss Prism’s Academy.

Across the lake, neighbors at Swann Hall were most interested. Visiting acquaintance Lord Fenwick decided to investigate…and was very intrigued by Jane, whose past hinted deliciously of scandal and whose lovely face and lively spirit fascinated him even more.

As devilishly attractive as she found Lord Fenwick, Jane kept frantically busy trying to keep her past a secret and was not gullible enough to succumb to the charms of a man too curious about her for his intentions to be nobel!

Bath Scandal (1991)

How much mischief could anyone get into in Bath?

At the insistence of his high-minded fiancéer, Lord Southam had dispatched his unruly tomboy of a sister, Gillie, to an acquaintance in Bath. Mrs. Beatrice Searle, an elegant widow, could surely smooth the girl’s rough edges.

But when rumors of Gillie running free with a reckless gambler reached Southam, he wondered if Mrs. Searle was still the unexeptionable lady he knew years ago. Determined to see how matters stood, Southam was unprepared for the charming, beautiful, and somewhat fast-living Beatrice Searl. And with his wild oat-sowing days about to end, how could he ignore the charms of a merry widow?


Sources of Joan’s Books

The Belgrave House (her non-Regency titles)

Regency Reads (Regency and Georgian titles)


Joan Smith: The Canadian Georgette Heyer

Joan Smith on Goodreads

Jennie Gallant on Goodreads

Joan Smith on Shelfari

Romance Wiki (Joan’s Silhouette titles)

Many thanks to Peggy, Carola Dunn, and others from the Regency Yahoo Forum and the Mary Balogh Fan Forum for the great leads they passed on, and to Neff Rotter of Belgrave House for contacting Joan and getting a brief update on her for this post.

BTW, Joan: I was a French/English teacher also for a lot of years!