It’s Friday and of course, time for an author guest post. Today I bring you Giselle Marks, whom I met in Twitter. She’s a great person to follow in Twitter (try it and you’ll see) and reading about her novels and projects I could not resist and asked her to come and visit my blog. She’s been kind enough not only to tell us a bit about herself, but also to write an article about regency rakes that is pure joy. Here I leave you with the lady herself, Giselle Marks!
Giselle Marks has been writing for many years. She has written two Regency Romances and a Fantasy/ Sci-fi series with erotic content. Her first published novel, The Fencing Master’s Daughter was launched by Front Porch Romance in September 2013. Her second Regency Romance, The Marquis’s Mistake was released by them in December 2013. Her Fantasy series, The Zeninan Saga is currently being edited by Nevermore Press and should start appearing in the near future. They hope to release the first in the saga, Princess of Zenina in February to March 2014. Giselle is currently working on an erotic fantasy novella called Lucy, which she hopes will be available in next year and a number of other projects.
Are Regency Rakes Sexy?
By Giselle Marks
Rakes are often mentioned in Regency Romances, but controversies surround them as female readers have mixed views about whether they are sexy, romantic or fairly disgusting. For those of you who believe a rake is only a gardening implement, a rake is also a man who is promiscuous. In the Regency Period young women were required to be virgins when they married, but the men were expected to have sown their wild oats before settling down to marriage.
This inequality existed where experienced men sought to marry innocent women. But in the period, women who were sexually active outside of marriage were shunned by society. Although women today may be more sexually free, a double standard still exists in society’s expectations of how the sexes should behave. There are far more words that suggest a woman is promiscuous in a negative way (e.g. tart, slut, hussy, slattern, jade, strumpet, whore, harlot,) and the male equivalent words (stud, player, gigolo, Casanova, Lothario, rake) which have a far more positive ring to them. But the question remains whether there is anything attractive about men who have acquired such sexual experience in loveless relationships?
If you try for accuracy as a historical romance writer, then you cannot throw an inexperienced man and virgin together and expect their untrained fumblings to produce mind blowing sexual encounters. So how heroes became sexually experienced is important to the story. How they behaved to previous sexual partners sways our modern romance readership’s assessment of men as romantic heroes. Most women conjecture why any girl would risk taking on a man who might regress to behaving in a similar manner.
Many Regency romance writers describe characters as a rake but then do not mention their earlier debaucheries further. The reader is left to imagine their sexual history and to apply their own standards to it. But whether any “Rake” is an attractive or sexy hero, how did he acquire his sexual experience? Did he keep mistresses of a lower class whom he treated relatively well and paid off generously when tiring of them or did he seduce virtuous serving girls? Were his partners always willing to succumb to his manifold charms or were they beguiled by lying promises or forced by threats or physical strength.
Did this rake prey on young widows or seduce other men’s wives? It takes exceptional circumstances to admire a man who had married women as lovers. Most modern readers find it difficult to condone adultery in heroes unless they were deeply in love with the women concerned. I despise men who use defenceless women or are sexual predators. Even if the hero’s behaviour was thought unobjectionable by his peers, how do today’s women evaluate his treatment of women?
Assuming the hero’s previous partners were willing or professional, did he take financial responsibility for any by-blows produced during his sexual education? Were his bastards well cared for? And did he consider the sexual satisfaction of the women involved? Would he boast of his conquests or defend the ladies’ concerned reputations? Questions like these might make the man more or less appealing as a hero. Other qualities than a handsome face and well maintained muscular lithe body are necessary for a sexily attractive Regency hero.
Did he frequent brothels where he would have been at great risk of acquiring sexually transmitted diseases? Syphilis was virulent in the period and was untreatable. Various weird ineffective cures were tried including the erroneous belief that sex with a virgin would cure it. That resulted in many infected young whores who were discarded as soon as symptoms became obvious. Regency romances of course, rarely mention the risks of something as unromantic as syphilis. Did he use a condom? They had been invented. Giacomo Casanova did, but he still caught and died of syphilis. If the rake escaped the dangers of infection then his regular use of paid prostitutes still lessens his appeal.
The term rake also implies other licentious behaviour including drunkenness, injudicious gambling, over-spending and recklessness. Most writers of Regency romances skate over such behaviour. It is difficult to look at men in the period without applying the political correctness of today’s society. Most of today’s women find the idea of a man paying for sex repugnant and despise double standards towards women.
Yet my favourite writer of Regency Romances Georgette Heyer included several rakes as heroes. Jasper Damerel, (in Venetia) we are told, sowed his wild oats across Europe and brought back a number of London courtesans to his family seat for what was locally believed an orgy. His career as a rake began when he eloped with a young woman of birth but was then discovered she was not a virgin. She deserted him for a wealthier lover. Today some Regency purists consider his behaviour when he kissed the heroine without seeking her permission as sexual harassment even though she was trespassing on his land. Yet by showing his genuine interest in Venetia and how he is prepared to sacrifice his own happiness for her, Georgette succeeds in making his past life seem unimportant to both readers and the heroine. Despite the fact that he is not described as handsome, he is undoubtedly a sexy hero.
In my own published novels, my first hero Edward Charrington’s sexual history is not mentioned (in the Fencing Master’s Daughter) and he has not been seen as rakish in any way. However it would be naïve to assume he was inexperienced as he had been a career soldier in the Napoleonic wars. However my second hero, the far too handsome Sebastian Vernon (in the Marquis’s Mistake) is accused of having been a rake so his sexual back history is important to the story. His realisation that despite treating his women well for the moirés of the period that he had used them without loving them is critical to his character. It has been suggested his bride Alicia is too suspicious of him and should have been won over quickly by his charm and good looks. I instead think that her determination to be sure her marriage to a reformed rake would be successful, shows a great deal of common sense on her part.
The jury is still out as to whether readers will continue to find Regency rakes romantic and sexy but it is important to consider modern views on sexual behaviour when writing a rakish character. I think more rakes will be considered like Jane Austen’s Wickham (Pride and Prejudice) as villains who used women with little consideration except for their own pleasure. It is a dichotomy which I find salutary as I write my third Regency Romance, “A Compromised Rake.”
My books can be bought from Front Porch Romance, Amazon, Smashwords and Barnes & Noble.
Articles available on word-press:-
Thanks to Giselle for being such a great guest, thanks to you all for reading, and remember if you’ve enjoyed it, hit like, comment, share, and of course CLICK!