The ‘Gift’ of Regency Romance – A guest blog post from Sophia Holloway
To celebrate the publication of Isabelle this week, we asked Sophia Holloway to reflect on the spirit of Christmas in her novels. Not only does Sophia vividly represent the spirit of the festive period, but her regency romances are intrinsically linked to the act of giving associated with Christmas celebrations.
Isabelle is the third of my classic Regency romances to be published by Allison & Busby, and is, like Kingscastle, predominantly a winter one, with Christmas and a snowy January central to the first half of the book. It gave me the opportunity to explore a different environment, and the different emphasis of Christmas before the reinvention that came with the Victorian era, and Christmas cards, Christmas trees and the gradual commercialisation of Christmas.
In the Regency period, Christmas was still the blend of Christian celebration mixed with age old traditions that went back to pagan Yule, and saw houses decorated with greenery on Christmas Eve, the Christmas goose for those that could afford it, and the giving of a gift to loved ones and, quite often, some largesse to members of the household. Attending the Christmas services was an intrinsic part of the festivities, not an optional extra. It may seem a bit austere, but then it is a wonderful contrast to the consumerism of the twenty-first century Christmas.
Isabelle is also a ‘gift’, because all my Regencies have been written primarily for my daughter. When she was in her late teens, I was already writing the Bradecote and Catchpoll twelfth century murder mysteries, though they had not been taken up by a publisher at that point. My daughter had worked through all my well-thumbed copies of Georgette Heyer’s Regency romances over a couple of months and suggested that since I loved the Heyers and wrote books, I could write one for her for Christmas. It was a pleasure to write in a different style and genre, and for several years I sent the latest offering to her iPad at Christmas, or even her birthday. Seeing them published seemed a pipe dream, so they are very personal and a gift of that most precious thing, time. This ‘tradition’ was disrupted when the Bradecote and Catchpoll books began to reach bookshelves, since there were copy edits, proofs and all the processes of publishing, as well as writing more in the series, which put the Regencies on the back burner, and in fact I have one three quarters written that was due for Christmas 2018 and is still awaiting completion, though I have promised to try and do so soon.
Isabelle is also the first book I wrote after my father died, and for nearly four months afterwards my mind was a creative blank. It was like an empty room with whitewashed walls. When I tentatively began to write again it felt natural to have Isabelle, at the beginning of the book, in the same stage of grieving, and writing about it was quite cathartic. So, this one book is not only dedicated to KMLB, my daughter, but KAH, my father, who introduced me to Heyer’s novels when I was about twelve, and who nurtured my love of books.