Step back in time with Anna Campbell

It’s 1827.

The Greeks and the Turks are locked in bloody warfare. Eventually, the Brits, the French and the Russians will force the Turks into surrender. It’s the last time a naval battle will be fought under sail alone.  There’s plenty of action for the youngest sons of noble houses looking to make their way in the world!

Joseph Lister, the surgeon credited with the invention of antiseptics, is born.

The Theatre Royal opens in Sydney and Australia calls itself cultured. Ninety women prisoners are sent to the fledgling penal colony of Australia.

It’s also the year of the Shrigely Trial in England. Ellen Turner, an innocent fifteen-year-old heiress, is abducted by an ambitious politician who’s only after her money.   (I’d always assumed there was much poetic licence in Regency Romances, but after reading the Shrigley case I’m not so sure… )

Today we’re going to find out what was it like for women living in England in 1827.

Anna CampbellMy guest today is award winning Regency writer, Anna Campbell, whose seductive luscious stories are set in this era.

Anna welcome to the blog.

Hi Helene! Thank you so much for having me as your guest today. I have to say I found your introduction completely fascinating. Would you believe I didn’t know about Ellen Turner – what a horrible story. But as you say, it makes a lot of the events in Regency novels seem considerably less far-fetched. Another really interesting case (although later) is the Tichborne Case which Marcus Clarke used in For the Term of His Natural Life. Check it out – fascinating Martin Guerre-ish/Sommersby stuff and it’s all TRUE!

Wow, that was one over-confident imposter in the Tichborne Case.

Midnight’s Wild Passion is set in 1827. Your heroine, Antonia, is 27 years old, and a companion to Cassandra.  Whatexactly is the role of a companion? Is it part governess, teacher, maid? What’s her primary task?

Oh, what a great question. Actually companions were complete dogsbodies so I suspect in practical terms, their role was whatever their mistresses told them it was. In Antonia’s case, she’s there to ensure that Cassandra’s reputation remains unsullied, so she’s mainly a chaperone. Cassandra’s father is away a lot so back home in Somerset, Antonia is an older, responsible adult living in the house in loco parentis. In London, her role is to ensure Cassie doesn’t get into any scrapes with disreputable men (or reputable men for that matter – scrapes could be death to a girl’s hopes of a good marriage) like the wicked Marquess of Ranelaw. Companions were usually gentlewomen fallen on hard times – impecunious ladies of good birth or clergymen’s daughters or poor relations. It must have been a very lonely role, especially if your employers weren’t congenial. You were stuck halfway between the servants and the family and couldn’t really interact with either as an equal.

That doesn’t sound like fun at all… The class divide in England was still very real. How could women move between the classes?  Was it easier for them than men?

Actually I suspect like most things in the Regency, it was easier for men. Aristocratic men would fraternize with men from the lower orders either out of necessity (they were tenants or employees) or curiosity or because they were pursuing vice. It was reasonably easy for a woman to move DOWNWARDS in society – if her chastity was compromised or even questioned, a woman quickly lost any status. Of course, huge amounts of money could smooth a woman’s way! Or a powerful man who supported her.

Hmm, money still talks… What, if any, opportunities were there for women? Education? The Arts? I’m thinking Jane Austen and later the Bronte sisters?

Jane Austen earning money from her writing was, I think, a bit of a guilty secret in the family. If you look at her tombstone, her brother comments on her saintly qualities and not a word about her being one of the world’s greatest novelists. Rather sad, I think. Women could make a living through writing (although it was difficult and their work generally wasn’t taken seriously – what’s new about that?).  Women could find employment as companions and governesses if they had a modicum of polish and education. There are a couple of women artists who made a name for themselves, but they were hampered in their training because they were forbidden to attend life classes. Working for a living destroyed your status if you were an upper-class woman. Or I should say, a PAID living. Of course, many women were estate managers or assistants to their husbands or political hostesses. It’s all work, but none of it involved a wage. There are many cases of middle-class women running businesses (they were almost always widows) very successfully. For example, in the late 18th century, Hester Bateman ran a very successful silversmith business  in London (how cool is that?).

I hadn’t heard of Hester – what an inspirational woman. It seems to be that women in that era had their power in more subtle ways. How did they exert influence?

Aristocratic women could exercise great influence through their role as political hostesses. They could also exercise their influence through pillow talk (either with their husband or their lover). And of course, a much-loved wife, daughter or mother could influence a man as they do now. I think it comes down to individual people in individual situations.

Walk us through the day in the life of a young unmarried woman hell bent of finding her future husband at the evening’s ball.

She’d sleep in after a late night. She’d titivate and write thank you letters to her hostess and any other correspondence. She might practise her pianoforte or singing or harp – ladies with musical accomplishments were very much admired. In the early afternoon, she’d either give or receive ‘morning’ calls. Or perhaps there would be a cultural outing to somewhere like the British Museum, or a walk in Hyde Park. The fashionable hour in Hyde Park, when you went out to see and be seen, was between 5:30 and 7:30. Our girl could also spend time shopping or visiting a circulating library. Generally (although not always), she’d dine at home and then she would start the evening’s entertainment – a ball or a musicale (at which she might be VERY glad she did that piano practice!) or any number of other social gatherings. The opera and the theatre were also very popular. Hopefully our girl would dance her tootsies off with a series of eligible gentlemen (who would then send her bouquets on the morrow) and she’d go home ready to do it all again the next night. I suspect it was hard work. The Season lasted for several months, from Easter through to June or early July. And there was also the Little Season from September to November.

All that socialising sounds very much like hard work!

Nicholas, your gorgeous hero, is a lad about town. How were rakes perceived by society in 1827? Was a rake the modern day equivalent of Warnie – barely tolerated by many women, secretly lusted after by others, and generally admired by men?

Oh, NOOOOOO! I hope Ranelaw has a bit more style than Warnie! Although now I read your description, I think there’s an element of truth about it. Actually in practice, there were lines that a rake couldn’t cross and still expect to be allowed into society. Think of Byron – the rumors of incest with his half-sister and the way he treated his wife meant he was hounded out of England. Note, nobody really cared how he treated women outside his class but when he started behaving badly to aristocratic women, his social credit soon evaporated.

No offence intended to Ranelaw, Anna, as he is clearly a cut above our own Warnie…

And finally what’s for breakfast if you’re a proper young lady in 1827?

During the Season, girls would generally eat breakfast very late because they’d be out dancing until the wee small hours. She’d probably have hot chocolate (the block stuff so many of us love wasn’t yet available) and buttered rolls or muffins. As you’ll see in many Regency romances, breakfast could be a relaxed communal affair with food set out on a sideboard and kept warm in chafing dishes. There would be meat and eggs. I can remember being very surprised reading a Georgette Heyer as a teenager when the hero sat down to a nosh-up of sirloin, potatoes and ale but I suspect that’s a MANLY meal and our heroines would not partake! 😉

That all sounds very civilized (apart from the steak and potatoes).

Thanks for dropping by to chat, Anna, it’s always fabulous to have you visit the blog.

My pleasure, Helene. Thank you for having me! Fun questions!   You mentioned an Aussie cricketer as a current version of the Regency rake. Warren Beatty springs to my mind – at least before he married! Can you think of any other candidates for that title? Or is the Regency rake a type specific to the times?

Hmm good question, Anna. So it’s over to our visitors – we’d love to hear your thoughts. One lucky commentor will win a copy of Anna’s latest novel, Midnight’s Wild Passion.

You’ll find Anna at


London’s most notorious seducer, Nicholas Challoner lives solely for revenge…

The dashing, licentious Marquess of Ranelaw can never forgive Godfrey Demarest for ruining his sister – now the time has come to repay the villain in the same coin. But one formidably intriguing impediment stands in the way of Nicholas’s vengeance: Miss Antonia Smith, companion to his foe’s unsuspecting daughter.

Having herself been deceived and disgraced by a rogue-banished by her privileged family as a result and forced to live a lie-Antonia vows to protect her charge from the same cruel fate. She recognizes Ranelaw for the shameless blackguard he is, and will devote every ounce of her intelligence and resolve to thwarting him.

Yet Antonia has always had a fatal weakness for rakes…


52 thoughts on “Step back in time with Anna Campbell

  1. And now on to serious business!!

    The winner of Midnight’s Wild Passion is Jamie Heustess.

    Congratulations, you’ll love the story, Jamie!! Send Anna an email at and give her your snail mail address and one of those gorgeous books will be winging its way to you!

    Thanks again to Anna for being a stellar visitor and to everyone who dropped by for a chat or a read 🙂

  2. Anna thanks for your early morning congrats too! I’m delighted to be in the finals. I can still remember sitting at a table with you in 2005 at the RWA conference and wondering if I’d ever be lucky enough to be published let alone a RBY finalist!! That year was a turning point for me and I owe so much to RWA and you!!!

  3. Thanks, Annie, for dropping by and for the congrats!

    I’m very excited and just delighted to be in the finals with some of my favourite authors – am a little star struck actually 🙂

  4. Hi Amanda, I can definitely go with Hugh, Robbie and Rob all being modern day Rakes. When I see one of them being contrite on TV after some misdemeanour I do wonder at what point the media stops forgiving them and paints them black from then on. There must be an invisible line in the sand somewhere….

    See you in a couple of weeks!!

  5. Welcome, Vanessa, I don’t blame you admiring your copy of MWP – that’s all I’m allowed to do at the moment as I know if I start it I won’t put it down… Gerard Butler and Russell Brand would both fit the bill although I just can’t warm to Russell…

  6. Hi Anna, hi Helene, thanks for the fun and fascinating interview. I’m arriving late (a trip away) but did enjoy it. Anna, I loved ‘Midnight’ and think you did a brilliant job playing within the bounds of society’s expectations and rules, especially for Antonia as a companion. A terrific read, Anna, well worth recommending, even to people who’ve never opened a historical romance!

    And, I’ve just discovered that Helene’s first book is on the finals list for the Romantic Book of the Year. How brilliant is that? Congratulations, Helene!

  7. Hey, Amanda, thank you so much! What a lovely reaction! I always worry with this history stuff that I could bore for Britain but I find it all just SOOOO interesting – both the similarities with our times and the differences. Actually I’m with you about Hugh. And I think he plays that rakish character so beautifully! Looking forward to catching up!!!!

  8. Actually, Vanessa, I find Russell Brand strangely attractive and I think that slightly campy edge he has would have fitted quite a lot of Regency rakes. After all, these were men who obsessed about their wardrobes! Isn’t Hester Bateman a fascinating character? I first heard about her on the Antiques Roadshow. Hey, cool you’re so taken with your very own MWP! Keep making me trailers, kiddo, and I’ll keep giving you books. Deal? LOL!

  9. Helene, I’ve got to say I’m NOT a fan of Two and a Half Men – I started to watch it but very quickly got sick of the dynamic.

    By the way, LOVING Shattered Sky!!!!

    And congratulations on the Romantic Book of the Year final for Border Watch!!! So happy about that!

  10. I am with Vanessa… what an immensely fascinating, hilarious and thought provoking post… hmmm – modern day rake’s… yep, I am in on Jude, and what about Hugh Grant, Robby Williams and Rob Lowe?? I think you either love ’em or hate ’em, but there is something about them… the last two are kind of bad boys turned good with really big hearts (if we believe the press, err… hmmm).

    Can’t wait to read this Anna… see you all soon!

  11. Hi, Helene and Anna! Please forgive my tardiness! I’ve been admiring my very own copy of MWP.

    I’m so glad I finally got here–what a fascinating post! I know I’ll spend lots of happy procrastination time seeking more info about Hester Bateman.

    A 21st century rake? Hmm, Russell Brand strikes me as fopish, so he won’t do. How about that Gerard Butler guy?

  12. Anna, an independent income for both genders is probably a fine thing!

    I’ve always been a fan of Two and a Half Men, but I always wondered if Charlie wasn’t just being himself… He has indeed failed to grow up…

    Thanks for being a fabulous guest, as always, Anna and thanks so much to everyone who dropped by to comment!

  13. Sharon, Jude is at least pretty! Charlie just strikes me as rather sad – like he never grew up. Those two links are really interesting, aren’t they? The Tichborne Case was world famous – actually I think it’s so sad that the mother was so desperate to have her son back that such an imposter could convince her. Laughed at you being shocked at the shady past of one of your founding fathers in NZ!

  14. Jamie, every so often something hits me in the face and tells me again quite how ‘modern’ the Regency era was. And then you get hit with how un-modern it was – something to do with women’s legal rights or something essential like that. Thank you so much for saying you like the historical touches in the books. I get a great kick out of them – as you say, if I wanted to write contemporaries, I would!

  15. Hi Sharon, Charlie would definitely come under the ‘irredeemable rake’ category!! And Jude Law is very yummy!!

    As to the Shrigley Trial? I was amazed reading about Wakefield and how far he managed to go after that debacle. I must admit to thinking only in Australia and NZ could an ex-crim rise to far:-) Good to hear he even featured in your history education just a couple of years ago!

  16. I just had to come back after looking up the Shrigely Trial… What a revelation to read it was Edward Gibbon Wakefield who kidnapped and forced 15 year-old Ellen Turner into marriage! I nearly fell off my chair! He featured large in my history lessons when I was at school in New Zealand (cough, a erm, few years ago now!) Anyway they never taught us about this bit of scandalous behaviour! It was all his prison reform and the New Zealand Company! I guess he got that passion for prison reform from personal experience!

  17. Fascinating, Anna and Helene! Anna, I always enjoy your informative historical posts! You know, all that socialising would have been hard work but must also have left the girls with brains pretty frustrated at their lot in life!

    I’m off to have a look at those links for the Shrigely Trial and the Tichborne Case now!

    But before I go I’ll pop in my “rake” candidates – Jude Law and Charlie Sheen!


  18. Hi Jamie, glad you enjoyed the interview. I think a whole lot more went on back then than anyone’s admitting to. I wouldn’t mind living then provided I had independent means and a beautiful estate somewhere warm!!

  19. Kandy, I do hope you enjoy SS!

    I have to agree – inaccuracies pull me out of story too. Anna does a fabulous job of making sure that never happens 🙂

    Clearly my English recall is not as good as you two, ladies! I thought titivate had a different meaning along the lines of gossiping!

  20. I loved the interview! I think sometimes we view that era as somewhat innocent compared to todays society.But after some of the info here I think my idea is changed! I still would love to have lived back then…at least knowing what I know now!! I love that you stay true to the Regency era- I agree with Kandy- too much of glaring “todayisms” make me grouchy…if I wanted that I would be reading contemporaries! Lol!!!

  21. Linda, I love doing the research – and there’s so many amazing characters out there who would make a wonderful basis for a story. I mean, Hester being left in charge of a successful business after her husband’s death could make a wonderful heroine, for example. And the Regency is a wonderful mixture of glamour and conflict and decadence. Always something exciting going on (I blogged elsewhere about how Byron and Shelley inspired a secondary character in Midnight’s Wild Passion – those guys had AMAZING lives!).

  22. Kandy, I actually didn’t think titivate was such an unusual word. It was one of my mum’s favourites so I think it was just part of the family vocab. Thank so much for saying you enjoyed the interview – didn’t Helene ask some interesting questions? And I love her rundown of everything happening in 1827 to start us off on the right foot. So glad you enjoy the historical detail in my book – it’s something I know I love in a good historical romance!

  23. Hi Anna! It’s so fascinating to read about how life was in Regency times. I’m sure you had/have a lot of fun doing the research for your stories. I definitely prefer reading historical romance compared to studying musty old history books – never my fav subject.

  24. Hi Anna and hi Helene (I’ve just started reading SHATTERED SKY and can tell I’m going to like it as much as BORDER WATCH.)
    Fabulous interview, Anna, so interesting to read about “real life” in Regency times. You obviously know the era very well and it shows in your novels. I love reading historicals but as soon as I hit some glaring historical inaccuracy my enjoyment level plummets. It doesn’t matter if the facts are tweaked a little here and there to suit the story but not using 21st century language… Needless to say, I am a great fan of your books!
    BTW I know exactly what titivate means, but am now giggling at Kylie’s suggestion.
    Good luck with the launch of MIDNIGHT’S WILD PASSION–I can’t wait to start reading!

  25. Snort! Helene, you need to brush up your vocab before you become a Regency Miss, Miss!!!! Actually it’s interesting about the Regency cant – I tend not to use a lot of it when I write but little bits sprinkled through create atmosphere. But I know writers who really go to town on the slang! And clearly we’re both getting majorly dressed up for our day of work 😉 And tell your husband to STOP LAUGHING!!! 😉

  26. Oh Kylie, my husband just choked on his morning coffee at the thought of me (complete with activist T-Shirt) asking the bobcat driver what he thought ‘titivate’ meant. He’s still snorting….

  27. Anna, I don’t titivate nearly often enough! You may be in your B & L writing gear, but I’m in my socially responsible Save the Whale t-shirt and my Target shorts…

    And bit alarmed that if you google au courant it’s apparently a sunless tanning product! So clearly it must be very ‘up to date with current affair!’


  28. I just looked up ‘titivate’ – it means to make smart or spruce. And it dates from 1824 so my heroine would have been au courant using it! 😉 Thanks for swinging by, Kylie. It’s been a lot of fun!

  29. Snort – are you girls mocking my fruity vocabulary? Actually I LOVE odd words. Oh, right, you already knew that 😉 I’m about to go and titivate and get into my morning gown aka shorts from Best and Less and a Tank Top. Actually, Helene, I’m with you – I’d be an utter wreck after a week of that schedule. Late nights? Nah! Social whirl all day every day? Nah, that’s not me either. I’d want to curl up with a book instead of go out – and girls didn’t find husbands curled up with books!

  30. Oh, dear, Kylie, the modern rakes just don’t work for me! There’s that element of sleaze that I don’t get with a romance hero who’s a rake (although I suspect in real life, sleaze definitely ruled!). I agree with you about not wanting to live then – much better to live now. Women’s writing is still taken much less seriously than men’s though. Remember that kerfuffle about Jonathan Franzen and the New York Times?

  31. Oh, you could ask the tradies what they think the word means – now that might come up with some interesting definitions.

    I have to admit I’m going to go look it up because even in context I still can’t decipher the meaning, and I’m like a dog with a bone when it comes to things like that. Curiousity drives me.

    Better go and look it up then get stuck into my WIP word count for the day. Have a good one! 🙂

  32. Hi Kylie, I’m with you there. I can’t imagine anyone letting me pursue either aviation or writing as career back then. Besides I’m not a night-owl either so all those late nights would have been very hard to take!

    And the word for the day?? Is that a challenge to use it? Very glad Anna’s already slipped it into this post – it might make for some interesting conversation with tradesmen if my day goes according to plan:-)

  33. Hi Helene and Anna,

    Fascinating interview, but while the information about Regency England was interesting I don’t think I’d like to have lived in that time (especially being a woman!). Too restrictive and financially dependent on a man. And not to be taken seriously in the pursuit of writing! Ackkk!!! I do like this century, thank you very much.

    Modern rakes? Hmm, dare I mention Shane Warne? Tiger Woods?

    Oh, and word for the day is – titivate!

  34. Lucky you, Amy! I’m in self-imposed withdrawal as I really have to get some writing done and if I had MWP on my shelf I would be doomed!

  35. Ruth, thanks for dropping by. I’m betting Anna will handle Nicholas with her usual deft touch and I’ll have another gorgeous rake to love!

  36. I already have MWR and will begin it this week. I can’t WAIT to see what happens, but whatever it is, I KNOW it’s going to be really good!! Nick is a bounder for sure! But we all love those bad boys, don’t we Anna? LOL

  37. Great post. I always find it interesting to see how differently women were treated and acting during the Regency.

    As for modern rakes, both George Clooney and Leo DiCaprio come to mind.

  38. Anna’s books are always great reads. This one looks to be as much fun as the others. Can’t wait to see how Antonia handles Nicholas.

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