As I start on “Stopover in Wagreth” — the third segment of my fantasy novel ROAD TO ZANZICA, I am contemplating once again the portrayal of fictional female protagonists.
Perhaps this is because I have just re-read one of my favorite Georgette Heyer historical romance novels — DEVIL’S CUB — first published in 1932. (Georgette Heyer — 1902-1974 — was an English fiction author.)
While in most of Heyer’s historical romances only the men carry swords, in another such novel of hers that I recently re-read — THE MASQUERADERS (first published in 1928) — in a terrific plot twist a woman disguised as a man carries a sword.
According to Wikipedia:
Heyer essentially established the historical romance genre and its subgenre Regency romance [see *Wikipedia explanation of this subgenre at the end of this post]. Her Regencies were inspired by Jane Austen, but unlike Austen, who wrote about and for the times in which she lived, Heyer was forced to include copious information about the period so that her readers would understand the setting. To ensure accuracy, Heyer collected reference works and kept detailed notes on all aspects of Regency life.
While Heyer’s historical romance plots are entertaining, what I find most interesting is the depiction of the historical periods themselves. In fact, in order to better understand her historical novels, I have just purchased the book THE ENGLISH ARISTOCRACY by J. Robinson. After years of not being able to understand which British aristocratic rank is which and which is higher than the other, I have decided to educate myself on this conceivably arcane topic.
For example, I have just learned from THE ENGLISH ARISTOCRACY book:
Members of the peerage are normally addressed by one of five titles which, in descending order, are: duke, marquess, earl, viscount, and baron. Peers rank above baronets who, in turn, with a few exceptions, rank about knights.
(In case you think that this is all there is to know, this is only the tip of the iceberg of a very complicated structure.) And in reaction to this complicated titled aristocratic structure, all the aristos in ROAD TO ZANZICA are lords and ladies — no other aristo titles.
While the women in Heyer’s historical romances may not carry swords, they are strong female protagonists who stand up for what they believe is right and what they want. Heyer’s stories influenced my creation of Leeze am Holden in ROAD TO ZANZICA as an updated Heyer-type heroine — one who carries and uses her own sword.
I have read all of Heyer’s historical romance and historical fiction books, although I have read only a couple of her detective novels even though I’m a fan of English detective novels. I find this last category not nearly as interesting as her other books, and Wikipedia supplied the possible reason for this:
Her husband often provided basic outlines for the plots of her thrillers, leaving Heyer to develop character relationships and dialogue so as to bring the story to life.
And recently I’ve been contemplating Heyer’s male heros, considering similarities and differences among her books. Here again Wikipedia offers very interesting commentary:
Heyer specialised in two types of romantic male leads, which she called Mark I and Mark II. Mark I, with overtones of Mr Rochester [in Charlotte Bronte’s JANE EYRE], was (in her words) “rude, overbearing, and often a bounder.” Mark II by contrast was debonair, sophisticated, and often a style-icon. Similarly, her heroines (reflecting Austen’s division between lively and gentle) fell into two broad groups: the tall and dashing, mannish type, and the quiet bullied type.
When a Mark I hero meets a Mark I heroine, as in BATH TANGLE or FARO’S DAUGHTER, high drama ensues; while an interesting twist on the underlying paradigm is provided by THE GRAND SOPHY, where the Mark I hero considers himself a Mark II and has to be challenged for his true nature to emerge.
For ROAD TO ZANZICA I’ve created two main male characters on the side of good and two main male characters on the side of evil. All four of these are men with whom Leeze am Holden must interact.
You can read the first two segments of ROAD TO ZANZICA (“Road to Zanzica” and “Sojourn in Zanzica”) for free on Wattpad at http://budurl.com/RZintro
Or click here to read the first segment as a Kindle ebook from Amazon for 99 cents (or free via a Kindle Unlimited subscription)
And click here to read the blog post “Halston Heritage Attire Inspiration for Fantasy Adventure Character Garb” about the inspiration for what Leeze am Holden wears when dressed in male garb.
*According to Wikipedia:
The Regency in Great Britain was a period when King George III was deemed unfit to rule and his son ruled as his proxy as Prince Regent. On the death of George III in 1820, the Prince Regent became George IV. The term Regency (or Regency era) can refer to various stretches of time; some are longer than the decade of the formal Regency which lasted from 1811–1820. The period 1795 to 1837, which includes the latter part of the reign of George III and the reigns of his sons George IV and William IV, is often regarded as the Regency era, characterised by distinctive trends in British architecture, literature, fashions, politics, and culture. The Regency era ended in 1837 when Queen Victoria succeeded William IV.
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Phyllis Zimbler Miller (@ZimblerMiller) has an M.B.A. from The Wharton School and is the author of fiction and nonfiction books/ebooks. Phyllis is available by skype for book group discussions and may be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org
Her Kindle fiction ebooks may be read for free with a Kindle Unlimited monthly subscription — see www.amazon.com/author/phylliszimblermiller — and her Kindle nonfiction ebooks may also be read for free with a Kindle Unlimited monthly subscription — see www.amazon.com/author/phylliszmiller