Hello! My name is Christy Carlyle, and I’m so excited to be joining this group of talented authors at Embracing Romance. I write Victorian historical romance for Avon Impulse. My current Accidental Heirs series features sexy heroes who’ve unexpectedly inherited wealth and titles, and the strong, feisty heroines who turn their worlds upside down. People often ask me why I set my historical romances during the Victorian era. Below I’m sharing five reasons why.
The Fashion: I set most of my stories during the later Victorian era, especially the 1880’s and 1890’s. Fashion changed throughout the Victorian era, which spans several generations. I might be completely nonobjective, but I think the fashions of the later part of the century are the most appealing. Corsets emphasized women’s curves, and while some women did try to achieve ridiculously small waists, historians now believe that many women wore their corsets loose enough to allow a good deal of freedom of movement. After all, many women participated in sports or athletics during the era, including bicycling, tennis, fencing, golf, and even roller skating.
The Books: Some of my favorite novels were written during the late Victorian era. I read them in high school or college because they were assigned, but now I re-read them for insight into the era. My characters read them too! I have a tendency to make references to fiction in my historical romance novels. So far, my characters have mentioned reading Mary Wollstonecraft, Dickens, the Brontës, Conan Doyle’s Sherlock Holmes stories, Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein, and Alexandre Dumas’ The Count of Monte Cristo.
The Women: Women have achieved outstanding feats in every century. The Victorian era, in particular, is riddled with the achievements of extraordinary women. Many were pioneers in their field of study or made headway in arenas where previously only men were admitted. In the second book of my Accidental Heirs series, One Tempting Proposal, my mathematician-turned-duke hero has a sister who studies mathematics at Cambridge University. I based my character on a real woman, Philippa Fawcett, who studied at Newnham College, Cambridge, and at the age of 22 became the first woman to obtain the top score in Cambridge’s mathematical tripos exam. Unfortunately, Cambridge still wouldn’t award her a degree, but she went on to teach at Newnham College and train mathematics teachers in South Africa.
The Men: In today’s world, the idea of someone pulling themselves up by their bootstraps and becoming a success is still notable, but not something that surprises most of us. Some people would even call it the “American dream.” What I find exciting about the Victorian era is that while it was a time of population explosion, overcrowding in large cities, and poverty for many, it was also a period abounding in opportunities. In the United States, during what we call the Gilded Age, a Scottish immigrant like Andrew Carnegie could rise up from poverty to become one of the most powerful millionaires in American history. Likewise, commerce and industrial expansion in Britain provided opportunities for men to distinguish themselves, even if they weren’t born into wealth. Rex Leighton, the hero of my third Accidental Heirs novel, One Dangerous Desire, combines both of these realities. He’s an American who has remade himself as an industrialist and hotel owner in 1890’s London.
The Technology: Yep, that’s right, the Victorians produced some of the technology that we are still pretty fond of today. They came up with the first automobile, the flushing toilet, the vacuum cleaner, and the pedal bicycle. Their developments in modes of transportation were particularly notable. Between advances in railroad and ocean steamship travel, late nineteenth century folks could travel faster and over longer distances than ever before.