The Scourge of Gossip and a #Giveaway by Barbara Monajem

“Sticks and stones may break my bones, but words will never hurt me.”

Kaemmerer_-_During_the_DirectoireMaybe in a limited sense this is true. It’s possible for an individual to have enough confidence and fortitude to completely disregard what others say about him.

But in a more general sense, exactly the opposite is true. In many ways, words are far more dangerous than physical injury—for in most cases, injuries heal and become a thing of the past. Words, however, penetrate the minds of people, are passed from one person to another, sometimes from one source to thousands of others, and may never, ever be completely overcome.

For example: Theoretically, the accused is innocent until proven guilty. In fact, this isn’t the case at all. People can lose their jobs, their businesses, their homes, their friends, their standing in the community because of an accusation, even if it proves to be utterly false. Gossip is similar in a more insidious way. If you hear something bad about someone, do you automatically believe it? Even if you’re skeptical, can you ignore it completely, or does it remain in some small corner of your mind, prejudicing you forever against that person?

Die_Gartenlaube_(1892)_081 via Wikimedia CommonsI didn’t mean to get so grim today, but what sparked this topic was the issue of reputations, which often comes up in Regency romances. Nowadays, having sex before marriage doesn’t ruin a woman, but in the Regency it certainly did if you wanted to be considered respectable—in other words, if you wanted to continue to associate with others of your class, to be treated with courtesy, to marry comfortably (if at all), and so on. A woman didn’t have to actually lose her virginity—she merely had to appear to have done so. The truth was irrelevant; appearances were all that mattered. (Another topic on which I will be happy to rant another day.) And although an unfortunate slip-up might be swept under the rug, what if the malicious gossips got hold of it? The poor woman didn’t stand a chance.

I find this whole issue of gossip and ruined reputations so fascinating that I can’t help but write about it now and then. Melinda Starling, the heroine of To Kiss a Rake, becomes ruined through no fault of her own (except that of helping a friend). The hero, Miles, is also the victim of malicious gossip and has been something of a pariah for years. Imagine being forced to marry someone you’ve just met all because of a pack of lies! Fortunately, this is a romance, so Miles and Melinda are guaranteed a happy ending.

To Kiss a Rake 600x900Do you like stories about ruined reputations? Do they seem believable to you (since you are, of course, a modern, emancipated woman) even in a historical setting? What do you think should be done to counteract the effects of gossip? Is it a personal problem or a societal one, or both?

Because I love giveaways so much, I’ll give an e-copy of To Kiss a Rake to one lucky commenter (or the winner’s choice of another of my books).



Melinda Starling doesn’t let ladylike behavior get in the way of true love. She’s secretly helping with an elopement, when she’s tossed into the waiting coach and driven away by a notorious rake.


Miles Warren, Lord Garrison, comes from a family of libertines, and he’s the worst of them all—or so society believes. When Miles helps a friend to run away with an heiress, it’s an entertaining way to revenge himself on one of the gossips who slandered him.

Except that he drives off with the wrong woman…and as if that wasn’t scandalous enough, he can’t resist stealing a kiss.

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Barbara Monajem started writing at eight years old. She has wandered from children’s fantasy through mystery to paranormal and historical romance. She lives near Atlanta, Georgia with an ever-shifting population of relatives, friends, and feline strays.

34 Responses

  1. Mary Lynde

    I love ruined reputation stories, especially when the two people really dislike each other in the beginning.

    • Barbara Monajem

      Hi, Mary. Yeah, that gives the characters a lot to work at before they finally realize they love one another. 🙂

  2. Ally Broadfield

    I definitely think it’s a societal problem, because if people were capable of minding their own business, it wouldn’t be an issue. For some reason this put me in mind of a news story I heard this morning that 85% of people have engaged in some sort of sexting (texting naughty pictures). I guess I’m out of the loop on that, but perhaps that’s the modern equivalent to being caught in a compromising position and ruining your reputation? In any case, reputations were of the utmost important during the Regency, so it’s always a great topic to explore.

    • Barbara Monajem

      Ally, I guess I must be really intrigued by this topic, because I just realized that the next two books in the same series (one almost finished, the other just an idea) also involve ruined reputations, although in quite different ways. Hmm.

  3. Linda

    Yes I do enjoy such stories especially when the characters start to discover each other & of course fall in love. Very believable, it happens even in this day & age.

    • Barbara Monajem

      I agree, Linda. It’s fun seeing the relationship transform.

  4. beppie2014

    That’s one of the reasons I enjoy writing about the Regency period, because you have definite hard rules to bump up against and there are genuine consequences for breaking them. It gives you a solid footing for plots!

    • Barbara Monajem

      Beppie, I have written both contemporary and historical romance, and I find the more defined values of the historicals easier to work with.

  5. Diane Eberly

    I love stories about ruined reputations and how the heroine tries to clear up the gossip to save herself. The romance, however it starts, is also exciting and sometimes laughable. Regency is my favorite era (really like them all) mores then contemporary romances. Enjoyed your post on gossip.

    • Barbara Monajem

      Glad you enjoyed it, Diane. Regency is a wonderful era both to read and write about. I read contemporary mysteries, but when it comes to romances, I prefer historicals by far. 🙂

  6. kim amundsen

    Yes another new author to add to my to read list.

  7. Belle Ami

    Give me a fallen woman, especially through no fault of her own and I’m hooked. Give me a rake, a bad boy, and I’m irresistibly drawn in. Thanks for sharing your blog.

    • Barbara Monajem

      Thanks for commenting, Belle Ami. I don’t know what it is that makes rakes so attractive (in books!), but they sure are. Maybe it’s because they are reformed by a good woman’s love.

    • Barbara Monajem

      Thanks, Ashley. I do love Lord Garrison, but now I’m writing the sequel– about his cousin– and I’m in love with him instead. Fickle writer, always into the latest hero!!

  8. Barbara Bettis

    I agree that it’s definitely still a problem, today, Barbara. We like to think we’ve become more open minded and we have where sexual matters are concerned, but gossip, innuendo, etc. is still alive and well, unfortunately. Enjoyed the post!

    • Barbara Monajem

      Thanks, Barb. If only people would think before they speak… Ponder what it feels like to be at the receiving end… Sigh.

  9. Glenda

    Some of my favorite historicals deal with ruined reputations – whether justified or not because of gossip. Gossip is still a big problem these days but generally marriages are not forced because of a lost reputation – thank goodness. i seriously doubt that people will ever stop gossiping which is sad.

    • Barbara Monajem

      Hi, Glenda. I’m afraid you’re right! It takes a great deal of maturity not to gossip, and we don’t start out mature.

  10. redljameson

    Oh, yes, ruined reputation through gossip is such a great plot device! Love it!

    I was reading a book about the different ways men and women interact, and although men do gossip, it’s not used as a weapon the way women can use it. There are studies about girls as young as seven participating in ostracizing gossip–gossip with the point of excluding an individual. When looking at gossip in this more scientific and objective way, it’s almost more chilling. So, yes, I LOVE the ruined reputation plot, especially when at the end the victim of the gossip is rectified. Yay!

    • Barbara Monajem

      Hi, Red. I wonder if little girls would behave like that if they weren’t aping what their mothers do…?

  11. Angela Covarrubias

    Yes, I enjoy ruined reputation stories! I believe the problem is with society, but that’s just me. I would have disliked living in such stricked confines, under prying eyes.

    • Barbara Monajem

      Hi, Angela. I agree — living under prying eyes is awful. I feel sorry for famous people for this very reason. It must be awful to feel watched all the time.

  12. jessicajefferson

    I love the idea of a ruined reputation – and I think it still applies today, even though names scribbled on a bathroom stall seldom result in marriage nowadays.

    • Barbara Monajem

      Hi, Jessica. Not only does it seldom result in marriage, but marriage now is not as final as it was then. It’s easier to get out of an unhappy marriage nowadays — then, it was well-nigh impossible.

  13. Barbara Monajem

    Hi, Denise. I particularly love anthologies where all the authors use the same trope but come up with completely different stories.

  14. Barbara Monajem

    And the winner is…Diane Eberly! Congratulations, Diane. I will contact you via email. Thanks for all the comments, everyone. 🙂