Candace Camp is a "New York Times" best-selling romance writer. Her new book, The Marrying Season, is now available.
Let’s face it.
We all love a good scandal, don’t we? Whether it’s the latest
politician’s misstep or a celebrity’s arrest for DUI or the woman down the
street who seems to have an excessive number of gentlemen callers, we find
ourselves reading that story or clicking to see the disheveled booking photo or
telling our spouses about the bit of gossip we heard from our neighbor.
And it’s not just real scandal that draws us; it’s
popular in fiction, as well—and especially in the period I write in, the
Regency. You have only to glance through Amazon to find Regency romances with
scandal featured in the title—Amanda Quick’s Scandalor Scandal in Spring
by Lisa Kleypas or That Scandalous Summer
by Meredith Duran, to name only a few. My own Legend of St. Dwynwen series
begins with A Winter Scandal, in
which Thea discovers a baby abandoned in the manger scene of a church and
assumes that it must be the love child of Lord Morecombe, the favorite topic of
The Marrying Season, just released,
wraps up the St. Dwynwen trilogy with the love story of Genevieve Stafford, who
has always been the very picture of propriety until she is caught in a
compromising position and must marry Sir Myles to save herself from scandal.
The charming and easy-going Myles is the last man Genevieve would have thought
of marrying, but as he helps her track down the malicious person bent on
bringing Genevieve to social ruin—and introduces her to the pleasures of
marriage—she finds that the man she has always dismissed is precisely the man
people of the Regency period were just as intrigued by scandal as we are. The ton lived on gossip, and the rich and
titled, the celebrities of the day, provided plenty of it. In the late 1700s,
leading up to the Regency period, the Duke and Duchess of Devonshire raised
plenty of eyebrows by not only engaging in numerous affairs (and having various
children from them), but actually living in a ménage a trois with Lady Elizabeth Foster, the best friend of
Georgiana, the Duchess. Georgiana’s niece, Lady Caroline Lamb, also set tongues
wagging with her tumultuous affair with Lord Byron. Another aristocrat given to
poetry, Percy Bysshe Shelley, shocked society by leaving his wife and running
off to Europe with Mary Wollstonecraft Godwin, the teenage daughter of the
feminist Mary Wollstonecraft.
With no Internet
or reality TV, how did everyone keep up with all the gossip? Through scandal
sheets. Newspapers like The Tatler
and The Spectator sprang up in the
1700s to present not only news and political commentary, but also plenty of
gossip. In The Marrying Season, much
of the scandal about Genevieve is fueled by a newspaper featuring a column by
Lady Looksby. Using an arch tone that gave the impression of coming from an
insider, this forerunner of a modern blog provided all the latest gossip in coy
snippets like, “What lady was seen leaving the Somerset gala with a certain
Lord D____?” In much the same style, The
Tatler’s bylines purported to come from clubs like White’s or popular
coffeehouses such as The Grecian, giving the impression that they’d received
the information straight from someone “in the know.”
makes us indulge in this guilty pleasure? Maybe it’s getting a vicarious thrill.
Or perhaps it’s some sort of inner satisfaction at seeing some high-flying
person brought down. It could just be that it makes for an exciting tale and we
all like a good story. The reasons would, I’m sure, take up a whole new blog.
But I haven’t the time for it right now, I’m afraid. I have to go check out the
latest from Perez Hilton.