A Yo-Ho-Ho for Working Guys

From Susan/Miranda:
I’m newly returned from the beach and the sea, and a hearty thanks to my fellow Wenches for covering for me while I was away. Clearly I would have had a better chance of long-distance posting if I’d simply tucked my blog into a cork-stopped bottle and tossed it into the Atlantic instead of relying on the Masters of the Internet. 🙂

And I do love the ocean. I’m sure that Mary Jo, wise in all things astrological, could tell me that that makes me a Gemini with a water sign or something: all I know is that to me there’s nothing finer than an Ocean View.

All this sand and surf and Massachusetts history has turned my thoughts to seafaring heros. I’ve always been a sucker for “boat books” and movies, from Captain Blood to Captain Jack Aubrey and even the (much sillier) Captain Jack Sparrow, and how glad I am to see that Edith’s next book has a pirate!

When I first started writing, there were plenty of piratical heros. I wrote my share of them, too. OK, they weren’t technically pirates — the grim reality of pirates being nothing better than terrorists and thieves kept me from that — but even if my heros were navy captains or privateers or merchant captains, they had all the coolest attritubes of pirates. They fought against Nature at her most surly and villians most heinous, real life and death stuff. They were the unquestioned leaders of crews of desparate men, and protected the heroines as (usually) the only females for leagues around. They were good at sword-fighting, and letting their hair blow around in the wind. They weren’t drawing-room guys; they were swashbucklers.

But somehow over the last few years, this sort of hero has slipped from favor. They’re not totally extinct (yay, Edith!) but they’ve definitely become scarce, along with cowboys and knights. In fact, to my mind, it seems that just as historical romances have become more and more Regency-centric, it seems that the career paths for heros in general is shrinking.

Among the Wenches’s books, there have been archaeologists and historians, clan warriors and officers of the king, painters and architects and blacksmiths and investment geniuses. We Wenches like our men smart, and we like them busy.

But in a lot of other recent books, it seems that heros don’t really do much of anything. There are more and more guys who have huge estates that manage themselves, and vast fortunes that simmer along growing vaster with no input. We almost never see these heros working at anything. They don’t appear to have much expertise or interest beyond gaming and hunting and raking-hell. Even the ones who have other interests reduce them to a casual aside (“Oh, Lord Rupert? He’s a spy for Wellington, you know.”), a mention on the hero’s resume and not much more.

I remember hearing an editor address this at a conference. When asked what kinds of “occupations” were hot for historical heros, she said they didn’t really have to have one beyond devoting himself to the heroine and her needs. Wasn’t that the greatest fantasy guy, she argued (and more than half seriously, too), the one who had so much money that he was never distracted by a job or responsibility?

Well, mebbe not. An unemployed hero never gets to show the heroine how he interacts with others. She never sees him feel passion for anything other than, ahem, passion. She never watches him being resourceful, or facing challenges, or solving problems, or mastering a complicated skill like navigation. She can’t share his successes, or support him through the bad times. Being able to judge a hero’s qualities and flaws should be just as important as measuring up that big house on Grosvenor Square, and it’s a much harder thing to do with an idle hero.

So what do you think? Do you want a working hero with other interests, or do you ask no more from him than that he be rich and titled? Is there still a place for self-made men in historical romances, or ::shudder:: even one who’s not rapturously wealthy? (remember Judith Ivory’s rat-catcher?) Do you long for pirates, or cowboys, or crusading knights? Inquiring minds want to know! 🙂

39 thoughts on “A Yo-Ho-Ho for Working Guys”

  1. So true about career paths for heroes, Susan Miranda. I’m not sure I’d have the talent or stomach to do a rat catcher, but I like guys to be competent. When I do a big rich Regency lord, he’s as likely to be breeding cows or running coal mines or even maybe sailing a ship. (My next hero is a corsair-busting sea captain. :))
    Having money has always been a demanding business, really. I don’t mind rich lords, but show them working and sweating and being responsible for the livelihoods of hundreds of people, please!
    Mary Jo

    Reply
  2. So true about career paths for heroes, Susan Miranda. I’m not sure I’d have the talent or stomach to do a rat catcher, but I like guys to be competent. When I do a big rich Regency lord, he’s as likely to be breeding cows or running coal mines or even maybe sailing a ship. (My next hero is a corsair-busting sea captain. :))
    Having money has always been a demanding business, really. I don’t mind rich lords, but show them working and sweating and being responsible for the livelihoods of hundreds of people, please!
    Mary Jo

    Reply
  3. So true about career paths for heroes, Susan Miranda. I’m not sure I’d have the talent or stomach to do a rat catcher, but I like guys to be competent. When I do a big rich Regency lord, he’s as likely to be breeding cows or running coal mines or even maybe sailing a ship. (My next hero is a corsair-busting sea captain. :))
    Having money has always been a demanding business, really. I don’t mind rich lords, but show them working and sweating and being responsible for the livelihoods of hundreds of people, please!
    Mary Jo

    Reply
  4. So true about career paths for heroes, Susan Miranda. I’m not sure I’d have the talent or stomach to do a rat catcher, but I like guys to be competent. When I do a big rich Regency lord, he’s as likely to be breeding cows or running coal mines or even maybe sailing a ship. (My next hero is a corsair-busting sea captain. :))
    Having money has always been a demanding business, really. I don’t mind rich lords, but show them working and sweating and being responsible for the livelihoods of hundreds of people, please!
    Mary Jo

    Reply
  5. So true about career paths for heroes, Susan Miranda. I’m not sure I’d have the talent or stomach to do a rat catcher, but I like guys to be competent. When I do a big rich Regency lord, he’s as likely to be breeding cows or running coal mines or even maybe sailing a ship. (My next hero is a corsair-busting sea captain. :))
    Having money has always been a demanding business, really. I don’t mind rich lords, but show them working and sweating and being responsible for the livelihoods of hundreds of people, please!
    Mary Jo

    Reply
  6. So true about career paths for heroes, Susan Miranda. I’m not sure I’d have the talent or stomach to do a rat catcher, but I like guys to be competent. When I do a big rich Regency lord, he’s as likely to be breeding cows or running coal mines or even maybe sailing a ship. (My next hero is a corsair-busting sea captain. :))
    Having money has always been a demanding business, really. I don’t mind rich lords, but show them working and sweating and being responsible for the livelihoods of hundreds of people, please!
    Mary Jo

    Reply
  7. I definitely STRONGLY prefer heroes who do something besides being idly rich. If he’s rich and titled, I like to see that he’s using his powers for good, as it were, whether through politics, personal involvement in the management of his estates, advancing scientific knowledge, or whatever. And I like younger sons with professions, and absolutely ADORE heroes from humble backgrounds.
    However, I’ve also long since accepted that I’m not a typical reader.

    Reply
  8. I definitely STRONGLY prefer heroes who do something besides being idly rich. If he’s rich and titled, I like to see that he’s using his powers for good, as it were, whether through politics, personal involvement in the management of his estates, advancing scientific knowledge, or whatever. And I like younger sons with professions, and absolutely ADORE heroes from humble backgrounds.
    However, I’ve also long since accepted that I’m not a typical reader.

    Reply
  9. I definitely STRONGLY prefer heroes who do something besides being idly rich. If he’s rich and titled, I like to see that he’s using his powers for good, as it were, whether through politics, personal involvement in the management of his estates, advancing scientific knowledge, or whatever. And I like younger sons with professions, and absolutely ADORE heroes from humble backgrounds.
    However, I’ve also long since accepted that I’m not a typical reader.

    Reply
  10. I loved that book. Hey, even now we need ratcatchers and don’t appreciate ’em. I get tired of the idle rich, myself. It oftens seems false when they’re social crusaders because there’s little motivation behind their sudden recognition that they should be 20th century in their social programs. If you’re rich and the culture is built around insulating you there has to be something that shakes you out of it. So I’m more inclined to the self made, the bastard sons of, the unexpected inheritors than the spoon in the mouth sort – unless the spoon in question is being yanked by another who is less than idle.
    But I tolerate the wealthy and indolent crowd. What I cannot stand are the wealthy and ‘spunky’ crowd. The one who thumbs her nose at her societal structure (with no real concept of the repercussions, just a golly, I’m grand, kinda flair) and causes all sorts of havoc while getting up the in hero’s face for having the nerve not to be her – ultimately she ends up his pampered and indulged pet but with no recognition of that reality. That bugs me.

    Reply
  11. I loved that book. Hey, even now we need ratcatchers and don’t appreciate ’em. I get tired of the idle rich, myself. It oftens seems false when they’re social crusaders because there’s little motivation behind their sudden recognition that they should be 20th century in their social programs. If you’re rich and the culture is built around insulating you there has to be something that shakes you out of it. So I’m more inclined to the self made, the bastard sons of, the unexpected inheritors than the spoon in the mouth sort – unless the spoon in question is being yanked by another who is less than idle.
    But I tolerate the wealthy and indolent crowd. What I cannot stand are the wealthy and ‘spunky’ crowd. The one who thumbs her nose at her societal structure (with no real concept of the repercussions, just a golly, I’m grand, kinda flair) and causes all sorts of havoc while getting up the in hero’s face for having the nerve not to be her – ultimately she ends up his pampered and indulged pet but with no recognition of that reality. That bugs me.

    Reply
  12. I loved that book. Hey, even now we need ratcatchers and don’t appreciate ’em. I get tired of the idle rich, myself. It oftens seems false when they’re social crusaders because there’s little motivation behind their sudden recognition that they should be 20th century in their social programs. If you’re rich and the culture is built around insulating you there has to be something that shakes you out of it. So I’m more inclined to the self made, the bastard sons of, the unexpected inheritors than the spoon in the mouth sort – unless the spoon in question is being yanked by another who is less than idle.
    But I tolerate the wealthy and indolent crowd. What I cannot stand are the wealthy and ‘spunky’ crowd. The one who thumbs her nose at her societal structure (with no real concept of the repercussions, just a golly, I’m grand, kinda flair) and causes all sorts of havoc while getting up the in hero’s face for having the nerve not to be her – ultimately she ends up his pampered and indulged pet but with no recognition of that reality. That bugs me.

    Reply
  13. I prefer heroes to have some purpose in life–saving a kingdom, building orphanages, wielding influence in Parliament, managing a mill, caring for the sick, etc. It seems to me that there is an interesting connection between this thread and the redemption of villains discussion. Frequently part of the redemption seems to be the hero’s discovering something useful to do with his life.

    Reply
  14. I prefer heroes to have some purpose in life–saving a kingdom, building orphanages, wielding influence in Parliament, managing a mill, caring for the sick, etc. It seems to me that there is an interesting connection between this thread and the redemption of villains discussion. Frequently part of the redemption seems to be the hero’s discovering something useful to do with his life.

    Reply
  15. I prefer heroes to have some purpose in life–saving a kingdom, building orphanages, wielding influence in Parliament, managing a mill, caring for the sick, etc. It seems to me that there is an interesting connection between this thread and the redemption of villains discussion. Frequently part of the redemption seems to be the hero’s discovering something useful to do with his life.

    Reply
  16. I haven’t read the book with the ratcatcher hero, but let me tell you right here–anyone who tries pushing a MOLECATCHER hero will have me to reckon with!
    One element for Regency heroes has been omitted–the military. Sometimes the “idle” hero is back from the Peninsula and recuperating from the stress.
    But I do think the hero should do something with his life–which probably explains why I so dislike REGENCY BUCK, which the Tigress and I have been arg–discussing vigorously. If he’s a landed aristocrat, he should take an interest in the welfare of his tenants and be interested in agricultural advances; I’ve always thought that one of Coke of Norfolk’s “shearings” would make a great background for a romance.
    Spying seems to be a common activity for heroic types; but not too many of them take any interest in politics or government. There may be a reason for this–who wants to write a hero who voted for the Corn Laws and similar oppressive measures? Someone–Joan Smith? Barbara Metzger?–wrote a very funny one about a local election: the hero was the Party manager sent in to run the campaign of one of the candidates, whom all the ladies in the community detested and worked against.
    Another good occupation for the otherwise idle is amateur detective. I like one with any sort of scholarly or scientific or artistic bent pursued seriously.
    I confess that I like my heroes rich, and I prefer them aristocratic. What’s the point of fantasizing about the life of the wife of a ratcatcher? But if he’s a self-made man, I admire him. I’d love to see a hero based on Isambard Kingdom Brunel, the engineering genius. Pity one couldn’t use that wonderful name for a fictional version.

    Reply
  17. I haven’t read the book with the ratcatcher hero, but let me tell you right here–anyone who tries pushing a MOLECATCHER hero will have me to reckon with!
    One element for Regency heroes has been omitted–the military. Sometimes the “idle” hero is back from the Peninsula and recuperating from the stress.
    But I do think the hero should do something with his life–which probably explains why I so dislike REGENCY BUCK, which the Tigress and I have been arg–discussing vigorously. If he’s a landed aristocrat, he should take an interest in the welfare of his tenants and be interested in agricultural advances; I’ve always thought that one of Coke of Norfolk’s “shearings” would make a great background for a romance.
    Spying seems to be a common activity for heroic types; but not too many of them take any interest in politics or government. There may be a reason for this–who wants to write a hero who voted for the Corn Laws and similar oppressive measures? Someone–Joan Smith? Barbara Metzger?–wrote a very funny one about a local election: the hero was the Party manager sent in to run the campaign of one of the candidates, whom all the ladies in the community detested and worked against.
    Another good occupation for the otherwise idle is amateur detective. I like one with any sort of scholarly or scientific or artistic bent pursued seriously.
    I confess that I like my heroes rich, and I prefer them aristocratic. What’s the point of fantasizing about the life of the wife of a ratcatcher? But if he’s a self-made man, I admire him. I’d love to see a hero based on Isambard Kingdom Brunel, the engineering genius. Pity one couldn’t use that wonderful name for a fictional version.

    Reply
  18. I haven’t read the book with the ratcatcher hero, but let me tell you right here–anyone who tries pushing a MOLECATCHER hero will have me to reckon with!
    One element for Regency heroes has been omitted–the military. Sometimes the “idle” hero is back from the Peninsula and recuperating from the stress.
    But I do think the hero should do something with his life–which probably explains why I so dislike REGENCY BUCK, which the Tigress and I have been arg–discussing vigorously. If he’s a landed aristocrat, he should take an interest in the welfare of his tenants and be interested in agricultural advances; I’ve always thought that one of Coke of Norfolk’s “shearings” would make a great background for a romance.
    Spying seems to be a common activity for heroic types; but not too many of them take any interest in politics or government. There may be a reason for this–who wants to write a hero who voted for the Corn Laws and similar oppressive measures? Someone–Joan Smith? Barbara Metzger?–wrote a very funny one about a local election: the hero was the Party manager sent in to run the campaign of one of the candidates, whom all the ladies in the community detested and worked against.
    Another good occupation for the otherwise idle is amateur detective. I like one with any sort of scholarly or scientific or artistic bent pursued seriously.
    I confess that I like my heroes rich, and I prefer them aristocratic. What’s the point of fantasizing about the life of the wife of a ratcatcher? But if he’s a self-made man, I admire him. I’d love to see a hero based on Isambard Kingdom Brunel, the engineering genius. Pity one couldn’t use that wonderful name for a fictional version.

    Reply
  19. Welcome back from the beach, Susan Miranda, and an excellent post!
    I agree, a historical hero who is occupied and passionate about something is more interesting than an idle aristocratic sort. Where’s the depth in a hero who amuses himself and has no visible means of support? Isn’t he insanely bored? As a reader, will I remember that character later, if he doesn’t grow?
    I too always write heroes who DO something — a blacksmith, knights (hey, those guys are BUSY), a surgeon, a rebel who was a fiddler and a serious agronomist, and so on. I did a series of engineers too. When the hero has a vocation, a business, an occupation, training, a hobby, anything — he has something to offer apart from his interest in the heroine. I don’t necessarily agree that the heroine should be the most important thing in a hero’s life. He needs to be independent of her, and she of him.
    It’s more likely the villain who’s gonna make the heroine the most important thing in his life. That could be one weird, needy guy.
    Great heroes have substance and worth on their own, apart from the heroine. Sure, there’s something missing, something not quite complete. But he can go on as he is, without her, and I think that’s a really important factor in conveying a strong fictional relationship, contrary as it sounds. Both hero and heroine need something in their lives, a vocation, an interest,a passion, a talent. Then they are two strong individuals who unite to create a more powerful whole, not because they need to, but because they want and choose to.
    However, if the guy is idle and the heroine brings out the best in him and he ends up realizing what he wants and needs to do with his life…now that’s a different situation, and equally fascinating in a hero, when it’s done right.
    BTW, Tal — I wrote a trilogy of Victorian engineers, and Isambard Kingdom Brunel was one of the models I studied for them. The heroes were a lighthouse engineer, a bridge engineer, and a road engineer. Busy guys. 🙂
    Susan Sarah

    Reply
  20. Welcome back from the beach, Susan Miranda, and an excellent post!
    I agree, a historical hero who is occupied and passionate about something is more interesting than an idle aristocratic sort. Where’s the depth in a hero who amuses himself and has no visible means of support? Isn’t he insanely bored? As a reader, will I remember that character later, if he doesn’t grow?
    I too always write heroes who DO something — a blacksmith, knights (hey, those guys are BUSY), a surgeon, a rebel who was a fiddler and a serious agronomist, and so on. I did a series of engineers too. When the hero has a vocation, a business, an occupation, training, a hobby, anything — he has something to offer apart from his interest in the heroine. I don’t necessarily agree that the heroine should be the most important thing in a hero’s life. He needs to be independent of her, and she of him.
    It’s more likely the villain who’s gonna make the heroine the most important thing in his life. That could be one weird, needy guy.
    Great heroes have substance and worth on their own, apart from the heroine. Sure, there’s something missing, something not quite complete. But he can go on as he is, without her, and I think that’s a really important factor in conveying a strong fictional relationship, contrary as it sounds. Both hero and heroine need something in their lives, a vocation, an interest,a passion, a talent. Then they are two strong individuals who unite to create a more powerful whole, not because they need to, but because they want and choose to.
    However, if the guy is idle and the heroine brings out the best in him and he ends up realizing what he wants and needs to do with his life…now that’s a different situation, and equally fascinating in a hero, when it’s done right.
    BTW, Tal — I wrote a trilogy of Victorian engineers, and Isambard Kingdom Brunel was one of the models I studied for them. The heroes were a lighthouse engineer, a bridge engineer, and a road engineer. Busy guys. 🙂
    Susan Sarah

    Reply
  21. Welcome back from the beach, Susan Miranda, and an excellent post!
    I agree, a historical hero who is occupied and passionate about something is more interesting than an idle aristocratic sort. Where’s the depth in a hero who amuses himself and has no visible means of support? Isn’t he insanely bored? As a reader, will I remember that character later, if he doesn’t grow?
    I too always write heroes who DO something — a blacksmith, knights (hey, those guys are BUSY), a surgeon, a rebel who was a fiddler and a serious agronomist, and so on. I did a series of engineers too. When the hero has a vocation, a business, an occupation, training, a hobby, anything — he has something to offer apart from his interest in the heroine. I don’t necessarily agree that the heroine should be the most important thing in a hero’s life. He needs to be independent of her, and she of him.
    It’s more likely the villain who’s gonna make the heroine the most important thing in his life. That could be one weird, needy guy.
    Great heroes have substance and worth on their own, apart from the heroine. Sure, there’s something missing, something not quite complete. But he can go on as he is, without her, and I think that’s a really important factor in conveying a strong fictional relationship, contrary as it sounds. Both hero and heroine need something in their lives, a vocation, an interest,a passion, a talent. Then they are two strong individuals who unite to create a more powerful whole, not because they need to, but because they want and choose to.
    However, if the guy is idle and the heroine brings out the best in him and he ends up realizing what he wants and needs to do with his life…now that’s a different situation, and equally fascinating in a hero, when it’s done right.
    BTW, Tal — I wrote a trilogy of Victorian engineers, and Isambard Kingdom Brunel was one of the models I studied for them. The heroes were a lighthouse engineer, a bridge engineer, and a road engineer. Busy guys. 🙂
    Susan Sarah

    Reply
  22. I think there is a general consensus here that we find heroes who do some kind of regular work far more interesting than those who simply collect their rents and devote themselves to idle pleasure. As others have pointed out, many extremely wealthy aristocrats, and somewhat less wealthy landed gentry, in the late 18th and early 19th centuries, actually did work quite hard by choice, even though their income came from their estates.
    The intellectual pursuits of the Enlightenment, from the natural sciences, including medicine, to the study of art, history, antiquarianism and literature, were all advanced chiefly through the passionate interest and commitment of intelligent men and women of the privileged classes. The changes in social and political ideologies also sprang from that actively intellectual climate. All this has a strong appeal to most of us. There is a dynamic of improvement – and self-improvement – there that resonates with us. This is one of the appeals of the Regency, which has some ‘modern’ elements with which we can identify.
    As I say, I am in TOTAL agreement with the general view here that the hopelessly idle rich, the playboy class, if you like, are intrinsically less interesting people than who have some life-skills beyond hunting, drinking and playing cards, and exercise them.
    However, we should also bear in mind that most, probably all, of us are (a) middle class and (b) deeply, though perhaps unconsciously, imbued with the stern work ethic that pervaded the middle classes in the Victorian period. In other words, we have a built-in instinctive disapproval of idleness, of living life for pleasure alone, that was probably NOT universal in any class of society in the period up to the end of the Regency. In that sense, we may be allowing our own cultural conditioning to affect our perceptions. If we were able to shake off that cultural conditioning, it is perfectly possible that we might see little difference in emotional appeal between the Regency playboy aristocrat and the one who was busy showing social responsibility by building orphanages for working-class children, like Sir Waldo, the hero of Heyer’s ‘The Nonesuch’.
    Cultural conditioning is very insidious. There is nothing wrong in accepting it, which I certainly do in the present case, but one should always be aware of its presence. We don’t think like 18thC aristocrats (or 18thC gentry, tradespeople or peasants, come to that), and that’s fine. But we should remember that we are applying 19th-21stC sensibilities and principles to a time that was different in many ways from our own.

    Reply
  23. I think there is a general consensus here that we find heroes who do some kind of regular work far more interesting than those who simply collect their rents and devote themselves to idle pleasure. As others have pointed out, many extremely wealthy aristocrats, and somewhat less wealthy landed gentry, in the late 18th and early 19th centuries, actually did work quite hard by choice, even though their income came from their estates.
    The intellectual pursuits of the Enlightenment, from the natural sciences, including medicine, to the study of art, history, antiquarianism and literature, were all advanced chiefly through the passionate interest and commitment of intelligent men and women of the privileged classes. The changes in social and political ideologies also sprang from that actively intellectual climate. All this has a strong appeal to most of us. There is a dynamic of improvement – and self-improvement – there that resonates with us. This is one of the appeals of the Regency, which has some ‘modern’ elements with which we can identify.
    As I say, I am in TOTAL agreement with the general view here that the hopelessly idle rich, the playboy class, if you like, are intrinsically less interesting people than who have some life-skills beyond hunting, drinking and playing cards, and exercise them.
    However, we should also bear in mind that most, probably all, of us are (a) middle class and (b) deeply, though perhaps unconsciously, imbued with the stern work ethic that pervaded the middle classes in the Victorian period. In other words, we have a built-in instinctive disapproval of idleness, of living life for pleasure alone, that was probably NOT universal in any class of society in the period up to the end of the Regency. In that sense, we may be allowing our own cultural conditioning to affect our perceptions. If we were able to shake off that cultural conditioning, it is perfectly possible that we might see little difference in emotional appeal between the Regency playboy aristocrat and the one who was busy showing social responsibility by building orphanages for working-class children, like Sir Waldo, the hero of Heyer’s ‘The Nonesuch’.
    Cultural conditioning is very insidious. There is nothing wrong in accepting it, which I certainly do in the present case, but one should always be aware of its presence. We don’t think like 18thC aristocrats (or 18thC gentry, tradespeople or peasants, come to that), and that’s fine. But we should remember that we are applying 19th-21stC sensibilities and principles to a time that was different in many ways from our own.

    Reply
  24. I think there is a general consensus here that we find heroes who do some kind of regular work far more interesting than those who simply collect their rents and devote themselves to idle pleasure. As others have pointed out, many extremely wealthy aristocrats, and somewhat less wealthy landed gentry, in the late 18th and early 19th centuries, actually did work quite hard by choice, even though their income came from their estates.
    The intellectual pursuits of the Enlightenment, from the natural sciences, including medicine, to the study of art, history, antiquarianism and literature, were all advanced chiefly through the passionate interest and commitment of intelligent men and women of the privileged classes. The changes in social and political ideologies also sprang from that actively intellectual climate. All this has a strong appeal to most of us. There is a dynamic of improvement – and self-improvement – there that resonates with us. This is one of the appeals of the Regency, which has some ‘modern’ elements with which we can identify.
    As I say, I am in TOTAL agreement with the general view here that the hopelessly idle rich, the playboy class, if you like, are intrinsically less interesting people than who have some life-skills beyond hunting, drinking and playing cards, and exercise them.
    However, we should also bear in mind that most, probably all, of us are (a) middle class and (b) deeply, though perhaps unconsciously, imbued with the stern work ethic that pervaded the middle classes in the Victorian period. In other words, we have a built-in instinctive disapproval of idleness, of living life for pleasure alone, that was probably NOT universal in any class of society in the period up to the end of the Regency. In that sense, we may be allowing our own cultural conditioning to affect our perceptions. If we were able to shake off that cultural conditioning, it is perfectly possible that we might see little difference in emotional appeal between the Regency playboy aristocrat and the one who was busy showing social responsibility by building orphanages for working-class children, like Sir Waldo, the hero of Heyer’s ‘The Nonesuch’.
    Cultural conditioning is very insidious. There is nothing wrong in accepting it, which I certainly do in the present case, but one should always be aware of its presence. We don’t think like 18thC aristocrats (or 18thC gentry, tradespeople or peasants, come to that), and that’s fine. But we should remember that we are applying 19th-21stC sensibilities and principles to a time that was different in many ways from our own.

    Reply
  25. I like heroes who actually DO something, not just sit around and live off their money. My heroes all tend to have some form of vocation, one you see them actively performing.

    Reply
  26. I like heroes who actually DO something, not just sit around and live off their money. My heroes all tend to have some form of vocation, one you see them actively performing.

    Reply
  27. I like heroes who actually DO something, not just sit around and live off their money. My heroes all tend to have some form of vocation, one you see them actively performing.

    Reply
  28. I’ve had idle heroes and I’ve had heroes with a job, so to speak. I’m OK with the gentleman of leisure, because he still did interesting things. He boxed, engaged in swordplay, raced horses, drove carriages “to an inch.” He had the leisure to have fun, be daring and dashing. I also like the guys who did things, like plan canals or explore Egypt or, as is the case for a current hero, farm. I like the nerdy guys, and the spies, and the amateur detectives. I think it’s all in the story, and the author’s telling of the story. But I have to admit, the rat catcher concept leaves me cold. When it comes down to it, I really love the concept of the Gentleman, whatever he does or doesn’t do. That, for me, is a crucial part of the fantasy.

    Reply
  29. I’ve had idle heroes and I’ve had heroes with a job, so to speak. I’m OK with the gentleman of leisure, because he still did interesting things. He boxed, engaged in swordplay, raced horses, drove carriages “to an inch.” He had the leisure to have fun, be daring and dashing. I also like the guys who did things, like plan canals or explore Egypt or, as is the case for a current hero, farm. I like the nerdy guys, and the spies, and the amateur detectives. I think it’s all in the story, and the author’s telling of the story. But I have to admit, the rat catcher concept leaves me cold. When it comes down to it, I really love the concept of the Gentleman, whatever he does or doesn’t do. That, for me, is a crucial part of the fantasy.

    Reply
  30. I’ve had idle heroes and I’ve had heroes with a job, so to speak. I’m OK with the gentleman of leisure, because he still did interesting things. He boxed, engaged in swordplay, raced horses, drove carriages “to an inch.” He had the leisure to have fun, be daring and dashing. I also like the guys who did things, like plan canals or explore Egypt or, as is the case for a current hero, farm. I like the nerdy guys, and the spies, and the amateur detectives. I think it’s all in the story, and the author’s telling of the story. But I have to admit, the rat catcher concept leaves me cold. When it comes down to it, I really love the concept of the Gentleman, whatever he does or doesn’t do. That, for me, is a crucial part of the fantasy.

    Reply
  31. Loretta, have you ever read Jeffery Farnol’s THE AMATEUR GENTLEMAN? Different definitions of that concept are one of the themses of the book.
    As for the idle rich, check this out:
    The Knight and the Umbrella: An Account of the Eglinton Tournament 1839 (Paperback)
    by Ian Anstruther
    The book has a good deal of historical background of the era leading up to the tournament; and, like the books about the Regency and Victorian eras by Henry Blyth, one thing is perfectly clear: THESE GUYS WERE GOING BROKE! A combination of excessive and unintelligent gambling and indifference to land management meant that the grand fortunes of the past just dribbled away. One reason that William Crockford, of gambling-club fame, and the second Duke of Queensberry, who was essentially living from hand to mouth in his youth, were able to get rich from gambling was that they had a rudimentary (that was all it took) knowledge of game theory and mathematical odds. People who would wager a fortune on what horse would win the Derby A YEAR BEFORE IT WAS RUN obviously were devoid of common sense. As the Tichborne Claimant noted (quoting from AURORA FLOYD by Mary Elizabeth Braddon): “I should think fellows with plenty of money and no brains must have been created for the good of fellows with plenty of brains and no money.”

    Reply
  32. Loretta, have you ever read Jeffery Farnol’s THE AMATEUR GENTLEMAN? Different definitions of that concept are one of the themses of the book.
    As for the idle rich, check this out:
    The Knight and the Umbrella: An Account of the Eglinton Tournament 1839 (Paperback)
    by Ian Anstruther
    The book has a good deal of historical background of the era leading up to the tournament; and, like the books about the Regency and Victorian eras by Henry Blyth, one thing is perfectly clear: THESE GUYS WERE GOING BROKE! A combination of excessive and unintelligent gambling and indifference to land management meant that the grand fortunes of the past just dribbled away. One reason that William Crockford, of gambling-club fame, and the second Duke of Queensberry, who was essentially living from hand to mouth in his youth, were able to get rich from gambling was that they had a rudimentary (that was all it took) knowledge of game theory and mathematical odds. People who would wager a fortune on what horse would win the Derby A YEAR BEFORE IT WAS RUN obviously were devoid of common sense. As the Tichborne Claimant noted (quoting from AURORA FLOYD by Mary Elizabeth Braddon): “I should think fellows with plenty of money and no brains must have been created for the good of fellows with plenty of brains and no money.”

    Reply
  33. Loretta, have you ever read Jeffery Farnol’s THE AMATEUR GENTLEMAN? Different definitions of that concept are one of the themses of the book.
    As for the idle rich, check this out:
    The Knight and the Umbrella: An Account of the Eglinton Tournament 1839 (Paperback)
    by Ian Anstruther
    The book has a good deal of historical background of the era leading up to the tournament; and, like the books about the Regency and Victorian eras by Henry Blyth, one thing is perfectly clear: THESE GUYS WERE GOING BROKE! A combination of excessive and unintelligent gambling and indifference to land management meant that the grand fortunes of the past just dribbled away. One reason that William Crockford, of gambling-club fame, and the second Duke of Queensberry, who was essentially living from hand to mouth in his youth, were able to get rich from gambling was that they had a rudimentary (that was all it took) knowledge of game theory and mathematical odds. People who would wager a fortune on what horse would win the Derby A YEAR BEFORE IT WAS RUN obviously were devoid of common sense. As the Tichborne Claimant noted (quoting from AURORA FLOYD by Mary Elizabeth Braddon): “I should think fellows with plenty of money and no brains must have been created for the good of fellows with plenty of brains and no money.”

    Reply
  34. Tal, there are many things about the factual gentlemen of the past that make me insane. Their idiotic gambling is a great example, and I’ve taken swipes at it in several books. That’s why it’s so satisfying to write romances: I can give the bad guys the bad habits and make the good guys be intelligent and not so hideously wasteful and irresponsible (or, if they are, they have to get over it and redeem themselves). It’s interesting, though, that all it took was a little bit of smarts to get rich–because everyone else was so unbelievably thick! LOL I confess, I’d failed to see Crockford from that angle, but it’s an excellent point.

    Reply
  35. Tal, there are many things about the factual gentlemen of the past that make me insane. Their idiotic gambling is a great example, and I’ve taken swipes at it in several books. That’s why it’s so satisfying to write romances: I can give the bad guys the bad habits and make the good guys be intelligent and not so hideously wasteful and irresponsible (or, if they are, they have to get over it and redeem themselves). It’s interesting, though, that all it took was a little bit of smarts to get rich–because everyone else was so unbelievably thick! LOL I confess, I’d failed to see Crockford from that angle, but it’s an excellent point.

    Reply
  36. Tal, there are many things about the factual gentlemen of the past that make me insane. Their idiotic gambling is a great example, and I’ve taken swipes at it in several books. That’s why it’s so satisfying to write romances: I can give the bad guys the bad habits and make the good guys be intelligent and not so hideously wasteful and irresponsible (or, if they are, they have to get over it and redeem themselves). It’s interesting, though, that all it took was a little bit of smarts to get rich–because everyone else was so unbelievably thick! LOL I confess, I’d failed to see Crockford from that angle, but it’s an excellent point.

    Reply
  37. The Blyth books are fascinating, especially THE POCKET VENUS.
    It sounds funny in a Heyer novel when a couple of dandies wager on which raindrop will reach the windowsill first; but it’s not so funny when the bailiffs arrive at the family manor to foreclose!

    Reply
  38. The Blyth books are fascinating, especially THE POCKET VENUS.
    It sounds funny in a Heyer novel when a couple of dandies wager on which raindrop will reach the windowsill first; but it’s not so funny when the bailiffs arrive at the family manor to foreclose!

    Reply
  39. The Blyth books are fascinating, especially THE POCKET VENUS.
    It sounds funny in a Heyer novel when a couple of dandies wager on which raindrop will reach the windowsill first; but it’s not so funny when the bailiffs arrive at the family manor to foreclose!

    Reply

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