History Hoydens

Example

Historical Romance Writers Dishing the Dirt on Research

21 May 2008

Welcome, Tasha Alexander!

When Tasha Alexander's first book, And Only to Deceive, hit the shelves in 2005, critics raved about her brilliant reconstruction of late Victorian England, proclaiming the book "a fascinating look at the repressive social mores and painstaking rules of etiquette in Victorian high society". Her heroine, Lady Emily Ashton, navigates a world of bustles and gaslights with an aplomb reminiscent of Elizabeth Peter's Amelia Peabody, decoding classical clues, confronting villainy in Paris, London, and Vienna, and generally delighting the reader with her wry commentary and observations. What's not to love about a heroine who insists on sampling her deceased husband's port?

Although the third Lady Emily book, A Fatal Waltz, debuted just this week (to uniformly rave reviews), Tasha very generously took the time to pay a call on the History Hoydens here in our electronic lair to discuss a subject dear to so many of our hearts: Mr. Darcy.

Without further ado... Tasha Alexander!


How Do I Love Darcy? Let Me Count the Ways......

I admit freely to having a deep and undying love for Mr. Darcy. It started when I was about ten and read PRIDE AND PREJUDICE for the first time. I can still remember when Elizabeth rejected his proposal. My pre-adolescent brain was filled at once with horror and admiration. After all, boys were mysterious creatures (though still largely icky), and I wasn’t convinced I’d ever find one I really liked. And all things considered, ten-year-old me wasn’t sure Darcy was all bad. Sure, a little rude and presumptuous, but at the time I thought our heroine could do worse.

Like Mr. Collins.

So I made paper dolls of all the characters (yes, I was an absolute geek and don’t apologize for it in the least) and sometimes even let Mr. Darcy kiss Elizabeth.

As I got older and the Ick fell away with an incandescent grace from (at least some of) the boys I knew, Darcy went from not all bad to, well, dreamy in that way someone can be dreamy only to a fourteen year old. And then I grew up, and didn’t think about it again for a long, long time. I re-read the book at regular intervals--it's always been a favorite--but it was only when Colin Firth popped onto my TV screen that I once again gave serious consideration to Darcy and his (cough) many fine characteristics.

Why do so many of us love Darcy? I don’t subscribe to the theory that it’s because he’s a challenge--that we want to be the one who breaks through his aloof exterior and finds every delicious thing inside. I’ve never been a fan of games or drama, so if anything, that’s a strike against dear Fitzwilliam (although he himself claims “disguise of every sort is my abhorrence”). For me, it’s another thing entirely--what Austen has given us in Darcy is a man who, although he fights it at first, figures out what he wants and reaches for it with both hands.

Now. He’s far from perfect. He’s (not to put too fine a point on it) a complete jerk when he’s trying (in vain; fool) not to love Elizabeth. And when he finally acknowledges the scheme is a futile endeavor, his proposal falls short of inspiring. Who among us longs to be told she is loved against someone’s better judgment? Darcy’s concerns, though insulting, are real. A man in his position would get grief for marrying “beneath” him. Silly though that may seem to us today, we can nonetheless understand the difficulties posed by choosing a marriage to which your family objects.

So Darcy manned up. In extremely inelegant fashion, but he did it. It’s when he puts himself again in front of Elizabeth the second time, now having not only decided to go against family pressure, but having rejected it to the point that he no longer is carrying it with him that we really start to love him. This is when we see the man in all his glory: strong, decisive, unapologetic. What’s not to love?

And it doesn’t hurt that he strides with confidence in such perfectly dashing fashion...

10 Comments:

Blogger Kathrynn Dennis said...

Welcome, Tasha! Yes, I am in love with Mr. Darcy, too. He never gives on trying to win her over, even after that blistering rejection. He show humilty and character growth and all the noble qualities I look for in an HEA-hero.

And to think JA herself said "she could never write romance..." ;-)

5:48 PM  
Blogger doglady said...

Hello, Tasha! Loved And Only to Deceive!! A Poisoned Season is on my TBR stack even as we speak.

I adore Mr. Darcy! He is just the quintessential romance hero. As you said, what's not to love. Like Kathrynn I love that he never gives up. By the way, Kathrynn, I finished Dark Rider (thank you for the autographed copy!) and it was wonderful! I really enjoyed it. (Big sigh!)I won a copy in the RWA gift tote bag at the Reader's Luncheon I attended Saturday and my best friend said "Don't you already have a copy of that?" I said "Yes, but now I can put my autographed copy on the shelf of honor and use this one to read over and over!" Don't worry. I bought her a copy so she can read it too!

Tasha, how do you think Darcy would have faired in the Victorian period or even today?

6:49 PM  
Blogger Tasha Alexander said...

So nice to meet you guys! Thanks for letting me hang out with you today!

Doglady, great question! I think Darcy would have done well in the Victorian period. So interesting to think what he'd be like now....Thing is, people whose characters are that strong fair well regardless of their circumstances, don't you think?

8:19 PM  
Blogger Lauren Willig said...

Ooooh, that's such an interesting prospect-- how much of Darcy (or any of the characters we write about) is his social context? Is there really an effective equivalent to the landed gentry represented by Darcy in today's society? I was re-reading Elizabeth George's Lynley books today (yep, procrastinating from working on my new book), and was struck by how much Lynley is the product of and constrained by the same sorts of forces that animate Darcy-- but they really are otherwise such an anomaly in today's world.

8:24 PM  
Blogger Pam Rosenthal said...

Interesting point, Lauren. Perhaps that's why I've been flirting with a space opera -- so I can build a class society with certain elements of the English regency that I can't find elsewhere.

Wonderful post about Darcy, Tasha, thanks so much for joining us. Tho I, I must admit, am a Henry Tilney girl myself -- give me a man who's man enough to know muslin, and to joke about it.

8:35 PM  
Blogger Tracy Grant said...

Thanks so much for joining us, Tasha! I have both your Emily Ashton books tbr and have been hearing fabulous things about the series. What a great topic for a post! Darcy was also my first literary crush, I thin, thanks to seeing Olivier/Gsrson movie with my family at the age of seven and then reading the book with my mom (well, she read it to me). And--rare perhaps in a seven-year-old crush--he retains all his allure for me today. It's sense of strong emotion, leashed beneath a cool, contained exterior, I think. And the fact that, as you point out so well, though he is hemmed in in so many ways by the expectations and rules of his world, he is able to look beyond them in marrying Elizabeth. Lynley is a great modern analogy, Lauren (I *love* the Lynley/Havers books).

9:22 PM  
Blogger Catherine said...

Welcome Tasha!

Okay, I laughed when I saw this post, but for a good reason.

I saw A Poisoned Season in a catalog (I'm relatively new to my position, so was going over some old ones) and thought, "hey, that sounds like it might be for me".

Unfortunately, I'm in a small store (low shelf space and employee pay) so I have to be almost laughably cautious with my order, but I got on the local library website so I could read And Only to Deceive.

I picked it up today among a small stack of requests, wondering how on earth I'm going to pick one to read first. Then I checked my Google Reader.

Well, there's that decision made. *grin*

Cate

9:39 PM  
Blogger Amanda Elyot said...

Welcome Tasha!!

I'm a huge fan of Darcy (the one Jane Austen wrote, although some of the actors who have played him are more successful than others, given their individual talents, suitability to the role. and the particular adaptation). I think it's key for us, as readers, and as writers who invent 20th and 21st c. creations and embed them in an 18th or 19th c. world, that we have to see Darcy (and any other characters from novels written before our time) as being "of their era."

Which of course often teaches us more about that era than the history books do. Eyewitness accounts of behavior and manners, of vocabulary -- and of priorty -- are priceless.

9:18 AM  
Blogger Cate said...

Hi again, Tasha,

I just wanted to mention that I'm more than halfway through And Only to Deceive and am loving it. In fact, I told my boss he was lucky I came into work at all today.

Unless something interrupts my reading time, I should have a very positive post up at my journal and reviews page late tomorrow. (I've also ordered copies of all your books into the store, since I now know I can handsell them with ease).

Cate

9:07 PM  
Blogger Tasha Alexander said...

Lauren, such an excellent point. The landed gentry, even today, undoubtedly don't face the same pressures Darcy did.

Have you read the new Lynley? I've got it but haven't started it up yet.

Pam, hard to go wrong with Henry!

Tracy, yes! Strong emotion beneath cool exterior---not buried so deep that he's lacking feeling. Very appealing.

Cate, THANK YOU! I'll be crossing fingers the book doesn't disappoint.

Amanda, I love your comment--history doesn't always do a good job revealing humanity.

7:47 AM  

Post a Comment

<< Home

Free Web Site Counter
Kennedy Western University Online