In conversation with... Valerie Holmes

Valerie and I both write for Sapere Books and I love her Regency romantic adventures. They're set on the rugged Yorkshire coast and remind me of a northern Poldark!

Having just written a dual timeline with one foot in the Regency era I have even more admiration for your books. How do you make the era feel so real?

The early nineteenth century was such a fascinating era because of the major changes happening in so many aspects of life. The Napoleonic Wars (1803-1815) overlapped with Regency (1811-1820) and I have been researching the social history of these periods for years.

William Wilberforce fought for the abolition of slavery, John Wesley’s evangelising fuelled the Methodist movement, Mary Wollstonecraft’s’ The Vindication of the Rights of Women in 1792 had highlighted the injustice of a woman’s life.

The inequality between the classes was stark; hypocrisy and injustice abounded. A gentleman could live on debt for years and yet an ordinary man, woman, or child could be evicted for not having paid their rent, or even transported for stealing food when near starving.

Regency is often associated with the grandeur, elegance and extravagance of the Prince Regent, Beau Brummell and the style of the Regency Ton. However, it was that and so much more. A period driven by passion and change – the driving forces of drama as they both highlight uncertainty. The greed of the few made the life of the many hard.

Your novels are set in North Yorkshire so how relevant was the Ton to your characters?

In most of my books the heroes and heroines are living miles away from London and facing situations where society rules and etiquette are forfeit to survival or the unravelling of truth.  

Before the Industrial Revolution (1760-1830) life was locally based and self sufficient; cottage industries abounded. Once mills, steam driven automation, new roads laid and canals opened up people’s lives changed irreversibly.

Continuous wars with France meant men folk were lost or returned injured. There was no understanding of trauma and stress. Having taken the King’s Shilling, or pressed into the Navy, they returned to find there was no work. The cost of the wars and the high taxes on certain goods made smuggling an attractive trade and that sparked the idea for To Love Honour and Obey.

How is it for you working with characters from another era?

I believe that whatever an author writes they have to thoroughly understand that character, their background, motivations, passions and desires and the challenge they have to overcome to reach their goal. Then, hopefully, they will create intriguing characters.

I try to control the way the character would think, but they still had the same emotions and needs as people today. A woman wronged, such as Parthena in For Richer, For Poorer would want to address it if she possibly could, even if the law seemed to be against her. To Have and To Hold highlights the changes mills brought when Laura helps a runaway boy. The plight of a returning injured soldier sparked In Sickness and In Health.

It is impossible to write the actual regional accents of the day in a way that the modern reader could understand them and it is difficult to see the world through their eyes accurately, when you consider that our knowledge of the world today is vast by comparison to theirs. However, they were still people who had the same human traits that we have today.

Find out more about Valerie and read her fabulous Yorkshire blogs at: