A Wet Day…
Earlier this week we got over half an inch of rain (0.65″), which for parched Southern California was amazing! For context, in the 2020-21 season, we got a total of 5 inches. This weather event started with a bomb cyclone in the northwest, but by the time it got down to us, it was merely a very wet day. My kids were so excited and I was too! It also reminded me of some of the hilarious difficulties I’ve had writing weather in Regency England. I appreciate the beautiful weather here, but all my instincts are wrong!
- Avoid the sun at all costs! I’m sure everybody in the south or west or anywhere with a serious summer feels the same way, but goodness! I don’t know how many times I instinctively have my characters “step into the shade” to avoid the sun. But in Regency London, people got cold! To make it doubly wrong, the upper class ladies often had parasols anyway. So I have to go back to the scene, give my poor heroine a parasol and have her step into the sun to warm up. Weird.
- It’s always sunny, right? (hahaha)
- Rain is special and beloved. This idea slides subtly into my stories all the time without me thinking about it, even though I KNOW that’s not how it is for people in that part of the world.
- Being hot is a bigger problem than being cold. Maybe this is more of an anachronistic mistake than geographical? It seems like we’ve solved a lot of heating woes, but cooling is still difficult and so expensive. However, back then, staying warm was a much more important endeavor? Either way, writing hot scenes (haha! not like that) where someone is sweating or overly warm, is SO much easier for me.
- Describing everything in terms of dust and dryness. I don’t even live in the driest part of our country (looking at you Nevada, be strong!), but this takes a major mental shift.
Does anyone else notice the difference in the weather described in Regency novels? If you’re a writer, do you struggle with weather-related instincts?
Anyway, one of my favorite scenes in my latest novel was when poor Jane Fairfax gets caught in a downpour!
“From London with Loyalty” Excerpt (Edited for length.)
The first peal of thunder had sent Jane cowering under the eaves of the nearest row of town houses.
She’d refrained from crying until then, somehow, but the thunder, and the gush of cold water as she accidentally dashed under drain spout, broke the dam.
It rained on, she tucked her wet hair back up inside her sensible bonnet, and she cried.
Carriages went by, all closed up like clams. Coachmen were hunched on their benches like barnacles on the prow of a ship, hats pulled down, collars up. No one looked at her. There were fewer coaches than usual, just a trickle of private vehicles conveying wealthy patrons to their house or club in comfort.
Most of the foot traffic in the region had dried up at the coming of the storm. One man did walk by on the other side of the street with an umbrella, but he did not look to the right or left.
Jane felt as if she’d strayed into the story of the Good Samaritan, only she was the man traveling to Jericho who’d been beaten and left for dead. And no one who passed her was willing to look or help: they were the priests and the Levites, and she was not worth their attention.
Nor was she! It was her own stupid, spineless fault that she was in this predicament. And she was not precisely beaten and left for dead, though she felt as if she had taken a beating.
She clasped her valise in one hand—it was heavy with her belongings and her few governess dresses. In her other hand she held the strap for her hat box which was packed with more of her personal items, like the brush and comb set from her mother, and the two books she had from her father. It also was heavy.
As she tried to get her tears under control, Jane set them both against the wall, where the pavement was still dry-ish. At least there was not a puddle.
She was not quite drenched, but she was very wet. Even her petticoats felt sodden and stuck to her legs. Her bonnet dripped. Her hands were so cold.
How stupid she had been. To think that she could see Frank Churchill last night! She should have just refused to go downstairs! (But would he have persisted?) She should have just tied up the books and told the footman to deliver them. (But would he have played along?) Still, it would have been a resounding no!
Her shock and hurt were not just about the loss of her first job as a governess; there was also the loss of her reputation. No letters of reference, no recommendations!
She could probably find a country family who’d never heard of Mrs. Hawksley, but always this would be hanging above her like the sword of Damocles, ready to fall when a rumor reached them! And how was she to find such a family?
Despite these deeply melancholy musings, Jane might have recovered her composure a little faster, but…
Five gentlemen under umbrellas came by going the other direction. One offered her a cursory look, but then nudged the next, a shorter man with a hawk nose, and whispered something.
“Good heavens, it is!” the shorter man exclaimed. “Churchill’s governess; I got a look at her t’other day when we followed Churchill to Bedford Square.”
Jane was all but sinking into the brickwork now, wishing to be invisible.
“How d’you do, luv?” said the man. “No need to look so glumpish. What, have the Hawksleys thrown you out? Churchill’s a fool, that’s what!”
“Or a dashed clever one,” said the first man. “I mean, if she’s got nowhere to go, why, that makes his chances better.”
The other men looked at her as though she was a horse they were judging. In her wet clothes, they probably got a fair idea.
Jane straightened her spine, shock rendering her dignified again. “Gentlemen, please go your way. Your tone is insulting.”
“Hoo! Pretty well for a governess,” said one of the other men. “I begin to see what Churchill meant.”
“Well, don’t worry, my lovely,” said the shorter man. “We wouldn’t interfere for the world afore tomorrow! Man of honor, I am! But tell you what, I’ll just give you my card. If you decide against Churchill, send me a note. I know how to take better care of a lady like yourself.” He winked at her and pulled out a card from his inner pocket and held it out to her.
Jane felt quite white-hot and also freezing with shame. “No, sir. You mistake me, sir.”
He paused, the card outstretched. Jane made no move to take it. She raised her chin.
“Have it as you will, then. Just as proud as Churchill said! Don’t suppose you mean to tell us whether you’ll take him?”
“Now, now,” said the other man. “I really think that crosses the line. We mustn’t interfere. Word of gentleman!”
“True, true. See you soon, my dear.”
The group of men walked on, laughing. Jane’s vision darkened and she leaned unsteadily against the rough brick wall, waiting for her lightheadedness to pass.
To be thought a—a lightskirt! To be offered—Oh! It was too much.
She gulped and pressed a hand against the rough brick, grounding herself and recruiting her strength. She tried to block out their ugly gazes, their vulgar words. How far had Frank’s wager spread? Did he know how many men seemed to be aware of it?
She gave him the benefit of the doubt, for she knew, whatever he had done, that he would not want her accosted in the street! Jane wiped her eyes and sniffed. This was no time to give into despair. She dug her handkerchief out of her pocket and attempted to dry her face.
But as she thought of her dear aunt learning of any of this—Aunt Bates who loved nothing if not Jane!—the tears began again and would not be immediately quelled.
It would be a scandal in Highbury, for Mrs. Hawksley would write to Mrs. Elton. Oh—odious Mrs. Elton would spread it everywhere! Jane’s true friends would believe her innocence, but she did not count Mrs. Elton in that number. Mrs. Elton would be embarrassed by Jane and would probably turn against her.
Even if no one ever found out about the intolerable insult she had borne today, enough of the story would become known…
She was still in this unenviable state of mind, temporarily unable to plan or think what she ought to do next, when another carriage came by, its wheels hissing in the street. This one stopped a little past her. After a moment, a gentleman flung open the door and jumped down.
Jane now scrubbed her face vigorously, bracing herself to repel vulgar curiosity or worse. He was tall with a curly-brimmed beaver hat, and his face was mostly muffled with a scarf.
It wasn’t until he was nearly to her, ducking under the eaves to share her shallow sanctuary, that she realized it was Tom Bertram.
He pulled the scarf down and coughed a little. There were spots of color on his cheeks. “Miss Fairfax, I couldn’t help seeing that you were caught in the downpour. Can I offer you a ride? You are only a few blocks from home, I see.”
Jane’s skirt had probably blocked the valise from view. As his eyes traced hastily over her wet figure, he caught sight of her belongings. “Oh, blast. You are not going home, are you?”
Thanks for reading! Tell me how your fall weather is going! 🙂