I said Regency, and perhaps that conjures a certain type of romance full of frilly girls, mostly filthy rich ones, attending lots of balls, waltzing in painful shoes, and each giving up her virtue to a marquess or a duke.
That romance is not this romance.
Though one of the characters is an Earl, and rather rich, and his virtue might be compromised. And his love interest might even where a frilly dress or two, under unusual circumstances.
But let’s get down to brass tacks. The lesson, like the text, begins with strangers popping up in our Earl’s bedroom.
Note this; it will be on the quiz! If you are a titled, unmarried, heavy-drinking man with a cash-heavy wallet, post a man outside the bedroom when you crash for the night at your neighbor’s party. Consider poor Alec Ferguson, Earl of Whittlesey. A man pounds on his door, and he wakes to discover there’s a girl already in his room. Clearly, the man is up to no good. (The girl, his daughter is just as clearly mortified by her father’s shenanigans.) Yes, he wants to force you to marry the girl—no surprise there.
One of the most important points I’d like you to take away from this mini-course on gay romance, regency style is this: Fortify, fortify, fortify! To illustrate, let’s peek in on Alec, beginning on page five.
Alec slammed the door behind them and then sagged against it. He wanted nothing more than to leave that room, escape from the house entirely, but the corridor was crowded with other guests eager for some gossip that would make it worth their while to have left London at the height of the season. […]
He lifted the bottle and drained it, then stumbled to the wardrobe and dug through his clothes until he found the other bottle he had hidden there in case of emergency. If having an unwanted engagement foisted upon one wasn’t an emergency, Alec didn’t know what was.
If you ever find yourself in such a situation, be aware that, whereas drinking and driving is illegal, climbing while drunk is not a prosecutable offense. Which is good, because sometimes you just gotta do what you gotta do. Once again, we look to our hero, the Earl of Whittlesey, to show us how it’s done safely without losing your supply of fortification.
Before we continue reading from page 6, however, I want to make one thing clear. You may think that in the modern world, you will never be confronted with a girl in your room, having been ordered there by her father in order to marry her to your money and title. Remember my motto (or one of them anyway: Never say never! Seriously. Could happen.
He corked the bottle and put it inside his shirt as he stepped out onto the balcony. The vines that grew up the side of the house didn’t bend when he pulled on them to test their strength, so now he had only to climb down them. As children, he and his brother had been quite adept at using vines to sneak out of their nursery on moonlit summer nights. At twenty-eight, however, he was decidedly less agile than he had been as a child, and the brandy he’d drunk would not improve his agility.
Grasping the vines, he swung one leg over the railing. After finding a foothold, he swung his other leg over and started downward. Stretch out one leg, find a foothold, let go with a hand—Alec repeated the process until he got within ten feet of the ground. There, he let out an oath upon discovering the vines narrowed to a single trunk. Holding on to the lowest horizontal branches, Alec slid his feet down the trunk, said a quick prayer, then let go, landing with a thump and falling backward onto his posterior. Not dignified, but he made it to the ground without breaking his neck or the bottle.
Well, I don’t know how you would feel in such a situation, but Alec has become quite morose once he’s out in the cold. Inevitably, sneaking out in the cold middle of the night without your greatcoat will remind you of your childhood. Right? Here’s the earl on page seven:
The winter chill nipped at Alec’s skin, but he didn’t regret leaving his overcoat in the house; he had the brandy to keep him warm. Alec remembered how he used to fasten Hugh’s cloak for him. Even in summer they had needed to wear them, at least until they reached the lake, where they kept warm by running along its muddy shore. Alec had taught Hugh early on that if they could keep from laughing until well away from the house—no mean feat—they would have hours to play in the night.
But Alec’s memory turns dark when he remembers a mysterious visitation from a white fox one night when he and his little brother had snuck out to this very same lake. And then… there it is. That very same fox. (Bottom of page 10—)
The way it stared at him gave Alec the feeling the animal disapproved of his obviously drunken state. […] “You’d drink too, in my situation.” He looked down at the brandy he held loosely in one hand. “And if you could hold a bottle.”
All students of gay romance will recognize this truth: Being, threatened, drunk, cold, outdoors, alone, and lost in memories will cause you to become morose. And, can we not empathize with Alec? I mean, to use academic terminology, what a bummer!
Empathize or not, however, this is where I wish to caution you, class: Do not emulate the choice Alec Ferguson makes on page
As he lifted the bottle to drink again, he looked out over the lake, at its smooth, moonlit surface, and made a decision. Any man with one ounce of honor or courage would have dealt with his madness and his drinking long ago.
Well, better late than never.
He drank the last of the brandy and set the empty bottle aside. […] walked unsteadily down the bank, letting out a yelp when his foot touched the cold water.
An answering yelp came from a few feet away. Alec turned to see the fox still watching him, now with its mouth open in what looked like a canine grin. “Don’t you laugh at me,” he muttered
Clenching his jaw, Alec continued deeper into the lake, the water coming up to his ankles, then his knees. The mud on the floor of the lake was warmer than the water and soft against the soles of his feet. He stopped for a moment, shivering, watching the reflection of the moon on the water broken up by the ripples he had made. He didn’t need to go any further; he could do it from here. Just lean forward, put his face into the water, and breathe deeply.
Luckily for Alec and for the future of M/M Regency romance, foxes have a knack for tricking drunken, depressed, earls out of the cold, cold lake. And… well… it turns out Alec is luckier still, because, a fox of another stripe altogether soon shows up in his life. A fox in the shape of a man, with flaming red hair and green eyes and freckles every-visible-where. A quick-witted fox, and an insolent one who nevertheless plans to be Alec’s friend—or more?
Alec stopped. “You will explain yourself, now. Who are you, and why have you come here?”
Villenie’s narrow, freckled face split in a grin. “I’m the man who’s going to solve all your problems.”
Of course that’s not quite the way it worked out, but the lessons in this course offering are complete. To prepare for the final exam, memorize the following and be prepared to recite:
The earl was not mad, and neither am I—I’m just a bit eccentric. If life is a mess, booze won’t fix it—but a hot, foxy ginger just might. Perhaps like this:
“On my honor as… as a Villenie. Whatever your illness is, I will try to help you fight it, and no matter the outcome, I swear not to tell a soul.” Some of the color had returned to Villenie’s face, though his eyes were still huge and dark with concern. He brought one hand up to Alec’s cheek.
Alec didn’t move away from that hand. Instead, he leaned into it, taking another deep breath and letting the beast uncoil. Villenie’s hands, the heat of his body, his breath on Alec’s face were all too much. Alec, who had struggled so long to cage the monster, could no longer hold it back. “You want to see my illness?” Alec whispered. “Take it all, then.”
He reached out, seized Villenie by the shoulders and pressed him back onto the seat, then leaned forward and kissed him. Just as he had feared he would, Alec lost all control as soon as their lips touched. Grasping at Villenie’s head and neck, he pulled him closer, sucking and biting his lips. Their noses, chins, and teeth bumped as Alec moved his mouth madly over Villenie’s, then down over a rough cheek to his throat, where he continued his frenzied attack with tongue and teeth. The taste of Villenie’s skin made his head swim, and he pulled Villenie’s cravat loose, laying bare more skin to feast upon.
Unfortunately, GRU will not offer the advanced course in Regency romance, but you may find further study helpful (or at least good reading). The whole of the text can be purchased by clicking on the cover image and following the link. Thanks, B. Snow, Whittelsey, and Mr. Villenie for allowing GRU to twist your words about.