Regency Cant by Guest Blogger Alina K. Field

Everyone, please welcome today’s guest, Alina K. Field! Alina, thanks so much for joining us!

Alina K. FieldSome of the editorial comments I get on my Regencies are “Where are the fashions? What kind of gown is she wearing?”

Um, yeah, sadly, as a reader I zoom through the details of characters’ fashion choices—just give me a general idea please, and filter it through another character so I know what it’s supposed to mean. As an author, fashion doesn’t make it into my first drafts, and adding it later sends me digging through the ether for a copy of Ackerman’s Repository.

While I don’t halt my first drafts for fashion research, I do usually pause for cant, that strange version of English spoken by soldiers, sailors, thieves, and other lower classes, as well as the cool young bucks who populate the pages of Regency stories.

I found a quite comprehensive dictionary of cant at the Regency Assembly Press. Here’s an example of some colorful language:

A macaroni with an active citizen ought to take himself off to the hummums.

Going over some of these dictionary words one day when my husband was around, I discovered something quite interesting—many of the words were familiar to him. Especially the very bawdy ones.

Now, he was never a soldier, nor a sailor, but he was once many years ago an airman, and a “cool young buck,” and eventually a cop. His working class Chicago neighborhood, Pilsen, was settled by immigrants who got to work right away building churches and taverns (or taverns and churches, not sure which came first). The hardworking folk were introduced to English by other immigrants who spoke English as their first language, sort of—they were from that big island to the west of England. Nobody was having tea and crumpets with the beau monde in the old country. Probably not even serving it to the beau monde. Is it any wonder some of those bawdy words made it across the Atlantic and into the lingua franca?

I can readily believe cant was used freely among some of the upper classes during the Regency. Still, a respectable Regency heroine, even an older one, like the heroine of my novella Liliana’s Letter, must pick and choose when to use “low” speech. Liliana, struggling to preserve her respectability, shares only with the reader her “blast its” and her occasional desire to “plant a facer” on the hero. The hero, himself a bit high in the instep, swallows an oath or two also before he and Liliana find their happy-ever-after.

Today is release day for Liliana’s Letter. Enjoy this blurb and excerpt!

Liliana's Letter ebookThe Matchmaker

Lord Grigsby wants nothing more than to retreat to his study, but a promise to his long-dead sister has forced him back into society to broker the marriage of his nephew to the heiress whose money can save the young man’s earldom. If only the young lady’s starchy hired companion would move out of the way.

The Matchbreaker

Hired to launch an heiress’s society debut, seemingly straitlaced spinster Liliana Ashford’s future as a professional chaperone depends on the girl’s successful marriage. But Liliana had her own close encounter with a scoundrel years ago, and she won’t let her charge be forced into marriage to the same kind of rogue, no matter how hard the man’s widowed uncle tries to woo Liliana around to the match.

Secrets and a Scandalous Murder

A shadow from Liliana’s past appears bearing an unfortunate letter she wrote long ago, and then the earl is murdered, evoking the scandal of the season. While she scrambles to make a respectable match for her charge before her own past can be exposed, Grigsby sets about finding his nephew’s killer—and Liliana’s secrets.

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The woman at Grigsby’s side was like a lightning rod expecting a bolt to strike, or like a Fury about to deliver one. This close, scent wafted from her, roses and lemon, he’d guess. Tall, straight, and stiff, underneath her self-possession was a temper ready to unleash. He would bet on it.

Intriguing. He dared to poke her ire. “You clearly don’t approve of the match. Do you intend to openly oppose it?”

Her head whipped around, and she glared. “It’s not for me to approve or disapprove. Katie—Miss Mercer—will decide.”

Passion flashed in her eyes, sending an answering spark through him. She was magnificent—though so very mistaken. “Really? Then her father is more liberal than I expected.”

She looked him over more closely. “What do you know of this matter?”

I might ask you the same question. Her tone had been stiff, like the crystallized dome covering bubbling lava. He fixed her with his sternest glare, not entirely surprised at her cheek.

His glower didn’t impress her. She lifted her shoulders higher. Stood a little taller, proud, lovely, and filled with indignation.

Quite righteous indignation. He gave into an unmanly sigh, truly weary of his responsibility for Thomas. “I know a good deal, Miss Ashford. I have been negotiating for these nuptials. The arrangement is my doing as much as Mr. Mercer’s. Much more than it is my nephew’s. He is probably the least culpable, except for his abominable behavior.”

She clenched her hands tightly. “I see.”

“Thomas’s mother was my older sister. I made a promise to her that I would look after him.” Her gaze softened, and she bit her lip in a way that made him want to taste the part that she was nipping.

And where had that thought come from?

“And your nephew needs money and an heir.”

He nodded. As a woman of the ton, of course she would understand how marriage worked. Marriage wasn’t about love, or the bride’s approval, or a plump lower lip that begged to be kissed.

“He needs money most of all. He has a younger brother in the army who would make a far more dutiful earl.”

He covered his mouth with his hand. The words had rolled out, shocking him. He rarely spoke this frankly with any woman.

Very well, he never spoke this frankly with any woman.

She released a soft breath. “And there is the matter of the ore.”

His mouth gaped and he quickly closed it. Mr. Mercer had shared that information? Well. “That part of the county is rich with newly discovered veins of iron.”

That information brought her up straighter. She looked away, gazing intently at a thick, dark spot of foliage, making him want to pry into that sharp mind.

“I see,” she said. “I believe we should go back in now.”

Not yet. He tucked her hand over his arm but did not move. “I had hoped we were not finished talking. I’ve learned your Christian name is Liliana, but I don’t know anything else about you. I don’t know where you’re from or anything about your family.”

He sensed her bristling, and waited for some reaction, perhaps a slap, verbal, or, with a woman of her passion, even a physical one. Strictly speaking, he was importuning her, and damn if he wasn’t enjoying the nerves rippling through her.

About the Author:

Award winning author Alina K. Field earned a Bachelor of Arts Degree in English and German literature, but she found her true passion in reading and writing romance. Though her roots are in the Midwest, after six very, very, very cold years in Chicago, she moved to Southern California and hasn’t looked back. She shares a midcentury home with her husband and a blue-eyed cat who conned his way in for dinner one day and decided the food was too good to leave.

She is the author of the 2014 Book Buyer’s Best winner in the novella category, Rosalyn’s Ring, a Regency novella; and the novel-length sequel, a 2015 RONE Award finalist, Bella’s Band, both Soul Mate Publishing releases.

Visit her on her website, Facebook, Twitter, or Goodreads.

Thanks again, Alina, for such interesting information about cant! Congratulations on your new release!