“Living their lives on their own terms”: Eva Leigh on the real women of the Regency period

“Living their lives on their own terms”: Eva Leigh on the real women of the Regency period

We’re delighted to be joined on our blog by Eva Leigh who talks about writing strong female characters in her Regency romances. Who not only sit comfortably in male-dominated spaces, but dispel the idea that Regency women were reliant on men, only to be seen and not heard.


Ballrooms. Garden parties. Elegant parlors where ladies in pastel gowns sipped tea, their conversation as delicate as the cups they held in their gloved hands. This is the world of the Regency Era woman, right?

Not quite!

Fed by Jane Austen film adaptations and Georgette Heyer novels, many contemporary readers have an impression of the Regency that doesn’t reflect the rowdiness, lustiness, and sheer bravado of the era. For all the genteel women sitting in the aforementioned parlors blushing at anything remotely carnal, there were writers, businesswomen, stage performers, scientists, artists, and sex workers in control of their bodies and their destinies. Regency women weren’t only debutantes in the upper ranks of the ton. They were queer, trans, of color, disabled, neurodivergent, of all classes, and living their lives on their own terms.

Is it any wonder that romance authors looking for an exciting setting for their characters turn to the Regency?

As an author, I’m fascinated by people who live on the margins, and I’m especially intrigued when there are women in male-dominated spaces, fighting to make a place for themselves. I’ve written heroines who run newspapers, write plays and erotic novels, run gaming halls, lead smuggling operations, study herpetology, and helm a family soap-making business. In all of these books, I’ve loved exploring how these women face down obstacles in their paths, especially obstacles of the male variety.

(Interestingly, none of the opposition my heroines face in their ambition comes from the heroes. I’m definitely about my couples supporting each other, and for all the men who stood in women’s ways, there were also men who believed in equality of the sexes—and that includes my heroes.)

In The Good Girl’s Guide to Rakes, my heroine, Celeste Kilburn, is part of London’s elite—but not exactly. Her father’s fortune comes from the realm of business, not ancient, inherited titles and land. Because she’s new money, her behavior is even more rigidly patrolled than women from the gentry. Trapped in her gilded cage, Celeste yearns for something more, wanting to make herself useful rather than merely decorative. She seems destined for a life of being an ornament—until she strikes a bargain with Kieran Ransome, her brother’s best friend and London’s most notorious rake. Part of the bargain includes Kieran showing Celeste all the forbidden and wild corners of city, places that she never gets to experience in her typical, constrained life. Of course, Celeste and Kieran’s adventures uncover hidden passions and attraction…and that’s when the fun truly begins.

Regency women like Celeste aren’t as atypical as you might believe. Britain was (and is) bursting with women who are ready to fight for themselves, to push back against society’s expectations, and claim their own destinies. When we pick up a Regency-set historical romance, we get to cheer on our sisters, and learn a little something about ourselves, all while falling in love. What could be better?


The Good Girl’s Guide to Rakes by Eva Leigh

When Kieran Ransome’s latest antics result in scandal, his father issues an ultimatum: find a respectable wife or inherit nothing. But as one of London’s most notorious scoundrels, Kieran doesn’t know any ladies who fit the bill…or does he?

Celeste Kilburn is a society darling, beloved by influential members of the ton. But keeping a spotless reputation leaves little room for adventure and she longs to escape her gilded cage. When Kieran, her brother’s best friend, begs for her help Celeste makes a deal: she will introduce him to the right social circles if he’ll show her the scandalous side of London!

Amongst ‘proper’ garden parties and, equally enthralling, wild fêtes and sensual art salons an initial attraction builds to a more tempting desire. But when their midnight exploits are discovered, Celeste’s freedom and reputation are at risk and Kieran must save the woman he loves…respectable or not.