Dashing Duchess Book Release: The Unexpected Duchess by Valerie Bowman (Giveaway!)

UnexpectedDuchessHello everyone,

Thank you for joining me in the duchesses’ drawing room today. I am beyond excited to announce that the first book in my new Playful Brides series, The Unexpected Duchess, will be released Tuesday 4/29/14! Why do I call it The Playful Brides? Well, each of the books in the series is based on a different famous romp play. Oh, I do adore a romp. The Unexpected Duchess is based on Rostand’s Cyrano de Bergerac. I call it a “reverse Cyrano” story because the heroine is trying to break up a couple instead of get them together.

The other books in the series, The Accidental Countess (10/28/14), and The Unlikely Lady (Spring 2015), are based on Oscar Wilde’s, The Importance of Being Earnest and Shakespeare’s, Much Ado About Nothing, respectively. I’m thrilled that this series has gotten off to such a fine start with The Unexpected Duchess earning a 4.5 star TOP PICK rating from RT Book Reviews, and a STARRED review from both Booklist and Kirkus!

The premise of my series got me to thinking about the theatre in Regency England. Here are a few facts I learned while researching the subject:

  1. Did you know that the theatres were called “Theatre Royal” only after they received Letters Patent by the Crown?
  2. Although we love to suggest in our books that it was possible to “turn down” the house lights, that was actually quite impossible (they were candles in huge chandeliers hoisted to the ceiling) and it was quite bright in the theatre on purpose to see and be seen. The gaslights didn’t begin until Drury Lane Theatre introduced them in 1817.
  3. Hot wax (from those same chandeliers) dripped on the patrons in the  pit. Hence, one of the reasons why it cost more to sit elsewhere.

    Theatre Royal, Covent Garden, 1810

    Theatre Royal, Covent Garden, 1810

  4. The theatre at Bury St Edmunds is the only Regency theatre still in existence and open for business. Who wants to go with me?!
  5. A night at the theatre did not merely consist of one play. It might also involve a comedy sketch, singing, animals, and anything else the owners of the theatre could dream up. Think 4 or 5 hours of entertainment.

So, any questions or comments about the theatres of Regency England? One lucky commenter will win a copy of The Unexpected Duchess (U.S.-only for print, anywhere for e-book, Void where prohibited).



Duchess Valerie Bowman is an award-winning author who writes Regency-set historical romance novels (aka Racy Regency Romps) with a focus on sharp dialogue, engaging story lines, and heroines who take matters into their own hands!

Valerie grew up in Illinois with six sisters (she’s number seven) and a huge supply of historical romance novels. After a cold and snowy stint earning a degree in English with a minor in history at Smith College, she moved to Florida the first chance she got.

Valerie now lives in Jacksonville with her family including her rascally rescue dog, Roo. When she’s not writing, she keeps busy reading, traveling, or vacillating between watching crazy reality TV and PBS. Valerie loves to hear from readers. Find her on the web at Facebook, Twitter, and at www.ValerieBowmanBooks.com.


on “Dashing Duchess Book Release: The Unexpected Duchess by Valerie Bowman (Giveaway!)
89 Comments on “Dashing Duchess Book Release: The Unexpected Duchess by Valerie Bowman (Giveaway!)
  1. No questions…In truth, as I started to read your article, the lighting issue in the theaters crossed my mind, so you pretty much answered all my burning questions (and some I didn’t know I had) about theater in the Regency era. LOL

    I love the sound of this new series and can’t wait to get my hands on The Unexpected Duchess. Love that cover too.

    kareninnc at gmail dot com

    • Hi Karen,
      I still want to imagine it was dark enough for a clandestine kiss in a private box. Alas, NOT historically accurate. Sigh.

  2. Five hours is a long time to sit and watch any performance. Imagine an initial visit to one of these theaters must have been awe-inspiring. Thanks for the giveaway.

  3. When you wrote that some nights at the theater could last for 4 or 5 hours, I literally groaned. How did that people sit there for so long? Phew! My butt would be numb. :-) I was also fascinated to read how attendees had to pay more to NOT get dripped on by hot wax! That could ruin a beautiful frock!

    I have really been looking forward to reading your new release, Valerie, and the green cover is so sexy! So glad to know you are a fellow Floridian too.


    Connie Fischer

    • Hi Connie, Thanks for stopping by. I would actually like to know how/where/when they all used the convenience during such a long performance. Any duchesses or other historians know this? This is the type of thing that I think about. Ha!

  4. Hi Valerie, What a fascinating article about the theatres. I’d no idea that plays could last so long back then. I do know though, that it was also a time for socializing, and to be seen, and that people who had private boxes also entertained their friends.

    I’m a fellow Floridian too, but I live way, way, south of you.

    Congratulations to you on the release of “The Unexpected Duchess”, and on thee beautiful cover. I can’t wait to read this.


    • Hi Diane, Good to hear from you! I was just up in Chicago over the weekend and was like, “What? It’s not summer here yet?” :) We Floridians are spoiled this time of year.

  5. I feel silly that I did not know about the wax dripping into the pit area and it being the reason people paid to watch from elsewhere…
    Did people have seats in the pit or was it standing room only?

    • Hi Kate,
      I believe the pit was standing room only. It was much cheaper to view a performance that way, obviously. I don’t know if I could stand the crush and the wax. :)

  6. The tidbits about the theaters were fun, and I can’t imagine sitting there with hot wax falling on your head while you’re trying to enjoy the show. 😀

  7. And I should say that we love to suggest the house lights could be turned down in Regency novels (which is the time period I write in). Those Victorian authors (some of the duchesses write Victorians) can do it to their heart’s content, those lucky devils! ; )

  8. I want to go with you! =) And I’m really looking forward to these…especially the next 2 as Earnest and Much Ado are 2 of my favorite plays. =)

  9. Very interesting article.
    My question is Where were the ladies rooms and what were they like?
    How high up were the candles in the chandeliers and how did they light them? If it was a 4 hours affair they would have had to have some really tall candles to last that long. Very intriguing!

    • Hi Joye,
      I was thinking the same thing, that the candles must have been long or perhaps slow-burning? I want to know where the ladies’ rooms were, too. They lit the candles by lowering the chandeliers with a rope/pulley-type of system and them hoisting them back up. Very interesting, no?

  10. Congrats on your release… I do have a question. Do you know if there were curtains or privacy screens attached to the boxes?

    • Ooh, what a good question, Ronda. And I may just use that idea in a book. I don’t see any screens in the pictures I’ve looked at and it seems to be the consensus that most people WANTED to be seen at the theatre which was part of the reason for going. I also read that because everyone could see everything, it would actually draw more attention to a box if it was dimly lit or screened for some reason but that might not stop me from using the curtain idea. (wink)

  11. Congrats on the release of your latest book.
    I can’t imagine what going to the theater then must have been like (yikes on your hot wax fact). How did they heat (or ventilate) the place? If it was packed it must have been quite pungent too.

    • Yes, Linda. There was that as well. I believe the theatre season was in the spring and autumn perhaps for just that reason.

  12. Congrats on your release! And thanks for sharing those theater facts…I’m definite I wouldn’t be able to sit through five hours of performance without multiple intermissions.

  13. i love to go to the theater now. How much fun would it be to get dressed up and join those handsome lords and ladies at the theatre?

    Congrats on the new release!

    • Thanks, Nicole. I would have preferred air conditioning but it’s best not to think about that. ; )

  14. Love the sound of the book. Definitely one I’ll be reading.
    It’s interesting about the lighting. I’ve seen in so many novels were the lights dim and of course you get the secret kisses or touches so never thought differently about it, but I guess that really wouldn’t gave been possible, lol.

    • I almost wish I didn’t know this, Stephanie. It’s so much more romantic to think of the lights dimming, no? Ha!

  15. I love the sketch of the Theatre Royal. It appears to be much larger than I had always thought. I’ve always like the possibilites in the story of Cyrano (for a different ending!), so I look forward to reading this.

  16. Congrats on your new release! I was wondering – is it true that going to the certain theatres was scandalous back then? (As implied in some historical romance)

    • Hi Florence,
      I’m not sure. Which theatre? Do you remember? There were several different ones and some of them may have had a better reputation than others.

  17. Congratulations on the book release!!
    I would love to live back on that time, even though the theater served more to see and be seen than to watch the actors and their plays.
    The book cover is amazing!!

  18. Congratulations on your newest release!!!

    I’d love to see a play at the Bury St Edmunds theater!! Several years ago we visited the Globe. The kids were too young for the play they were putting on – plus it was sold out. :-( Maybe one day…

    • Hi Glenda,
      Oh, the new Globe is the coolest. I got a chance to see it in 2009 when I visited London.

  19. I’ve heard about Royal Albert Hall for concerts. I saw a Moody Blues Concert that was performed there on tape. Did they also have theater productions?

  20. I super loved it Val!!! And I know who’s book is going to be Much Ado About Nothing~!!!! Eeeekkkk!!! I’m so excited but gosh it’s so far away!
    It’s going to be a super great release day!

  21. Congratulations on the new book. I have a question about the private boxes. If it was a duke’s private box, was it his for one performance of each play or for 7 days a week & 365 days a year? Also, if he or his immediate family didn’t attend the theater, would someone else have access to the box or did it just stay empty?

    • Hi Kim,
      Good questions! What I’ve read indicated that it was his whenever the theatre was open/showing and if he didn’t give it to his friends/family, it would be empty. I can imagine there may have been different arrangements at different theatres but that seems to be the general idea.

  22. Thanks for the post. I honestly didn’t know much about theaters, especially the ones from the Regency period. Congrats on your new book coming out

  23. What fun facts about the theater! I especially loved the one about how wax dripping on the patrons. LOL Congratulations on the release of the first book of your wonderful series!!!! :)

  24. I hadn’t even thought about the lighting back then! Hot wax must’ve made a few burns & ruined some clothing!

  25. Congrats Valerie on the newest release!!! It sounds fabulous. I also didn’t think of the dripping hot wax… ugh!!! And being in a warm theater with so many people who only bathed like once a week if that doesn’t sound that appealing… lol.. but it would be fun to see a production as it was back then :) Thanks for sharing!

  26. I love the Cyrano de Bergerac story! Have you seen Roxanne with Steve Martin? He is awesome (as is the uber handsome fireman who needs his help.) Super congrats on the release and all the rave reviews!

  27. Hi Valerie,

    Congratulations on your new series. I love it when a new series starts and I’m able to watch it grow.

    I’ve always wondered about the ‘common’ people. At what time in history were they accepted into the theatres? Were they the ones in the pit? under the melting wax candles? Did people have to pay to get in or did they just ‘own’ their own box?

    • Great questions, Eileen! Shakespeare’s Globe Theatre which was opened in the 1600’s had a pit and it was a popular pasttime for the ‘common folk’. It was open air and the shows were held during the day or there were torches that we lit. The hot wax dripping on people’s heads was actually a step up. Ha! The boxes were paid for in advance so in a way they were “owned”.

  28. Congrats on the new book and series, Valerie!

    Fascinating theater facts. I never thought about having to use candles…or about the dripping wax. Probably because in the books I’ve read the characters are always in a raised box instead of in the floor seating. 😀

  29. I just finished The Unexpected Duchess! Loved it! Can’t wait for Jane and Garrett’s story!

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