The Regency Debutante-A Feast of Fictional Heroines

The Regency debutante comes in very handy for authors like me, even though she is as individual as the writers who create her. She can appear in just about all shapes and sizes–within a framework of having the ability to attract “Mr. Right,” of course. (In other words, she can be anything as long as it’s attractive enough for the purposes of a romance.)

Half the fun of a Regency (or any romance) is being able to understand and relate to the heroine; therefore, she must be wonderful in some ways and definitely lacking in others; she must be attractive but not so perfect that you can’t believe in her; she must strike a chord in every female reader who picks up your book, and any writer can create such a character simply by making her human. That is the one thing we ALL have in common, our humanity, with all its foibles and faults.

But what is a Regency debutante? How is she different from other fictional heroines?

A dictionary will tell you that a debutante is “a young woman making a formal debut into society.” In our case, it is Regency society, which is the other half of the fun of a Regency novel. No other time period was quite like the Regency; Jane Austen taught us how to poke gentle fun at it while also caring about those who were part of it; and Georgette Heyer showed us ways to really turn up the volume (of fun), concocting plots full of characters plucked from many layers of that society.

The interesting thing about the debutante of the Regency, is that she could be most anyone, from anywhere. Families came from abroad for the ‘season’ to debut their favored young ladies among the English rich. Most of the time, they, too, had money and therefore were supremely ‘qualified’ to join the “marriage mart.” But they might also be hiding a bankruptcy–it wasn’t always easy to discover the truth in those days of slow travel and communication (by today’s standards).

Likewise, any country miss and her mama might aspire to a London “season” and there was always the chance of making an astounding success. (You see how it easily makes for the stuff of romance novels?)

So the Regency Debutante was any young lady of gentle birth making her “come out” into the wider society of adults of her community; If she were wealthy or could gather enough financial backing, (or had good connections) she could make that debut into London or Bath society, circles where the possibility of making a good match (marriage) were greater.

Not all Regency novels use debutantes as their heroines, but to understand what “the season” was about, one must recognize this formal female creature! She often was not in for fun and games, despite the whirl of social entertainments on her schedule, but if she happened to be pretty, and even more important, wealthy, then upper class society was sure to welcome her in.

Another aspect that makes Regencies so enjoyable is the clothing needed for the debutante’s season. The quantity AND the quality–it all counted, and it all makes for fun reading. That, along with descriptions of social customs and manners, makes delving into the era an experience you will likely want to do again and again.

The Regency? You’ve got to love it!