As a writer, I’m usually leery of challenging myself, but there are times when it turns out to be fun. And I don’t merely mean making the leap from historical writing to contemporary and back again. I’m talking about moving outside of my comfort zone. To put it quite simply: my heroes have always been cowboys. *G* Well, cowboys, gunfighters, lawmen, bounty hunters—in other words, men who don’t have “purty” manners and are basically take-me-as-I-am kind of guys. And pairing them with a heroine who will at least pretend to be offended when he cusses, spits or smokes is a lot of fun. But lately my heroes have been moving in another direction, and I find myself writing about men who either need to fit in with polite society, or who already belong to it.
And that’s what has led me (kicking and screaming!) out of my comfort zone into the cold, frightening land of the unknown, LOL. Sure I knew the basic customs of the era, but I’ve never written a character that had to—or wanted to-- adhere to them. Some I already knew and have had fun deliberately ignoring in past stories. Others were no-brainers (ex: it’s bad manners to pick one’s teeth at the table. LOL. I’ll bet even my most trail-weary cowboy knows that one!) But they were all fun and chock full of "what if's" for having one character or another break the rules.
Here are some of the more interesting tid bits my research has turned up:
It was not considered appropriate for a young man to approach a young lady. Even if they had already met, he must still be introduced by a mutual friend a second time before he can speak to her freely.
In any stage of courtship, the couple always walked apart - the only contact allowed was for him to offer her his hand over rough spots while walking.
Women never rode alone in a closed carriage with a man who was not a relative. (oooh isn't that what made Rhett Butler so scandalous?)
Women did not call on an unmarried gentleman at his home.
Men could not be received into the home if a woman was there alone, a family member must be present at all times.
A true gentleman always tips his hat when greeting a lady, opens doors and always walks on the outside. (Sigh.)
When introduced to a man, a lady should never offer her hand, merely bow politely and say “I am pleased to make your acquaintance.”
A gentleman may delicately kiss a lady’s hand, forehead or at most, her cheek. (I suspect even my most noble heroes’ have broken this rule a time or two. *G*)
A lady should never be neglected. A gentlemen should help her with her cloak, shawl or any other outer garment she may wish to remove. (A safe bet to say my heroes are quite capable in this area.)
When ascending a staircase with a lady, a gentleman is to go at her side or before her.