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  • Writer's pictureClyve Rose

In Defense of the Villainess...

Updated: Dec 4, 2023

I'm still bubbling over with delight at my #Regency #holidayrelease, A Holiday Season at Clifton Hall. My novella appears together with Heather Hallman's #Edwardian romance in a single cozy volume. Heather's novella has one of my favourite type of characters - a confirmed villainess, who I'm happy to say ends up with a more unusual ending than most of the historical romances I've read. (What is it? No spoilers here - Heather would never forgive me...)

I confess, these malicious ladies of malevolence interest me deeply - because I'm never sure we remember just why they hanker so hungrily after the heroes and their haute homes. As anyone who's delved into their Austen knows, there's a lot more going on with historical women's narrowed focus on weddings and waltzes than mere bows and bustles.

The restrictions on women regarding owning property, having their own funds, or even being able to take a lease on a home or business premises meant that, historically, women's ties to men were more necessary than men's ties to women. Women weren't even allowed behind the wheel of early automobiles, and only gained licenses in large numbers during the 1940s.

In the old days, marriage wasn't about love, companionship, or even partnership: It was a woman's most expected - and often necessary - career move. In the words of the inimitable Miss Jane Austen (from Pride and Prejudice), marriage "was the only honourable provision for well-educated young women of small fortune, and however uncertain of giving happiness, must be their pleasantest preservative from want."

For a woman of large fortune too, the expectation to wed and bear heirs weighed more heavily than any other ambitions she might harbour. If it's difficult even today to find cut-through on women's autonomy, how much harder was this a century ago in Edwardian Tokyo? Or two hundred years ago in Regency England?

Thwarted ambition might nearly vindicate Mrs Bennet's obsession with Mr Bingley's proposals, and Lucy Steele's machinations among the M. Ferrars (plural). Mightn't it? Of course, this doesn't excuse all their villainous behaviours, but if a woman aiming to become a man's wife is considered 'scheming' and mercenary, what else ought she to do when that's literally her job description?

Euphemia Lyons appears as the villainess in Seduction of Tokyo. She employs some rather dastardly tactics against Heather's beautiful - and far more honourable - heroine Kiyo Iwai.

With wealth, power and more social clout than Kiyo, plus a long-standing history with Heather's banker-hero, Euphemia starts out a true villainess.

Like many other women of her time, her desire for the hero, Pierce, appears driven by survival and her true wish to deliver on what she's always been told is clearly her purpose: Marry as she's expected to and produce progeny to shore up a powerful family dynasty.

She's a product of her time, and I never fail to read characters like this in historical fiction, without a pang of pity and swathe of understanding. Without spoiling anything (I hope) I was thrilled to read the part of Heather's story where Euphemia gets what she deserves - and I'll just say this: It's not what you'd expect...

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