by Alina K. Field
February: The Month of Romance
February is here, and my local Albertson’s store has been in full romance mode for over a week with flowers, candy, cookies, champagne and everything else needed to make the perfect day of romance for the lady or gentleman in your life.
Why is February such a romantic month? Maybe it’s because of the weather. (Though if you’re from California, you won’t understand that.) Or, we can…
Blame it on the Romans
St. Valentine was a Roman priest who officiated Christian weddings in defiance of authorities and was martyred by the Emperor Claudius. His February 14th feast day was established as far back as the fifth century AD, and he’s been linked to romantic love since at least the time of Chaucer.
In the era in which my books are set, the Regency, lovers and friends exchanged Valentine’s Day cards and gifts, but they really took off in the Victorian era. In America, one enterprising artist, Esther Howland, built a business around these greeting cards, the New England Valentine Company. She became fabulously rich (it didn’t hurt that her father owned a book and stationery store). She never married though. I wonder if she ever had a romance of her own?
In addition to Valentine’s Day, there’s another little-known day for romance in the month of February:
You may already have heard that Leap Day is the day when, by tradition, a woman may propose marriage to a man—as if women never proposed to men on other days. Hah! We all know that Victoria proposed to Albert, and since there have always been strong, assertive women, I’d bet money there were plenty of ladies proposing to men through the ages.
So why have a special day for proposing? Why, because by tradition, and sometimes law, a man who refused a lady on Leap Day had to pay a forfeit. For a lady who truly wanted to marry a certain man, this was a win-win. If he said yes, she got all the societal benefits of marriage, and if he said no, she could take solace in whatever tradition or law deemed appropriate, like a pair of new gloves, a length of fine cloth, a new dress.
It seems really unfair to those historical ladies that Leap Day only occurred every four years! But that fact we can blame on the Romans also.
Julian and Gregory
From a blog I wrote a couple of years ago:
For many centuries, the western world followed the Julian Calendar, so-called because it was introduced by Julius Caesar in 46 B.C. The Julian year had a Leap Day every four years, but it was still out of sync with the solar year.
A new calendar was introduced in 1582 by the Bishop of Rome, Pope Gregory XIII, and the motivation was religious. The Catholic Church uses the vernal equinox to set the date of Easter, and the calendar measures the amount of time that elapses between successive vernal equinoxes.
The Gregorian calendar also includes a Leap Day every four years, “except for the century years that aren’t evenly divisible by 400”. The next century year that will include an extra day will be 2400.
A Leap Into Love
While Valentine’s Day is a great time for contemporary romance-themed stories, I’m not sure the holiday was quite as big a deal back in the Regency era. Dinner reservations? Other than travelers’ inns and private homes, people didn’t dine out. Flowers? Gentlemen sent ladies flowers on a regular basis. Unmarried ladies didn’t date. My muse hasn’t found much Valentine’s Day motivation for a Regency-set romance.
On the other hand, the Leap Day tradition inspired a story idea that nagged at me for over a year. A Leap Into Love is the tale of an innkeeper who’s the object of a Leap Day revenge plot by the ladies of his small village. Only the heroine can save him (really!) and she has no intention of proposing marriage to him. This short, sweet novella is available on Kindle Unlimited and will be free for non-KU subscribers February 25-March 1, 2019.
More references for your romance month reading pleasure:
From the True Treats Historic Candy Company and filled with many amazing images: The History of the Human Heart: A Story of Money, Aphrodisiacs, Leonardo da Vinci, and the Catholic Church
A fun Leap Day post from author Vanessa Riley’s blog.
Marking Time: The Epic Quest to Invent the Perfect Calendar, by Duncan Steel.
Award winning author Alina K. Field earned a Bachelor of Arts Degree in English and German literature, but her true passion is the much happier world of romance fiction. Though her roots are in the Midwestern U.S., after six very, very, very cold years in Chicago, she moved to Southern California and hasn’t looked back. She shares a midcentury home with her husband, her spunky, blonde, rescued terrier, and the blue-eyed cat who conned his way in for dinner one day and decided the food was too good to leave.
She is the author of several Regency romances, including the 2014 Book Buyer’s Best winner, Rosalyn’s Ring. She is hard at work on her next series of Regency romances, but loves to hear from readers!
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