Usage of given names during intimate parts of the book–don’t swoon a bit of a history lesson

I was recently asked why my heroes don’t call their heroines by love names during intimate scenes.

Believe it or not–and no swooning–there is a HISTORICAL reason for this.

As it would be, Liberty, for as annoying as she was at times, is actually one of my most historically accurate heroines, in most regards. Not necessarily in regards to her strong will or her penchant for revenge, but her goal in life to live inside the bounds of propriety. One such thing is how she addressed others and how they addressed her.

During the time period, men and women DID address each other formally–both before and after they were married. Lord Townson. Lady Townson. Mr. Grimes. Mrs. Grimes. Particularly in public. In private, they *might* be more relaxed about this if they were especially close. But even then it was fairly common to address each other formally in private.

In turn, gentlemen were often more “relaxed” with their mistresses. Sure, they might request their mistress call them by their title, but often the intimacies they shared with their mistresses were done under different circumstances: desire as opposed to duty. So with their mistresses, they’d be more likely to call them “sweet”, “pet”, “love”, etc Just some sort of meaningless term of endearment.

From a historical and romantic standpoint, it would seem the greatest show of intimacy (besides sex itself) for a couple would be to forgo formalities and use their given names. This includes not using terms of endearment as that is both a coverup for not using their first name as well as always makes me think of how they’d style their mistress. (I’ll add a disclaimer, I can think of at least one time that I DID use a term of endearment during such a scene, but it was only once and he did use her name, too. In general, I shy away from them as I don’t find them to show intimacy between the characters, but rather is more of a mockery since that’s how he might have styled another woman. Just my thoughts and feelings.)

So now that I’ve mentioned this, be honest, had anyone else noticed this before?

14 thoughts on “Usage of given names during intimate parts of the book–don’t swoon a bit of a history lesson”

  1. I have to admit I’ve never given it much thought… I can appreciate your reasoning. It would certainly be disrespectful to call ones wife a pet name more fitted for a bit o’ muslin. 🙂 On the other hand… in the interest of honesty, I will say that I love those old English names. I would much rather be somebody’s “love” or “sweet” that their “Mrs.”…. only in name, I have no secret desire to be a kept lady. 🙂

  2. I have noticed in reading historical romances that the characters will say “I haven’t given you permission to use my Christian name,” which, to me, has always suggested that it was considered intimate to do so. But that was more of an assumption on my part. And I was not aware that pet names were typically used for mistresses. So you’ve taught me something new today, Rose! I think you should write some additional blog posts about historical customs during this time period. An example off the top of my head–arranged marriages. I find all of it so fascinating.

  3. After doing research into the Regency, I do see how they’re very strict on name usage, and I can’t see a titled genteman calling his wife by a pet name. It doesn’t fit the feel of the time period, unless perhaps these are common people who had no title or a significant amount of money. This is one of those damned-if-you-do and damned-if-you-don’t situations. Someone will like the pet name and others will think it ruins the book for them. Even in our modern society, not all husbands and wives address each other by pet names. For example, my husband and I refer to each other by our first names, regardless of whether we’re in bed or in public.

    My opinion is to err on the side of historical accuracy since people are more likely to notice the imperfections of a book and review it accordingly. If more fans would give books 4 or 5 stars for books they enjoyed, it would make the leeway (ex. pet names) more doable. But since the critics are often the biggest voices in the reviews, I say err on the side of caution.

    Just my two cents. 😀

    1. My husband rarely calls me by my given name outside of bed. He has several names for me that are specific to only me. They’re not your typical terms of endearment like: babe, honey, sweetie, etc. Kind of like Alex calling Caroline Caro. My husband will call me something specific to me that I know he’d never call anyone else–nor would anyone else call their wives/sweethearts this. Trust me.

      Like Sarah, if he were to call me this while being intimate, it’d totally kill the moment.

      Oh and isn’t it typical that those who hate something haven’t the loudest voices?

  4. The only thing I DID notice was “I haven’t given you permission to use my name”, or “Please use my Christian name”. I assumed it was a propriety thing, so actually using someone’s name would be much more intimate than a “pet” name. Hmmm…good lesson today! If there was another era I could live in, it would be this time (however, I would like running water and electricity!)

    Even still, the biggest compliment I can receive is that I’m a lady! That’s the lesson I’m trying to reach my girls, too, but… 🙂

  5. Honestly, I never thought about that during the love scenes. I think I would have a harder time with reading a book where they were calling each other Lord or Lady such in such while in the throws of passion.
    I have to agree with Ruth Ann and say that I almost always call my husband by first name in “bed”. While his pet name for me is Honey Bear or just Bear, I think I would burst out laughing if he called me that while we were enjoying each other.
    I am not sure is this is the scene in one of your books you are talking about, but I always laugh when Alex calls Caroline his Lady Godiva. Well really it is the whole sentence that he says that makes me laugh.

    1. Nope. That wasn’t what I was referencing. In that scene–which I’d forgotten about–Alex is actually referencing an old English legend of a woman named Lady Godiva who rides a horse while naked. Alex’s reference to her being HIS Lady Godiva is why I allowed that usage. The only other time I’m aware of having a hero use a term of endearment during such a scene (and I could be wrong, I didn’t check) is Andrew calls Brooke sweetheart right before he uh… you know.

      I did have Gateway call Madison “sweet”, during the first chapter of their book, before his identity is completely revealed only because I was trying to create angst between Andrew and Benjamin AND trying to get one last dig at him being a villain in by having him deliberately call her that.

  6. My husband very rarely calls me by my name out of bed, it’s usually Mandy(and he’s the only one who gets away with it). However if he were to call me that in bed it would be a total buzz kill. I completely get the historical accuracy of them not using “pet” names. But it think that in a romance where the 2 main characters are supposed to have a “love match” then they should definitely call each other by their first names, even if it wasn’t always so during the time. If you love someone you shouldn’t have to call them Lord such-and-such and Lady so-and-so in the privacy of your own bedroom.

    1. I’m not sure I’ve ever read one where they called each other Lord and Lady in bed…

      To me, with a love match, you shouldn’t even have to address them formally in their home, but especially not in bed. Egads.

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