During the Victorian era of the mid and late nineteenth century, if a young man stole a kiss from a young lady, the announcement of an engagement would soon follow to preserve her reputation. Free-spiritedness was not a quality Society tolerated for ladies of the upper class. While free-thinking men could take liberties with chambermaids, servant girls, and promiscuous women of low rank and even lower reputation, upper-class women had no such rights. Women simply did not go about kissing men who were not their husbands.
All that changed during the Edwardian period at the start of the twentieth century. It was a time when social differences began to blur. The Industrial Revolution, with its tremendous technological advancement, brought the ability to mass-produce products, and with that, new avenues to gain wealth. Alongside this change, women were beginning to speak out for the right to vote. While they did not earn the privilege in England until 1928, the influence of the Suffrage movement had significant impact in the quality of their lives. Fashion radically changed. The restrictive corset of the Victorian Age was overthrown in favor of one that supported the spine and abdomen. Dresses transitioned from the hourglass figure dress to the “S” curve, allowing a curvaceous clothing line similar to the Art Nouveau style. Jewelry became more flamboyant––instead of extravagant hairpieces, women now wore pins made from colorful enamels and gold filigree with such designs as birds and dragonflies. Ladies’ hats became larger. Cosmetics came into fashion and could be openly purchased without having to sneak through a pharmacy’s backdoor. Women also began to participate in athletics. With that, clothing became more comfortable with lighter construction and materials. Overall, the lifestyle for women was improving.
Not as progressive, courtship and love remained steeped in tradition. Marriage was entirely dependent upon the class status of a man and a woman. For the upper classes, marriage was about preserving the aristocracy. In contrast, those within the ranks of the new-monied class saw marriage as an opportunity to elevate their standing within society. Once a young lady became a debutante, she could receive a proposal of marriage, but a man could never lead a woman on if he had no plans of marriage. Flirtations were absolutely unacceptable. A man always had to check his comments to be sure that anything he said wouldn’t be misconstrued; a casual expression of feelings might lead others to believe he had intentions for a young lady. A man who crossed the line with careless pronouncements might very well find himself engaged and married to a lady he did not want to wed. Or worse, the man might be disgraced in society. Dating was not casual exploration, but a serious endeavor. Courting a lady meant that a man’s intentions were clear, that he intended to propose marriage.
So how did English women escape from the doldrums of their repressive lives? They traveled abroad. In A Room with a View, Lucy travels with her spinster cousin to Italy. While there, Lucy meets the handsome young George seated across from her at dinner. What happens next would have shocked the Edwardian reader, but will captivate the modern reader. When their eyes meet, Lucy is so taken with George that she excuses herself from the dinner table to catch her breath. And whom should follow her but George. Upstairs in a solitary hallway, George takes his liberty…
Will Lucy set aside convention to find true happiness and love? Turn the page of Coco Rousseau’s adaption of A Room with a View and find out what happens after George steals a passionate kiss. The original text of E. M. Forster is undisturbed, but the passionate love scenes and content are added throughout the book to appeal to the modern romance reader.