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The Courtship Is a Romance Novel Come to Life—But Can It Really Work?
I had 15 minutes to decide for myself.
As someone who proudly claims "romance novel reader" as a personality trait, I am no stranger to the allure of a Regency-era love story. (Shoutout to my historical romance writing queens Sarah MacLean, Courtney Milan, Julia Quinn, Vanessa Riley, Tessa Dare...I could keep going.) So when I heard about NBC's new Regency dating show, The Courtship, I was immediately sold. And when I saw that the heroine was fellow Haitian American Nicole Rémy? I was obsessed.
As a part of ushering The Courtship into the world, I was invited to a press event to chat with Ms. Rémy and two of the suitors we'll see vie for her heart in the coming weeks: Mr. Daniel Bochicchio and Mr. Jaquan Holland. But the twist? We'd bring a bit of the Regency era to 2022 New York City. I was escorted by Mr. Bochiccio and Mr. Holland in a horse-drawn carriage ride around Central Park. The time allowed me to truly ponder the premise of the show: Does Regency-era courting have a place in the 21st century?
Now, my 15 minutes in Courtship-land were nothing compared to Rémy's experience on the series. I mean, she and her Court stayed in an actual English palace, Castle Howard, for five weeks. The suitors occupied a garden house on the property. Rémy wore a slew of custom Empire silhouette gowns, played cricket for fun, and tensely- choreographed Farewell Dances—motivated by impending breakups—were a regular occurrence. Meanwhile, for the press event, I was wearing wide-legged leather pants and my Ivy Park Adidas, typing away on my MacBook Pro and stressing over the Wordle of the day. But if anything, my jaunt into the Regency universe briefly transported me into the pages of my most beloved romance novels.
As a jaded New Yorker, I typically throw a sparring glance to the horse-drawn carriages surrounding Central Park, dismissing them as a tourist trap. But that day I excitedly approached my wheeled transportation and was greeted by the handsome (and nervous!) Mr. Bochicchio and Mr. Holland. Clad in the ornate cravats, tailcoats, and trousers we see them don on the show, there was something charming about two strapping men stuffed into the fanciest of historical garb. After all, in modern times, women are pressured to primp and polish while guys seemingly get away with putting minimal effort into their appearance. Now, the roles were reversed.
As I grilled them on what they thought about Castle Howard ("If you aren't from here, it would be like coming to New York for the first time," said Mr. Bochicchio), what intrigued them about the show (the emphasis on being "chivalrous," proclaimed Mr. Holland), and what it was like making out in front of parental chaperones ("intense," remarks Mr. Bochicchio), the chill of the overcast day fell away. As a journalist—and a woman who took note of the modelesque men across from her—I felt connected to my subjects.
After all was said and done, it was Mr. Bochicchio and Mr. Holland's parting words that left me with something to chew on. "One of the biggest things that the Regency era taught me was to go after what you want," Mr. Bochicchio said. "Be confident in doing so, and do it in such a way to where you don't care who's watching. With courting you're being romantic and vulnerable. You're letting this person know who you are, and how you feel about them, and you want the world to know. Courting is a trend that we should try to bring back."
Holland's take? "I think that maybe [this generation] could get some tips from watching the show."
As I said my goodbyes and exited the carriage, stepping back into reality and making a mental note to pass on just a few pointers to my longterm real-life boyfriend, I was struck. Just like many books had before, the date swept me away. And not because I felt a love connection (sorry, boys). Maybe it was the tea—read: gossip—about upcoming episodes that mesmerized me, or maybe I saw that the over-the-top nature of a Regency date was romantic, indeed. Add in a modern touch of a woman's deserved equal footing in a relationship? Even better.
Ms. Rémy: If you're reading this, I totally get it.
The Courtship airs Sundays at 8 p.m. ET on NBC. Catch up now on NBC.com.