I’m currently deep in the weeds writing a Christian Regency to add to the Within the Castle Gates series later this fall. So while ideas are pinging and a notebook is always within arm’s reach to jot down the latest reminder to myself or perfect dialogue snippet, I thought I’d share just a few of the treasures I found while researching certain fact points.
First, I had to get in the mood. To pick up on the lingo. To “visit” a few elegant drawing rooms in English manors. To observe the very proper mannerisms. So while I normally binge read the genre to absorb the tropes, this time I turned to the screen instead.
As in two weekends filled with Amazon Prime Video as I watched three different Jane Austen stories as produced by BBC: Pride and Prejudice, Sense and Sensibility, and Mansfield Park. After all, who better than the British to adapt the classics for the screen since they have the accent nailed and access to the perfect settings?
And as if that wasn’t enough, I pulled out the old VHS tape of a different version of S&S starring Emma Thompson and Hugh Grant…then landed upon a second BBC version of S&S and had to watch it to see if I had a preference.
Overkill? Maybe. But when I started composing an email using formal language and could hear a British accent in my head, I knew I was ready for the book to take shape.
At long last, I was finally putting words onto paper. Until I had a character in March of 1790 perusing a newspaper while breaking her fast whereupon she would see a certain marriage announcement… (See what I mean about formal English popping up where I least expect it? Sorry about that!)
What was I saying? Oh, right. A very old newspaper. What else might she read about before getting the bad news?
I did a quick Google search for the Oxford area and that date. And found a link to an online archive and screenshotted this gem:
The House of Commons on March 16, 1790 approved a report about the Speaker’s salary. They then considered a bounty to be given to Surgeons on slave ships if the mortality rate was under a certain threshold per hundred.
And speaking of bounties…right there was the account of mutiny onboard the HMS Bounty.
Followed by details about export duties on cotton goods going to Spain.
Other news on the same page included a lost greyhound dog, a job posting recruiting shoemakers, and several large estates and properties for sale.
Yes, I’ll admit I read (or attempted to read) most of the articles on the page before finally getting back to my poor character still sitting at the breakfast table.
Sigh. Apparently it was possible to get caught up and waste time in a news feed even back then…
One last tidbit. My heroine is required by her chaperone/tutor to study DeBrett’s Peerage as part of her preparation for the Season. Standard Regency romance trope followed later by an invitation to Almack’s, etc.
Well, I’m sure you’ve guessed by now that I couldn’t leave well enough alone and had to go looking to see what sorts of information was actually contained in that book. Was it just a list of names and ranks? Or was there more to discover?
Here’s a page from the 1812 edition. Hmm. Exactly what my character would have seen in the latest version…
Right there on the page were all the dates of this particular baron’s life. When he was born. When he succeeded his father to the title. His first marriage, the wife’s lineage and death, the death of their unnamed daughter. His second marriage, that wife’s lineage, the birth dates of their three children. All unnamed. Perhaps because they were minors? Or because they didn’t matter until the son inherited the title and got his own entry in a future edition?
And that’s before you read on to the history of the title this baron currently holds and his numerous brothers and sisters who weren’t as lucky to inherit the title but can still claim a connection to the baron.
Oh, I can’t tell you the number of plot possibilities this glimpse sparked. As well as a few headaches since I had to come up with a logical explanation for how an entry could possibly have contained errors or omissions in a day when anyone who was anyone had the book memorized more than their Bible.
Or at least that’s how it seems according to the genre tropes.
Anyway, those are more than enough rabbit holes of research for today since I’d better get back to work on my story.
(Before you get too worried, I’m aiming for a historical flavor not true accuracy in every little element. After all, I write fiction set against a historical backdrop. This research was fun. Anything more would drive me bonkers!)
Until next time,