Tuesday, September 13, 2011

A great new book and giveaway from Vanessa Kelly



One of the best things about writing historical romance is that I get to do a lot of cool research. My books are set during the Regency period, so my research is focused on British history from the late 1790’s to about 1820.
And what a time it was! If there was one thing the aristocracy knew how to do back in those days it was party. Actually, most Brits seemed to party hardy back then. Beverages included ginger beer, ale, punch, gin, fortified wines like sherry or port, brandy, negus (mulled wine), cordials, and lemonade for the Regency misses. And, of course, everyone loved champagne!
One thing you could be certain of: folks back then tended to consume lots of alcohol. To say that many people in the Regency era could drink most of us under the table would be an understatement!
And then there was the food. The upper classes in particular could really pile it on, often serving two or three courses that had up to twenty dishes a course. Some of the favorites were roast chicken, stewed or boiled game birds like partridges, ragout of beef, stuffed goose, mutton, pastries, soups, fish with sauce, puddings, custards...well, you get the picture. And many of those dishes could be served at one meal. No wonder people had gout!
Research isn’t all fun and games, though. My latest book, My Favorite Countess, features a doctor hero, who spends quite a bit of time in the slums delivering babies and caring for pregnant women. I had to do a fair amount of research on what women’s medicine looked like back in those days. I can use one word to describe it—gruesome. Trust me, having a baby back in the 19th century wasn’t for the faint of heart.
I did get a few laughs, though, from period illustrations of Regency doctors—dressed like Colin Firth in Pride & Prejudice—discretely groping under the dresses of fashionable ladies. Touch but don’t look seemed to be the way many examinations were conducted.
I also did research on London slums. Gruesome as well, but fascinating in terms of social history. One of the interesting things about the Regency period was how frequently the upper and lower classes jostled up against each other. The worst slums of the city were only a few blocks from the luxurious mansions of Mayfair, and it was very common for wealthy young aristocrats to cut loose in the less savory parts of London. Mayhem was often the result.
Doing this kind of research is both fascinating and fun, but the part I like best is incorporating the really interesting bits into my story in a way that enhances plot and character. So in My Favorite Countess I not only have all the glitter and glamour that we’ve come to expect in Regency-set novels, I also have a riot, some dramatic scenes in the slums—including an attempting kidnapping and murder—and a birth that could go tragically wrong if my hero doesn’t arrive in time. Whew! That’s one of the great things about writing historical romance. You can use all these interesting elements to really ramp up the drama and conflict.
But My Favorite Countess is first and foremost a romance, so I do have a lot of that good stuff too—including a very sexy scene between the hero and heroine in a deserted ruin in the woods. I won’t give you the details, but I will say that it takes place on a hot summer day, and that things get a whole lot hotter before my hero and heroine get out of there!
There’s been a lot of talk lately about period accuracy in historical romances. How much accuracy do you like to see in your romance fiction? Do you like lots of history and the nitty-gritty detail of what life was really like? Or do you prefer to keep the nasty bits out of your reading? One person who comments will win a copy of My Favorite Countess.
Named by Booklist as one of the “new stars of historical romance,” Vanessa Kelly writes Regency-set historical romance for Kensington Zebra. She also writes contemporary romance with her husband, under the pen name of V.K. Sykes. You can find Vanessa at www.vanessakellyauthor.com. She also blogs: www.vanessakellyauthor.wordpress.com.

27 comments:

Debra said...

I like it all. I want to know the period I am reading, I also like the nitty gritty. But I do like romance in the story,not just sex. I have read some that way and I get bored when it does not have a story line. Your books are PERFECT.

Jill said...

I like having the truth in novels when it comes to history, it makes you appreciate today, but as long as it doesn't ruin the romance of the book.

host said...

For me the first and most important thing is romance. I like accuracy in the books but I am not mad if one thing or another is set 2-3 years in the future or the past - I am no historian and I won't notice or check the differences

Christine A. said...

I enjoy reading historical romance and all its details.

CrystalGB said...

I like a good mix of accurate history in novels as long as it doesn't take over the story. Your book sounds wonderful. Beautiful cover.
Crystal816[at]hotmail[dot]com

Eli Yanti said...

this is the interesting thing when we write a book,we can all the story we want into the book and i love combine of history romance,nitty gritty etc.if this book is combine of those thing sound perfect.hope i have a chance to read it :-)

SandyG265 said...

I like enough accuracy to give the feel of the time period but unless there is something that is jarringly out of place the history doesn't have to go down to the smallest detail.

GayleC said...

I like the whole picture in a book. If you just focus on the glitz and the clothes it gets a little tired. I think following a doctor of that time period would be horrific, but interesting. My Favorite Countess is definitely on my TBR.

Vanessa Kelly said...

Debra, thank you so much - that's so nice of you!

And thanks for having me on the blog today, Angie!

Vanessa Kelly said...

Yes, Jill. I agree that in historical romance the emphasis needs to be on the romance.

Host, I think you're absolutely correct. Most historical romance writers really work hard to get the details right, but I find most readers are very forgiving of unintentional bloopers, as long as they're not too awful.

Vanessa Kelly said...

Hi Christine! Always happy to meet another fan of historical romance - I love it too!

Thanks, Crystal. My publisher has given me great covers.

Vanessa Kelly said...

Thanks for stopping by, Eli!

Sandy, I think you're right. Effective world-building gives us a period feel without getting in the way of the story.

Vanessa Kelly said...

Thanks, Gayle! Studying Regency medicine was fascinating but not always easy to take.

Julie said...

I like seeing the results of an author's research! It makes the setting feel more realistic and helps me with picturing it in my head.

catslady said...

I love learning about new things and the past while I'm getting a good story at the same time. I love variety and as long as I like the characters, the author can go anywhere and I will follow.

catslady5(at)aol.com

Chrisbails said...

I like it all. I love historical romances and as long as it keeps close to the time period that is all that matters to me. As long as it does not ruin the romance and the falling in love part of the book.
Vanessa is a new author for me and would love to win and read this book.
christinebails@yahoo.com

Na said...

Hi Vanessa! *waves*
I love historical romances because of the characters I meet but it is also important that I believe in the time period. That doesn't mean a book has to be overwhelmed with historical facts but it does help when areas of focus are well-reseached and accurate. If a character is a teacher or from a certain class then I would want these things appropriately portrayed. I have learned a lot of interesting thigns from historical fiction so interesting even outlandish facts are welcomed if it suits the story. Research aside, I want a story that I can connect with emotionally.

Blodeuedd said...

In historical fiction I need accuracy but if everything is not perfect in HR I do not care. Well to a certain degree. There I things I wont notice and then there are things that will annoy me. So some things do have to be right :)

And the book sounds great :D

Vanessa Kelly said...

Julie, I like being able to actually use the research. I'll often spend quite a bit of time researching some interesting fact, only to realize I don't have room for it in the story.

Catslady, I think that is the key point. If a reader likes the characters, she'll follow them anyway. You can have all the historical detail you want, but if the characters are boring or irritating, what's the point?

Vanessa Kelly said...

Chris, thanks so much for stopping by!

Hi Na! I like your approach - really focus on the accuracy of details that count. So if the heroine is a governess, you want to make sure that the story really captures what that was like in the particular period in which the story is set.

Vanessa Kelly said...

Blodeuedd, it is important to get the facts correct. There's nothing worse in a hr than a historical error that throws us out of the story.

Sharon said...

cool post :) I don't know a lot about the Regency period and I don't read a lot of Regency, but I am educated enough I can recognize B.S. when I see it . I don't need detailed accuracy (I call it hard core Regency) I prefer Regency Lite. I expect the the events and attitudes of the characters to be true to the period. I don't care about all the dressings that go with it (clothes, hair styles, food, ect..).
Romance was different back then and I enjoy seeing it from that perspective. I think I just talked myself into reading more Regency .

sheila said...

I like knowing the details, what the house is like, the rooms, the shops, etc. Also the meals like you mentioned. And if there are some dark sides to it like the slums, I want to hear what that was like too and try to picture it in my head. Lots of love and romance as well!

RebeLovesBooks said...

I like historical accuracy, but I really don't want TOO much accuracy. I mean, personal hygiene was seriously lacking, and that's just gross! I don't want to think about the h/h gettin' it on when they haven't bathed or brushed their teeth. Ewww.. And I had to laugh at your description of pictures of doctors discreetly touching under ladies' skirts but not looking. Too funny!

Barbara E. said...

I like a lot of history woven into the story, but it should add to the story, not just read like a lecture. I don't need the nitty gritty details, who cares about their dental hygiene or lack of sanitation, but I like to get a feel for what it was like to live in that time period. Otherwise, I might as well just read a contemporary romance.

Barbed1951 at aol dot com

Vanessa Kelly said...

I totally agree that we don't want our heroes and heroines to have bad breath or bad hygiene. Talk about a romance buzz kill! Too much nitty gritty detail can definitely be a problem, unless it's really necessary for plot and characterization.

I think it was Eloisa James who said that heroines in historical romance novels never get bladder infections, despite their vigorous bedroom activities. And that's a good thing, right?!

Robin said...

Your book looks great! I like some information for background and to make it more real, but not so much that it feels like a lecture...

Robin D
robindpdx (at) yahoo (dot) com