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
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. London
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.