Beau? Boo? What?

Husband: What are you reading?
Me: Christmas Beau, it’s an old 90’s Mary Balogh that was just re-released as an e-book…
Husband: Didn’t you say she writes historicals? Wait, Beau? That’s not very historical is it?
Me: How is it not? Have you seen Gone with the Wind?
Husband: You know, Beau, don’t rappers say that in their songs all the time?
Me: Ummm, honey, that’s BOO not BEAU, not the same thing… or era.
Husband: Ohhhh, then what the hell is beau?
Me: *facepalm*

 

5 things to know when researching a historical romance novel

They say the devil is in the details, or in my case it’s more like demons. I’m new at this whole writing ‘thing’, but while working on my first historical novel, I made a lot of things hard on myself. Things I could have easily avoided. Here are my top 5 demons, my top 5 things to note, while researching your historical romance novel, or any historical novel for that matter.

re·search/ˈrēˌsərCH/

The systematic investigation into and study of materials and sources in order to establish facts and reach new conclusions.

Etymology: Friend and Foe…

I’ll stand by my case that a HISTORICAL novel should be as accurate as it can be. Not to the detriment of the story maybe, but it should be accurate to the point where there aren’t glaring errors that even a first time reader of historical romance would notice (unless you’re writing fantasy, lucky bastards).

So when I started writing, The Devoted Daughter, I second guessed everything, even the history of the words I was using, and everyone should! I needed to know, do they say that word in the Regency era? If they do, then did they use it in the context I was using it in? It got to the point where I was re-writing myself over and over and not making any progress, and sometimes I would even cut a scene because I couldn’t find a way to say it the way I wanted because I couldn’t verify something.

Rip, shred, goodbye hair! Seriously, being serious about your details is great, even down to the words. Obviously a Duke in 1810 isn’t going to walk around saying “My Bad” no matter how cocky he is, but don’t drive yourself up the wall to the point of stalling your writing and discouraging yourself.

 

The Internet Research Snowball…

This is by far my worst problem while researching. I’ll start reading something and low and behold there is a tiny link, a subtext or a reference to another page and off I go. Before I know it, I’m two hours into reading something that, while quite fascinating, has absolutely nothing to do with what I originally needed to know. This is a major time waster, it’s a fun one, but a waster none the less.

As our friend Gold Five from Star Wars would say, ‘Stay on Target’. Don’t get distracted. Sign yourself up for a bookmarking app like Pocket or Delicious and bookmark that tease and get back to work. This way you can access the page later via your computer, phone or tablet and you can read it anywhere when you actually have the time to do so.

 

Keep your sources organized from the get go…

Have you ever wished you had a mini Hermione Granger in your pocket that could help with all your research? *raises hand*

One of the problems I have while writing is there are too many sources to look through and they get mixed up and jumbled. Books, magazines, newsletters, the internet and on and on. Often times I research something and then go on to write my scene, but later on I need to re-read that passage for something else and I have no clue where it is.

I spent so much time searching for my own research that it became a real problem. What I have learned to do is keep all my sources in a master research file divided by era (Regency, Victorian etc…) I use nested folders in Scrivner to separate each article in a section as this creates a jumping navigation for me to use later.

For example, in my Regency research file I have folder sections containing internet links & book names with the page numbers of said topic. I put them in sub-sections called the London season, carriages & horses, peerage titles, dowagers, military & weapons… You get the idea. This may seem time consuming, but keeping your sources straight will save you a ton of frustration and time later, especially if you’re writing more than one historical novel in that era. Do you want to have to find good resources again for book 2? I don’t.

 

If it’s on the internet then it must be true…

I can’t even count on both my hands and feet how many times I saw information where I thought, that can’t be right. Luckily I’m a skeptic when it comes to research, so If I second guess it, obviously I’ll verify it before putting it in writing.

The biggest problem with researching on the internet is everyone likes to write their articles or theories as if it’s fact, even if they aren’t, even if they don’t necessarily mean to word it that way. There is a lot of speculation about history out there and it gets worse the further back in time you go. It’s not only on the internet but in books as well, and it’s your job to weed speculation out from the facts, don’t just assume it’s fact because it’s been published somewhere.

I tend to trust sites/books that cite their references. Also do a little double checking to make sure more than that one person agrees with said topic, if it’s something that’s not a concrete fact (for example: the EXACT method used to build the pyramids). Just keep the verification short, keep it on track and move on to your writing.

 

Names, surnames, estate names, title names… kill me now…

It can be very frustrating to come up with names for your characters, add that to the fact that if your writing is about a titled character, then you also need a title name. Then there is the houses/estates they own. They don’t just have a house, it’s a hall, a manor, a townhouse or some other thing, and you got it, it has a name.

I’ve read novels where the names themselves became distracting, some made me laugh and some just seemed way out of place for that era and it nagged at me the whole time, so here is what I did. When coming up with first names and surnames of my characters I did something very boring but accurate. I looked at the census of that time. When it came to naming the home my character lives in, I researched historical estate lists in several counties and came up with like sounding ideas, I did the same with peerage titles. I’m not saying to be boring with your choices, obviously, but giving your character a name that is distracting because it sounds cool will break the focus readers have on your storyline.

 

The Secret Mistress by Mary Balogh

secrat-mistress-cover-lgIt’s been a while since I devoured a new read from Mary Balogh, so I was definitely excited… I mean… It’s Mary Balogh! Do I need to sing her praises? Of course I don’t… It’s Mary Balogh! Ok I’m excited, what can I say?

Up to this point my favorites from her have been what is probably her most well known series, The Bedwyn Saga. Wulfric’s story being my absolute favorite, who doesn’t love a stoic duke that can freeze you to icicles with his cold grey eyes right? So when I read the stories More than a Mistress and No Man’s Mistress I definitely enjoyed them as I do all of Mary Balogh’s books. I liked Tresham and Ferdie as heroes, but me being me, I tend to go more for romantic humor, it’s my hook.

It was always Angeline and Edward, The Earl of Heyward that had me laughing and loving every minute of their interaction in those books. I loved Angeline’s fretting over her brothers and her horrid sense of style that is so totally Angeline. When I read that there would be a book telling their story I was ecstatic! I knew it was going to be right up my alley.

 

The Characters…

Edward Ailsbury is a very serious man and doesn’t hold with any nonsense of any kind whatsoever. Recently having acquired the title, Earl of Heyward, he’s thrust into a world of responsibility and just one of those responsibilities is to marry and produce an heir. Edward, being the dutiful man that he is, sets his sights on his long time friend and daughter of his old university professor, Eunice Goddard. If only it was that easy. His family has their hearts set on him courting Angeline Dudley, a loud, babbling and garish girl he heartily disapproves of.

To Angeline Dudley everything is absolutely wonderful! She’s finally going to be making her debut into London society, after years of being cooped up at the family estate with only her governess to mind her. When she meets the Earl by chance on her way to London, she falls in love at first sight. He’s exactly the kind of steady and serious man she wants to marry, but how will she convince him of that? Angeline has a few ideas.

 

The Story…

The story starts out with Angeline waiting at an inn for her brother, the Duke of Tresham. Edward walks in and sees her there, leaning upon a window sill completely oblivious to his presence and with no chaperone or maid in sight. He is immediately scandalized, not to mention bombarded with lust for her, much to his own disgust. He can tell she’s a Lady, despite Angeline’s colorful attire and complete inappropriate behavior of being unchaperoned. But the Earl is a bit of a stick in the mud you see, despite his young age of four and twenty he just can’t abide such improprieties.

Her irresponsible behavior comes to a head when a gentleman propositions her, and Edward comes to her rescue by turning the man off. Angeline is instantly taken with the quiet and stoic Earl and knows this is the man she want’s to marry. To bad Edward isn’t the slightest bit interested in her, unless it’s to get as far away as he possibly can!

This sets off an awkward association between Angeline and Edward when they of course see each other during the London season. Even more awkwardness ensues when you see that Edward’s relatives have their hearts set on Angeline as his Countess and set up every opportunity for them to be together. What’s a dutiful Earl to do? Why abide by his Mama and Grandmama’s wishes of course. (Women are always right Edward. Learn it, live it, love it.)

 

My Thoughts…

The book continues in a typical Mary Balogh fashion, full of misunderstandings, confusion and mayhem that causes the main paring to angst over each other until the very last possible moment where everything is resolved with one well placed conversation. I was surprised, however, to see it was missing some nefarious plot twist. Most of her books have some element of an evil doer in there somewhere. This book is completely devoid of that and can be taken as a light, romantic and funny read as we get to skip mystery plots all together. A worthy one to pick up for any Mary Balogh fan, or any historical romance fan who loves to laugh. 

The book is not without its serious elements, though, both main characters are plagued with their own insecurities. She being overshadowed by her Mother and he by his late older brother, which causes them both to wear masks to protect themselves. They learn in time to shed their shields and be themselves, if only in front of each other.

So, we have a babbling and bright heroine and an old stuffy sobersides hero. I loved it! It was definitely my favorite of the Dudley series since I just loved Edward to pieces. You can tell if not for Angeline, he would never have any fun at all, but we know Angeline won’t let that happen. ;P

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