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heidi-reads.blogspot.mx · Feb 26, 2020

Guest Post from Leah Garriott, author of Promised

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Guest Post from Author Leah Garriott

Thanks to everyone for joining me here at Heidi Reads and to Heidi for hosting this stop. I’m so excited to talk about Regency-era research.
There are so many areas to research when writing a historical novel, and a Regency novel in particular. Before I began writing Promised, I put in a lot of time into figuring out where the story should take place; I wanted to pull from real places, not only so I knew what to write but also so that the reader would hopefully feel the world come alive. Scouring the internet, I found my heroine’s home by chance when looking through listed real estate, daydreaming about living in England. (It has since been unlisted, but on a research trip to England I was able to tour Shortmead House in Bedforshire and used the feeling of that house as I made final edits on Promised.) Finding my hero’s home was a little easier; I searched historic homes near, but not too near, my heroine’s home, finally settling on Lilford Hall (which also went up for sale while I was writing the book. Too bad I didn’t have a few extra million dollars laying around or everyone would be welcome to tour it). Once I had my setting, I had to learn about dress (what undergarments didRegency women wear, exactly), differences in candles and lighting, flooring of homes, gardening, farming techniques, carriages as well as which type of person would drive which type of carriage when, diseases, etc.
Another area of research were the people. I needed to know what time people rose in the mornings (it varies depending on livelihood and location, with servants and country folk rising earlier than gentry in the city), when they ate (generally a later breakfast and a large dinner), what they did during the day, and what dances were danced at balls. It was important to me to be accurate as to what characters thought and expected even while trying to modernize language and attitude to appeal to the contemporary reader.
Which leads right into the hardest part of the research, which was figuring out how be historically accurate while also writing to reader expectations. Much of what we believe to be Regency standards such as women always being chaperoned, women not showing ankles, and corsets so tight they make a woman faint, are actually later Victorian standards we’ve placed upon the Regency time period. Though standards were definitely different in the city than in the country, both Elizabeth Bennett and Marianne Dashwood take regular walks alone. And Anne Elliot looks forward to walking unchaperoned through Bath after receiving Captain Wentworth’s declaration of love in the form of a letter (although her one-time-suitor-turned-brother-in-law accompanies her in the end). Fashion plates of the time (such as those found in Ackermann’s Repository) show numerous depictions of women reclining in chairs with their ankles on display for all to see. They also illustrate women promenading in gowns and coats that don’t cover ankles, as well as women readying themselves in ball gowns that hit low on the shin. It wasn’t until the Victorian era that shoe styles changed from the Regency slipper to heeled boots rising well above the ankle. During this later time, hemlines also lowered dramatically, skirts widened, and women began to wear pantaloons as underwear. The tightness of corsets (called stays during the Regency) that have women fainting in many period books was actually impossible during this time period. Buttonholes were merely stitched cloth openings and pulling laces too tightly would have ripped the holes or disfigured them under the pressure. Besides, it didn’t fit with Grecian theme of Regency dress to manipulate the body into having small waists when the gowns were empire-waisted and loose. There is also a perpetuation that a woman needed to marry young, and that after they were twenty-three or so, their time for marriage was over. Part of this belief may stem from Charlotte Lucas believing she was without prospects at twenty-seven. Yet Elizabeth Elliot was twenty-nine and still considered quite marriageable, while Anne Elliot was twenty-seven and still expected to make a good match. The acceptable age of singlehood may have been influenced by money and title. Yet even with these propagated misconceptions, this time period is truly a gem. I hope you relish your next Regency read.

Margaret Brinton keeps her promises, and the one she is most determined to keep is the promise to protect her heart.

Warwickshire, England, 1812

Fooled by love once before, Margaret vows never to be played the fool again. To keep her vow, she attends a notorious matchmaking party intent on securing the perfect marital match: a union of convenience to someone who could never affect her heart. She discovers a man who exceeds all her hopes in the handsome and obliging rake Mr. Northam.

There’s only one problem. His meddling cousin, Lord Williams, won’t leave Margaret alone. Condescending and high-handed, Lord Williams lectures and insults her. When she refuses to give heed to his counsel, he single-handedly ruins Margaret’s chances for making a good match—to his cousin or anyone else. With no reason to remain at the party, Margaret returns home to discover her father has promised her hand in marriage—to Lord Williams.

Under no condition will Margaret consent to marrying such an odious man. Yet as Lord Williams inserts himself into her everyday life, interrupting her family games and following her on morning walks, winning the good opinion of her siblings and proving himself intelligent and even kind, Margaret is forced to realize that Lord Williams is exactly the type of man she’d hoped to marry before she’d learned how much love hurt. When paths diverge and her time with Lord Williams ends, Margaret is faced with her ultimate choice: keep the promises that protect her or break free of them for one more chance at love. Either way, she fears her heart will lose.

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