Today I’m happy to welcome Alina K. Field, Regency romance author. Alina is here to share a bit about her research process. Thanks for being here!
Thank you for having me as a guest today, Courtney.
I write stories about heroes who, if they were real, would be long dead—not vampires, but Regency gentlemen and ladies! When I wrote my first Regency romance, Rosalyn’s Ring, I confidently plowed ahead with a story about a heroine determined to rescue a young woman in a wife sale. I did extensive research about this rare English practice of selling wives, and relied on my years of reading Regency romances for all those other less important details.
And the book got through one round of edits with my 1816 heroine lighting a match! Some writing angel whispered into my ear to check that fact, allowing me to yank those matches from my heroine’s grip and hand her a tinderbox.
Since then, I do my best to research not just the big facts, but also the little ones. I’ve recently discovered an awesome book with details of Regency life I’ve never found anywhere else, London Observed, A Polish Philosopher at Large, 1822-1824, by Krystyn Lach-Szyrma.
Lach-Szyrma was a thirty year old tutor who accompanied two Polish princes on a kind of reverse Grand Tour, traveling with them through England and Scotland. This book is his detailed travel journal, beautifully translated from Polish. Since I’m hard at work on a series that will span the period 1818-1821, with characters gadding about England and Scotland, I love the details in this book. Let me share some of them:
Regarding the crossing from Calais and arrival in Dover–
The ships which are used to cross the sea are called packet boats. They are, in general, smaller and lighter than merchant ships and are built for the travelers’ convenience. They have quite a spacious cabin which is illuminated by a window in the deck. On the sides of the cabin, in two rows one above the other, there are frame-like compartments allotted for bunks. The bedclothes are clean and white, as Englishmen will not use any other. Screen curtains for the beds are green or red.
We stayed overnight in the Ship Inn in Dover. Next morning, having received our bundles and passports from customs, we immediately set off on a further journey. Officers in the Customs house, who are usually strict, for some unknown reason treated us kindly and returned everything to us intact.
Regarding the availability of food for travelers at inns–
You can get at every change station: delicious hams, tongues, fish, butter, and cheeses. You will find them in the entrance halls displayed behind glass in the most beautiful way.
Regarding London hotels–
Bed linen is changed in the presence of a guest. Beds are old-fashioned in shape, supported by four tall posts from which thick red curtains hang. You can draw the curtains when it is cold because the bedrooms are commonly not heated. There are pockets for money, a watch and scents at the top of a bed.
There is much more information packed into this journal. Lach-Szyrma provides the cost of lodgings and dinners in detailed pounds, shillings, and pence (with conversion to zloty for his Polish readers). He travels by steamboat from Edinburgh to London with more white sheets and red and green curtains. He visits the headquarters of the East India Company, the Customs House, and the Bank of England. He explains how to hail a hackney coach and how much to pay the driver.
I’m only halfway through this journal, but I’m thinking at least one of my characters might need to take a packet boat!
Lord Grigsby wants nothing more than to retreat to his study, but a promise to his long-dead sister has forced him back into society to broker the marriage of his nephew to the heiress whose money can save the young man’s earldom. If only the young lady’s starchy hired companion would move out of the way.
Hired to launch an heiress’s society debut, seemingly straitlaced spinster Liliana Ashford’s future as a professional chaperone depends on the girl’s successful marriage. But Liliana had her own close encounter with a scoundrel years ago, and she won’t let her charge be forced into marriage to the same kind of rogue, no matter how hard the man’s widowed uncle tries to woo Liliana around to the match.
Secrets and a Scandalous Murder
A shadow from Liliana’s past appears bearing an unfortunate letter she wrote long ago, and then the earl is murdered, evoking the scandal of the season. While she scrambles to make a respectable match for her charge before her own past can be exposed, Grigsby sets about finding his nephew’s killer—and Liliana’s secrets.
The woman at Grigsby’s side was like a lightning rod expecting a bolt to strike, or like a Fury about to deliver one. This close, scent wafted from her, roses and lemon, he’d guess. Tall, straight, and stiff, underneath her self-possession was a temper ready to unleash. He would bet on it.
Intriguing. He dared to poke her ire. “You clearly don’t approve of the match. Do you intend to openly oppose it?”
Her head whipped around, and she glared. “It’s not for me to approve or disapprove. Katie—Miss Mercer—will decide.”
Passion flashed in her eyes, sending an answering spark through him. She was magnificent—though so very mistaken. “Really? Then her father is more liberal than I expected.”
She looked him over more closely. “What do you know of this matter?”
I might ask you the same question. Her tone had been stiff, like the crystallized dome covering bubbling lava. He fixed her with his sternest glare, not entirely surprised at her cheek.
His glower didn’t impress her. She lifted her shoulders higher. Stood a little taller, proud, lovely, and filled with indignation.
Quite righteous indignation. He gave into an unmanly sigh, truly weary of his responsibility for Thomas. “I know a good deal, Miss Ashford. I have been negotiating for these nuptials. The arrangement is my doing as much as Mr. Mercer’s. Much more than it is my nephew’s. He is probably the least culpable, except for his abominable behavior.”
She clenched her hands tightly. “I see.”
“Thomas’s mother was my older sister. I made a promise to her that I would look after him.” Her gaze softened, and she bit her lip in a way that made him want to taste the part that she was nipping.
And where had that thought come from?
“And your nephew needs money and an heir.”
He nodded. As a woman of the ton, of course she would understand how marriage worked. Marriage wasn’t about love, or the bride’s approval, or a plump lower lip that begged to be kissed.
“He needs money most of all. He has a younger brother in the army who would make a far more dutiful earl.”
He covered his mouth with his hand. The words had rolled out, shocking him. He rarely spoke this frankly with any woman.
Very well, he never spoke this frankly with any woman.
She released a soft breath. “And there is the matter of the ore.”
His mouth gaped and he quickly closed it. Mr. Mercer had shared that information? Well. “That part of the county is rich with newly discovered veins of iron.”
That information brought her up straighter. She looked away, gazing intently at a thick, dark spot of foliage, making him want to pry into that sharp mind.
“I see,” she said. “I believe we should go back in now.”
Not yet. He tucked her hand over his arm but did not move. “I had hoped we were not finished talking. I’ve learned your Christian name is Liliana, but I don’t know anything else about you. I don’t know where you’re from or anything about your family.”
He sensed her bristling, and waited for some reaction, perhaps a slap, verbal, or, with a woman of her passion, even a physical one. Strictly speaking, he was importuning her, and damn if he wasn’t enjoying the nerves rippling through her.
About the Author
Award winning author Alina K. Field earned a Bachelor of Arts Degree in English and German literature, but she found her true passion in reading and writing romance. Though her roots are in the Midwest, after six very, very, very cold years in Chicago, she moved to Southern California and hasn’t looked back. She shares a midcentury home with her husband and a blue-eyed cat who conned his way in for dinner one day and decided the food was too good to leave.
She is the author of the 2014 Book Buyer’s Best winner in the novella category, Rosalyn’s Ring, a Regency novella, the novel-length sequel, a 2015 RONE Award finalist, Bella’s Band, both Soul Mate Publishing releases, and a prequel novella, Liliana’s Letter, a 2016 RONE Award nominee.