Researching the Regency Era

Researching the Regency Era

Writing Regency novels takes much more than just loving the genre. For Jane Austen, she lived during the Regency period and, therefore, could write from her own experiences. For those of us authors who love that time period and love Jane Austen, writing novels set during that time period is much harder. In order to be factually accurate and to present an authentic view into the past, authors need to research and read everything that they can get their hands on. However, even still, there is always something that might slip through the cracks.

As one of those authors, I have found that I can never do enough research. Even my best efforts find some errors that, undoubtedly, slip into my writing. It is unfortunate but most likely true of any author who writes in this genre.

In the past, I have been rather comfortable writing adaptations of Jane Austen’s novels because they were set in the Amish landscape, which is a religion and culture I have thirty years of first-hand experience to pull from. However, now that I have begun writing true Regency era novels, I have stepped out of my comfort zone and into a new world.

I rather like it.

Despite the errors that will inevitably fall into my novels, I enjoy the research and learning new things about how people lived during the early 1800s in England. Everything from their clothing to their food to their vocabulary to their social structure must be researched. And not just once (for no one researcher can truly know everything!).

The Wedding of Shire HallMy upcoming release of The Wedding of Shire Hall (written under the name Catherine Eleanor) is a true testament of the need for continuous research. The storyline itself is familiar to me as it is a fan-fiction account of my best-selling series, Plain Fame. Placing the two main characters, Amanda and Alejandro (or Alexander as he is known in the Shire Hall series) into Regency England was not too difficult. Romance is romance, after all. However, understanding all of the nuances of that particular time period puts me at a little of a disadvantage.

You see, in Plain Fame, a young Amish woman accidentally meets up with a famous international superstar, Alejandro Diaz, otherwise known as Viper. They eventually fall in love and marry, despite their differences. In Regency England, having a commoner meet and marry a member of the gentry is something that did not happen too often. Fortunately, as I am an author of fiction romances, creative liberty works in my favor.

One of the things that I have learned while writing the Shire Hall series is that many other authors take creative liberties, too.

A perfect example is the wedding ceremonies. Unlike 21st century America, Regency weddings were a much simpler affair, without large wedding parties or even guests. Most weddings took place in the morning and were followed by a wedding breakfast. What happened after that? I’ve been hard pressed to find any definitive answer.

A breakfast must end and, at that point, I have found little research into what, exactly, a newly married couple would do for the rest of their wedding day. Some source claim that there might be more celebration into the evening. Others state that the newly married couple might leave to journey home. Honeymoons were not spent abroad but, rather, considered to be the first month of marriage settling in, not traveling. But what about those who did now have a grand celebration or any place to go?

It is with this in mind that I have enlisted my own creative liberties in The Wedding of Shire Hall. Is it accurate or authentic? Obviously, I will never know as I was born 150+ years after the fact. But does it make for a good read? I certainly think so.

Hopefully all of you will think so, too.

The Wedding of Shire Hall (Kindle Worlds) is due out next week, August 22, 2017. I look forward to hearing from all of you regarding your thoughts on my fictional account of a Regency Era wedding.

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August 28, 2017 10:59 AM

I have often thought that the stories of the Amish had a great deal in common with those of the regency– except for the religion.
Everyone in England was a commoner except the peers and spouses , who were nobles ,and royalty. Commoners, nobles. and royalty were the way they were divided legally. Only the peer himself and his wife or a peeress in her own right were nobles. Their children were commoners. Socially the divisions were more numerous and flexible. The aristocracy included the nobles and their families . They were considered separate from the gentry . The gentry was separate from the trades men, the cits, and the laborers and others of the lower orders.

August 28, 2017 4:55 AM

Sarah, Thank you for an excellent post. Congratulations on bringing your Amish characters to the Regency era. Thank you for calling attention to all the research needed to comply with Regency manners. I shall never forget my first “huh?” moment. In one of my earliest Regency novels I set a scene with Darcy handing Elizabeth a letter as she was boarding a carriage with Charlotte. My beta readers smacked my hands for that faux pas. “A man could not openly hand a letter to a lady.” I was stunned. As much as I love the Regency era and writing novels that take place way back then…I would have been in so much trouble, so often! Wishing you all the best. I can’t wait to read The Wedding of Shire Hall.

PS: Many thanks to Sharon and Regina for their amazing research.

Jennifer Redlarczyk
August 20, 2017 8:36 AM

Wouldn’t it be great if we could just travel back and see first hand, not that I would want to live in that era without modern conveniences. Thanks for your post.

Diana J Oaks
August 17, 2017 1:19 PM

I love the research aspect of writing Regency novels, and find that hours and hours of research can sometimes be required to get a single scene or even a paragraph right. History is so fascinating!

J. W. Garrett
J. W. Garrett
August 16, 2017 9:26 PM

My hat is off to you for your hard work and to all the authors out there that go that extra mile for their readers. Thank you. Blessing on this new venture and much success on the launch of this book.

Renata McMann
August 16, 2017 7:46 PM

I am constantly learning about the Regency period, but never feel I know enough.

As to what happened after the wedding, we do know what Jane Austen said about Charlotte’s marriage to Mr. Collins. “The wedding took place; the bride and bridegroom set off for Kent from the church door…”

Sharon Lathan
August 16, 2017 11:48 AM

Congrats on a new book, Sarah! I am so happy to see “Catherine Eleanor” busily writing!

Oh yes, the research. Both a joy and a curse at times. Deciding what to stick hard and fast to, while employing the creative license necessary to make a modern novel enjoyable can be tricky. And of course with history, there are always varying opinions as to what is a “fact.” I find it humorous that many seem to forget that Austen herself was a novelist and not a historian. Sure she embellished and stretched the truth, as all authors do for effect. Something to think about!

One small technicality: While I know what you meant by separating the “gentry” from “commoners” (as in the working class). However, in point of fact, anyone not of the aristocracy was a commoner, including those within the un-titled gentry. The gentry were simply of a higher class on the social rung, as it were. In that respect, mingling of the classes was unusual, but certainly not a “never done” sort of thing.

Keep writing! Cheers, Sharon

Regina Jeffers
August 16, 2017 2:54 PM
Reply to  Sharon Lathan

Sharon and I caught the line about commoners and gentry about the same time, but I went off to the chiropractor and to the grocery store before I could respond.
First, congrats on moving into the Regency realm. Is the new book in the vein of traditional Regencies (i.e., Georgette Heyer style) or so-called, “modern” Regencies?
Now to the commoners and gentry. Mr. Bennet was of the gentry – the gentleman class, but he was also a commoner. Colonel Fitzwilliam was the second son of an earl, but he was not of the aristocracy. He was a commoner, as was his cousin, Fitzwilliam Darcy. They were both also of the gentry class. The gentry by definition is “people of good social position, specifically (in the UK) the class of people next below the nobility in position and birth.” In Matlock’s family, only the earl and his countess (by having married the earl) are part of the aristocracy. Matlock’s oldest son (Colonel Fitzwilliam’s elder brother) is presented a courtesy title (usually one of Lord Matlock’s lesser titles, for example, mayhap Matlock was Baron Perfect. If so, his oldest son would assume the title of Lord Perfect. Colonel Fitzwilliam as a second son is addressed (if he left the military) as The Honourable (First name) Fitzwilliam. It is all quite convoluted and perfectly delightful at the same time.

August 16, 2017 10:07 AM

I admire all the writers that take the time to research to get their stories as close to accurate as they can and these are the stories that really are a joy to read.

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