Keeping True to Historical Setting

    Any historical novel requires intensive research into the period of its setting. In order to convey a sense of authenticity to the reader, the author has to be familiar with the societal mores, the manners and the behaviors characteristic of the time, as well as the prevailing social mentality.

    In Regency historical novels in particular, the author has to be quite familiar with the English class system.  Attention has to be given to the relationship within the aristocracy between its various levels of nobility. Also, attention must be paid to the servant class and its internal, rigid hierarchy, as well as to the emergence on the scene of the new merchant class.  

   I tried to describe accurately the way the classes interacted with each other. I was careful to keep true to the period in my description of the country estate homes, the townhouses, the various conveyances used and the fashion of the time. I tried to keep true to the historical setting in order to create believable scenes and credible dialogues.

    Writing “The Mistress of Rye,” I paid special attention to the rules of courting and marriage, rules of formal and informal social behavior and appropriate forms of address.  I became familiar with the laws of inheritance, the transfer of titles and dowries as well as the laws regarding entailed and unentailed properties. I tried to describe in detail the customs of courtship of a London season, such as the rule of no more than two dances, permission to waltz, the supper dance and rules of introduction. I paid attention to the dialogues between people of different stations, and the vocabulary used.  In one paragraph, I even struggled with the spelling of the substandard English used by two of the grooms in a dialogue. I had to figure out how to spell with the dropped aches by using apostrophes at the beginning of words.

   However, for this particular novel, I had to do additional historical research. Events in the story occur on the background of The Congress of Vienna in 1815. There, the peace negotiations were redrawing the map of Europe, after the upheaval which the French emperor dragged the whole continent into.  The historically famous representatives of the winning powers were trying to reinstate more conservative, less liberal regimes in Europe and to put old monarchies back in power. Since the character of the Duke of Rye is a national war hero back from the peninsular wars, and since the heroine, Lady Katherine, is in a way, herself, a war victim, I had to do additional research on the Vienna Congress which the two discussed and which, at the time, was the topic of conversation in all the London ballrooms and salons.

   The other four male characters in the novel, who may resurface in my subsequent works, form a group of Home Office operatives reporting to the Duke of Wellington. They discuss various aspects of the peace talks, which, of course required me to know more about the negotiations.

   In the spirit of keeping true to the historical setting, I tried to avoid any anachronism. For example, The Duke retires into seclusion traumatized by the final battle. Bearing in mind that there was no awareness of trauma, shell shock or PTSD until much later, I described the relevant symptoms without giving them a name.

   I feel I did my best to stay true to the historical setting. I hope you enjoy reading “The Mistress of Rye.” 



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