I'm working on Book Four of my Drew Farthering Mysteries. For this series, since Drew is a well-read fellow, I have a literary inspiration for each book. So far I've used Father Knox's Ten Commandments for Mystery Writers, Shakespeare, and Gilbert and Sullivan. For my newest installment, Dressed for Death, the inspiration is Jane Austen.
Drew and Madeline and Nick spend the week at a Regency House Party where the dress code is strictly enforced, so naturally I had to have a good reference book for things like food and clothing and amusements from the early 1800s. I was thrilled to find I already owned a copy of Georgette Heyer's Regency World by Jennifer Kloester.
The book is not an exhaustive resource by any means, but it definitely gave me a basic and very practical place to start. There are sections on social classes, town and country homes, domestic staff, men and women's social expectations and opportunities, etiquette, fashionable places to see and be seen, modes of transportation, fashionable places to shop, sports, businesses and even the most influential people of the day, including of course the Prince Regent himself. And there are appendices for period slang, publications, period books mentioned in Heyer's works, further reading about the period, and a list of Heyer's Regency novels.
But best of all is the detailed description of styles for clothing and hair for both men and women. From hats to shoes and everything in between, including the unmentionables for both sexes, and accessories such as quizzing glasses, fobs and snuff boxes, there is an amazing amount of information presented. I'm only about a quarter of the way into my manuscript, but since I am by no means a Regency expert, Kloester's book has already saved me hours of research.
It's also very enjoyable to read little tie-ins to Heyer's books in the descriptions of various items. For example, in the paragraph about Mary Shelley's Frankenstein, it says, "The Duke of Sale could hardly put it down in The Foundling" (pg. 339). Or " . . . Sophy Stanton-Lacy in The Grand Sophy was ineligible to attend this grand affair because she had not yet been presented at one of the Queen's Drawing-Rooms" (pg. 71). It's a lovely way to show how these rules of etiquette and dress are used to great advantage in story telling and had the unintended result of making me want to read more of Heyer's beautifully written and always witty Regency stories.
I have to add, just because I have to add it, that you can't go wrong with the audiobooks of Heyer's Venetia, Sylvester or The Convenient Marriage as read by Richard Armitage. He's a delight to listen to (as always) and really brings each character to life. I hope he will read more of her works (or anyone's!) soon.
Do you have any really good research books you'd recommend?
Any you wish you could find?
DeAnna Julie Dodson has always been an avid reader and a lover of storytelling, whether on the page, the screen or the stage. This, along with her keen interest in history and her Christian faith, shows in her tales of love, forgiveness and triumph over adversity. She is the author of In Honor Bound, By Love Redeemed and To Grace Surrendered, a trilogy of medieval romances, as well as Letters in the Attic, The Key in the Attic, The Diary in the Attic and The Legacy in the Attic, contemporary mysteries. Her new series of Drew Farthering Mysteries debuted in the Summer of 2013 with Rules of Murder, followed by Death by the Book and Murder at the Mikado in 2014 from Bethany House. Another Drew Farthering Mystery, Dressed for Death, is due out in Spring of 2016. A fifth-generation Texan, she makes her home north of Dallas with three spoiled cats.