July 2008

 

Favorite Research Books (part 2)

I’m currently nearly at the end of the first draft of my fourth Regency noir for Avon. This book is set in 1821. Originally this story was set a few years later but when I started research (aha, we return to the subject in a roundabout way!), I discovered that date wouldn’t work. Why? Because a large part of the plot relies on an elopement and the marriage laws changed in 1823. My runaway marriage story wouldn’t work if the book was set after that. Sometimes research can be mighty inconvenient!

Anyway, I thought you might be interested in some of the books I’ve been using as I write this new story. The book is set in what is, for me, fairly familiar territory, the reign of George IV, and all the events take place in Britain (and islands but I’m coming to that). But while the story is set firmly in England, my hero’s backstory involves his time working for the East India Company in India.

MFTJuly08-1  Because I need to understand my hero, I need to understand something about colonial India. I’ve read a really great book called The White Mughals: Love and Betrayal in 18th Century India by William Dalrymple. This tells the tragic love story of an Indian Muslim noblewoman and a very dashing Englishman. It also has some fascinating stories about cross-cultural meetings and influences at the turn of the 19th century. It was also a good introduction to the intrigues of court life in India, although thank goodness nobody in The White Mughals is quite as ruthlessly evil as the villainous Nawab in my story.

MFTJuly08-2I’ve also got waiting for me The Honorable Company: A History of the English East India Company by John Keay and India Under British Rule: From The Foundation of the East India Company by J. Talboys Wheeler. I suspect, though, that The White Mughals might be the book that for this particular story has the really telling details. We’ll see!

Part of this story is set on Jersey in the Channel Islands. Sadly, I’ve never visited Jersey, although one day I’d love to. It sounds a fascinating mixture of the French and the English. But because I’ve never been there, I’m relying on the Internet and guidebooks to stop me making a fool of myself with descriptions. At my right-hand, I’ve got The Blue Guide to the Channel Islands and The Sunflower Guide to Jersey.

MFTJuly08-3A book I’m absolutely drooling over (yes, I know, not a pretty picture) is one in a series called England’s Landscape released by English Heritage. Absolutely gorgeous photos and some amazingly detailed local information. I heard about this series in a UK National Trust magazine and realized I had to have them.

So far, I’ve bought The South West which focuses on Cornwall and Devon. My hero’s home is in Cornwall and a substantial portion of the story takes place using the dramatic cliffs and moors as background. I’ve been to Cornwall, so those bits of the story don’t feel quite as alien as the Jersey ones. But it’s been fun checking out what stone they use for local buildings and details of tin mining. Tin mines and secret passages feature prominently in the story!

Anyway, I hope you’ve enjoyed a peek into my work in progress. Next month, I’m talking about the books I absolutely can’t live without. The references that sit in my office and I use all the time.