Research: Lady Helen Series
Before I started to write the first of the Lady Helen series, I spent about 8 months just reading books and watching documentaries about the Regency to make sure I had a solid overview of the era. However, the research did not stop there! Now, as I write each book, I continue to research its setting, specific social season and the real historical events that occurred during the timeline of the novel. For Book 1–The Dark Days Club-–I studied Regency London and what was called “the Season”, which went from about January to June while Parliament sat, although it did not really get underway until late March. It was the busiest and most important social season when young ladies made their debut to polite society and entered the marriage mart. The second book took my research to Brighton and the summer social season, and Book 3 is all about Bath and the winter social season. Here is a list of some of my favourite research books and documentaries, so far, each with a note about why I found them so valuable.
Pride and Prejudice: Having a Ball
A brilliant documentary in which historians Amanda Vickery and Alistair Sook recreate the ball at Netherfield Hall from Pride and Prejudice with complete historical accuracy in order to see just what contextual information Jane Austen would have assumed her readers would have known, and which we, as modern readers, no longer understand.
Elegance and Decadence: The Age of the Regency
The very engaging historian and curator of the Queen’s Palaces, Lucy Worsely, explores the decadent Regency era in three parts. Fun and fascinating.
The Supersizers Go…Regency
British restaurant critic Giles Coren and comedian and performer Sue Perkins (Great British Bake-off) spend a week living as landed Regency gentry and eating a diet that would have been eaten during the Regency Years of 1789 – 1821. It is both informative and hilarious.
Eavesdropping on Jane Austen’s England: How our ancestors lived two centuries ago, by Roy and Lesley Adkins (Little, Brown 2013). This is a great overview book written in a really accessible way. Interestingly presented facts with great anecdotes about real people and the way they lived.
Our Tempestuous Day: A history of Regency England, by Carolly Erikson (Harper, 2011). A terrific narrative style makes this history of the Regency very compelling.
Georgette Heyer’s Regency World, by Jennifer Kloester (Arrow Books, 2005). A truly excellent resource about day-to-day Regency life with sections about what men and women wore, where they lived, shopping, finance, eating, drinking and much, much more. The information is linked to Georgette Heyer’s Regency novels, which is a gorgeous bonus for the Heyer fan.
Behind Closed Doors: At home in Georgian England, by Amanda Vickery. (Yale, 2009). A fascinating study of Georgian and Regency home-life, economics and attitudes by a preeminent historian in the field.
An Elegant Madness: High society in Regency England, by Venetia Murray. (Penguin, 2000). Not only an excellent resource about high society in the era but also a compelling read.
The Soanes at Home: Domestic life at Lincoln’s Inn Fields, by Susan Palmer (a Sir John Soane’s Museum Publication, 2010). I found this little gem of a book in the gift shop of the Sir John Soane’s Musuem in London. Packed with domestic details from the price of candles to what was eaten for breakfast. A superb resource for writers.
The Enlightenment, Kieron O’Hara (Oneworld, 2010). A valuable primer about this complex time in history.
Life in Georgian Britain: From 1700 to 1837, by Michael St. John Parker (Pitkin Guides, 2011). Engaging, full of great facts and even better visuals.
Georgian & Regency Houses Explained, by Trevor Yorke (Countryside Books, 2011). Everything you ever needed to know about Georgian housing, with excellent visuals for reference.
Jane Austen & Crime, by Susannah Fullerton (JASA, 2004). A detailed and well-researched look into crime during the very violent Georgian era.
Vauxhall Gardens: A history, by David Coke and Alan Borg (Yale, 2011). This is a very beautiful and very big coffee table book that is packed full of fascinating details about the history of the famous Vauxhall Gardens. It was my go-to book for the Vauxhall Garden scenes in The Dark Days Club.
Regency Recollections: Captain Gronow’s Guide to Life in London and Paris, edited by Christopher Summerville. (Ravenhall Books, 2006). These are the recollections of a gentleman who lived and moved in the first circles of Regency society. Absolutely fascinating.
The Epicure’s Almanac: Eating and drinking in Regency London, by Ralph Rylance (edited by Janet Ing Freeman), 2012. This is the original 1815 Foodies guidebook to Regency London written by a gentleman of the period. Some of the places are still in existence and the descriptions of each establishment are an interesting glimpse into dining life in London.
The Slave Trade, by Nigel Sadler (Shire, 2009). An excellent primer with very well-chosen visuals and a fascinating chapter on the legacies of slavery. Also, a very useful bibliography for further studies.
The Beau Monde: Fashionable society in Georgian London, by Hannah Grieg (Oxford University Press, 2013). Originally a PhD thesis, this is a fascinating exploration of how fashion was used to gain power in the Georgian era.
Regency Fashion and Style
Facing Beauty: Painted women and cosmetic art, Aileen Ribeiro (Yale, 2011). Another very big and beautiful coffee table book that takes the reader through the history of cosmetics and the art of beauty. Enthralling with magnificent photographs and artwork.
The Dictionary of Fashion History, by Valerie Cumming, C.W. Cunnington and P.E. Cunnington, (Berg, 2010). This excellent resource covers fashion terms from the medieval period to present day.
Jane Austen Fashion: Fashion and needwork in the works of Jane Austen, Penelope Byrde (Moonrise Press, 2008). An excellent book that explores how clothing and accessories were made, maintained and worn in the Regency.
Fashion In The Time of Jane Austen, Sarah Jane Downing (Shire, 2010). A succinct and clearly written overview of fashions throughout the Regency and how the dramatic events of the day affected what people wore. Great pictures too.
Fashion in the Era of Jane Austen, R. Ackermann (designed and edited by Jody Gayle, Publications of the Past, 2012) This is a beautifully curated collection of the fashion plates and their descriptions that appeared in Ackermann’s Respository of the Arts (a major Regency magazine), month by month, between 1809 and 1820.
Newspapers and Magazines
The Times, April to July 1812. Four pages every day (except Sunday), full of news, Royal events, advertisements and reports of Parliament debates.
La Belle Assemblée (issues from April to June 1812). A monthly magazine for ladies that ranged across fashion, current events, literature and science.
Ackermann’s Repository of the Arts (issues from April to June 1812). Also a monthly publication, this magazine grew out of Ackermann’s popular print shop in London and became one of the premier publications of the time. It also covered many subjects for the “improvement of the mind”.