Researching Historical Fiction: A Guest Post by Sarah Mallory, Author of The Duke’s Family for Christmas

I’m so lucky to have a copy of Sarah Mallory’s latest book The Duke’s Family for Christmas on my TBR and I’m hoping to immerse myself in it in December, However, as today is publication day for The Duke’s Family for Christmas I thought I’d invite Sarah back to Linda’s Book Bag to tell me a bit about how she researches historical fiction and luckily she agreed. As a result I have a smashing guest post to share with you today and you’ll find Sarah on the blog in other posts here. First, though, let me tell you about The Duke’s Family for Christmas.

Published by Mills and Boon Historical today, 27th October 2022, The Duke’s Family for Christmas is available for purchase in all the usual places including directly from the publisher here.

The Duke’s Family for Christmas

He has until Christmas Eve…

To make them a family!

Determined to claim the son his late wife kept secret from him Leo, Duke of Tain, is working in disguise as his tutor. Until Miss Lily Wrayford, the child’s fiercely protective guardian, discovers Leo’s true identity…and gives him until Christmas to prove she can trust him!

All Leo wants is to be a good father, but might this brave, captivating woman be the final missing piece of his family?

Researching Historical Fiction

A Guest Post by Sarah Mallory

Personally, I think it’s a bit early for the C word, but my latest book is published today, so I can’t avoid it! The Duke’s Family for Christmas is a Regency romance that ends at, well, the Festive Season. When I was writing this book, I was very much aware that many of our Christmas customs did not arrive until after the Regency Period. Charles Dickens was responsible for some of them, as was Queen Victoria.

Christmas during the Regency was more about special meals, decorating the house with evergreen plants and perhaps a visit to church in the morning. Mail coaches ran their regular service on Christmas Day, so it was not the special holiday we think of today.

However, books of the period talk of snowstorms in December, so I didn’t think it would be too far-fetched to have snow in my story. There are also reports of wassailers going from house to house, singing hymns and more seasonal songs and raising money for the poor. However, 6th December was St Nicholas Day, which was the traditional day for exchanging gifts.

All this brings me on to researching for historical novels, so here goes with a few tips, for those who are thinking of writing one.

If it’s a new period for you, read around the subject – biographies, history books, literature and music. Plays and poetry of the time are good for the use and flow of language. You also need to research your facts. Children’s history books can be very good at giving you a simple overview, then you can delve deeper into your particular interest. When I started writing, one had to visit the local library, who would order in special books if you needed them, or you could travel to the bigger city libraries. These days, many universities have primary documents online, so its worth searching for these.

You can also get a feel for the period by visiting old houses, battlefields etc. Many specialist organisations are only too happy to share their knowledge, if you ask them. For example, in one book I wanted to know how to sabotage a Regency carriage. I contacted the National Trust’s carriage museum and was put in touch with a carriage builder who told me more than I would EVER need to know for my book.

Which brings me to travel – Beware of potholes

Travel can catch out the unwary author. In the early 18th Century, roads were mainly dirt tracks and a coach took a week to travel from London to York. If you look at old coaching time-tables, the average speed for a coach was 8-10 mph. Yes the rich travelled, but most people remained close to their home.

Research is great

I love it. You can disappear down so many rabbit holes!  But remember, not everything you know needs to go into the book. Beware of information dump. You are writing fiction and too much historical detail can slow up the story.

It’s not what you say

Dialogue can be a headache for the historical novelist. You only have to listen to films from the 1930s to know that we don’t talk the same now as we did in the past. Go back 200 years and the problem is multiplied! Some authors go for modern dialogue – it’s a personal choice. A few historical words and slight changes to the arrangement of the words can give an impression of the period without leaving your reader bored or bewildered.

There is much more to it than this, of course, but everyone has to start somewhere, and if you have been itching to write that novel then the best thing is to get on and do it. You’ll learn on the job.

Sarah Mallory.


Fabulous advice Sarah. Thanks so much!

About Sarah Mallory

Sarah Mallory is an award-winning author who has published more than 25 historical romances with Harlequin Mills & Boon. She loves history, especially the Georgian and Regency period. She has recently moved to the romantic Scottish Highlands, where she walks long walks to plot out her latest adventure!

Sarah is also the award-winning author Melinda Hammond.

You can follow Sarah on Twitter @SarahMRomance. You can also visit her excellent website and find her on Instagram or Facebook.

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