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Do errors or modern phrases bump you out of a historical story you were enjoying? Or as an author, do you find that despite your best efforts those kinds of errors creep in when you’re not paying attention? Well, if so, here’s good news: Writing Regency England has released! It is the culmination of two years of meticulous hard effort honing and focusing, choosing what to include (the topic could be an encyclopedia unto itself, of course!), writing, re-writing, fact-checking, digging for illustrations–all the work.

Picture of the book, Writing Regency England, shown at an angle so the front cover and the spine are both visible. Co-author Jayne Davis and I both love our genre, and we hope this book may serve everyone with any interest in the Regency time and world. We both believe if you’re going to go to the trouble to set a story in a historical time period, creating an authentic sense of that time and world strengthens the story and the experience the reader will gain from reading it. Mistakes can lead to bad reviews, disappointed readers, and an overall bad rep for the genre! WRE is our effort to help fellow authors avoid that fate!

Available in print only, the book offers sixteen chapters of wisdom and information about the Regency time period focused on the “most commonly seen” errors that authors make. Designed as a guide, not a list of complaints, the book covers a wide range, from developing an ear for period appropriate language, avoiding modernisms and Americanisms, to simple facts about the landscapes, flora and fauna of England (no chipmunks! no skunks!), the correct use of titles for characters in the nobility (and who is or isn’t a peer), wisdom about naming your characters plus much more. If you write Regency-set fiction or even just enjoy reading about the period, this is a new resource with a unique slant that you might find invaluable.

Reviewers are giving it 5 stars and saying:

“The authors of Writing Regency England: A Resource for Authors have nailed all the things I grit my teeth over when reading Regency fiction: language that is inappropriate to the period, foods that were not eaten, incorrect use of titles, ignorance of mores and early 19th century life in general. This book covers everything: setting, flora and fauna, building styles, transportation, Great Britain’s old, confusing monetary units (shillings, pence, etc.), professions, the army and navy, and much, much more. I’ve done research for my own books since 2016 and am amazed at the scope of Writing Regency England. I wish I’d had a copy then.”

“If you’ve ever wondered whether what you were reading was accurate or not, then this is the book to tell you. …whether you’re an author or a reader, this book is highly recommended.”

“Thank you to Jayne Davis and Gail Eastwood for putting their heads together to write ‘Writing Regency England’. I do not know how much time I spend going down rabbit holes when I research the period, especially when I am looking for something specific. This book is a great resource for both writers and readers of the period who care about historical accuracy.”

“I’m impressed with the quality of the information and how easy it is to read the book. I’d recommend it highly to historical literature fans, readers and authors alike.”

Every author’s approach to authenticity is as unique as their writing style and voice, but there seemed to be a need for Writing Regency England. Others who write in the same period could certainly have done this book, but Jayne and I were the ones who were crazy enough to tackle it!

Do you think accuracy matters in historical fiction? Please share your thoughts in the comments!

I have a new book out! Her Gallant Captain at Waterloo is available right now from online booksellers in both paperback and ebook.

Here’s the back cover blurb:

From vicar’s son
To captain of her heart!
Lady Helene Banes travels to Brussels to bring her battle-seeking younger brother home, only to collide with Rhys Landon, her ex-fiancé! Gone is the penniless vicar’s son, now transformed into a combat-hardened captain. The spark still burns between them, but Rhys has a new love now—the army. Until, on the eve of battle, with Napoleon’s troops advancing, the emotional turmoil of their past explodes into a night of passion!
From Harlequin Historical: Your romantic escape to the past.

One of the joys of writing historical fiction comes when you are able to fit the real history and real historical figures into the story. In writing Her Gallant Captain at Waterloo I had a lot of that sort of fun. Setting the book in Belgium before and during the Battle of Waterloo, how could I miss. I particularly enjoyed trying to fit the events of the battle into the story, but there was also the Duchess of Richmond’s ball for my characters to attend and, inevitably, the horrid aftermath of the battle. And anytime I can include the Duke of Wellington in a book, I’m happy.

Sometimes a historical figure fits in so well that he or she become a part of the story. In this book it was David Banes’ friend, William Lennox. 

Lord William Pitt Lennox was the 4th son of the Duke of Richmond. As a youth he attended Westminster School, the perfect place for my character to befriend him. By 1814 he had a cornetcy in the army and was an aide de camp to the Duke of Wellington when the Duke was in Paris, the Netherlands, and at the Congress of Vienna after Napoleon’s first defeat and exile at Elba. When Napoleon escaped Elba and returned to France, a battle became inevitable, and no one but the Duke of Wellington could command the Allied army to face this foe. These two great generals had never faced each other in battle. The impending battle was considered the event of the century, not to be missed. 

So in the late spring of 1815, Brussels filled with soldiers and civilians, including David Bane and his sister, Helene, who came to bring her brother home. William Lennox was now attached to General Maitland’s staff, but he suffered a riding accident, injuring his eye and General Maitland relieved him of duty. Because of his injury, he would not fight in the battle, which surely must have depressed him greatly.

It is known that the Duke of Richmond, William’s father, rode with Wellington the day of the battle and observed the fighting. It made sense that William would ride with him—and that gave my character, David, the opportunity to ride with them, putting him exactly where I wanted him—in the battle itself. 

I love it when that happens.

Do you love it, too? Or do you prefer the history to remain in the background or not tied to real events?

Naming characters has been on my mind recently. I’ve been cleaning up and doing the first round of beta revisions on the next Lively St. Lemeston book, and I always leave a lot of names of secondary characters to be finalized at the end. I’m also planning my next project, a novella for an anthology, so I’m choosing names for my central characters.

I take names very seriously, especially for heroes and heroines. I was on a writing date with a friend, working for hours, and I think she was a little taken aback to realize I was thrilled to have finalized three names! What can I say, I’m picky about names. Plus, the heroine and her best friend in the novella are both not originally from England, which means tracking down a different set of naming resources than I usually use.

So I thought today I’d share some of my favorite naming resources, plus the fruits of my recent research.


Resources, England:

The Guiness Book of Names by Leslie Dunkling includes lists of the top fifty first names for girls and boys in England and Wales for 1700 and 1800. I figure names on either list are fair game.

Homes of Family Names in Great Britain by Henry Brougham Guppy (possessor of an amazing name himself), 1890, includes lists of English last names organized by county, sometimes with notes on their origin. I love this book so much I had it printed and bound at the Third Place Books espresso book machine. Did I mention organized by county?

I stole this trick from Cecilia Grant: Debrett’s Baronetage of England, 1835, is a great place to find first and last names that I can be sure are appropriate for an aristocratic character.

When I’m choosing a title rather than a last name (e.g., the Earl of Tassell), I sometimes go with a last name, and sometimes with a place name. The Guiness Book of Names, mentioned above, has a lot of great place names in it, plus building blocks for creating your own. Wikipedia also provides lists of villages in UK counties. For example:

Genealogy sites are an amazing resource, and you can often find them for other countries, too! My favorite for Regency England is this Genes Reunited database of England and Wales death records from 1837 forward. Here’s a search for the name Clementia limited to people born between 1770 and 1790. As you can see it is great at recognizing related names, too!

Resources, Not England:

The thing about naming characters from other countries and cultures is that I don’t have intuition about the name. Even when I was naming the Jewish characters in True Pretenses, I discovered that Ashkenazi Jewish surnames (very familiar to me in their modern form) were completely different during the Regency. So I only chose last names that actually appeared in my research books, and I did the same for some first names (though not all–a couple of people who are only briefly mentioned have common Yiddish or Ladino names that I just hope were in use at the time, like Faige and Speranza). Obviously that provides less options, but I really didn’t want to fuck it up.

I followed the same method for naming an Indian secondary character/future heroine in my upcoming book, although I’m still hoping to find more good online resources for this before I write her book and have to choose dozens of names.

(For a good start at understanding the complexities of naming an Indian character without accidentally mixing and matching religion, location, caste &c., check out these tips from Alisha Rai and Suleikha Snyder. You can see them walking someone through the naming process too! Of course, that’s not even getting into whether the name was used in a particular time period.)

For naming the heroine of my novella, who was born in Portugal, I started with Behind the Name’s list of Portuguese girls’ names. Once I had a shortlist of names I liked, I tested their historicity by plugging them into this FamilySearch database of Portugal Catholic baptisms 1570-1910. (Obviously this only works for Catholic names!)

The name I eventually chose: Magdalena Da Silva. She goes by Maggie.

For naming her best friend (with benefits), I found this amazing database of eighteenth century Dutch Ashkenazi Jews (organized in lists alphabetically by surname which makes it fantabulously usable for my purposes). His name: Meyer Hennipzeel. He goes by Meyer Henney in England.


While paging through Debrett’s for my hero (eventually named Simon Radcliffe-Gould), I discovered some marvelous things.

Debrett’s contains a list of baronet family mottoes. I haven’t had time to go through it fully but my favorite on the first page is “Agitatione purgator. Cleansed by agitation. Russell, of Middlesex.”

I found a couple of family crests worthy of Monty Python. The Acton family, of Aldenham Hall, Shropshire, are represented by “A human leg and thigh in armour, couped, and dropping blood, all proper, garnished, or.” [Image]

And the Prices of Treggwainton, Cornwall, use “On a wreath of the colours a dragon’s head vert, erased gules, holding in its mouth a sinister hand erect, couped, dropping blood from the wrist, all proper.” [Image–and look, you can buy a set of Georgian silver dessert spoons with this crest on it!]

And of course, names:

Philadelphia-Letitia Cotton
Sir Peter Parker

And my absolute favorite…

…the Page-Turners! YES. There was an actual family named the Page-Turners. I want to name my hero this so badly, I can’t even tell you. I know it would be distracting but it’s SO FUNNY. I don’t think I would ever get tired of it.

portrait of Sir Gregory Page-Turner in a red suit, being stared at by a bust of Pallas Athena

Sir Gregory Page-Turner (1748–1805). Image via Wikimedia Commons.

This guy is a babe, I have to say. I also enjoyed this tidbit about his life:

“Sir Edward Turner, 2nd Baronet had a country house, Ambrosden House, built by the architect Sanderson Miller in the 1740s. Sir Gregory never lived at Ambrosden, thought the house too big and in 1767 sought to demolish part of it to make it smaller. This proved impractical so in 1768 he had the entire house demolished.”

Do you have a favorite historical name you’d like to see in a book? How about a favorite name resource?

ETA: Joanna Bourne alerted me to this, for late 18th-century French names: The Guillotined. So cool!

Posted in Names, Research | 20 Replies
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