I am currently in the midst of writing a proposal to send to my agent. A proposal, for those of you not aware (as I was not until Carolyn Jewel told me this past summer. And I think I’m so smart.), is the first three chapters and synopsis for a proposed book.

In other words, I don’t have to actually WRITE the entire book in order to get it sold. How cool is that?!?

Of course it means I have to write the synopsis, which is agony for another day.

But meanwhile, I am actually doing RESEARCH, another first for me, as those of you who read A Singular Lady know (there’s definitely some wrong stuff in there). My hero this time around is an opium addict, although he’ll start to kick by the end of Chapter Three, or else it wouldn’t be much of a romance–kinda more like Hunter S. Thompson goes to ton.

So I’ve gotten quite a few books out of the library, so many I hope no-one’s monitoring me, or I’d definitely be tagged as suspicious. The most useful one thus far is In The Arms of Morpheus: The Tragic History of Laudanum, Morphine, and Patent Medicines by Barbara Hodgson. I just got Opium: A History by Martin Booth, which Jo Beverley cites in the author’s note of her latest release, To Rescue A Rogue, which also features an opium addict (and here I thought I was being so innovative! But my hero is scads different from hers, so hopefully it won’t be walking over the same romantic ground). Of course I have Thomas De Quincey‘s Confessions of an English Opium-Eater, but his writing is so hyperbolic it’s not so informative. Samuel Taylor Coleridge‘s poem “Kubla Khan” was supposedly written under the influence, as was Christina Rossetti‘s Goblin Market, which is gorgeously illustrated by her brother, Dante Gabriel Rossetti.

Addiction to laudanum was not disgraceful, especially for the upper class. The Prince Regent was addicted, and several other famous personages of the time used laudanum frequently. Laudanum was cheap, too, so poor people could obtain it easily. The most heinous thing about its use at this time is that opium was an ingredient in several children’s elixirs, guaranteed to soothe the fretful child. There were many deaths attributed to over-medicating.

Opium affects the brain in powerful, immediate ways, so it is very easy to get addicted quickly, and very hard to stop taking it. I am reading Jo Beverley’s book now, and she does a fantastic job of explaining how hard it is to get off it: Imagine wanting the best chocolate chip cookie ever, and you haven’t eaten all day, and you have to deny yourself the pleasure of eating it. And then magnify that by 1,000 times. That’s what it seems to be like to be addicted to opium.

My wonder is that more people weren’t addicted back then, given its availability and lack of social stigma.

And my questions are: Would you find an addicted hero sympathetic? What about an addicted heroine (mine isn’t)? Have you found anything out about the Regency period (such as what I discovered about the children’s elixirs) that startled you?