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Historical Romance Writers Dishing the Dirt on Research

19 October 2015

Scenes from Berkeley Square






Incident in Berkeley Square, a novella in my Malcolm & Suzanne Rannoch historical mystery series, comes out on November 2nd. When I sat down to plan it, I realized that though my books are filled with scenes at balls, concerts, masquerades, and other entertainments and though Suzanne is known as a hostess, I hadn't written a scene of the Rannochs entertaining. So Incident in Berkeley Square is new territory for the series in that it is almost entirely set during a ball Suzanne and Malcolm are hosting. It is also new territory for the Rannoch, in that it's the first ball they have hosted since former British agent Malcolm learned his wife Suzanne used to be a French agent and married him to spy for the other side.

The Berkeley Square garden where the Rannoch children play

When I began the series, I planned for them to live in South Audley Street. But on a research trip to London I fell in love with the beauty of Berkeley, and realized how rare is, even in Mayfair, to have a house that looks out on leafy greenery rather than across a comparatively narrow street at someone else's windows. What a wonderful place for Rannochs to raise their children. Which is also what Malcolm thinks in the series, when he inherits the house and decides to brave the ghosts of his past by moving into the house he inherited from his parents. By remaking the house (which Suzanne remodels) and raising their own children there, Malcolm hopes to replace the unhappy memories of his childhood with more positive memories.
The house that is my image for Malcolm & Suzanne's house

I chose a house that is my image for the Rannoch house. The last time I was in London, I went to Berkeley Square and sat there at twilight, drinking in the setting. The square has inspired many scenes in the series and given a shape to the Rannoch family life, from the children playing in the square to Malcolm and Suzanne returning in the middle of the night from a mission and evading questions for the nightwatchman. Incident in Berkeley Square (where an unexpected visit from friends from the spy game disrupts the ball) adds new textures to the Rannochs' life in the square.

The square at twilight, about the time Suzanne and Malcolm's ball would be starting

What settings do you associate most strongly with particular books? Writers, have you ever moved where you planned to have characters live because you visited a certain location that seemed right?

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06 October 2015

What's A Lady To Do?

London was overflowing with places for men to eat or procure cooked meals (taverns, clubs, coffee houses, supper clubs, chip houses, pubs). Many of these same options were available working class women (as were the plethora of street vendors selling pies, bread and cheese, and other portable foostuffs). 

But what was a lady to do when she found herself peckish while on a shopping spree or after a long day touring the British Museum? Obviously if she were ravenous, she could have her footman fetch her a pie, but what if she'd just attended a lecture with a gentleman? Where could they go?
The answer as far as I can tell is a fashionable pastry shop. Anyone who reads Regency-set romances is familiar with the famous Gunter's of Berkeley Square. But there were any other options. 

For starters, there was Perry's: 

Then there's Farrance's:
  
And you could always make up your own (which is honestly one of my favorite options). I'll be adding these and other locations to the Regency Places map for future reference. 

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