Research and The Reluctant Wife

My guest for Footnotes on Friday is Caroline Warfield, who will talk to us about the different types of research that inform her wonderful books. And continue scrolling for a giveaway and an excerpt of her next release.

Research represents one of the vital tools of a historical novelist. We’re frequently asked to share our research when we discuss our books. I’m always bemused by that. Which research?

Early in the process, academic research is important. I need to understand the era, the setting, the historical figures, the circumstances and a general picture of people’s lives.  A stack of books glares at me from across the room as I type this.  East Asia the Modern Transformation, my Fairbank-Reicshauer survey text from college is buried under two works on the East India Company.  The Reluctant Wife is set in India, but that one is finished. The work-in-progress, The Unexpected Wife (due next October) takes the hero to Canton, China where he will encounter—surprise—the East India Company. Again. This kind of research mostly sets the mood and enlightens the setting. It isn’t terribly helpful on a daily basis.

Some details are tough to get at. Tomes on the company, and even forays into the internet, weren’t much help with details of daily life. I got stuck on uniforms and military life on the edges of the Bengal Presidency. A friend connected me to her father-in-law who provided pages of wonderful detail. I may have only used bits and pieces but those bits make the story much more alive and, I can only hope, more authentic.

Once writing is underway, the questions we didn’t anticipate crop up left and right. What is the punishment for counterfeiting coins in 1832?  (severe, possibly capital) How would the heroine treat burns in 1835? (with honey) How could the hero tell if a dead assassin was hindu or muslim? (circumcision) When was foxglove found to be useful for heart failure? (before 1800) For those, I scurry to the Internet, usually successfully.

There is another sort of research that enlivens my work, however. Fiction, regardless of historical era or setting, is about people, and romantic fiction is about relationships. My books are all embedded in family—the families of origin of the hero and heroine, and the family they form when they finally come together. For that, my research is all around me. Family is the great school of life. Families mold us for better or for worse. They lie under our character, conflicts, and motivation good and bad. They  provoke the strongest of all human emotions, both negative and positive. Reasearch? I’d say so—if we’re paying attention.

What do you think?  How much real information do you look for in what is, after all, a novel? Is the human more or less important?

The Reluctant Wife

Children of Empire, Book 2

Genre: Pre Victorian, Historical Romance  *  Heat rating: 3 of 5 (two brief -mild- sexual encounters)

ISBN:  978-1-61935-349-9 * ASIN:  B06Y4BGMX1 * Page count: 275 pages

Pub date: April 26, 2017

When all else fails, love succeeds…

Captain Fred Wheatly’s comfortable life on the fringes of Bengal comes crashing down around him when his mistress dies, leaving him with two children he never expected to have to raise. When he chooses justice over army regulations, he’s forced to resign his position, leaving him with no way to support his unexpected family. He’s already had enough failures in his life. The last thing he needs is an attractive, interfering woman bedeviling his steps, reminding him of his duties.

All widowed Clare Armbruster needs is her brother’s signature on a legal document to be free of her past. After a failed marriage, and still mourning the loss of a child, she’s had it up to her ears with the assumptions she doesn’t know how to take care of herself, that what she needs is a husband. She certainly doesn’t need a great lout of a captain who can’t figure out what to do with his daughters. If only the frightened little girls didn’t need her help so badly.

Clare has made mistakes in the past. Can she trust Fred now? Can she trust herself? Captain Wheatly isn’t ashamed of his aristocratic heritage, but he doesn’t need his family and they’ve certainly never needed him. But with no more military career and two half-caste daughters to support, Fred must turn once more—as a failure—to the family he let down so often in the past. Can two hearts rise above past failures to forge a future together?

Find it here:

About Caroline Warfield

Traveler, poet, librarian, technology manager—award winning author Caroline Warfield has been many things (even a nun), but above all she is a romantic. Having retired to the urban wilds of eastern Pennsylvania, she reckons she is on at least her third act, happily working in an office surrounded by windows while she lets her characters lead her to adventures in England and the far-flung corners of the British Empire. She nudges them to explore the riskiest territory of all, the human heart.

Caroline is a RONE award winner with five star reviews from Readers’ Favorite, Night Owl Reviews, and InD’Tale. She is also a member of the writers’ co-operative, the Bluestocking Belles. With partners she manages and regularly writes for both The Teatime Tattler and History Imagined.


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Twitter @CaroWarfield


Children of Empire

Three cousins, torn apart by lies and deceit and driven to the far reaches of the empire, struggle to find their way home.


Caroline will give a kindle copy of The Renegade Wife, first book in the series, to one randomly selected person who comments. She is also sponsoring a grand prize in celebration of her release. You can enter it here:

The prequel to this book, A Dangerous Nativity, is always **FREE**. You can get a copy here:


Clare briefly explained what she had learned about the inaugural run of a mail steamer to the Suez.

“What is the advantage?” he asked.

“It cuts four months off the time we would spend cooped up on a ship,” Clare answered.

“Camels,” Meghal declared. Her eyes widened as a new idea struck. “And crocodiles.”

“The disadvantage?” he asked, barely controlling his laughter.

“Goodness, Fred. I would have to disembark with two children, travel overland to Cairo, travel by river barge down the Nile and the Mahmoudiyah Canal to Alexandria before embarking on yet another steamer for Falmouth or Southampton while managing luggage and keeping your daughter from wandering off with the first interesting band of Bedouins she encountered.”

“But Papa can help with the luggage, and I promise not to follow any—what are Bead-oh-ans?”

Clare’s face registered the shock he felt. Neither one of them had mentioned his plans to his daughters. Clare raised a brow and shrugged, obviously unwilling to rescue him.

You’re on your own, Wheatly, he thought as he tried to put words together while Meghal smiled hopefully at him.

“I thought you knew, Meghal. I’m not going with you. You will have to take care of Miss Armbruster for me.” She will like the idea of caring for everyone, he thought, pleased with himself for coming up with that.

His daughter’s instant response disabused him of that notion. “Why?” she demanded, the universal challenge of children everywhere. Before he could think, she stabbed him in the heart and twisted the knife. “Don’t you care for us?”

“Of course, I do! Never think that.”

“Where will we go? Who will take care of us? Do we have to live with Miss Armbruster?” Meghal colored and turned to Clare. “I’m sorry, Miss Armbruster. Ananya and I like you, but you aren’t family,” she said. “We need family.”

Fred seized on her words. “That’s just it. I’m sending you to family. Your Aunt Catherine and your cousins will be happy to have you come and stay with them while I”—he clenched his teeth—“while I find work so I can send her money for your care.”

Meghal sank back in the chair, outrage still rampant on her face.

“Meghal, I can’t care for you if I can’t work.”

In lieu of an answer, she jumped down from her chair and hurried to the bedroom, returning with her beloved box. Fred groaned. I should never have read them to her. She dug down under her cousins’ missives and pulled up ones she knew were from his sister.

“My aunt wants you to write to her. She would be dee-lighted to see you if you come to England. She would help us, and the earl who is a farmer would too,” Meghal announced, folding her arms across her chest and thrusting out her lower lip. “We can come back after we see them. You must come.” She leaned forward when another notion flitted across her expressive face. “We could go by Egypt if you come. Please come,” she wheedled.



17 thoughts on “Research and The Reluctant Wife

  1. I’m writing my first book which is in the genre of creative nonfiction based around the lives of my Pioneer ancestors arriving in South Australia. I loved reading your excerpt and comments as I need to lesrn how to glean the setting, characters and storyline from my research. It’s good to know that there can never be enough research done as sometimes I feel that I love it a little too much and then my writing is left out of the process.

    • I know, right? I’ve never met a research rabbit hole I didn’t want to dive down, and sometimes all that appears in the book is the shape left by the absence of something that research shows could not have happened. If you see what I mean.

    • You can become blocked by the research too. when it starts to overwhelm you. It is a good idea to begin the writing once you have basic world building in your head. Setting is vital to the story, but it isn’t the story. Characters are vital also!

  2. I applaud your research! Nothing ruins a story for me faster than a glaring mistake, especially one that could have been easily remedied with a simple question whether the story is set in modern times or earlier.
    Authenticity in a historical puts the reader right into the lives of the characters, and isn’t that what every writer wants…to have their readers’ full attention, minds and hearts for the time they visit within their stories?
    I wish you the best of luck with your works,Caroline.

  3. I love well-researched books, because one of my favorite hobbies is being an armchair time-traveler! Your books are great, Caroline!
    However, what I love best is the history “between the lines” — not just the facts and the big, overarching political situation, but how ordinary people lived their lives, how they thought and behaved within the framework of society’s dictates.

  4. I don’t think you can know too much about your period. Research is like an iceberg, only the very tip of it makes it into your book, but it is the mass below that supports it. And let’s face it, research is fun.

  5. Research is very important to me as a reader, and yours always shows in your wonderful books. The Reluctant Wife was absolutely wonderful with gorgeous descriptions of places that don’t often appear in romance. I think some people are put off by “too much” research in historicals, but to me that’s a style issue — research can be used judiciously to add context and flavor and you always get the balance just right. ❤

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