Friday, April 30, 2010

Destination Truth: Researching the Historical Romance Novel

In honor of the humor theme for this month, I'm sharing a post I did for my blog tour for MY UNFAIR LADY, for those that may have missed it, and because it tickled me the first time around. :}

One of my favorite shows on TV is SyFy channel’s Destination Truth with Joshua Gates. If you’re unfamiliar with the show, it’s about a guy who travels to all sorts of exotic locations to find out the truth about monsters reportedly living there. The host, Josh Gates, is tall and adorable…brave almost to the point of insanity…has a wicked sense of humor…perfect hero material…sorry, got distracted. Anyway, Josh never seems to uncover proof of the actual monster (I’ll keep rooting for him), but his journeys are amazing, and he always discovers all kinds of other, interesting things (like a headless chicken corpse with human feet, an enormous unidentified footprint, ghostly images, disembodied voices and even scarier mundane things. Like quicksand. Alligators. Poisonous snakes…)

Shivering aside, what does Destination Truth have to do with researching a historical romance novel?

The similarities are mind-boggling.

So let’s start by comparing an episode of Destination Truth with one of my historical research topics. Let’s say, Josh’s search for evidence of the Yeti with my search for historical…panties. (Trust me, it’s going to be tougher than it sounds. Victorian underwear wasn’t too difficult, but Georgian underwear had me tearing my hair out.)

Destination Truth: Search for the elusive yeti/panty

Rumors of the Yeti have reached Josh at his headquarters. A huge ape-like creature similar to the Sasquatch, living somewhere in the Himalayas. Josh packs up his crew and travels thousands of miles to the Far East. The search is on.

Rumors of corsets, stays, and chemises reach the author. But what of panties? This information is critical to the author for her love scenes. Author props up her feet next to her computer and brings up the Google screen. The search is on.

Josh interviews people, looking for reliable witnesses who have seen the Yeti, in order to determine the best place to set up an investigation. He hikes through a valley where sightings have occurred, but finds nothing more exciting than a grazing cow.

Author types in ‘Georgian Underwear’, scanning through the results, looking for reliable websites. The first one looks promising, but on further investigation author comes up empty-handed. The rest of the sites aren’t even related to author’s search.

Josh continues his search, and gets lucky. Some evidence is found of the creature, but Josh can’t determine if it’s genuine. They are frustrated in their attempts to acquire some evidence for testing from the artifact. They are told that because others believe it to be genuine, so must they.

Author expands her search to ‘Georgian Clothing’ and gets lucky. Results have turned up some reputable websites, but further investigation only leads her from one link to another, frustrating the author. She’s tempted by the Wikipedia result, but is aware that the general populace updates the site’s information.

After four days of hiking with nary a Yeti in sight, Josh and his team split up, and start hunting in earnest.

After Googling several combinations of word searches with nary a panty in sight, author decides to branch out her search to the library and bookstore.

The journey through the Himilayas is arduous but amazing, and the hunt reveals fascinating plant and animal life, with exciting discoveries and perilous adventures.

The journey through the library is arduous but amazing, with hundreds of books on Georgian costume to pour through, revealing discoveries of clocked stockings and brocade waistcoats. Although most of the books at the bookstore deal with general English social history, the author lives new adventures through historical biographies. But no mention of panties. Author goes to Amazon and searches for out-of-print books that may have an answer…and is overyjoyed! She orders the Handbook of English Costume in the Eighteenth Century, a detailed look at clothing.

One of Josh’s sherpa guides finds an enormous footprint! Josh is overjoyed! His team spreads out, looking for more evidence, but unfortunately, find none. They take a plaster cast of the print and bring it back to headquarters amid much acclaim.

Author receives her Amazon order. She removes a book from the wrapping titled, Handbook of English Costume in the Seventeenth Century. They sent her the wrong book! But after searching through it, author finds no reference to panties anyway.

Josh brings the plaster castings to a professional for examination. It is estimated that a 300-400 pound creature made the prints. They are ruled out as a hoax and are called a ‘significant discovery’. Is this definitive proof of the Yeti, then? Alas, it seems to be unclear.

Author has garnered enough information by now to deduce that panties were ‘most likely’ not worn prior to the drawers of the Victorian era, but alas, she lacks definitive proof. Indeed, historians seem unclear as well, for if panties were worn, no clear evidence of them remains.


I would love to hear about your own journeys through research, so please don't hesitate to comment.

All My Magical Best,


  1. Fun post Kathryne!

    Most of research of late deals with finding new online resources to help with book promotion. Whether it's the right hash tag to use on Twitter, or online forums or the ever expanding book blogging community, the internet is neverending and it can be a daunting task - but someone has to seek out these new places/modes of promotion! :-)

    Have a great weekend!

  2. I was recently asked to do a workshop on research, and I declined, offering another topic instead. The problem: my approach to research is to avoid it. I write around all the research I need to do until I can't avoid it anymore and have to look something up. I know. Bad historical author!

  3. And that's why all the Casa Authors appreciate & adore you, Danielle! Esp me, cause I have a feeling my next release is making you search beyond the established sites for promotion. Thanks a million!

  4. Of course no panties made it past the Victorian may Alpha males ripping them

    Loved the blog, it was a good read...

    P.S. Research is considered a "four letter word" by some, me included...along with exercise...

  5. LOL, Jessica. So glad you enjoyed the post! Thanks much!

  6. I LOVE doing research! :) I wrote about Victorian undergarments in Destiny of the Wolf.

    I also write in the medieval time underwear for women, except for short maybe knee high hosen. :) That makes it easy. :) I have a book that actually has an illustration of women pulling up their skirts to warm themselves over braziers. Yes. No underwear. It would have been too difficult to lift all those skirts to unfasten anything when needed! :)

  7. Hi Terry! I have to say, from a romance writer's POV, it's wonderful when my heroines don't need to wear panties. Now, if they only didn't have to worry about those pesky stays... :}
    Thanks for commenting, Terry! I'd love to read your post on Victorian costume and compare notes. If you come back, I'd love a link to it.

  8. I mentioned it in Destiny of the Wolf, Kathryne. I've lost all the links I had to so many sites when my hard drive crashed, although I also did a lot of book research, so I don't have the links easily available to look it up now.

    About the stays? That's easy. :) You know what they say about that? In one of my romances, I have where he tells her she's wearing too many clothes, and to go without the stays. Then she says "Nay, as she would be called a loose woman," which was the reference I saw about women who wore no stays and supposedly it's where that expression comes from. LOL :)

  9. I like comparing research to Destination Truth. LIke the program, I hardly every find what I was looking for, but I have a lot of fun looking.

    Your search for Regency panties may have been doomed for the same reason Josh couldn't find the Yeti.

    There weren't any to find. At all. In fact, if my totally unreliable memory can be trusted (I wouldn't recommend quoting me) before the Victorian era, female drawers were considered "racy" and not the kind of thing nice girls wore.

    Doesn't that turn all notions of modesty upside down? (Though it could explain why physical activity was considered unladylike.)

    Fun post, Kathryne!

  10. I read your first book, Terry, and it was a contemporary, and I didn't know that you'd branched into historical with the others, so now I'll have to look for that one. :}
    When I wrote the Relics series, I wanted to write up a historical cheat-sheet on Victorian clothing, (where stays had developed into corsets) and never got around to it. Now that I'm in the Georgian era with my new Elven Lords series, I managed to put together a cheat-sheet on 1700-1750's women's clothing. So as soon as I finish the one on men, I'll be posting them to my blog. Who knows, maybe you'll branch into that era as well? :}
    As always, nice chatting with you, and I loved your clever play on words.

  11. Sorry, Mary, we must have been posting at the same time.
    You're absolutely right. I found no evidence of panties until the Victorian era, and yes, it was at first considered 'racy' to wear those new drawers from Paris (which had slits in them for obvious bathroom reasons--all those petticoats to hike up). The thing is, most of the research is based on either paintings and architectural finds, so it's sketchy at of the most difficult things I found about research. But the good thing is, since no one is truly positive about many aspects of history, it sure gives us writers a lot of leeway. :}

  12. OMG! I am dying laughing here! And nodding my head is absolute comprehension! I know I don't have to tell you, Kathryne, how often I have gone through those precise steps in my research! Luckily we can usually find the answers, or get close enough to make a "logical" deduction, but it sure is crazy the amount of digging we do for what often is the stupidest fact! LOL!

    As for panties in the Regency: Keep the nether regions underwear free is my advice. I will allow the blog readers to conclude why that is the best option. ;-)

  13. I actually love to do research. So much so I find myslef researching random details at odd hours of the night. Of course, this may be another form of procrastination! I have yet to research the mysterious yeti panty...

  14. So glad you could relate, Sharon! Thanks a million for commenting!

  15. Hi Amanda, I know that sometimes it's easy to get lost in all the fascinating details we stumble across. Great to hear from you!