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Sometimes I wonder why I chose to write a book set in the past, when it would have been so much simpler to write something contemporary.  The beauty of writing a book set in your own time is that all the cultural references are there – current, and so familiar as to be instinctive.  But as soon as you go back into another age, you can’t take anything for granted.  Here are some of the things I have had to research and check over the past few days:

  • Can you use the term “unshriven” of a baby, to mean the same as “unchristened”?  [Probably not: to be shriven or unshriven, you really need to be able to conceive of the concept of sin, so at least talking.]
  • When people in Regency times took a hackney coach (their version of a black cab), did they call it a “hackney” or a “coach”?  [Hackney.]
  • Did well-to-do people drink tea at breakfast time?  [Yes.]
  • What did you call a man who lived on the immoral earnings of women?  [It’s not the start of a joke – and it’s a pimp, same as today.]

I tell you, if anyone ever explores my Internet search history, I’m in for some funny looks.

But of course the reason that I did choose to set my book in the past is exactly this sort of nit-picking: the fun and intellectual challenge of researching another world and then describing it convincingly for my readers.  Plus the police uniforms were way better back then: more top hats and canes and fewer hi-vis jackets and stab vests.