We’re Highlighting Historical Romance today with Jude Knight, who brings us insight into the ways in which travel has impacted her Regency novels, and problems writers face regarding it.
One of the first things I had to get my head around when I started writing stories set in the Regency era was how long it took to go anywhere.
We live on the other side of a huge revolution in transportation, which was just beginning during the late 18th and early 19th century. My mother remembers the family buggy, and the horse that pulled it. As recently as half a century ago, air travel was only for the rich. My husband is one of many immigrants in the mid-twentieth century who arrived by steamship. (In his case, a few days before his second birthday.)
For some reason, travel speeds have been a particular research point in my series The Golden Redepennings. My first note on the topic, dated 10 March 2014, says: “Per 10 miles. Allow 3.2 hours walking, 1 hour riding”. What it doesn’t say, but I later found out, is that a fit healthy person can keep walking when a horse needs to rest. So a person might walk for twelve hours, for a total of 38 miles, while a fit horse might manage two 2-hour stretches of 10 miles each with a long break between, for a total of 40.
On the other hand, if you can change your horses regularly, you increase your range, and by the early nineteenth century a network of post houses and improvements to the quality of the roads meant the mail coach could make the trip from London to Edinburgh in a mere forty or so hours, with frequent changes of horses, relief drivers, and no stops to wait for passengers along the way. Provided they weren’t stopped by snow, flood, accidents, or highway robbers.
The novella Gingerbread Bride sees the heroine traveling back and forth across the south of England, by stagecoach and then by post-chaise. This was the public transportation of the time: a stage-coach shared with all sorts of folks, or a post-chaise hired for yourself, with a post-rider to look after the horses. I spent ages with a map calculating the places she might stop and the distances per day she might travel.
In Farewell to Kindness, I needed to change my plot a little to allow my hero enough time to ride at all speed across southern England, from Margate to just south-east of Bristol. He changed his horses every 20 miles, but he still had to rest overnight on the way.
In A Raging Madness, I tried a different form of transport. My hero and heroine take refuge on a canal boat, so I found myself researching both routes available in 1812, and the time a boat might take between Cheshire and London.
And in the latest novel in the series, The Realm of Silence, my hero and heroine are racing up the Great North Road in a private carriage, a cabriolet-phaeton. They are in pursuit of the heroine’s daughter, who has run away from school with a friend and with the school’s French music mistress. Or have the girls been kidnapped? And is the music mistress a spy?
Gil and Susan have no time to lose, but with the best will in the world, they still can’t go faster than a team of good horses can pull their carriage.
I’m just beginning to research for the next novel in the series, Unkept Promises, in which sea travel plays a big part. The sailors of 1812 were no longer reliant on celestial navigation alone but still depended on the wind. Just how long would it take to sail from London to Cape Town in June, and back in December?
An Excerpt from The Realm of Silence
The next stage was flat and lonely; a broad wet landscape cut by a myriad of drains and not improved by the persistent rain. After Susan had milked all the comment she could from Mlle Cornillac’s perfidious lies about a sick relative in Doncaster and the girls’ cleverness in leaving a trail, she fell silent and Gil, glancing sideways, could see she was slipping back into a fever of worry.
“You haven’t mentioned young Jules. When last I was in England, I met his young wife, and him on the other side of the world.” Julian was the youngest of the Redepenning brothers, and not long out of the nursery when Gil ran in a schoolboy pack with Susan’s brothers and cousin.
As it transpired, Susan had quite a lot to say about Jules, or rather about his irregular conduct, prefacing it with: “I do not hesitate to tell you, Rutledge, for I know you are as silent as a clam, and in possession of more of our family’s secrets than anyone else besides. Indeed, you have proved yourself a true brother to me these last few days.”
Gil should not find that irritating, since he had kept his far-from-brotherly thoughts to himself for more than twenty years. Indeed, perhaps he should regard it as a compliment. Her verbal barbs whenever they met had given him to understand she didn’t like him, but if she thought of him as a family member, perhaps he could take a more optimistic view. Not that his relationships with his own family gave him cause to hope for a warmer friendship. His mother despised him, his sisters barely tolerated him and his brother hated him. Gil had every reason to hate Gideon back.
She failed to notice his preoccupation, saying, “I expect you have heard that Jules married in haste years ago, to a girl still in the schoolroom.”
Gil nodded. That much, he knew, and that the new Mrs Redepenning had been absorbed into the family who closed ranks around her and dared anyone to gossip.
“Did you know how it came about, Gil?” Susan asked.
“Alex said they were imprisoned together by ruffians, and that Jules had done the best he could for the lady.” Gil shrugged. He felt sorry for the young wife, who had been left almost from the church while Jules returned to his naval duties.
“Smugglers,” Susan explained. “Jules was investigating the gang when they captured him. Mia and her father had run afoul of them and her father was killed.”
Jules had felt impelled to wed Mia to protect her name and give her a home, but not to seek leave from the navy to spend any time with his new wife. He re-joined his ship before it returned to its post at Madras in the Far East, where his native mistress awaited him.
He raised his eyebrows when Susan explained that Mia had known about the mistress from the first. “She and Kirana have been exchanging letters these past seven years, if you can believe it, and now Mia is on her way to Cape Town, where Jules is currently stationed.”
“Whatever for?” Gil wondered, envisaging the mistress cast out into the street, or perhaps some kind of an oriental menage with the two women sharing the one man.
“She is dying; not Mia, Kirana. Consumption. And Mia says she wants to be with her friend in her last days, and to bring Jules’ children back with her. I must say, I see no other course, Rutledge. With their mother dead, and their father likely at any time to be posted back to England, what else will become of them?”
It wasn’t Gil’s place to comment, but it seemed very untidy to him.
“The same mistress all this time?” he asked. At least the boy was loyal. The man, he supposed. Jules was five years his junior so would turn thirty-four before the end of this year. Which meant he had been twenty-seven and his bride fifteen when he had deposited her with his father and returned to his posting in the Far East.
He had to obey orders, his bride was a child, and his mistress and children needed him. Looked at like that, it almost made sense.
“This is Brayton,” he said. “We shall stop for the night in Selby, since it is growing dark. We’ll be perhaps another fifteen minutes, Susan.”
“How much further on is York?”
“Not twenty miles. We can order a fresh team of horses for sunrise, if you wish, and breakfast at the White Rose while we make our first change.”
About the Book
The Realm of Silence (Book 3 in The Golden Redepennings)
Rescue her daughter, destroy her dragons, defeat his demons, go back to his lonely life. How hard can it be?
“I like not only to be loved, but also to be told I am loved… the realm of silence is large enough beyond the grave.” George Eliot
When Susan Cunningham’s daughter disappears from school, her pleasant life as a fashionable, dashing, and respectable widow is shattered. Amy is reported to be chasing a French spy up the Great North Road, and when Susan sets out in pursuit she is forced to accept help from the last person she wants: her childhood friend and adult nemesis, Gil Rutledge.
Gil Rutledge has loved Susan since she was ten and he a boy of twelve. He is determined to oblige her by rescuing her daughter. And if close proximity allows them to rekindle their old friendship, even better. He has no right to ask for more.
Gil and Susan must overcome danger, mystery, ghosts from the past, and their own pride before their journey is complete.
Preorder links and more information: http://judeknightauthor.com/books/the-realm-of-silence/
About the Author: Jude Knight
I have always loved telling stories, mostly for the benefit of children in need of entertainment.
Three years ago, the first of my strong determined historical heroines, heroes who appreciate them, and villains you’ll love to loathe first made their way into the covers of Candle’s Christmas Chair.
A dozen books later, the wind fills my sails and many more plots jostle for daylight. My great desire is to sell enough of my books to leave the day job and write full-time. If you like what I do, I’d love you to spread the word.