In advance of the April 1st release of Rescued from Ruin, my next Harlequin Historical, I wanted to share with you some of the great books I read to help me research the heroine, Cecelia Thompson. Rescued from Ruin is set in 1816 London and Cecelia is a widow from Virginia who is denied her inheritance by her stepson. She returns to England, where she was born, to try and settle her cousin and herself while trying to keep her poverty a secret. In order for me to understand what her life in America would have been like, and how American law and practice might allow her stepson to deny her an inheritance, I read the following books.
Mistress of Riverdale: The Plantation Letters of Rosalie Stier Calvert 1795-1821 Edited by Margaret Law Callcott.
Three of the five books deal with America's early first ladies. However, before they were first ladies, they were the wives and daughters of landowners and had to deal with the day to day running of large plantations. The Dolly Madison biography also gave me insight into how the War of 1812 impacted American women's lives. In Rescued from Ruin, part of Cecelia's decision to return to England is the hostile receptions she, as a British born woman, receives from other plantation families after the British burned Washington D.C.
What I gleamed from the first two books was that making a will was a necessity that people tended to put off until the last minute. Many times people waited too long and died intestate. Without a will, things got messy and caused no end of troubles for the heirs. In a time when it was easy for the most minor of illnesses to turn deadly, I was surprised to read about how reluctant people were to put their affairs in order. Then, like now, people didn't want to face the prospect of their mortality. Although the law was on the widow's side, the rural nature of the early American south made it difficult for heirs to make sure the law was enforced.
If you like history, I encourage you to check out any of these books. They offer fascinating looks into a period of American history that is often overlooked. While you're at it, please check out Rescued from Ruin for a chance to see how I incorporated research into the fictional narrative. Check out my other books to see how I incorporate history into those too. www.Georgie-Lee.com