For me, there are so many things, including the new up and coming middle class developed from the Industrial Revolution, (no need to write about royalty and wealthy aristocrats), the fashions which were elegant, somewhat fussy and quite beautiful, and the social manners and mores.
Everyone has heard about the staid and straight-laced Victorians, who covered piano legs with long fringe shawls and called their underclothes "unmentionables". I have fun discovering the patterns of social interaction and then of course distrupting them in the course of my story in order to create conflict.
In one of my searches through the library catalog, I came across a jewel of a book, Never Give a Lady a Restive Horse: A 19th Century Handbook of Etiquette which are selections from the pages of Professor Thomas E. Hill's famous volumes on etiquette. (I didn't know he was famous but the forward pages tell me he was, so I accept it.)
This book includes chapters on the Laws of Etiquette, The Science of Beautiful Dress, The Language and Sentiment of Flowers and even samples of Tombstone Inscriptions, (in the event that you can't think what to put on a dearly departed ones stone.)
One of my favorite articles is about the Etiquette of Conversation, How, When and Where to Speak. My coworkers and I decided that we would probably be the very undesirable "coarse and boisterous" visitors rather than the "cultured and refined" guests. After all, one of the guidelines is not to talk about private, personal or family matters. In this day and age, we all do that, some people even post their inner- most thoughts on webpages, blogs and Facebook. What would the very private Victorians think of our digital world where privacy has gone to the dogs? I suspect they'd be horrified.
I'm afraid I broke several very important rules of appropriate behavior when my hero, Sam, first meets my heroine, Amanda, in my upcoming release, Promise Me.
You can judge for yourself.
"My mother had a cure for insomnia. Perhaps you'd allow me to fix you a hot toddy. I guarantee it will make you sleep soundly as a baby."
The sultry tone of his voice mesmerized her.
All the deportment lessons she'd suffered since childhood came back to her in a flash. She should keep going back to her room, but his dark and hypnotic voice promised secret delights, and she didn't want to leave. She wanted to sit down and continue to banter with this mysterious man. If he thought her a brazen hussy, so much the better. For a few moments tonight, she'd be that other woman, the one who didn't care what others thought of her.
Swallowing her apprehension, she tossed her braid over one shoulder and crossed the small kitchen to take a chair at the table. She settled her candle next to the oil lamp and gave him an inviting smile.
"A hot toddy sounds perfectly wonderful. Are you sure it won't be too much trouble?"
The man leaned forward. The corners of his lovely mouth lifted slightly. "It would be my pleasure to assist an angel to bed."
She warmed from her cheeks down to her bosom. She had never in her life done anything as brash as this. What would Father Mikelson say? She didn't want to think about the penance she'd do when she confessed. Flirting wasn't the same as adultery, was it? Could she still be an adulteress if her husband was dead? Good Lord, why was she even thinking about such a thing?
When he turned his back to her, she knew what fueled her illicit thoughts. As he poured a concoction into a cup, Amanda forgot to breathe as she stared at the thick, dark hair curling at the edge of his collar, his lean torso and long legs.
"It's you," she whispered.
Are there any Victorian rules of etiquette you'd enjoy playing with in real life? Or do you dream of donning a gorgeous silk gown with pantalettes, hoop skirts, and a corset?
Deborah Schneider - 2009 RWA Librarian of the Year