My current WIP, Lady Caro’s Accidental Marriage, starts in Venice. From there, my hero, Lord Huntley and my heroine, Caro, travel up through the Brenner Pass to Innsbruck, then through the Fernpass to Ulm and onto Nancy and Dijon, France. The other character, Horatia, travels to Genoa and takes a ship to Marseille, planning to meet up with Huntley and Caro in Nancy.
I lived in Europe for the better part of eighteen years and have traveled through northern Italy, France, Germany and Austria extensively. So in my 21st century mind, I had my characters visiting sights such as the Dom in Ulm and the Palais des Papes in the wonderful city of Avignon. So imagine my disappointment when I discovered that in 1816, the work on the Ulm Minster, which had begun in 1377 was, due to various economic problems and a few wars, was not completed until later in the 19th century, too late for my characters to visit. Likewise, the Palais des Papes was not the grand palace one sees today, but instead a crumbling building used as a stable. On the other hand, I found hotels, restaurants and cafés from the time that are still in existence today. Innsbruck was a bustling city and many of the attractions are the same now as in 1816. The Fernpass has a new road, but the old one remains, albeit mostly for wanders and bicyclists. And the Schloss and Hotel Fernsteinsee, a wonderful old castle with amazing views of the Zugspitze, as been a hotel since the late 18th century. Since I like to feed my characters, I pleased to discover many of the same dishes I’ve eaten were popular over two hundred years ago.
The problem with all this research is resisting the temptation to use all of it and risk the book reading more like a travel guide than a romance novel. Fortunately, I have very good critique partners who will haul me up short when I start getting into the weeds.
Excerpt – Huntley and Caro in Verona
After a large meal they spent an hour or so walking through the ancient city and touring the Basilica di San Zeno. As they were admiring it the ornate black roof, English voices intruded on them. Huntley turned and stifled a curse. He recognized the prelate bear-leading a young man around the church.
Before he could hide them, the prelate turned. “Huntley, is that you?”
He thought about trying to at least hide Caro, but it wouldn’t work. “Yes, yes indeed.” He held out his hand. “You’re the last person I expected to see here.”
His cousin glanced at Caro. Huntley patted her hand, now clutched tightly to his jacket sleeve. “Lady Caroline Martindale, may I present the Right Reverend, Bishop Everard Wingate?”
Caroline smiled politely and curtseyed. The grip she had on his arm tightened even more. He smiled at his cousin. “Everard, what are you doing here? Shouldn’t you be in Canterbury or something?”