Monday, 17 January 2011

Harlequin Historical author,Isabelle Goddard on the pleasures of research

Now, I’ve been looking forward to this moment for well over a year! I’m delighted to welcome Isabelle Goddard, whose first book for Harlequin Historical is on sale now. 

Under the pergola at the Watermill
I first met Isabelle under a pergola in sunny Tuscany.  She joined my romance writing course at the Watermill at Posara, but much as I would love to claim some credit for her success, I’m afraid I can’t – Isabelle had already submitted Reprobate Lord, Runaway Lady to Mills & Boon and was waiting to hear back from them, so she did it all on her own, without any help from me.  But all of us on that course were thrilled when she told us that she had had an offer for her book, and I’m keeping my fingers crossed that the others will get a similar call in due course – keep at it, girls!  (In the meantime, Isabelle, we want to know what happened to your dairy maid …)

Reprobate Lord, Runaway Lady has a real Georgette Heyer quality to it – and when it comes to Regency, you can’t say better than that!  Isabelle has a copy to give away, so read on for details … Here she is:

"Jessica’s course was great.  By the time I went to Tuscany, I’d been waiting for a final verdict on Reprobate Lord, Runaway Lady for over two years and was beginning to lose heart.  But the course kept my motivation from flagging and a few months later when I was snuffling miserably on the sofa suffering from flu – and real flu at that – the call came.  I had a two book contract!
So why choose to write an historical novel?  One of the reasons must be that I grew up reading Georgette Heyer and when I finally plucked up to the courage to try writing a novel myself, a Regency romance seemed to come naturally.  I could hear the characters speak in my head.  And I really loved the research involved: working out stage coach routes and journey times, discovering the protocols around the Assembly Rooms in Bath, understanding the way in which gambling was viewed at the time.  Regency England had an elegance – clothes, architecture, manners – which is fascinating but life could also have a darker undercurrent.  Sometimes it’s just mischievous high spirits, other times real wickedness, and it was into this heady mix that I decided to plunge my heroine.

 ©2011 by Harlequin Enterprises Limited
I wanted a heroine who was feisty and brave and the character of Amelie sprang into being.  I had a vision of a high spirited young woman, living a sheltered if lonely life, who suddenly finds herself threatened by the darkest of fates.  She refuses to accept her father’s decree and meets the troubles that follow with determination and courage.  Naturally she has to have a lover who shares the same qualities: Gareth is estranged from his family, tough, courageous but with a strong sense of humour.  And naturally this unconventional couple have to meet in a very unconventional way!

Research isn’t just for historical novels, of course.  As soon as writers venture out of their own small worlds, they are faced with the need to discover.  So I wonder what’s the most unusual thing you’ve had to research for your writing?  A hardback copy of Reprobate Lord, Runaway Lady is on offer for the most interesting reply.

And while you’re thinking about it, do check out my website!"

Thanks, Isabelle!  As it happens, I've spent the day reading about medieval shipping but I feel sure there are more interesting research topics out there, so tell us what YOU have most enjoyed researching, and you could be in with a chance to read Isabelle's new book.


  1. Posting a comment from Lois at the Watermill, who's been having some technical problems!

    “Congratulations, Isabelle. If you also found inspiration at The Watermill at Posara, please do submit some work for our Posara Prize!”

  2. I'm currently researching endangered species in the Persian Gulf for my sheikh story. I now know a lot more about crabs than I ever thought I would need to!

  3. That one is going to take some beating, Ros!

  4. Hi Jessica, Hi Isabelle,

    Jessica, your course sounds wonderful. I wish I could take it!

    Isabelle's research sounds so much fun.

    All the best!

  5. Hmm, not sure mine are incredibly interesting but definitely varied :-)

    Vineyards in Australia, how bodies were 'buried' at sea in the 1800s and for the current ms -- how to make a leg break and recovery convincing.

    Yes, three different lines, I need to focus!!

  6. Sounds intriguing, Joanne. Perhaps you could write a historical about someone going out to Australia in the 19th century who ends up starting a vineyard? Some dear companion could die on board on the voyage out, and I'm sure you can arrange for someone to break their legs getting on or off the ship .... hhmmnnn, now you've got me thinking!

    The big danger of research is getting carried away with it. It's quite a skill to feed in just what you need to give your story authenticity without boring the reader rigid with how much you know. On the other hand, it seems to work for Dan Brown.

  7. Hi Ros

    I've been trying to post a reply for quite some time so perhaps I should be researching technology instead!

    Crabs and sheikhs sound pretty exotic, certainly far more intriguing than stagecoach itineraries. I'm very interested in how they're going to come together in your novel. Make sure you let us know your title when you have one so we can find out.


  8. Hallo Joanne

    At least you're spoilt for choice!

    But I have to agree with Jessica about feeding in research as and when it seems appropriate. You can get so interested in a topic that you feel you just have to share it, all of it, with your readers! It can really hurt to cut stuff out but from my perspective as a novice writer, being asked by my editor to 'refine' certain parts of the novel - which means in fact get rid of goodies dear to me - has actually made my story stronger.


  9. Many thanks, Isabelle - glad you mastered the technology in the end.

    Ros, we reckoned your endangered crabs deserved a prize! Do you want to send your address to and a copy of Isabelle's book will be on its way to you>

  10. Nas - re your comment about the Watermill - you should definitely go - it was one of the best 'me-time' holidays i've ever been on - and the tuition was inspiring too!
    Out of interest, anyone else on here wanting to receive updates about Jessica's courses etc, maybe go join 'jessicahartwriters' on yahoo groups. ( - then when a few more people have joined, it'll be possible to send out emails to let us know when new blog pages are available, new facebook updates, and new course info - as well as new books of course! :-)
    That's the plan anyway.
    best wishes
    (trainee writer, would-be novelist)
    ps - me, in distraction? Nahhh! lol

  11. I've just sent an email to join the yahoo group! Sounds like a fab idea.