1. I enjoy drinking water. During the Regency, there was no public sewage system in London, so much of it was deposited directly into the River Thames. This was true in most cities and towns across the country and, therefore, drinking a glass of water wasn’t just unpleasant—it was downright dangerous.
2. I like indoor plumbing. While the first flushing toilets date back to the Minoans, the toilet of choice for Regency homes was the chamber pot, which varied from a simple open bucket to a lovely ceramic pot with a lid. Not pleasant. Not clean. Baths were not much better—the water was pumped into a bathing room or carried to a bathtub by servants. The hassle and unpleasantness of the entire experience meant that most people—yes, even those attractive Colin Firth lookalikes—bathed once every week or ten days at the very most.
3. Modern doctors leave the shaves and haircuts to the professionals. The Regency wasn’t that long ago – less than 200 years – and even now it’s hard to believe how far we’ve come. During the early part of the 19th century, bloodletting was practiced by a “surgeon,” who was most often a barber/surgeon. The red stripe on the barber pole represents the blood he’d happily drain from your body if you needed it. And you didn’t need it. I promise.
4. I know who to call if I get robbed. There was no formal police force in London until an Act of Parliament formed one in 1828. Before that, if something went wrong, you crossed your fingers and hoped that the privately funded police force or the publicly funded watchmen in your parish would be able to sort everything out. Good luck.
Of course, my characters never have to use “the necessary,” their clothes are clean and smell like lemon and lavender, their doctors have very modern sensibilities, and their villains are always brought to justice. Which makes for a lot fewer readers crying out “eeeewwwwww . . .” as they read—something that can really pull a person out of a love story.
Sarah MacLean is the author of The Season, a young-adult Regency romance, and the forthcoming Nine Rules to Break When Romancing a Rake, a Regency-set romance for adults. Sarah grew up in Rhode Island, obsessed with historical romance and bemoaning the fact that she was born far too late for her own season. Her love of all things historical helped to earn her a B.A. in History from Smith College and a Masters in Education and Anthropology from Harvard University before she finally set pen to paper and wrote her first book. Sarah now lives in New York City with her husband, their dog, and a ridiculously large collection of historical novels. Please visit her at www.macleanspace.com.