Tuesday, April 3, 2012

Guest Post & Giveaway: Amy Corwin

Hi Everyone. Please help me welcome Amy Corwin to the blog today! This is one of the last stops on her Goddess Fish book tour. She is here to promote her regency mystery novels, The Wild Principle, A Rose Before Dying andThe Necklace. Today she is going to talk about research.

Research: Too Much, Not Enough, or Never Quite Right

Research truly is the bain of my existence. No matter how much research I do, there’s always something I don’t know, some detail I misunderstand. No to mention the inconvenient reality that facts quite often interfere with fiction.

In the book I’m working on now, Hidden Aspects, I wanted the coroner to be able to determine the time of death with relative accuracy. Unfortunately, during the early years of the 19th century, this was not a simple matter. Medical thermometers, for example, wouldn’t be in use until the latter half of the century so he couldn’t use the cooling rate of the body. In fact, the science of forensics was in its infancy, or perhaps still in the womb, at this point.

However, on the bright side, it is much easier to find good research materials now. Even storing them is easier. I have dozens of medical and legal texts from the late 18th/early 19th century so it is much easier to include details or oddities in these fields, based upon actual material from the time. In fact, research I had done on medicines prescribed during the Regency led me to write The Vital Principle.

One of the reasons I enjoy writing historical mysteries is my fascination with the development of medicine and forensics. Modern science, medicine, and forensics frankly intimidate me, but the medical texts of the 19th century seem much more accessible. I adore weaving the medical practices, science or philosophies of the period into my books, particularly when I can use them to expose a murderer.

The beginning of the 19th century is the oddest mixture of science and superstition. Doctors still bled their patients, despite the fact that it generally only expedited their departure from this world. Many of the medicines contained downright lethal chemicals such as arsenic and even cyanide, but anything that made the patient void (empty his stomach or bowels) was considered efficacious. That’s what made the development of the scientific method: actually testing against a control group and a test group and tracking the results in a way that the experiment could be reliably duplicated, was such a significant change.

Prior to the novel idea of tracking real results, doctors and others simply used the same methods over and over again, regardless of the outcome. It’s true that in each generation, a few stumbled upon some new technique or medicine and moved the science forward, but it wasn’t until the methodical application of scientific method that we really started improving our state. Frankly, before mid-1800, you were better off being poor and unable to afford the care of a doctor. Physicians and surgeons were more likely to kill you than cure you. If you got better at all it was largely in spite of his efforts on your behalf. In fact, witch doctors were probably even more effective and better overall since they rarely prescribed poisons, drained your blood, and the value of mind-over-matter was highly underrated. It’s still underrated, even today.

Well, you can see were all this easy access to research material is getting me. I’m not a doctor, I just write about them. Coroners, too. And inquiry agents.

A Rose Before Dying
by Amy Corwin

A murderer is stalking the streets of London and the evidence points to Sir Edward, the uncle of Charles Vance, Earl of Castlemoor. The first victim is none other than Sir Edward’s mistress who threw him over for a younger man, giving him a clear motive to kill her. However, Charles is convinced Sir Edward is innocent and enlists the aide of Mr. Knighton Gaunt of the Second Sons Inquiry Agency. When more clues surface, including roses hinting at another victim, Charles steps in and takes control. He can’t let his uncle hang for murders he didn’t commit, despite his uncle’s foul temper and abundant motivation.
Charles teams up with noted rosarian Ariadne Wellfleet to decipher the clues and prove Sir Edward’s innocence and stop the murderer before he can strike again.


Charles Vance, Lord Castlemoor, has brought a rose to the Wellfleets, hoping someone can identify it. The rose is the only clue he has to identify the next victim of a vicious killer bent on framing Charles’ uncle.


He pulled out the small bundle containing the rose. He knew it was useless, her father, the rose expert, was dead. But he couldn’t stop a small spurt of hope. “I’d like to identify this rose. Do you recognize it?”

“I supposed you’re only asking me as a last resort. Because my father is no longer with us.” She held out a peremptory hand. “Let me see it.”

Her face was a smooth, expressionless mask. However, he detected traces of tired resignation at the implication that she could not be expected to have the depth of knowledge exhibited by a man.

When he placed the limp spray in her palm, she held it up to her nose and breathed in several times with closed eyes, cupping the flowers in her hands. Then she gave it a cursory examination before pulling the petals off of one flower.

“Stop!” He reached over to wrench it out of her hand. She turned her shoulder, blocking him. “What are you doing?”

“Counting the petals. Why?”

“You’re destroying it! How shall I identify it if you ruin it?”

She held it out. “Take it. Plant it, or allow me to root it. Or graft it. If it grows, you can ask your friend, Mr. Lee, to identify it in two or three years from the shape of the bush and bloom habit. Most men who grow roses agree that it takes at least one cycle of blooming to identify a rose with any assurance.”

“Two years!”

“Yes—if you want to be sure. And isn’t that why you wish to identify it? So you can purchase a specimen for your own garden?”



He gazed into her coolly discerning eyes and realized she was aware that he was not being open with her. But given Mr. Lee’s reaction, he could not bring himself to tell the complete truth. The rose wouldn’t last long enough to find another master gardener, assuming he could even locate one in London. “It’s…a wager. Silly, I know, but one of my friends said I couldn’t identify this rose.” The tips of his ears burned.

“I see.” Her eyes grew colder. “This is all a wager?” She glanced at Rose.

“No, of course not. Not Rose—she’s not part of it.”

Miss Wellfleet’s fingers pushed the petals into a line on the table and hovered over them. Thirteen petals, thin and wilting, spread in a tattered line. The slender spray was dying. The small, tight buds had already blackened and hung limply. His chest tightened with frustration.

Then with a theatrical gesture that suggested more defiance than scientific inquiry, she ripped apart the remaining flowers. She arranged the petals in three parallel lines, one for each flower. The roses didn’t all have the same number of petals. The first had thirteen petals. The next had eleven. The final rose had seventeen. 

After examining what remained of the stalk, the yellow stamens, and leaves, she looked at him.

Although she didn’t precisely shrug, there was a quality in her expression that spoke of disdain when she said, “Rosa Collina fastigiata.”

“That’s it?” His tired disappointment reminded him of the lateness of the hour. Useless. He needn’t have come here at all. Lee had it right the first time.

“Well, yes. What were you expecting?”

“Something…more. A name….”

“That is a name.” Irritation sharpened her voice. “Or Flat-Flowered Hill Rose, if you prefer an English one.”

“You’re sure?”’

Her eyes hardened. “As sure as I can be from this small spray.” She flung the petals and twig onto the table. “No one can be absolutely sure without seeing the bush and knowing the growth habit and bloom cycles. Have you any idea how many roses there are?”


“That’s why your friend made a clever wager—if wager it was.”

“No. Truly, I apologize. I sincerely appreciate the name.”

“It’s late. You have your name. I hope you win your wager.”

With a coolness he deserved but saddened him nonetheless, she gestured for him to leave. The butler, Mr. Abbott, waited just outside the French doors to the greenhouse. His silent presence ensured Miss Wellfleet had never been truly alone with Charles. Somehow, this reminded him of how attractive he found her, and he flushed when he caught Mr. Abbott’s curious gaze.

However, his embarrassment faded as he remembered his purpose.

A life could be saved if he interpreted Rosa Collina fastigiata properly.

How many people named Collins lived in London? Unless the clue rested with the English name, Flat-Flowered Hill Rose. Did this blossom point to a location instead of a person?

Time was slipping away.

The Vital Principle
by Amy Corwin

In 1815, inquiry agent, Knighton Gaunt, is asked by Lord Crowley to attend a séance with the express purpose of revealing the spiritualist as a fraud. When the séance ends abruptly, an unseen killer poisons Lord Crowley, leaving Gaunt to investigate not fraud, but murder.

Suspicion turns first to the spiritualist, Miss Prudence Barnard. But as Gaunt digs deeper into the twisted history of the guests at Rosecrest, he discovers a series of deadly secrets. Long-time friends soon turn against one another as the tension mounts, and Gaunt is challenged to separate fact from fiction before another death at Rosecrest.

The Necklace
by Amy Corwin

Legends foretell death for anyone who possesses the fabled Peckham emerald necklace, lost by an Archer ancestor. Certainly, it has brought the Archers nothing but heartache. So Oriana is relieved it’s missing, assuming it ever existed. She has enough difficulties protecting her uncle—and her heart--from his dangerous new friend, Chilton Dacy. However, when Oriana finds the necklace, the curse reawakens. The necklace disappears, only to reappear clutched in a dead man’s hand.

The stranger’s death leaves Oriana with a frightening choice: ask Chilton for help, or face the possibility that she may hang for murder.

Author Bio

Amy Corwin is a charter member of the Romance Writers of America and recently joined Mystery Writers of America. She has been writing for the last ten years.  She writes romance, historical and cozy mysteries. To be truthful, most of her books include a bit of murder and mayhem since she discovered that killing off at least one character is a highly effective way to make the remaining ones toe the plot line.

Amy’s books include the three Regency romantic mysteries, I BID ONE AMERICAN, THE BRICKLAYER’S HELPER, and THE NECKLACE; Regency mysteries, THE VITAL PRINCIPLE, and A ROSE BEFORE DYING; and her first cozy mystery, WHACKED!, will come in in 2012 from Five Star.

Join her and discover that every good romance has a touch of mystery.

Blog:          http://amycorwin.blogspot.com


Amy will be awarding an Amazon $25.00 gift card to one randomly drawn commenter during the tour. The more comments you leave the better your chances of winning.

To Enter:
Leave a comment or question for Amy and include your email address.
Be sure to visit the other blogs on this tour. Click on the tour button below for a list of participating blogs. Good luck and thanks for stopping by.


  1. The medicine and forensics of earlier times does fascinate. I also admit I did have to look up the word 'efficacious'. I love the point that being poor may have been safer than to be subjected to what I will call quackery.


  2. It's fascinating that they usually gave them laudan, if you think of it's addictiveness. What's your favorite book of the ones that you have written?


  3. Amy this book sounds very good. I would love to read it. Please enter me in contest. Tore923@aol.com

  4. You have really done a lot of research. That is what makes your stories so interesting and good. It is always obvious when the story is accurate to the time.

  5. As a librarian, I love that you talk about the value of research,your methodology, and the importance of being historically accurate.

    catherinelee100 at gmail dot com

  6. Great post. I've never read a regency mystery, it sounds interesting! And research is definitely important.


Thank you for stopping by my blog! I appreciate all of your comments.

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