Laura Ashwood Adds Fact to Fiction

Hi, I’m Laura Ashwood and I’m honored to be guest blogging here today. I write sweet historical western romance, contemporary small town romance and women’s fiction. Something for everyone, LOL. Today though, I’d like to talk about one of my historical western romances.

One of my favorite things about being an author is having a reason to research and a place to use that information. But that doesn’t come without its own challenges either. Too little research will upset readers familiar with a time period, and too much research can take readers out of your story. It’s a delicate balance.

So, where does one start? When I write a story, I generally have a location in mind. It might be a specific location or it might be as general as simply knowing what state I want it to be set in. Once I know that, I’ll spend some time looking at the location. The topography, the average weather – if it’s a historical book, I’ll look at the averages and topography from the year I am setting the story.

Courting Danger is a historical western suspense that starts in St. Paul, Minnesota in 1873. I knew my character, Clarissa, came from a wealthy family, that she was an only child, and that her parents (her mother in particular) wanted her to marry “up” to help further cement their place in society. Very common practices during that time period.  Clarissa didn’t want to have anything to do with it though. My research told me that the suffragette movement was strong at that time and she was a well-read young lady. She wanted to make her own way.

During that time frame, the Pinkerton Detective Agency was in its prime – solving crimes across the nation and had even started taking on female agents. The first official female Pinkerton agent was Kate Warne. So I did come research about Kate and some of the cases she worked on. So, I had Clarissa find an advertisement from the Pinkerton Agency in the newspaper – looking for female agents. She immediately replied and was chosen to work a case in St. Louis, Missouri. This case was modeled after one of Kate Warne’s cases. I used several of the details of the actual case, but added my own twists to make it original.

So because a great deal of the story was set in St. Louis, I wanted to incorporate as much “fact” into it as I could. The first thing I looked for was a City Directory. Think of it as a phone book before there were phones. The City Directory gave me names of stores, hotels, even characters. The names of the nurse, the undertaker, and the Chief of Police in my story were taken from this directory as the actual undertaker, nurse and Chief of Police in St. Louis in 1873.

The hotel Clarissa stays in while she’s in St. Louis, The Planter’s House Hotel, was an actual hotel in 1873. Because it actually existed in 1873, I was able to find photographs of it and that helped me describe it as though I was actually there, including the famed Turkish Lounge.

St. Louis is famous for its Eads Bridge and Gateway Arch, but through my research, I discovered that the construction on the Eads Bridge wasn’t completed until 1874 and the Arch wasn’t constructed until the 1960s. So, when Clarissa saw the bridge at one point in her adventure, I made sure to mention it was under construction. I also consulted a city map of St. Louis when determining what to name my streets and neighborhoods my characters visited. They were all authentic to that time.

How important is all of this? Will my readers know this? The answer to both of those questions is probably no. Those details will not make or break my story. But they’re Easter Eggs I’ve sprinkled throughout and they make the story come alive for me because I know Clarissa is seeing the actual things she’d see if she were alive and in St. Louis in 1873. Plus, it’s a lot of fun.

If you’d like to read about Clarissa’s adventure as a Pinkerton Detective in training, you can find it on Amazon, both in paperback and ebook. (buy link:  It’s also available in Kindle Unlimited.

I’d also love to give away three copies (ebook only) of Courting Danger – Just answer the question “how much does historical accuracy and detail mean to you when reading a book?” in the comments below. Three random winners will be announced on Sunday.

Laura is giving away 3 e-book copies of Courting Danger

Courting Danger

She thought the biggest danger would be to her reputation. She didn’t realize it would be to her life and her heart.

Clarissa Ferguson craves a life of adventure. The last thing she wants is to become a socialite and marry a curmudgeon to appease her mother. When she sees an advertisement for female Pinkerton Agents, she leaves on the next available train to Denver Colorado. What she doesn’t expect is the handsome man she meets on the train to be her new trainer.

Noah Harding, recovering from the loss of his wife and family, vows never to marry again. Throwing himself into his work as a Pinkerton agent, he has finally found a sense of purpose. He prides himself on being able to read people, until he observes a peculiar woman on a train headed west. He soon discovers she’s his new trainee, and he must temporarily wed her while they solve a murder, or he’ll jeopardize his career.

Will Noah be able to stay focused on the case with Clarissa distracting him? When the case forces them to pretend to be something they aren’t, what happens when their feelings become real?

* * * *


Laura and her husband live in northeast Minnesota. She works a full time day job, and in her spare time, she likes to read, cook and spend time with her husband. She is a devoted grandmother and chihuahua lover.

In her novels, Laura brings to life characters and relationships that will warm your heart and fill you with hope. Her stories often have themes involving redemption, forgiveness, and family.

Laura’s website: 


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35 thoughts on “Laura Ashwood Adds Fact to Fiction”

  1. I like some detail but that is not as important to me as accuracy. If something doesn’t seem right to me, I have to research it myself which pulls me out of the story. If it is incorrect, I am very put off by it and if it happens frequently in a book or author, I no longer follow that author.

  2. When real places are used as the setting, it’s extremely important to me that an author gets the facts right as much as possible. I’m a history major, and it bothers me when details go contrary to what I know is true.

  3. It’s definitely a bonus when the author does her homework and gets things right. It really bothers me when I know something is absolutely not factual and it influences my desire to read anything else by that author.

  4. I appreciate the research authors do for a good story. I’ve read several books lately where historical details were not accurate; example, telephone in the story when they did not exist at the time. Readers do pick up on those things. Accurate historical details make me want to know more about the town, people, etc.

    • Hi Julie, making sure historical details are correct is a big part of writing historical fiction. I think occassionally things slip through because we’re human, but I think you can tell when an author at least tries to make it accurate

  5. If I am familiar with the area written about, then it is exciting to hear about real facts of the time and place. But most of the time, I am just happy to be reading a good story.

  6. Welcome today. Thanks for sharing this fascinating information. Ohhh that cover. I would love to read this book. Factual history facts are important to me. I thrive on learning history and there fore I love to read about history. When the facts are not correct or skewed, for me that messes the whole story up. I am one of those that love to take what I read history wise and check it out and learn from it quilting dash lady at comcast dot net

  7. It means quite a bit to me. I get distracted by inaccuracies and I enjoy learning a bit while I read. Sometimes I’ll read about places or people and wonder if they actually existed and look them up. Sometimes I look up the history of different inventions when I’m curious if they existed at the time. I know it doesn’t matter to everyone, but it’s part of why I read the story. Thank you for your Easter Eggs.

  8. I love when the story is accurate! When horse related things are incorrect it makes me upset, as I live to help authors in this area being with my horses for the last 57 years!

  9. It is not that important to me as far as accuracies go. I am not going to go look up something just to see if it is right. To me its more important for the writing to be interesting, so a well written book is more important to me then accuracies.

  10. Thanks for stopping by today Laura! I love your cover. I agree that accuracy is important and I love that you used the City Directory. What a great way to add authenticity, especially for readers from that area who will know you did your homework, to your story.

  11. I appreciate it when authors go the extra mile to make their settings and time periods as authentic as possible. I’m not going to fact check the authors though, so when they take some creative license that’s fine with me, but I think the more facts the more depth it adds to the story and makes it real.

  12. Laura, First of all I very excited to read this book. When it comes to historic facts within a book it is quite important to me when the facts are accurate, especially if it is history or location which I am familiar with. It gives the book so much more interest rather than nit-picking a detail which I know to be incorrect. I truly appreciate you doing your best to stick to the actual details. Again, I am very enthused with the characters and the occupation which your lead character plans to take on. Many rewards and thanks to you for your beautiful writing.

  13. I’m sure I probably wouldn’t notice many mistakes/historically inaccurate things. Every once in a while I will notice a word or phrase in a historical novel and think to myself that it’s to modern of a word or phrase and wouldn’t have been used in that time period.

  14. I probably wouldn’t know it was accurate or not until I research myself. I am not a history buff, but with the way the world is questioning our past history, I have become interested in doing my own research.

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