I've written several historical romances. PATRIOT'S HEART is my latest and set in one of my favorite time periods--the Revolutionary War, 1778, right here in New Jersey. Historical sites are all around me, as I noted in my last post. However, in addition to visiting historical sites and watching re-enactments, I have read many books focused on that specific time period. To me, it's fascinating stuff and I find it very easy to get lost in the research.
But if I spend all my time reading research books, my book will never be written. I once listened to Nora Roberts suggest that reading children's books is a good way for a romance writer to glean the facts, but not become immersed in the research. Her recommendation has been extremely helpful. Yes, I also read big, fat volumes of history, but most often when I want something specific, I'll search for it in a child's book.
In PATRIOT'S HEART, the heroine is a blacksmith. Her father taught her the trade, but while he is away fighting with the Continental Army, she is in charge of the blacksmith shop. I found--quite by chance, in a used book sale--Colonial Craftmen, by Edwin Tunis, which describes not only the work of a blacksmith, but many other specific trades. The illustrations are fantastic. Colonial Living is another Edwin Tunis book which has been very helpful to me. A picture is worth a thousand words, and Edwin Tunis had a gift for drawing accurate illustrations.
If you want to see what it must have been like in early America, pick up a book by Edwin Tunis.