Lesley-Anne McLeod does her homework…
The historical fiction you read and enjoy, whether it is romance, adventure, or mystery, is the product of a great deal of research by the author.
Authors generally enjoy their research; if they didn’t, they would be writing contemporary fiction! Because I write books set during the Regency era in England, I have a large reference library full of wonderful books on the history of Great Britain, its geography, and its culture. These books make excellent reading for the fiction reader also. It has been my experience that if you find an historical period which you like, you will want to read more details about that time and place.
Books like Jane Austen’s Town and Country Style by Susan Watkins, and The Prince of Pleasure and his Regency by J. B. Priestley give you a framework in which to enjoy your Regency fiction.
Likewise other historical periods can be enhanced by nonfiction books. If you like to read about Amelia Peabody and Egyptian archaeology, you might like A History of Ancient Egypt by John Romer. If you have read Anna Karenina or Doctor Zhivago then The Shadow of the Winter Palace by Edward Crankshaw will give you more background.
Library books, ebooks, and websites can all provide historical details. You can visit museums to see actual artifacts used during your chosen period of interest. Of course at present that is not possible, but there is a wealth of material on-line, and museums are doing virtual tours and opening their collections to everyone. The British Museum and The Victoria and Albert Museum are good starting places if you love history. Don’t forget Pinterest and Tumblr--there are lots of great historical illustrations there; you only have to use a search term.
More and more I find that newspapers provide an in-the-moment experience of the world you are enjoying. If you are reading books set in Great Britain, there is no better resource than the British Newspaper Archive, a collaboration between the British Library and a company called 'find my past'. You can view actual newspapers from the entire nineteenth century and they are adding more years and more newspapers all the time.
For example, if I am writing a romance what could be better than to read about a real elopement in the Sussex Advertiser of Monday 19 April 1819
(The Boston mentioned is of course Boston in Lincolnshire, England.)
If I am wondering where my eloped couple will live I can refer to the Morning Chronicle of 13 July 1812.