I write paranormal romance, so usually that means I'm limited only by my imagination, but my characters all have pasts that span many years, so for those parts of my stories, usually found in flashbacks, I have to do research. Sometimes I choose to either place my characters in time periods I know quite well (I am a history instructor, so my areas of specialty are easy choices for me) or I choose to place them in eras that are less historically important but geographically important. I try to stay away from major events, such as wars, because I find they can become time drains and make the story go off the rails quite quickly.
Today I spent some good time researching late 18th century England for my lead male character in the book I'm currently writing. I had to decide where in England to place him and what to make him (duke, earl, etc. or landed gentry). I chose landed gentry because I didn't want to get too heavily involved in the titles and everything else that comes along with peerage. My knowledge of English history is fair, but I have to admit I'm a bit lacking in the details of the late 1700s in England. In addition, I can usually say that my knowledge of any time period's culture is only fair, other than in my specialties, because I'm overall a political/military historian.
So off to the books and internet I went, and I had a great time doing it! The chapter flowed beautifully with the knowledge I gained, and I'm so pleased with my progress today. I'll finish the chapter tomorrow, and then it's back to the present for my hero and me.