Posts tagged historical romance
Inaccuracies and anachronisms

There was recently a fascinating discussion at Dear Author about accuracy in historical romances. Some very interesting and intelligent perspectives were shared. Here are my own thoughts about it. I don’t write historical romance, and I don’t read a lot of it any more. It’s not that I don’t like it, but it’s not my first love (which is contemporary) and these days my time for reading is limited.

I suppose if I read a book that was full of inaccuracies that kept pulling me out of the story, I would be annoyed. I might think less of that author because he or she didn’t do enough research, or was sloppy or careless in their world-building. I suppose there are books like that out there. But more often you’re likely to encounter a couple of small slip-ups in a book.  How serious is that to readers?

When an author writes a book, he or she is building a world. A world that readers have never been to. Whether it’s science fiction, paranormal, or contemporary, it’s still building a world. In science fiction (which I fully admit I do not read) I’m guessing that writers make stuff up. It might be based on science or scientific principles, but I bet a lot of it is made up. In my contemporary romances, I’m building a world that my characters live in that nobody else has ever seen. We may all live in contemporary settings, in houses and apartments, and work in office buildings or whatever; but nobody has ever seen the world my characters inhabit―because I’m making it up. A reviewer commented on my contemporary romance Breakaway that I had gotten the names of the NHL teams wrong. I didn’t get them wrong―I made them up. And to me, a historical romance is the same. It’s building a world that readers have never been to. Base it on reality to make it realistic for me, something I can visualize in my mind and enhance with my imagination, make it plausible―as with any fiction. But the writer is making it up.
I don’t think it is possible for an author to write a romance set in an historical setting without having some inaccuracies and anachronisms. Even scholars don’t always agree on history. We all know that personal hygiene standards were much different then than now. (Or do we?) I will admit that when I read a historical romance and the hero has perfect white even teeth I chuckle a little. In historical romances, it seems the characters do a lot of bathing, which is also apparently inaccurate. If romance characters talked the way people really talked in the middle ages, nobody would want to read it. On the other hand, few contemporary romance characters ever have morning breath. We forgive these inaccuracies because it is a romance. I guess I’m forgiving of some inaccuracies in any romance sub-genre. Yes, I’ve read books where I’ve come across a detail I know is wrong. I enjoy my little moment of smug superiority, but if it’s a good book, I move on with the story.
I guess I don’t understand reading a book for the purpose of finding things wrong with it, rather than just reading it for the enjoyment of it. So there was no such thing as yellow silk back then? I don’t care! And I also can’t imagine doing research to find out if I’m right. Oh...I know there was no yellow silk in that time period. Or do I? How do I know that? Do I know it because I read it in another romance novel? Or do I know it because I studied history in such detail? Maybe I’d better make sure I’m right before I spout off about this historical inaccuracy and do the research. No, thanks. I’d rather just accept that in that fictional world, there was yellow silk. I’d rather just read the book for the pleasure of it than spend hours doing research to prove I’m right and the author is wrong.
Do readers need to be alerted that there are inaccuracies in historical romances? Or in any romance sub-genre, for that matter? Do you want to know that she could not possibly have been driving east on Main Street in Anytown, USA because that street runs north and south? Do you want to know that that was not the type of corset women wore in 1844? Do you want to be told that there are really no such things as vampires or werewolves
What I'm Reading Wednesday
I finished Prince of Midnight by Laura Kinsale. It was a good book but not my favourite of hers. I found several times there was so much tension I had to put the book down. So many bad things happen! This story was mainly from the hero's point of view, which normally I like, and I did like this hero, Sophocles Trafalger :-), it was the heroine I had some problems with. She had a tragic past, certainly, but I think getting inside her head a little more would have made her more sympathetic. And I got frustrated because so many times they seemed so close to getting together but all that keeps them apart is their fear of expressing their feelings. Which is certainly a legitimate fear, except he'd told her over and over he loved her so I didn't quite get why she didn't believe him.

Now I'm reading Mini Shopaholic by Sophie Kinsella. Am I in a bad mood lately or what? Because I love Sophie Kinsella and I love Rebecca, except she has a baby now and I don't have as much patience for her selfishness. When you have a baby everything changes. Maybe that's what Bex will learn by the end of the book, I'm still just in the early chapters.
WIPs and Chains
Thought I'd post one more picture from my vacation. That's me and my kids, our first morning in Santa Barbara, sitting at the end of Stearns Wharf. We could hear the sea lions barking out on the buoy. They made us laugh.

Yes this blog is a day late but I spent all day Monday travelling and had no internet access. Now I'm home from my wonderful vacation in California. But that wonderful vacation meant I got no writing done whatsoever last week.

But that's not entirely true, because as you know from reading this weekly blog, writing isn't just about writing. Huh? I mean, there's the editing and the researching and the planning, and also the business of writing. And I did do all of those other things last week. I got another round of edits on my next Ellora's Cave release, Taming Tara, and I did work on those during my vacation when we had some quiet time back at the hotel. I also did some research - I went to the historical museum and the library to do research for the historical romance I have "in progress". I did some other research on a book that is in the planning stages by travelling to the Santa Ynez Valley and really, all my time in Santa Barbara, Montecito and Ventura could count as research because I set nearly all my books there, or in fictional California towns just like them. I did a little planning work and I also kept up with the "business of writing" with emails and Twitter and blogging. So it's not like I wasn't doing ANYTHING over the last week :-)

I've been pretty distracted from my writing over the last month or so, as you'll know from reading my blog, and I got some good news last week that I think will help with that. I'm really hoping that I can get my head back into writing and not thinking about the "business" of writing and start being really productive again. Wish me luck!
What I'm Reading Wednesday
I am really slacking lately! Another week where I've read one book and I haven't even finished it! And I'm a fast reader. Clearly I've been spending too much time partying and promoting on the web! It has been a busy week with a new release out and several on-line events and I did manage to get some writing done but the reading has fallen short.

Anyhoo - I'm reading Iron by PG Forte. This is an amazing story. Historicals aren't my first choice except for a few sexy authors I enjoy but this one is so beautiful. It's set in Ireland in the late 1800's, and I love anything Irish. I love all the Irish words and the way the characters talk and the huge conflict that has been set up between Aislinn and Gavin. Gavin is a blacksmith and iron is poisonous to Fae. Gavin also has to deal with an oath sworn to his late wife on her deathbead. I'm feeling bewitched - ensorcelled! - by this story!