Thursday, September 6, 2007

History, or fantasy?

Okay, so I'm ready to give up buying and reading historical romance.

Coming from me, that's like saying I'm giving up breathing. I love a
good historical romance, but these days there are only a few authors
I'll trust any more. And I won't buy a new author unless I can read a
lengthy excerpt. After one more attempt to read a new book by a new
author, that is it. I've just about had enough.

It's for self preservation, that's all. The number of historical errors
is just increasing so much, that it's trampling on my history (because
most historical romances are set in my country, the UK) and I need to
save my blood pressure and my health. I feel insulted every time an
author plays fast and loose with my history, calling dukes "my lord,"
letting an earl choose who is going to inherit his title, having people
think in centimeters pre-1981. I've read them all.

I've just read another appalling hotchpotch and for now, that's my last
one. I'm sticking to the writers I know get it more or less right,
writers like Laura Kinsale, Jo Beverley, Mary Jo Putney and Liz
Carlyle. Not only do they get the facts right, they get the feel right,
they understand the era they write about and the way men and women felt
and thought then. I read historical romance to be spirited away to
another era, not to read about a woman with a modern American mindset
jumping in and out of beds with all the carelessness of a woman who has
a reliable contraceptive method at her beck and call.

I think historical novels should come with a history warning, from one
to five, where one is "Which era is this supposed to be?" and five is
"You can relax, I know what I'm doing."

And just to save some of you putting pen to paper, here are my answers
(not necessarily the ones others would answer, because this is strictly
my opinion) to the questions and comments that come up over and over

"We're writing novels, not history text books."

Any book that recites long lists of facts and figures while purporting
to be a novel is bad. Any book, any genre. There's nothing wrong with
making an effort to get the facts right that you do use.

"It's all about the romance."

Yes, it is. But people loved and lived differently then, and that's one
of the reasons I adore a well-written historical romance. Put a romance
in context, make a real effort to get the history right, and it can
bring a book alive. Same with any other genre. Make your Sci Fi alien
real, give him a real world, and he starts to get three dimensional.

"The readers don't pick it up, and they don't care, so why should we bother?"

Because some do, and by not getting it right, you're already limiting
your readership by putting off readers like me, who like a well
written, well researched romance.

You're insulting the intelligence of your readership. If you're all
about the money, then go ahead and write the thing, but if you love
writing and you really care about your readers, do them the courtesy of
getting it right. Many readers, although they might not know the
details, can sense when a story is off. I've seen a few on lists asking
if such-and-such a detail is right, just to confirm a gut feeling they

"Editors don't pick it up, so why should we?"

Editors IMO should be able to, but they can't always do so. Not every
editor knows her way around a historical like my editor does. And
editors have to edit all genres, there are few specialists these days.
They move around, are given different lines to edit. Besides, it's your
book, not your editor's and your name is on the cover.

It's a matter of pride in what you do.

And no, I don't think I get it all right, all the time. But at least I
try. I really think the lack of ability to trust a historical author
has led to the current dearth in the historical romance, a slump we're
only beginning to climb out of. And now the historical romance is
hotter, we'll have more "Sex in the Regency" style stories.


Powered by ScribeFire.

No comments: