Over the past few weeks I’ve been thinking if I should even include this final chapter in the saga those close to me now refer to as: Noa’s Romance Kvetch Fest. I mean, must I be so picky? We get it, you want a realistic tale of romance that is historically accurate without having a hero with bad hygiene, you want a heroine who is sweet and sassy without being perfect. Enough is enough right?
Oh please, who am I kidding! Give me a reason to kvetch and I will go all the way.
This is what I think people tend to forget – when I buy a historical romance at around $7.99 (plus tax) I want to escape the world I’m living in, if just for a few hours, and arrive in a different era. A simpler time (seriously? simpler? It took people hours just to put their clothes on). I realize that for an author the book is not just a product, it is their artistic expression, their contribution to the literary world. Yet if that is the case, shouldn’t they make every effort to ensure it is as true to the period as it possibly can be? And as much as I wish all books were free – people pay good money for books, don’t readers deserve a book that has been carefully researched, where details are checked and rechecked for accuracy?
If the answer to these questions is no, then it is no surprise that historical romances are never taken seriously. How can anyone take a book seriously when it forgets a tiny detail like the French Revolution- in 1800 Marie Antoinette was still Queen of France dont’ya know? You can only take ‘historical events and details were omitted for the sake of plot’ so far.
|The shiteth hath hiteth
Language is one example of those little details that can make or break a book for me. I don’t expect characters in a book set in 16th century England to speak shakespearean English, in fact I’d probably just get annoyed if they did, but there is nothing more jarring than having one of the protagonists launch into a monologue that wouldn’t be out of place on Jersey Shore.
For example the word ‘OK’: Such a small word, used in so many different situations, a word that can mean yes, that’s good, it was fine but not amazing, and more and more – well, a quick check in the dictionary will tell you that it wasn’t used before the 19th century (mentioned, yes, used, no). Even a word as innocent as ‘fun’ is problematic – in eighteenth century English – fun was considered slang and so, while it may have been used by some young ladies – no dowager worth her salt would express her hopes that a young couple had ‘fun’. Think a word like ‘nifty’ would pass muster? Not if the book is set at any time before the 19th century – that is the era the word originated from.
I’m not trying to nitpick (20th century if you were wondering) and finding these words in books won’t put me off the book, I mean, an author can’t be expected to go over the entire manuscript with a fine tooth comb, but it would be nice if the author researched the period just a little to find out which slang words were used, what word would never be used etc…and try and make things as believable as possible. Refraining from using four letter words that even the lewdest member of society would shudder at hearing would be nice too.
I really enjoyed reading two of my favorite authors (historical mysteries) tweet over their disappointment that a certain word they wished to use in a book had not been invented at the time their books were taking place. My enjoyment stemmed from the fact that they cared! Some authors wouldn’t have taken the time to check – but a person who respects his or her craft, and respects those who enjoy it, would take the time and do the research.
Which leads me to the issue of title and forms of address. I don’t know about you* but I really wish some authors just stayed away from any country in which titles were ever used. I can’t count the number of times I wondered about a character introduced mid-book only to find out it was the heroine who was now being referred to by a completely different title to the one she started out with – and no, it wasn’t because she got married. So, lets make this easy – someone born as miss does not become my lady unless they:
1. Got married
2. Inherited a title
3. Had a long lost relative who died and left a title to their parent
Someone born My lady? Never, ever, becomes miss (or Mrs!) – unless there was a revolution I missed out on. Titles can be confusing, but research, very simple research can solve all problems. Even the aristocracy got confused occasionally which is why Burke’s Peerage and Debrett’s come in handy. For you aspiring authors – they have online versions so you don’t even need to go to the library to get the info.
|O Captain! My Captain
(what, I can’t include some eye candy?)
A recent and much hated book that I have already commented on kept referring to the hero as ‘Sir Captain X’ his servants called him Sir Captain, his friends and even the heroine referred to him as Sir Captain. Well, slight problem, unless the hero’s given name is Captain – no one would have ever addressed him in such a way. His title would be Captain Sir X and he would be addressed as either sir or captain, but never ever both (unless his soldiers were addressing him – Yes Sir, captain sir).
Why does this annoy me? Because it is so simple to fix. These aren’t issues of creativity or plot which can be difficult or uncontrollable, these issues stem from one thing and one thing only – pure and simple laziness. Which is what causes many critics of the genre to label these books as junk. Well, and why shouldn’t they?
If an author with over 15 books to her name can publish the same material over and over again, using a different title and slightly different story to differentiate between each of the books, and if said author can publish plots filled with drivel, heroines that are too stupid to live, heroes that should have been jailed for acts of cruelty and all with no attention to detail whatsoever – wouldn’t you call that junk?
That is what these articles all come down to – I read my first historical romance at the age of 15 and it changed the way I looked at books. It also encouraged me in my love of all things historical. These books were never junk to me – they were enjoyable escapes filled with wonderful humorous stories which did involve some gorgeous heroes, but they always had wonderful plots and fabulous love stories. Yet like many of my friends I have been noticing a negative trend, where authors (and publishers I assume) have begun to buy into the ‘junk book’ label. Accuracy? Language? Plot? Who cares! This book isn’t going to win a Pulitzer! Slap a hunk and a semi naked fainting maiden on the cover and lets make some money!
Well, I care. I respect the genre and the authors who write it, and I should hope that some of them still respect me. So, this small attempt at venting and kvetching may have been just that – but if it made you smile, nod in empathy/sympathy or contemplate the things you wish you could change about the genre – my job is done. I hope that if anyone is still reading this, you share your thoughts in the comments.
Also, I hope authors and publishers remember a very important fact, not all readers are geniuses, but most of us aren’t stupid enough to buy junk twice.
P.S. – below a few books which could offer pointers to those writing historical romances (set in England/US)
*Let me know by commenting! 😉
http://rcm.amazon.com/e/cm?t=paperbackdolls-20&o=1&p=8&l=bpl&asins=1579580831&fc1=000000&IS2=1<1=_blank&m=amazon&lc1=0000FF&bc1=000000&bg1=FFFFFF&f=ifr http://rcm.amazon.com/e/cm?t=paperbackdolls-20&o=1&p=8&l=bpl&asins=1851495738&fc1=000000&IS2=1<1=_blank&m=amazon&lc1=0000FF&bc1=000000&bg1=FFFFFF&f=ifr http://rcm.amazon.com/e/cm?t=paperbackdolls-20&o=1&p=8&l=bpl&asins=0130151661&fc1=000000&IS2=1<1=_blank&m=amazon&lc1=0000FF&bc1=000000&bg1=FFFFFF&f=ifr http://rcm.amazon.com/e/cm?t=paperbackdolls-20&o=1&p=8&l=bpl&asins=0199548412&fc1=000000&IS2=1<1=_blank&m=amazon&lc1=0000FF&bc1=000000&bg1=FFFFFF&f=ifr