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Can We Talk? Accuracy in Historical Romance

February 16, 2010

What’s a blog without controversy? I’ve decided to open a can of worms and let them crawl all over my page. I love history. Research is my favor excuse for procrastination. But how much research do you need?

Somewhere along the way, the sense of accuracy in modern historical romance has been buried under modern mores and grammar rules. Truth is almost nonexistent.

Write a double-negative emphatic as it was correctly used in medieval times, and contest judges and editors will pull out red pens. One must wonder how much red ink would cover Chaucer and Shakespeare if they wrote today – if they could get anyone to read their work at all. I understand that handwritten parchments and sheepskins are frown upon by most publishing houses.

A particular challenge for medieval romance authors is finding a logical reason for a heroine to reach the great age of 18 without wedding or entering a convent. Since most women wed soon after their flux and had three to five or more children by 18, our heroine is at once an oddity. With women dying between 35 – 40 years of age, our heroine is practically over the hill and arthritis has most likely already set in… yet we’ll make her “nimbly climb that wall.”

How many of you knew King Henry I had meals served by servants on horseback at WhiteTower? I included that bit in a medieval romance and three contest judges agreed this wasn’t true. Did they look it up? Probably not. I’ve got six references on the topic that confirm this, but it seems unbelievable to someone reading today. I thought King Henry’s extravagances interesting – the kind of thing to add character to a story. Now, do I go for accuracy and stay true to my story, or do I go with the modern flow exhibited by judges unversed in this part of history?

Consensual sex is a wonderful. I think most of us would agree on this. However, if our medieval heroine even met her groom before the wedding it was an oddity. A medieval bride was chattel in most countries and rarely had a say in the matter. If she was of noble birth, her first time was probably also witnessed by quite a few drunken peers – all there to swear to the existence of her maidenhead. Rape was so common in the medieval period that it was rarely considered a crime. I’m not a proponent of rape by any means. However, women were commonly taken against their will – and not always with violence. Now if you are writing literary historical fiction, you can do this. Rob Roy was a hit with quite a violent rape scene. But in this day and age, I doubt Avon would touch The Flame and the Flower with a proverbial ten-foot-pole. (It’s one of my all time favs, btw.) The heroine was 17 and raped by the hero at their first meeting – after she narrowly escaped rape by a lascivious uncle. Even in erotica, all sexual acts must be consensual. So we know right away, we’re not going to be historically accurate if we write romantic fiction for today’s market.

Most people who have studied anything about the history of Scotland know that Highlander didn’t have specific cloth for their “plaids.” Yet in almost every Highland romance you read, those colors are there in the eleventh and twelfth centuries or whenever. I’m guilty on this one. It’s called writing to the market. Women want men in kilt – I know I do, yet kilts didn’t come along until much later than plaids. Are we true to history? No, we’re blatantly inaccurate on this point. When Jude Devereaux wrote her Velvet series, she got it right, but included an author’s note to readers, so they wouldn’t balk.

I would love to write a historical romance surrounding the founding of Rome. Will I do it? I’m not sure. I’ll have to figure out how to be accurate without mentioning the rape of the Sabine women by which Rome was founded.

I often wonder if one of the reasons historical time-travels are popular is that they give the author and reader a good explanation for modern mores showing up in places where they’re unknown. They allow us to “educate” our ancestors on how things should have been?

So, can we talk? I’d love to hear your ideas on the subject. Do any of you find yourself giving into inaccuracy in order to write books considered marketable? If yes, do you ever find it frustrating? If you’re a reader, do you expect accuracy in romantic historicals, or do you look for truth only in history books?

Until next time, happy writing and reading!

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37 Comments leave one →
  1. February 16, 2010 9:01 pm

    ” Rob Roy was a hit with quite a violent rape scene. But in this day and age, I doubt Avon would touch The Flame and the Flower with a proverbial ten-foot-pole. (It’s one of my all time favs, btw.) The heroine was 17 and raped by the hero at their first meeting – after she narrowly escaped rape by a lascivious uncle.”

    Mary, this was one of the first romances I ever read, and you are absolutely right about no one wanting to touch it if it were laid on the table now as a new romance. The pens of critique groups and editors would be dripping blood, while readers would be racing to email the author with hate mail about the ‘despicable’ scenes. When in reality, the hero was being a true alpha male of old.

    Alpha males today really tend to have Beta characteristics because they are more in touch with their sensitive side (at least in the end) when it comes to the heroine and the change he goes through. IOW, he becomes more Beta to become worthy of the heroine’s love. IMO.

    All in all, you’ve hit on a nerve with me as to my reluctance or fear of writing an historical, much as I love to read them.
    Julie

    • February 16, 2010 10:25 pm

      Ah, Julie, I wouldn’t shy away. I just love historicals too much not to write them. If you like them, I hope you’ll write away with a story of your dreams.

      And your right, the alpha males of this day are practically desensitized into becoming betas (I was very good and didn’t emmasculated). I’m old fashion. I like Brandon Birmingham. And I would consider it a loss had Kathleen’s (RIP) books never been published.

      • Jimbo permalink
        May 22, 2017 9:25 pm

        It’s funny how you guys go to all these lengths to specify how awesome consensual sex is and how awful rape, then in the next breath lament how none of today’s betas are of the rapey kind anymore! Can’t you see the disconnect? You say they’ve become desensitized, you know what desensitized them? People like you, whining and moaning about how awful and despicable rape and rapists are, so naturally, who wants to be that?! Come on ladies, wake up, you’ve been hoisted by your own petard! You want “alphas”, then stop shaming and prosecuting alpha behavior like forced sex.

  2. February 16, 2010 9:09 pm

    You make so many good points I hardly know where to start in agreeing with all of them. I would love to hear the reasons behind the insistence on inaccuracy in historical romance. As you noted, this is not criteria for writing literary historical fiction. Why are we so different? Thoughts, anyone?

    • February 16, 2010 10:31 pm

      Hi Miriam:
      I sometimes wonder if it’s not the change in meaning of the word “rape” over the centuries. It orignially meant nonconsensual, but the violent overtones to the word didn’t enter into use until mid to late 20th century… Making the Rape of the Lock a piece of prime satire in the early 1800’s.
      People read both historical fiction and historical romance to escape. Actually, in one of Garwood’s early medievals, the heroine was taken by the hero in retalliation for the rape of his sister. Though the scene wasn’t show, the sister did tell the story to the heroine. Not a graphic rendition though, but enough…

  3. February 16, 2010 9:10 pm

    I love a man in a kilt, too!! Can’t imagine a highlander without one, or any Scot as far as that goes, especially Gerard Butler.

    I write in the gold rush era and the living conditions were so bare and harsh that it wouldn’t be fun to read a romance without bending the truth somewhat. I’ve run into silly things like one judge telling me there are no deer in California (six were laying the snow under our trees at the time), I was in trouble because I didn’t have my heroine let herself out of a stagecoach (judge not taking into fact that there is a four foot drop and she would break her nose when she hit the boardwalk face first), but my all time favorite was when I was told the town could not have tunnels running under it because it would collapse (we still have the old mine tunnels running under Placerville, known as Old Hangtown in 1849 because I personally have been in them). I think no matter what era you write about, you will be judged by prejudices and misinformed people. I now have photos to shoot off and defend myself if necessary.

    Loved your post!!!!

    • February 16, 2010 10:38 pm

      Thanks for stopping by, Paisley. Put Gerard in a kilt and send him on over… along with Christopher Lambert, Adrian Paul, Dougray, et al…

      You’re right about some alterations required. I suppose I’d want my gold rush hero to bathe before touching the heroine.I always think it interesting that people think no one bathed in the middle ages. Documentation reveals they bathed regularly because laundering methods were so destructive to clothes and it was easier to wash the body than the clothes. The Venerable Bede actually documented several recipes for making soap for bathing from herbs, animal lard and ash.

      Don’t you love when people who have never been to your hometown know it better than you do? I had someone tell me there were no deer near Memphis. My response was, “Oh? Really? What totalled my car when my brother drove it to Cordova? We had vensison for days.”

      • March 9, 2010 12:08 pm

        As I’m reading these romance novels about highlanders I’m looking at these two guys from Scotland in the cubical behind me. All they seem to care about is where to get fish and chips on Friday night and if the coleslaw is to sweet. Hm! Something doesn’t add up here!
        My husband’s family is if Scottish/Irish descent and I most definitely wouldn’t not want to see any of them in a kilt and they do have plaid of their own. My husband seems to think that plaid goes with everything, even polka dots!
        And as far as history and accuracy it seems to be it’s ours for rewriting. But I like to stay as close as possible to the actual facts. My writing is hard to find much of the facts to begin with and even harder to prove it otherwise.

  4. Lea permalink
    February 16, 2010 9:10 pm

    I think we tend to sugar coat history, in order to make it politically Correct. Alot of your barbarian tribes were known to scarifice their own people to their pagan gods, in order to get protection. I am working on a time travel, where my hero an ancestor of the Picts. Which I have used alot of liberties on to make him likable. But if you think about it these people were known to slaughter their own families to prevent the Romans from taking them into slavery.

    • February 16, 2010 10:43 pm

      Hi Lea: I understand your point. Then again, what about Masada? It developed into a Hebrew feast day to commerate the time the Jews slaughtered themselves rather than be taken by the Romans. It would probably be perfectly acceptable to mention this in a modern romance if the topic somehow came up. I think we sugat coat a lot at the expense of the story sometimes. I don’t read many contemps. I lost taste for them when every hero had a condom in his pocket and said, “I want to protect you.” Let’s get real. We know “what” he’s protecting. Give me a hero that groans, stops and says, “Anybody for a blood test?” I’d probably think more of him… but that’s me. I think the only contemp lately where the condoms didn’t bother me was Kilted Lover by Nicole North. It’s hard not to laugh at a hero with 10 condoms or more shoved in his pockets because his buddy wanted him to get some.

      I think, in part, we have a tendency in this day and age to apply our standards on past generations and cultures. Sometimes, I think we lose the sense of the cultures we’re writing about. While I’m not saying I want to read a romance containing human sacrifice, I wouldn’t mind seeing a Pict brought forward and put in his place for mentioning it. I’m looking forward to the one you’re working on. The Picts have been ignored too long.
      Thanks for stopping by!

      • February 26, 2010 9:02 am

        Thanks for mentioning Kilted Lover, Mary! LOL! So glad you liked the hero’s condom quandary. 🙂

      • February 26, 2010 1:02 pm

        Nicole:
        Thanks condom scene was priceless! I laugh thinking about it

  5. February 16, 2010 9:24 pm

    This is a great post. I’ve also wondered why rape isn’t typically portrayed in medieval romance.

    One of the first medieval romances I’ve ever read was “Enchanted” by Elizabeth Lowell. That had a previously raped heroine, but no rape scene, and an accurate depiction of medieval marriage. All in all, I thought it was very well done.

    • February 16, 2010 10:47 pm

      Hi Rebecca: Enchanted was a wonderful book. I’m glad you mentioned it. I need to pull it from my keeper shelf and reread it. You are right about EL’s depiction of medieval marriage. I think finding love in the medieval period with all the cultural differences is more romantic than any other time, because it seemed so unlikely an outcome.

  6. Sharron permalink
    February 17, 2010 1:27 am

    I’ll live with judges who don’t check their facts. I used the word ‘bonnet’ for a man’s headgear. One comment was that it was a woman’s headgear and shouldn’t be used because it emasculated the hero. Probably a skirt (kilt) does too!
    However, I appreciate their input on plot, characterisation and dialogue. I do want to write something which readers will accept. I write novels set in Scotland and Ireland in the 16th & 17th centuries. And I will likely make some errors, however much I research. As long as they are not too serious, I think I can still sell and attract a readership. I read and finish stories which are not quite accurate historically if the plot is exciting and characters are appealing.

    • February 17, 2010 5:33 am

      Sharron, you are so right about the comments being helpful related to some areas. I can accept some inconsistencies as well. I probably wouldn’t have a problem with a bonnet or a skirt being mentioned in a time period (or even today) where that was acceptable speech. I would like to think it would take a lot more than that to emasculate my hero… but then I like alphas. You have a unique voice and should have no problem developing a readership.

      What’s a shame is to put tons of time into researching a time period piece and having someone say, you can’t use this word, because it didn’t come along until X date. Well, hello! Neither did most of the words in my book. I’m not writing in Old French or Old English. If I put patent leather in the 11th century, call me on it (Though that didn’t seem to matter in A Knight’s Tale when they made the movie). But somehow, I would rather have my heroine “throw up” than “vomit” even if the former has a more modern ring to it. I had one person tell me I couldn’t name my 12th century heroine Faith, because it wasn’t used as a name until the Puritan era. I’m sure that’s news to Saint Faythe, who lived in the 6th century. I guess I should have used the medieval spelling.

      I truly don’t mind an author taking literary license here and there. We almost have to do so when we are writing for the generally uneducated masses.

      It seems that lately everyone’s an expert on every time period, because they saw a movie about it or read a Dummy’s Guide to the Rise of Western Civilization. I think I’ve been frustrated to pay good money and read a few “historical” romances, that you could have put the h/H in different clothes in any era, told the same story and it wouldn’t have made any difference to the plot. I read both historical fiction and historical romanace, which may be where my divergence comes in. I like romances where there’s a combination of historical fact with the fiction of the romance – even when paranormal or fantasy element are included. I’ll even admit to loving what I call historical romantic romps, but for me the escape is as much to the time period as to the romance. Then again, I probably should have been born in the mid to late medieval period when hefty arms and thighs were in vogue. Though I probably would have been in trouble during the Inquisition.

  7. Jody permalink
    February 17, 2010 2:34 am

    An interesting topic and one as a researcher/freelance historical copy editor I find intriquing. I’ve been reading historicals for over 40 years (have a BA in history) and remember those “rape years” in romance but what I don’t think a lot of readers realize or accept is that those books were far closer to what we now call historical fiction than romance historicals. The difference being that in a historical romance the romance is the story where in the historical the history is the story. It is hard to create “romance” with the brutality of the age. As to Rob Roy I assume you mean Scott’s story, and what Scott wrote was historical fiction in an age of renewed interest in the romantic period after the last Jacobite uprising. Sure they are called it romance but they aren’t what we call romance today. If one looks into the real Rob Roy Macgregor one would find few attributes of a romance hero, even for the 17th c, he was an extortionist to his own countryman.To be historically accurate you have to show the warts as well as the good which means you might be better off writing historical fiction with strong romantic elements.

    You bring up the issue of rape which is interesting because historically in the early middle ages and to a degree into the early modern period it wasn’t a crime because of the ingrained attitude by the church and the supposed “temptation of Eve”. It was not a crime because woman were wicked by tempting the weak man to indulge in their carnal lust. Most of us won’t buy this today because it isn’t entertaining nor romantic. To me it isn’t an issue of being too PC in modern romance but that raping a woman whether in the period or now is not an honorable trait of a hero,bottom line. The “Luke and Laura” syndrome of 70’s of falling in love with your rapist is outdated, not very entertaining nor does it lead to true love which is what we expect in romance fiction. And in a romance you want your hero to be honorable, in a straight historical he can be the rough historically alpha male because he doesn’t have to find love in the arms of his one true love. Though there are examples of those who did find love in the medieval period- John of Ghent and Katherine Swynford–marriages were made for political, and economic reasons not love. So if you want to be really historically accurate and include these norms you aren’t probably writing romance historicals but are writing historical fiction..

    I think you have to pick your battles, and don’t sweat the small stuff. If it is important to your plot or conflict then get it right but most readers are reading it for the entertainment value so it doesn’t matter to them if you call it a kilt, a plaide or a tartan. (though it is NEVER whiskey in a Scottish romance it is WHISKY) If too much historical detail is used you run the risk of slowing your pace, if it doesn’t move the story lose it. Because after all the Art Dept. is going to put a braw laddie on the cover in a modern kilt with modern sets of color or you will have an editor who was an English major and never took a history class in college,

    Btw if you want an interesting look at 14th century England Ian Mortimer has a wonderful book that really blows some “historical truths” out of the water.

    • February 17, 2010 5:59 am

      You make so many good points, as always, Jody. I actually laughed when I got to the whisky line, because I had this conversation with someone not long ago.

      One of the things that’s difficult is distinguishing where this imaginary line is between accuracy and license in romantic fiction. I probably wouldn’t write a rape scene. I counseled too many victims of modern rapes to find anything romantic about it. If one reads Twain’s Joan of Arc (IMO, one of the best researched and detailed stories of her life), one finds mention of the rapes that occurred when her village was sacked. But the book, in the end, reads more as a romance between Joan and God, than historical fiction.

      I once wrote a manuscript for a 8th century romance set in the Roman provinces during the time of the barbarian invasions. My fiesty little Roman gal had a mole over the left side of her lip. This is quite a common thing among olive skinned peoples in the Med. Now my barbarian found this attractive for some reason. I got very few comments on the characterization, plot, etc. (which were really bad in a first book). I got tons of comments on the mole being an evil sign that no hero would tolerate. What’s interesting is that’s not the case in the period or culture I was writing. Of course, it’s also not a time period that was selling nine years ago.

      I try not to weigh my books down with history dumps, but I like to give some flavor of the time period to encourage escape and help suspend disbelief. Indeed, one of the things I ask myself is why is this h/H having their story told in this period as opposed to another. If the answer is, it doesn’t matter, then I feel like I’m not doing justice to the story and I’m on my way to formula fiction.

      And you know I’ll have to check out Ian Mortimer’s book now. You always recommend such interesting reads. My budget is almost blown for the year and it’s not even March.

      Now what I’m waiting for is a historical romance by you!

  8. Cheryl permalink
    February 17, 2010 8:00 am

    I think too much historical accuracy could mess with the romance of a historical novel. Yes, we know bathing was more of an option that a norm, but who wants to stinky hero or heroine? Bad breath? Rotten teeth? Ewww! No one would every buy a historical romance! I’d much rather read a book with a very alpha male and good hygiene that too much reality!

    And rape? Not so much!

    • February 17, 2010 4:02 pm

      I agree, Cheryl:
      I want my alpha barbarians clean and prefer they have teeth too. Now, my villians, they tend not to have so many teeth or bath…
      One thing I’m thinking about is doing a Viking take again. Like the Roman, they had bathhouses of sorts…

  9. February 17, 2010 8:31 am

    Great blog — if there is not a historical context, then you really don’t have a historical story. The major problem I run into is how much sex.

    Now I’m all for sexual tension, but actual sex can be hard to come by for unmarried couples in the 18th and 19th century America. The actual sex act was for married couples (so one of my stories is a marriage of convenience).

    And if you’re writing in the time where pre-marriage sex is taboo, then what kind of hero would take a chance on ruining the heroine’s life just for sex? She could get pregnant, or die in childbirth, have to leave where she lives and pretend to be a widow somewhere else, etc. And birth control was hard to come by at that time period.

    As for other aspects of history, I try for authenticity over accuracy (which as others have stated, accuracy will get you a knock from judges who haven’t done the research the author did).

    • February 17, 2010 4:12 pm

      Terry, you may have hit the nail on the head when you mentioned authenticity versus accuracy. I try now to flavor my prose with the time period as opposed to having a major history lesson. Though I do like the history of the time to be involved in my plot to some extent. For example, an English Baron with allegience to one king gets caught up in politics and someone is trying to kill him because the Barons with with land in both Normandy and England want to kill William Rufus to protect their assets in both countries….
      Your point about the amount of sex is something I think we’re all facing in this day. With erotica taking off and mainstream setting standards just short of erotic criteria it’s a very fine line. Making the h/H sexual partners in nonacceptable ways could kill a books chances. I have one book where the hero actually decides to keep the woman who washed up on his shore. He seduces her big time, and later decides to marry her. I’ve often wondered if people shied from the book because they viewed the seduction as rape… He’s actually one of my favorite heroes, so it’s an interesting consideration, but changing that fact would eliminated the entire story and relationshipn arc.
      Thanks for stopping by.

  10. jbrayweber permalink
    February 17, 2010 8:47 am

    What a timely topic for me. I have a scene I’m about to write that teeters on being labeled rape.

    I have walked the delicate balance of historical accuracy and political correctness combined with romance. I like to write about the darker side of human nature and of course have been dinged by my peers for doing so.

    Pirates are my favorite, followed by the Greco Romans, and the Civil War, among many others. Everyone knows that pirates were vile humans, taking what they want and killing the rest, in many cases. It has been a challenge making them heroic while maintaining historical accuracy.

    For me, I suppose I rely on character development and growth in a way the reader will want to forgive their transgressions. At least that’s what I hope.

    Jenn!

    • February 17, 2010 4:17 pm

      OMG, Jenn! You sound like you are totally on target with where I’m coming from. I have a scene that’s pure seduction, not rape, but often wonder if people view it that way because it’s not exactly consensual, despite the fact that it is so totally not violent. The whole story surrounds the hero trying to convince her that they are soul mates so she’ll have to stay, but she want revenge against other people… she’s also a procrastinator and like to “think on” things… which I can so relate to.

      • jbrayweber permalink
        February 17, 2010 6:08 pm

        Mine is opposite. The heroine seduces the pirate. It starts out consensual and then she changes her mind. Uh-oh…too late. LOL!
        I’ll have to be careful, I suppose.

  11. February 17, 2010 12:08 pm

    What a great topic. Thankx so much for letting us all air about it.

    I agree about reading historicals for the entertainment value rather than the history, but I’m not usually entertained when I read blatant historical inaccuracies.

    I also agree about not “dumping history” for accuracy’s sake. One of my own big “wonderings” about my time period was: how in the world did the wandering nation of Israel deal with all their human waste in that desert for 40 years!? I learned the answer and couldn’t resist using the info. But I hid it as the heroin had a scene of “ponderings” due her. That was such fun for me.

    In my opinion, always go for accuracy. It makes for the best story, anyway. Both my historical novels were originally published by Thomas Nelson. They took place between 800 and 1500 BC. There was crime, rape, battle scenes, slave use, murder, etc. In other words, what was politically correct back in their day. And yet, most reviewers label it an historical romance.

    I spent a year researching each book. Thomas Nelson’s historians found only 3 errors, and I challenged each one, proving with my research that I was correct, and they all stood as written.

    The same with the speech patterns, and the use of language in them. We can’t BE there, so can’t be sure, but I studied extensively, reading proverbs and stories and songs written in the day, or as far back as possible in the printed books of the culture, even some Yiddish that was translated.

    In the second novel, I had to make up a few songs written by one of the heroes, and experts asked me if I had taken them directly from the book of Psalms because they had the feel/flow of the times (that we know of).

    In the end it was my extensive research that made for such solid and “stand out” charactes, which, after all, is the most important aspect of the story. You don’t love the characters; you don’t love the book.

    Thankx for the chat everyone! Have the best day ever.

    • February 17, 2010 4:24 pm

      Thanks for stopping by, Aggie. “You don’t love the characters; you don’t love the book” practically says it all. I’ve been doing tons of research in the Vatican Archives, translating St. Jerome’s Latin Vulgate for correct use in the time period, and “writing” scrolls of the Constantinian era that play into my current plot for clues and riddles. I’m trying to be careful about not doing a history dump and know there are a few scene in this wip that will have to be rewritten, but the end, my story wouldn’t work in any other era with any other Caledonian clan or Roman province. Sometimes it’s fun to make the pieces fit. Thomas Nelson has great historical researchers. If you could call them on matters and win your point, you’re good!

  12. February 17, 2010 3:21 pm

    Love your story about the plaids. My first Scottish-set historical will be out in May and my editor asked “would I mind” if they put plaid on the cover. She asked because she knew, as I do, that the iconic tartans were non-existent in the 14th century, when my story is set. No, I did not put my hero in a kilt, but yes, I said, to plaid on the cover.
    I think one of the drivers that forces us to be mindful of current mores is that in romance, the reader expects to bond emotionally with the hero and heroine. Straying too far afield from emotions readers can empathize with makes that harder. I don’t think the reader has the same expectation with historical fiction.

  13. February 17, 2010 4:31 pm

    Blythe!!! I’m so glad you have a Scottish-set historical coming out. In fact I’ve already got it marked on my calendar. I love your books, and I’m looking forward to it. Your consent to the plaid on the cover was wise. It makes the Scottish-set books stand out on the shelves, and I know people who read nothing but…
    You are probably right about the emotional factors being preeminent. We are trying to connect with modern romance readers and they are a separate class from those who read historical fiction. Me, I like any story I can get lost in, love the time, love the characters. I don’t mind a gruff hero at the beginning of a historical if he’s got redeeming features and we see him come about in the end… I mean, prince charming may be perfect and great when you meet him, but he’d be too boring for me in the end…lol. I loved Echanted, because she didn’t end up with Mr. Perfect. She ended up with her Mr. Right.

  14. February 17, 2010 9:56 pm

    Jenn! I so look forward to you getting that pirate book published. I love a heroine who goes for what she wants where a man is concerned, especially if she is acting against what she knows to be acceptable. Her conscience coming through at the last moment is something I couldn’t fault a hero for… especially if we see romance blossom in the end.
    Happy Writing!

  15. February 17, 2010 10:02 pm

    Aggie: I meant to ask you, what are your books called and are they still available? I love reading unusual time periods.
    Alas, my current book is still in the writing stage and my previous works are waiting for an exceptionally brillant publishing house to realize their value. I’m sure if I find a publisher, I’ll be singing from the rooftops!

    • February 18, 2010 2:50 pm

      My first book is co-authored and still available at Amazon as used copies, I think. Do a google search for “Chase the Wind” by Aggie Villanueva and Deborah Lawrence (oublisher Thomas Nelson). You should be able to find it really cheap.

      I’v recently republished “Rightfully Mine.” The blog is http://www.aggiev.org/rightfullymine

      be sure and let me know when you new book is finished. I’d love to read it.

  16. Donna Goode permalink
    March 12, 2010 7:24 am

    Hi, Mary!
    I can’t believe how late I am replying to this post. I’d kept it in my active file to reply to and it got buried under mounds of others. I love your topic and want to tell you that I much prefer accuracy. There is a popular writer whose works I love and yet every time she uses one particular inaccuracy it drags me right out of the story. I look it up, I discuss it with my husband (who is an expert in the subject) and finally decide to overlook it for the sake of the story. Why is it that people prefer the modern version? I’ve yet to understand. Why is it difficult to understand that war is brutal? It certainly is in the modern day and rape STILL happens. Why is it not okay to mention that it happened in an historical romance? It isn’t the point of the story so much as a vessel to get you to the point. Thank you so much for dealing with this interesting and important topic. You did a brilliant job with it!
    –Donna Goode

  17. Robyn permalink
    March 17, 2012 2:52 am

    I found this page by doing a search on “historically accurate romance” because I’m having such a hard time finding any. As a reader, I really hope you keep pursuing historical accuracy. It is rare and wonderful. Because of your informative blog, now I know why most writers with an obvious interest in a certain time period don’t bother to make their work historically accurate. It sucks that editors are encouraging disinformation for the sake of happy stereotypes. I didn’t know until I read this thread that plaids aren’t part of Scottish medieval history. Duped again! Who knows how much disinformation we all absorb in what we read? I really sympathize with your frustration.

    I don’t see how it would be possible to write historical fiction, particularly romance, that’s going to be politically correct today. Women and children were chattel until relatively recently in history, and still are in some countries. Legal punishments and interrogations could be extremely brutal. A nice compromise in writing about it can be referring to these things without going into the details. It would be hard to get your focus back on romance if you’ve got PTSD from reading a detailed description of hanging and evisceration. On the other hand, many writers successfully build tension by making even a feisty heroine fearful because of her relativen helplessness in a man’s world, and have her and the male lead seesaw between attraction and anger in a battle for power.
    As for the subject of rape – rape is a legal construct based on lack of consent. Even today, consent is a wavering, thin gray line. If a woman starts off resisting, then becomes aroused, and stops resisting, or even begins to participate enthusiastically, is it rape? If she gets angry about it the next day, is it rape? If she starts off consensually, but then changes her mind and begins to resist, but her partner mistakes it for enthusiastic participation, is it rape? How do we decide who’s a sexy alpha male and who’s a rapist? Mostly by our own reaction to the situation, because consent is relative to the person and the situation. If readers are offended by the subject altogether, and want to avoid it, there are enough reviews available to warn them away. But I hope they at least ask themselves why they want to read about domineering alpha males.
    Of course there have to be limits to historical accuracy. If we read actual medieval English, we don’t understand it. Shakespeare (Elizabethan English) is difficult because of the different construction and archaic words, and if we go as far back as Chaucer, which every English Literature major dreads, we find something that looks like a foreign language, written in an unfamiliar alphabet. If I somehow found myself in medieval England, I wouldn’t understand what anyone there was saying. But when I read about it, I like to be reminded of the difference in language by reference. I recently read Laura Kinsale’s For My Lady’s Heart, and Shadow Heart (about 3 or 4 times each) in a digital format that presented first a version that referred to medieval language, and then, a separate version pared down for readers who might find the richness of language and detail too burdensome or time consuming. For me, reading the abbreviated version would seem like a terrible waste, but I have no idea what the concensus is. I’ve got a B.A. in English Literature with a minor in Art History, an M.S. in Counselor Education, and a Doctorate in Law. Maybe I’m more obsessive about details than most. If you are criticised for being historically accurate, perhaps you can arm yourself with your documentation. I don’t know how fiction is judged, but it would be great if recognition were given for best word settings, the way the Academy Awards encourage excellence in film sets. Otherwise the critics are flagrantly encouraging ignorance and sloppiness, and ignoring the richness of history that is supposed to be what differentiates historical fiction from fiction.
    Where you as a writer draw the line between commercial recognition and your own standards is going to be up to the relative rewards you find in each, and how much each one means to you, and how much you need them. For purely selfish reasons, I hope you’ll decide to be as true to yourself as you can, and that you can persuade many contest judges and editors to appreciate history.
    For your own pleasure, maybe you can write a really short story that gives you free rein to pursue your ideal without taking the same amount of time as a full length book. Every bit of research will enrich your writing and inform your readers. Now I’m off to look for more about your writing.
    Best of luck to you, and congratulations on your standards.

  18. July 4, 2014 11:55 pm

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  1. Historical Accuracy in Romance Writing – Is It Okay to Bend the Truth? | Veronica Bale's Blog

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