Nan De PlumeParticipant04/08/2021 at 10:25 amPost count: 30
I was just reading the long thread for The Duke Undone, and there were a lot of comments to the effect of how irritating the historically inaccurate premise was in regards to inheriting a title in the UK.
Like a number of HR readers here, certain anachronisms bug me. Totally running roughshod over historical plausibility, such as the example above or letting queer characters be so open we’re waiting for them to have to spend time in the pillory, are big bugaboos with me. At the same time, I do recognize the need for casting a romantic veneer on an HR in a way that wouldn’t be acceptable in historical fiction. For example, I don’t think HR needs to dwell on rotting teeth and dysentery for the same reason in other genres we typically don’t need to see characters go to the bathroom. Another area where I’m willing to overlook in my HR reading is a heavy reliance on coitus interruptus as the go-to pre-pill birth control method. For one thing, people actually did that to varying degrees of success, and it beats the heck out of older “historical” works where no birth control whatsoever is used and the heroine magically doesn’t get pregnant until it’s just right for plot reasons.
So let’s open up this discussion some more. What are your anachronistic beefs in HR vs what are you willing to overlook in order to be swept away? What about in other subgenres of romance (I read some comments about how a lot of lawyers can’t stand procedurals or doctors can’t stand hospital romances)? I await your responses!
chrisreaderParticipant04/08/2021 at 7:23 pmPost count: 35
For me it depends a bit on how accurate the romance is purporting to be. If it’s outright just enjoyable fluff I allow more leeway, if it’s touting itself as a serious, well researched piece, it better be be pretty accurate.
I can overlook some mistakes if they are minor (or just because no one wants to read about pre-modern dentistry) but if something is just factually wrong and a big part of the story I can’t get past it. This would include ignoring or changing major laws of the time or getting major historical facts wrong.
Regarding historical romance characters whose authentic lives seem to go against the laws, or the stereotypical roles of men and women at the time such as strongly feminist female characters, LGBT characters etc, I can believe they get their happily ever after if they are in a wealthy and privileged enough group.
I can think of historical examples of LGBT people who led open and pretty happy lives because they had the wealth, position and influence to do so. Whether it’s Monsieur, Louis XIV’s brother (who still had his political marriages, one a happy one) but openly dressed as he chose and had relationships and love affairs with other men or Kings and Queens of England who had their same sex lovers and favorites they were above the laws that ruled “lesser” people’s lives.
I can easily imagine a wealthy aristocrat or even a wealthy merchant class man carving out the life he wanted with his chosen lover. Bachelorhood is always something that was more respected than “spinsterhood”. The man is always the “catch” and those that didn’t marry simply avoided the “noose” of marriage. If a wealthy guy doesn’t need to provide an heir to carry on a title or dynasty he can spend his life as he chooses with whom he chooses.
To a lesser degree wealthy women had some leeway as well. If they weren’t so wealthy and connected they needed to make a great marriage and had enough money to live on, or were wealthy widows etc, they could set themselves up in a comfortable household with the companion of their choice. In “Possession” by A.S. Byatt, the poet Christabel LaMott has enough family money to set up a household rescuing poor governess Blanche and 20th century scholars studying LaMott’s work with modern eyes, realize it was a romantic relationship.
To be outside the “norm” whether it’s Mary Wollstonecraft or Lord Byron or Lady Catherine Jones means you have to have some money, friends and a certain level in society in order to break rules others have to follow.
MarkParticipant04/09/2021 at 11:39 amPost count: 2
The first sentence from chrisreader is the heart of the issue. That is why I asked for better genre labels in many posts on the old boards (summarized in a long essay at http://www.ccrsdodona.org/markmuse/reading/genrelabels.html).
If I know up front that a story is altered history, I won’t balk or label the story inaccurate when I read the alteration.
Carrie GParticipant04/09/2021 at 12:25 pmPost count: 28
I think ignorance can be bliss at times. Not being an historian, I miss many inaccuracies that my daughter spots right away and can’t overlook. Once it’s pointed out to me, then it will start bothering me, like when my daughter gave me a lesson on improper modes of address with titled characters. By reading reviews such as the one for The Duke Undone, I get alerted to issues I wouldn’t have questioned. Interestingly, I read another review of that book that book on another review site that never mentioned the improbability of the inheritance issue.
I also think there is a difference between inaccurate and improbable, and I’m pretty good with letting historically improbable issue stand, I’m ok with “it rarely happened, but it could have” especially if the author is good at laying out believable parameters in the given situation. This is why I often accept stories of LGBTQ people finding a way to live together in dangerous times. First, because I know it had to have happened even if people didn’t leave details, and second, because a good author can write a way for it to happen. This is what I love about K.J. Charles historical romances. Honestly,I have more problems with stories where the woman finds a way to lose her virginity so she doesn’t have to marry. The only author who has pulled this off for me is Mia Vincy in A Dangerous Kind of Lady. I didn’t like that aspect of A Study in Scarlet Women.
I’m tired of Regency young ladies who have more knowledge of sex and men than the vast majority would ever have had. I recently read Unmasking Miss Appleby by Emily Larkin, and it was one of the few books that gave what I think is a realistic portrayal of female ignorance over male anatomy and how it sex works.
chrisreaderParticipant04/09/2021 at 1:03 pmPost count: 35
Carrie, you hit on a big point with me. Not only the “incredibly well informed about sex” Regency Miss, but the unmarried women who have no worries about engaging in sex and ending up pregnant.
As I’ve mentioned before, to be an “unwed” mother was a stigma that perpetuated through even the 20th century. People, including the very wealthy and movie stars did anything to hide the fact that they had a child “out of wedlock”. It was not only something that could destroy the mother’s life but the child’s as well.
To have books that are supposed to be at least semi-authentic and not have the fear of pregnancy addressed in a realistic way is always off putting to me.
There are many ways to address it, such as in a Courtney Milan book where the very wealthy hero (who is kind of a jerk) establishes upfront that he will give so much money to the heroine (who is of a “lower class” than him) that even if she becomes pregnant from their liaison that her life (even with an illegitimate child) will still be infinitely better than the one she would have had otherwise. For the very street smart heroine who likes the hero anyway, it’s a “intelligent” deal that the reader can say a savvy woman used to protecting herself may take.
Marian PereraParticipant04/11/2021 at 8:49 amPost count: 12
With the “lose my virginity so my parents won’t marry me off” plot, I wonder : if the heroine is rendered unfit for marriage once she says to her parents that she’s lost her virginity, why couldn’t she just claim this without, you know, risking STDs and pregnancy by actually having sex with a stranger? (Of course, in this case there would be no book, because whatever stranger she picks is the hero and will end up marrying her, but still). Is it more acceptable for her to have unprotected sex outside of marriage than to lie about it so she can stay single?
As for anachronisms that I’m happy to overlook, here are two big ones : people smoking indoors, or smoking too much. I don’t mind the hero having a congratulatory cigar on occasion, but if he smokes more often, I might start thinking of lung cancer. And the second one is the corporal discipline of children. The main characters can get caned in the past, but I really don’t want to see children being slapped or beaten on-page, even if this was an accepted (or even approved) method of discipline in the past.
Nan De PlumeParticipant04/11/2021 at 10:21 amPost count: 30
UGH! I just wrote a response, and it disappeared into cyberspace! Anyway, a summary from memory of what I wrote earlier:
“With the “lose my virginity so my parents won’t marry me off” plot, I wonder : if the heroine is rendered unfit for marriage once she says to her parents that she’s lost her virginity, why couldn’t she just claim this without, you know, risking STDs and pregnancy by actually having sex with a stranger?”
I’ve often wondered this myself. But then, like you said, we wouldn’t have a story. Although I think there are possibilities for authors to twist this trope to their advantage. You mentioned before that you liked the idea of a heroine undertaking this harebrained scheme, getting ruined, and then having to live with the consequences before earning a hard-won HEA. I think a marriage-of-convenience subtrope could work in this case, such as where the hero has to marry a woman ASAP because of some scandal. For example, maybe the hero’s bisexual and there are rumors he’s been with a man so he needs to marry the heroine as a cover and then it turns into something more. Just brainstorming here…
As for overlooking certain anachronisms, I’m with you about corporal punishment of children. Normally, I prefer romances that don’t have children characters except maybe in passing (i.e. the heroine mentions her friend recently had a baby, or something). But if they are going to be there, I’d rather not see them get smacked by the hero or heroine.
In regard to smoking in HR, I haven’t seen a lot of examples of that, so I never really gave it much thought. Although I was surprised that Cat Sebastian’s The Ruin of a Rake dropped in casual mentions of one of the heroes smoking a cheroot. It wasn’t overwhelming though, just presented as one more period appropriate detail in character with a man who is regarded by most as an irredeemable, libertine rogue. Frankly, I would have been surprised if this scandalous, hedonistic fellow didn’t occasionally smoke a cheroot or drink brandy.
Nan De PlumeParticipant04/09/2021 at 8:59 pmPost count: 30
“I’m tired of Regency young ladies who have more knowledge of sex and men than the vast majority would ever have had.”
I second that (third, counting Chrisreader’s comment ;-)). I mean, okay sure, I can maybe buy that if we’re talking about a working class woman of the Regency era, say a farmer’s daughter. It would be odd if such a heroine didn’t know at least *something* about sex and reproduction given the lack of privacy and whatnot. But the titled Regency miss who would have been extremely sheltered in real life? Yeah, right. I’m not kidding when I say I’ve met or heard of some women from a couple of generations back- forget a few centuries- who had little to no clue about what sex was until marriage. (This might be apocryphal, but Barbara Cartland allegedly broke off her first engagement when she was horrified to learn what sex was.) Given that, it’s hard to swallow the idea of the wealthy HR Regency heroine who runs around without a chaperone in gaming hells, is best buddies with a prostitute, and is eager to ruin herself. As you pointed out, it’s certainly not impossible to make these premises work, but the author has her work cut out for her to make it convincing for the social class and time period.
“This is why I often accept stories of LGBTQ people finding a way to live together in dangerous times.”
Absolutely! LGBTQ+ HR romances are definitely possible to pull off in a plausible fashion. Like we’ve discussed in an earlier forum topic, in some ways it would have ironically been easier for two same-sex “friends” to hook up without suspicion as long as they were careful. After all, there would have been no concerns of pregnancy or needing a chaperone. When it doesn’t work for me in HR is when the characters are so flagrant in public that they and their cohorts would have been endangered or prosecuted in real life. An example that comes to mind is an HR I read where one of the two lesbian side characters in Colonial America cross-dresses in public (among other things)- an illegal act for the time and place- and yet everyone acts just hunky dory about it… in the 1700s… Or another doozy I read where a vicar and a duke end up together with no regard whatsoever of a) a duke needing heirs and b) the fact the two of them set up housekeeping practically in the middle of town without a plausible excuse for it. And nobody seems to notice or care. How convenient….
For a real life example of this phenomenon, Quentin Crisp, who was openly gay in London in the 1920s, described getting kicked out of secret gay organizations for being too obviously gay. If he was in a club that got raided, the other men could just pretend to be in a regular gentleman’s club. But Crisp was so flamboyant in his appearance and mannerisms that discovery would mean everyone in the place would be arrested and publicly shamed- or worse. No, it wasn’t fair to Crisp, but the business owner felt an obligation to protect not only his own reputation and freedom but those of the other club members as well. So, taking this back to HR, I much prefer stories that acknowledge this unfortunate reality while still giving characters a period appropriate HEA/HFN. People definitely made alternative arrangements work despite the danger, but I would prefer HR writers not to put forth settings and situations that read too much like modern day San Francisco rather than the 1800s or whenever the story is supposed to be set. Of course, if they want to write some alternative history, go for it! But kindly label it as such.
Carrie GParticipant04/10/2021 at 11:05 amPost count: 28
“People definitely made alternative arrangements work despite the danger, but I would prefer HR writers not to put forth settings and situations that read too much like modern day San Francisco rather than the 1800s or whenever the story is supposed to be set.”
Totally agree. It has to be at least plausible. In The Society of Gentleman series by K.J. Charles this comes up and the reader is aware of the obstacles, both social and legal, to the situation. There is a trans character (minor) and only a few people know he’s trans. He lives as a man and passes as one. The few who do know guard that fact because it would mean arrest and worse. And the HEA’s are mostly different than you have for m/f books. Like in one story one half of the couple ends up with a job in the house of his lover’s (sympathetic) friend. That way they can meet occasionally without any suspicions. They don’t get to set up house in the country and live happily ever after.
elaine smithParticipant04/10/2021 at 11:56 amPost count: 13
I am like Carrie G’s daughter – MA in history – so inaccuracies do bother me although I can overlook them if a book offers me other rewards such as great characters set in a wonderful plot, well-written narrative passages and characters that are not 21st century folk dressing up in, say, panniers and frock coats. As far as sexual knowledge is concerned, and the unwed mother, outside of the upper classes, this was pretty much accepted. Folk lived rural lives until the 20th century in the main and so knew all about the birds and the bees – or cows and bulls – and hand-fasting and other practices meant that sex outside of marriage was common and getting married cost money that many did not have. Getting pregnant could demonstrate fertility. My husband and I have been looking at our own family histories over lockdown and have found that his father was the only legitimate birth amongst 6 siblings and his grandfather had two families on the go! I also found out the reason why my grandparents divorced in the 1920s (not that common in working class folk at that time) and it was because my dad was a 6 month “premie” and it was a shotgun marriage that both wanted, apparently, to escape ASAP. I have never been entirely convinced that upper class girls were sexually ignorant; they were, however, confined by manners and acceptable behaviour in order to get them successfully fired off in marriages that suited their parents in terms of financial and property. benefits. Women, until the 1882 Married Women’s Property Act in Britain, were basically chattel.
Getting aristocratic titles wrong, though, is a bugbear I can’t tolerate. If you want to write about the British aristocracy, it’s so simple to check out the correct forms so why get it wrong??? Do these authors think no one will notice???
Carrie GParticipant04/10/2021 at 4:28 pmPost count: 28
Elaine: One thing I’ve noticed and talked to my oldest about is that attitudes changed dramatically in the past. In some ways attitudes towards sex and such in the 1700’s was a little different (looser?) than in the early 1800’s and got even more severe in Victorian times. I just read some autobiographical notes about a Josephine Cochrane who,in the last 1800’s invented the automatic dishwasher. She wrote on one occasion:
“It was] almost the hardest thing I ever did, I think, crossing the great lobby of the Sherman House alone. You cannot imagine what it was like in those days…for a woman to cross a hotel lobby alone. I had never been anywhere without my husband or father—the lobby seemed a mile wide. I thought I should faint at every step, but I didn’t—and I got an $800 order as my reward.”
She was already a married woman and a widow at this point, but attitudes were very strict.
Even if there was a more general knowledge about the sex act, I don’t like when modern attitudes creep in to historical characters. Men did expect a young lady of the ton to be virgins on their wedding night, if only to know any offspring was actually theirs. I agree the farmers and working classes probably had much different, and perhaps looser understanding of sex and marriage, but I still haven’t seen anything that indicates that the upper class was less than strict about young women. And even in the mid 1900’s when I was growing up, out-of-wedlock babies was a complete non-starter. If a girl got pregnant, she had to marry, even in high school. It happened to several young couples in my high school. Boy and girl married at 17 or less even, just because it was “what was done.” And,if they got married, then most everyone treated them very well, and the stigma wasn’t there.
elaine smithParticipant04/11/2021 at 7:47 amPost count: 13
I can recommend two really good reads on the subject of sex and marriage that were eye openers for me. The first is The Family, Sex, Marriage in England 1500-1800 by Lawrence Stone who taught both in the UK and USA. It’s a terrific study and is really an easy read packed full of everything about life during that period. He wrote “companion pieces” for other periods of history. Another great read is Lascivious Bodies: A Sexual History of the 18th Century by Julie Peakman. Peakman’s book tends to look at the naughtier side of life and is a cracking read.
I think that it’s possibly fair to speculate that manners and morals differed a bit in the USA and UK during, say, the 18th century. I was born and educated in California though have lived in England for the last 41 years and try to remind myself when reading historical fiction of the deep religious influence in the founding of the colonies (Puritans, Quakers, etc.) and the moral high ground sought during the Revolution (The Declaration of Independence). I can’t recall much in my reading over the years that compares like with like between, say, Lord Rochester and the court of Charles II or the “ton” of Regency England and what was happening in Boston or Philadelphia at the same time.
I agree that in the upper class young girls were expected to be virginal but the ton was made up of a tiny, tiny miniscule percentage of the population. I have often wondered, though, just how much young aristocratic girls picked up from their servants whose lives were lived on a very different level. I just finished reading King’s Man by Sally Malcolm and you certainly get the picture she portrays pretty clearly that London in the 1770s was really a very large and dirty slum where nearly everyone just got on with life as best they could and women just hoped to survive childbirth. BTW, don’t get me started on the history of sanitation and hygiene because even the aristos in Belgravia relied on night soil men!!
At the end of the day we read fiction. I don’t expect 100% accuracy though I am very appreciative of efforts to make fiction relatively realistic. As Nan de Plume has said, we don’t need to read about the heroine using a chamber pot but it is true that those dukes and earls had a piss into a pot behind a screen in the dining room after the ladies left the room!
Glaring errors for me are different than interpretation for the sake of making a story flow; the first are irritating and reflect ignorance (often willing) and the second are just a part of the author’s creative vision and the offer they put before the reader.
And what fun this discussion is!
Nan De PlumeParticipant04/11/2021 at 10:36 amPost count: 30
“Glaring errors for me are different than interpretation for the sake of making a story flow; the first are irritating and reflect ignorance (often willing) and the second are just a part of the author’s creative vision and the offer they put before the reader.”
That’s a good way of putting it. And I’m definitely understanding when authors have to make educated guesses to fill in historical knowledge gaps or have to fudge minor details for logistics and readability. For example, I wouldn’t want to read an Elizabethan era romance actually written in Elizabethan English. It’s kind of like how we have a convention that books taking place in foreign countries are written in English so native English speakers can actually read it. But at the same time, I don’t want to read about Elizabethan characters who go by cutesy modern names like “Chase” and “Jayden” and speak in 21st century slang to make them somehow “relatable” to the young modern reader. Yuck!
“BTW, don’t get me started on the history of sanitation and hygiene because even the aristos in Belgravia relied on night soil men!!”
This is one of the many reasons why I can’t get behind the idea of royalty. They all have to do their business like the rest of us. I’m far more impressed with the guy who invented the flush toilet, title or lack thereof be damned! ;-)
elaine smithParticipant04/12/2021 at 6:20 amPost count: 13
Nan de Plume wrote: “This is one of the many reasons why I can’t get behind the idea of royalty. They all have to do their business like the rest of us. I’m far more impressed with the guy who invented the flush toilet, title or lack thereof be damned! ;-)”
Is this a reference to the old job of Groom of the Stool, Nan? It was almost akin to the old Roman practice of reading entrails of animals because evaluation of the Royal Crap and Piss was considered hugely informative and important. The Groom of the Stool had 24/7 access to the monarch and was possibly the most powerful of the courtiers until the role eventually evolved into the the Gentleman/First Lady of the Bedchamber. Fascinating function (tee hee!). No doubt the origins of the flush loo in Elizabethan times was met with much relief (oops!).
Nan De PlumeParticipant04/17/2021 at 7:08 pmPost count: 30
Elaine, I can’t believe I missed your comment! LOL!
No, my comment wasn’t in reference to the Groom of the Stool (although I have definitely heard of it), so much as Bill Hicks’s routine about how there was nothing particularly special about being an American as opposed to anything else because it’s all an accident of birth. Or, as he so impolitely put it, we’re Americans because our parents f-d here. I’ve always thought the exact same thing about royalty.
To wrap this up, I did not know about the necromancy/divination of royal Roman excrement. That sounds like something that should be featured in an episode of South Park. Otherwise, there’s a practice I’m glad has gone extinct…
Carrie GParticipant04/11/2021 at 2:18 pmPost count: 28
Elaine- thank you for the book recommendations! Your posts are very informative and interesting. I’m learning so much from everyone here. I agree, this is a great discussion.
I also agree about the hygiene issue, and it’s another reason I think oral sex was probably not a super popular thing among most people.
chrisreaderParticipant04/12/2021 at 1:01 pmPost count: 35
The Lawrence Stone book really is a classic. I still have my copy from my undergrad days all those decades ago!
I think there were always generational differences and different conduct depending on the monarch and even what stage of life the monarch was in. The sober court of the older Louis XIV married to his Morganatic wife The Marquise de Maintenon was very different from his youth and his continual love affairs.
In Carla Kelly’s book “Miss Whittier Makes A List” the heroine is a Nantucket Quaker who gets picked up by a British Navy vessel after her American ship is attacked by the French. She ends up in England engaged to the titled Captain and his mother is her chaperone at one point. Her future mother in law, a relic of the more wild Georgian days in the 18th century, scandalizes her by assuming she will be conducting affairs while her husband is away at sea because that’s just how things were in her time. Once you have some legitimate children you can start picking up lovers on the side.
I think it was in Roman times that once married women were pregnant then they could have affairs knowing there would be no illegitimate children as a result. I am sure not every woman did this but at a time where marriage was about alliance, and inheritance not messing with legitimate succession and heirs was the bigger concern.
chrisreaderParticipant04/10/2021 at 6:12 pmPost count: 35
I think there is a lot of variance in history depending on the time and the place.
In the United States in the Western states in the 19th century particularly, common law marriage came about and was very accepted simply because there weren’t preachers or clergy handy all the time. People started their own families and sometimes legalized it after the fact and sometimes didn’t as situations allowed. The law developed so that people who held themselves out as married (even without the paper to back it up) eventually were legally considered the same as married so spouses and children wouldn’t be left high and dry. It just makes sense. I have a relative who grew up on TV’s Daniel Boone stories and was horrified to learn as an adult that Daniel’s wife also hooked up with Daniel’s brother while he was off adventuring! I think she had a child or two by him and good old Daniel said something like “well it was all in the family”.
At the same time in Massachusetts there is a famous case of a Sea Captain or sailor coming back home to his wife after being away on a year or two sea voyage and being fined for kissing her in their doorway!
As Hardy showed in Jude the Obscure, not having a marriage license can ruin your livelihood and your life. I believe the denser the population, the more the regulation.
As discussed in My Fair Lady and Pygmalion, there has always been a “middle class morality” because the truly poor often couldn’t afford to separate, let alone pay for a divorce and the really rich could ignore many of the pesky rules poorer people had to follow or buy their way around them.
I think farming/ranching communities always tended to have earthier, more practical ideas about children and marriage. Maybe having a closer connection to the whole “circle of life” made it seem less mysterious and governable?
Nan De PlumeParticipant04/10/2021 at 5:37 pmPost count: 30
@Elaine and @Carrie, those are both great comments about changing attitudes toward sex- and the kinds of things that were kept hidden such as out of wedlock births or “6 month premies.” It reminds me of the old joke about how long pregnancy lasts: “The first child can come whenever it wants.” ;-)
Things definitely got more severe and secretive in Victorian times than past generations. Heck, some of the stuff I’ve read from the 1700s was surprisingly bawdy. I also know that a lot of foreign books had passages excised or mistranslated in the name of propriety. The original French version of “The Count of Monte Cristo,” for example, contains a lesbian coded character as well as a scene of characters smoking hash. Those didn’t make the original English cut.
“Even if there was a more general knowledge about the sex act, I don’t like when modern attitudes creep in to historical characters. Men did expect a young lady of the ton to be virgins on their wedding night, if only to know any offspring was actually theirs.”
This brings to mind another somewhat anachronistic cliché in a lot of HR I’ve read lately: the titled Regency heroine who is eager to perform fellatio the second time she’s in bed with the hero. Now, of course, all sex acts have existed since the beginning of time- barring certain technological innovations like sexting or webcamming. But cultural attitudes throughout time and space have varied widely. Recently, I did some research on the Wild West and learned that oral sex or “Frenching” was something only associated with the most disreputable or foreign brothels. In other words, a high class courtesan of that time and place might have been gravely insulted if asked to perform the act- possibly to the point of ejecting the man from her boudoir. (Not saying it didn’t happen, but there *was* a cultural stigma.) And yet, romancelandia now has so many eager Regency misses going down on their secret pre-marital lovers, it’s no longer edgy but cringeworthy. I mean, fine. It’s a *romance,* and anything that happens behind the door definitely could have happened in real life. But I wouldn’t mind seeing some heroines who are initially freaked out by the suggestion or thunderstruck as in, “I’m allowed to do that?” You know, instead of, “I’ve just lost my virginity on purpose with no regard for my ruined future, and now I want to *devour* that thing.”
chrisreaderParticipant04/10/2021 at 6:18 pmPost count: 35
Nan I think you and I must be reading all the prurient history books, lol. I distinctly remember reading in a book (Freakonomics? Superfreakonimics?) that in the early 20th century in the U.S. it was much more costly to buy oral sex than regular intercourse at a brothel. I’ve also read novels where the prostitutes in the old west bordello were split between those who would perform that and those who wouldn’t and those who didn’t looked down on the others.
Just look back at Sex And the City to see how what was considered shocking or scandalous has changed in the past two decades alone. The bar has really moved.
Dabney GrinnanKeymaster04/11/2021 at 2:56 pmPost count: 128
This is a glorious article on the history of blow jobs…..
Nan De PlumeParticipant04/11/2021 at 3:20 pmPost count: 30
Nice article. Quite “glorious,” as you say. I’m glad they gave a nod to Bill Hicks, although I think the author was remiss in not mentioning Lenny Bruce. The man was, after all, arrested on stage during a standup comedy performance for saying a vulgar synonym for fellatio.
Carrie GParticipant04/11/2021 at 2:15 pmPost count: 28
Nan- re: oral sex. I agree and it goes both ways. I doubt many Regency gents performed oral sex on their mistresses or wives. Again, it probably wasn’t unheard of, but very, very unlikely for many reasons. I have to shake my head every time this happens in a romance novel. It might be sexy, but neither fellatio nor cunnilingus was probably much of a thing. People, including women, may have understood the sex act due to animals, but animals aren’t known for oral sex. :-)
Nan De PlumeParticipant04/10/2021 at 7:38 pmPost count: 30
“Nan I think you and I must be reading all the prurient history books, lol.” Who, me? *whistles innocently*
You’re right about how the bar has moved. But it definitely seems to go back and forth. I remember watching a documentary about Benjamin Franklin on the History Channel years ago that said if he lived a century later, he probably would have been arrested for indecency because of the things he printed. The historians even joked that even in the early 21st century, some of his run of the mill newspaper articles would be bleeped out on network television and possibly cable- mainly the word “shite.” And this was just something any man, woman, or child could have easily accessed in the colonies without a big hullabaloo.
Regarding your note about the sailor getting in trouble for kissing his wife in the doorway, that reminds me of Chef Staib’s explanation of pineapples being used to welcome home sailors in Colonial America. Yes, they did mean “welcome home,” but the sailor’s wife may have also posted them outside the house to warn her lover to stay away because hubby was home. You think more returning sailors would give their wives the side-eye and be like, “Hey honey, what’s with the pineapple?”
Nan De PlumeParticipant04/11/2021 at 10:29 amPost count: 30
Oh, here’s another improbability I have been seeing mostly in 2010s Harlequin HRs: the hero who fights off multiple attackers barehanded and alone while barely sustaining a scratch. Yeah, I get that the hero is supposed to be a heroic badass, and I love a good showdown between the hero and the villain where good triumphs over evil. But when someone who isn’t some kung fu/martial arts expert takes on two, three, or- in one case I read recently- SEVEN attackers, it descends from heroism into absurdity. Believe me, I wouldn’t think of a hero as being any less manly if he fell prey to seven attackers instead of turning into superman who can throw the whole pile of them into the alley like sacks of flour. Thankfully, I haven’t seen this over the top scenario in recent HRs. But reading it in some “old” books at my public library gave me serious pause.
Caz OwensKeymaster04/12/2021 at 7:38 amPost count: 55
As the resident stickler for historical accuracy (!) I agree with pretty much everything that’s been said here. There definitely was a different morality depending on which class you belonged to – it was much more common for ‘lower class’ people to live together without marriage, simply because getting married was expensive and they couldn’t afford it. But in the upper echelons, in the time period most HR is set? Nope. There have been a couple of fairly high-profile HRs recently in which the H/h have ended up living “in sin” because the heroine didn’t want to get married. Okay, if that’s what she and the hero both wanted. But what about when children came along? Illegitimacy was a huge stigma until fairly recently and as we know, that sin was most definitely visited upon the children whose lives would most likely have been seriously impacted by the circumstances of their birth. And in at least one of those books, the heroine was working for a particular cause – which surely would have been seriously hurt by her choosing to live with a man without marriage. Most men didn’t take her seriously because she was a woman, and “respectable” woman would turn their backs on her for living in sin, so it was a no-win situation.
Anyway. What I really want to say is about other types of accuracy than have already been touched on and why I find it so bothersome! We all accept that romance is escapism, and as is regularly mentioned, we also all accept that personal/dental hygene is better in HR than it actually was IRL and we accept the plethora of dukes in HR in the same way we accept all the billionaires in CR. But I also get really bugged when authors – even now, when it’s so easy to look up – get titles and forms of address wrong, and when they – as in the book that sparked this discussion – make a premise from something that is extremely implausible (to the point of impossibility). I know some people don’t care so much about things like that, but here’s one of the main reasons it really bothers me.
If we’re reviewing a sci-fi or fantasy book, we often talk about the world-building and how, if there are holes in it, we’re bothered and/or taken out of the story. Well, in HR, authors have a ready-built world to play in, but that ready-built world comes with conventions and restrictions, just as a world built on magic needs to have (so it’s not a catch-all get out of jail free card). Part of the challenge in writing in the world of the 19th century upper classes should, surely, be working within those conventions and restrictions – at a time when it was frowned upon for an unmarried woman and an unmarried man to be alone together, it must be a challenge to find ways for that to happen so they can get to know each other.
Other parts of that ready-built world include addressing people correctly – a duke is Your Grace and not My Lord, in the same way one addresses a captain as, well Captain and not Corporal. Nobody would even think about getting a military form of address wrong – so why is it different with hereditary titles? I still see books with Sir John Smith referred to and addressed as “Sir Smith” instead of “Sir John”, for instance. And another is paying attention to things like the laws of inheritance. No, it’s NOT possible for a duke to decide who should inherit his dukedom and bequeath it in a will. If he has a personal fortune, he can do what he likes with it, but his title (and anything else that goes along with it, like entailments etc.) doesn’t belong to him – he holds it in a kind of trust – and there are strict laws about how that title descends after his death.
I wrote on that thread about a book I’d reviewed in which the hero – a viscount – decides to renounce his title when he discovers that his father wasn’t his biological father. Nope, again. His mother was married to the man who brought him up at the time of his birth, ergo, he’s legitimate in the eyes of the law. I have no idea what it would take for a peer to renounce his title, but I imagine it’s complex and would require an act of parliament or something… and also, think of all those hundreds of other peers who would be required to vote on and pass that act, and who would not want to set some sort of precedent which might undermine their own position of that of their heirs, It’s a big old boys’ club and nobody would want to rock the boat.
Those sorts of things – especially when they’re clearly JUST points dreamed up to force the story to work (perhaps by an author who couldn’t come up with another way to make her characters suffer) – pull me right out of the story.
It’s been said here or on other threads that perhaps a bigger pass can be given to Historical Romance than to Historical Fiction. But – why? If you’re writing HF about real people and events, then sure, the author has to make sure they’re as accurate as possible. But saying that romance writers don’t have to do their best to do the same is tantamount to telling them not to worry their pretty little heads about difficult things like that, and buying into that whole “writing romance is easy/romance is trashy mummy-porn/romance isn’t as good as x,y,z” thing, isn’t it? Why shouldn’t HR writers make their books as historically accurate as possible? Especially if they choose to set them in a real country whose history actually happened. ( KJ Charles – Historical Romance, Learn or Die) in which she also says: “Historical fiction has a unique opportunity to examine different ways of thinking and expand the reader’s horizons. The ways that good people can think things that we might now find hair-raising; the ideas and situations that used to be taken for granted; the ways society shapes people.” and then, later “That’s why I think it matters not to handwave historical attitudes or ignore the ways a society works in favour of taking our ideas and priorities and beliefs as the only right way.”.
So for me, it’s very much about not wanting to be taken out of the world of the era the author is writing about (which all the other things discussed here do as well!) And also not wanting to read something where an author has conveniently twisted/ignored something important – that is a real thing that actually exists – simply because they can’t make their story work otherwise.
elaine smithParticipant04/12/2021 at 10:03 amPost count: 13
Caz said: “I have no idea what it would take for a peer to renounce his title, but I imagine it’s complex and would require an act of parliament or something…”
Precisely. It was not possible until the Peerage Act 1963 – largely achieved due to Tony Benn wanting to disclaim the Stansgate viscountancy for political reasons and serve in the House of Commons. And he was pretty left-wing and not really interested in living the life of a peer.
I think your analogy of aristocratic/military titles is spot on. This should enable anyone outside of the UK to understand the importance of getting titles right and why getting it wrong can be downright insulting and cringeworthy. Somehow I doubt that The US Chief of Staff would enjoy being addressed as “Sarge” any more than Sir David Attenborough would like to be addressed at Sir Attenborough.
Here is the reference book that was on my desk all of my working life and is still to hand if needed. It’s the best book I know on the subject and readily available in the US as the link below is from Amazon’s US site. Please, please, authors, get yourself a copy and get it right!!!!
Carrie GParticipant04/12/2021 at 10:36 amPost count: 28
I just finished re-listening to Busman’s Honeymoon by Dorothy Sayers, and there were several small conversations about proper address in the book. At one point a villager correctly refers to Harriet (Lord Peter’s wife) as Lady Peter. Afterward Peter makes mention to Harriet that “She got your title right.” I thought about this because this book was basically written as a contemporary mystery, and it’s set in England, of course, and even there people obviously didn’t always know the proper way to address the aristocracy or I doubt Sayers would have mentioned it several times in one book. I found that interesting.
Right now all I have to do is yell up the stairs and ask my oldest about titles.:-) If that changes I’m definitely going to think about getting a handy reference like this one. Even after being told on several occasions, I can’t keep them all straight. Thankfully, I’m not an aspiring writer, so I won’t offend too many people if I get them wrong.
Carrie GParticipant04/12/2021 at 10:56 amPost count: 28
The link to K.J. Charles’ page isn’t working for me.
Caz OwensKeymaster04/12/2021 at 11:11 amPost count: 55
Try it now – I had an extra space in the HTML somehow…
Carrie GParticipant04/12/2021 at 11:24 amPost count: 28
That fixed it. I’ve bookmarked it now, thanks.
chrisreaderParticipant04/12/2021 at 1:07 pmPost count: 35
I love Busman’s Honeymoon and remember the bit about “Lady Peter” as well. I think it may also have been Sayer’s way of explaining things to her American readers as well.
I always think of Princess Michael of Kent as well since she confused me as a child. I couldn’t understand why parents would name a girl Michael, but understood upon reading later that she goes by that because of her husband Prince Michael through whom she gets her title. That’s why she’s not referred to as “Princess Marie” despite that being her first name.
Caz OwensKeymaster04/12/2021 at 12:40 pmPost count: 55
Yes, I remembered that Tony Benn had renounced his peerage – I don’t think it’s been done since and as you say, it required an act of parliament. I had to say, when that particular character insisted on doing it, I had visions of his being laughed at and told not to make a fuss! And also, because he was actually legitimate in the eyes of the law, it would probably not even have been considered. No crime had been committed and he didn’t inherit illegally. It was just a ridiculous plot point to set up the next book. – and that kind of makes it even worse.
Carrie GParticipant04/12/2021 at 10:50 amPost count: 28
I’m not a historian nor a writer, and I plead ignorance of many issues that others point out in HR. I’m afraid too many things would pass me by, like the issue in the book your referring to, because I wouldn’t even think to question inheritance laws. I also think that as a reader, I expect authors to have done their research,and am therefore surprised when I see readers and reviewers mention glaring problems in accuracy. I don’t mean the problems with young misses being too free or other modern ideas and mores creeping in. I can generally spot those and will decide whether to go with that or not. To me, those are less problematic than actual historical inaccuracies like how inheritance laws work or the ways the aristocracy is addressed. I don’t necessarily enjoy a modern miss in Regency dress, but it doesn’t irritate me the same way.
This is a total aside, but I have to have my phone handy when reading contemporary books from British authors (Alexis Hall and Lily Morton, for example) because of all the “British-isms” and cultural references that I have no background to understand. My searches are not always successful, because it’s difficult to know how to search for word usage differences, so I just have to move along not quite knowing the significance of what was said, and I’m sure I’m not getting all the inside jokes. I still love the books, though,and I’m learning a few things! :-) All this to say, I’m such an American that I won’t always spot that the author calls it a “sidewalk” or uses some other American term since I’m not fluent in the distinctly British vocabulary for everyday items, etc. I wish I were.
Caz OwensKeymaster04/12/2021 at 11:00 amPost count: 55
You’re not the only person I’ve seen who says that! I suppose the fact that we have a steady diet of US TV means that maybe we can keep up with some US-isms more easily than the reverse; for me the delight of reading books by the author you mention is that they sound so comfortingly familiar! (It’s about time some of the work went in the opposite direction!)
And yes, as you say, some of the things that bug us – unchaperoned misses who worry too much about “experiencing passion” and not enough about getting pregnant, or well-born ladies running gambling houses and orphanages etc. are well-embedded in the genre and perhaps if the rest of the story is good enough and the characters and relationships are strongly developed, it’s possible to get past them with (another) roll of the eyes. BUT when an entire book is based on an unsound premise, it’s a different matter entirely. I also think authors should be doing their homework properly; all the information about inheritance, titles etc, is out there although some of the nuances may be harder to find – but no author is working in a vacuum, and you can’t tell me that nobody at their publisher or in their author-friendship group would know how to find out what they wanted to know.
chrisreaderParticipant04/12/2021 at 1:16 pmPost count: 35
I think the Americanization is across the board and something as an American I didn’t think about as much.
I was struck this weekend by a pair of you tube creators I watch from time to time. They are British brothers, twins actually with one a skin care expert and one a makeup artist. They were going over old videos of theirs and one explained how he used the “American” spelling for titles and items on his video because “you know well, because of the market” and said “we all understand”. The implication was that the U.S. is the much bigger market with more viewers so even though they are based in the U.K. they are tweaking their videos in ways people in the U.S. wouldn’t even have thought of to market towards an American audience.
This is surely also why a lot of anachronistic “Americanisms” exist in historical romance. Maybe even if publishers or editors did pick up on it they may subscribe to the “dumbing down” to Americans or just making things more “familiar’ to them and not correct them. Similarly to how we got “Harry Potter and The Sorcerer’s Stone” instead of “Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone”.
Marian PereraParticipant04/12/2021 at 12:09 pmPost count: 12
Why shouldn’t HR writers make their books as historically accurate as possible?
I know I try my best to do this, to the point where when I mention any brand names of food or medicines or household products, I Google those to see when they were in use, their appearance and so on. Some (perhaps most) readers won’t need so much accuracy, or will give romance a pass for the reasons you mentioned, but this is a way of showing that I take the genre and the world seriously.
Caz OwensKeymaster04/12/2021 at 12:31 pmPost count: 55
You’re not the only one – I regularly see authors complaining on Twitter that they can’t use such-and-such a word because it didn’t come into use until after their book is set! Thankfully there are some out there – like you – who do care about such things.
Nan De PlumeParticipant04/12/2021 at 3:45 pmPost count: 30
As always, Marian, I salute you for your commitment to historical accuracy in HR. Unfortunately, publishers that aren’t going broke anytime soon from selling wallpaper HR don’t really have a financial incentive to publish your work. (Grr!) It’s like that writer I mentioned, Ellen Finnegan, who said that American publishers are in the business of producing “ideological cheeseburgers.” Look at the HR you wrote about the heroine who had sex with a man other than her husband one time out of financial desperation and is now trying to repair her marriage because of it (I hope I got the premise right!). Now *that* sounds like something I and a lot of other AAR commenters would want to read. But, like your rejection stated, the average romance reader allegedly isn’t comfortable with a story of that nature. Or, more likely, the publisher is unwilling to take a risk when they already have a winning profitable formula. So frustrating! Hang in there!
Marian PereraParticipant04/17/2021 at 1:05 pmPost count: 12
Thanks, Nan, and you did get the premise right!
Maybe I’m just shooting for the moon here, but I’d like to think there’s a place for historical romance that strives for accuracy and still hits at least some of the tropes that readers love, and hopefully there is such a place in trade publishing. I read the article by Ellen Finnegan, and although I appreciate many of the points she makes, I just don’t feel that self-publishing is the best thing for my historical romances (yet), so I keep trying. This year, though, if I stay on track, I will have completed three HR manuscripts, so I stay hopeful that at least one of them will find a home. Thanks again for your support. :)
Caz OwensKeymaster04/17/2021 at 1:27 pmPost count: 55
I do agree with this:
I’d like to think there’s a place for historical romance that strives for accuracy and still hits at least some of the tropes that readers love
But sadly, I don’t think that’s in traditional publishing right now. The only place it might be is with Harlequin Historicals – many of whose authors do seem able to achieve that balance. But I don’t see it in most of the new signings by the major publishers.
Nan De PlumeParticipant04/17/2021 at 6:49 pmPost count: 30
You are welcome. :-) I’m glad you appreciated Ellen Finnegan’s article, even though self-publishing isn’t the path you want to take right now (if ever).
Three completed HR manuscripts? *Whistles in amazement* Keep up the good work! I’ll consider myself fortunate if I ever gain the discipline to write one full-length novel in any genre.
As Caz mentioned below, Harlequin Historicals do have a little more balance between historical accuracy and expected tropes from what I’ve read. But I find the pacing a little too stringently formulaic at times. In particular, it’s become almost obligatory to have a melodramatic climax in the last 10% of the book- whether the story needs one or not. Sometimes, the heroine gets kidnapped or one more other kind of *really bad thing* happens. But since it happens so late in the story, it often comes out of nowhere and wraps up just as quickly, making the last-minute plot twist/contrivance feel forced.
Also, the heroes in Harlequin HR tend to be of the same stock type. You know the drill: alpha male over six feet tall/tallest man in the room who possesses magical washboard abs despite being an aristocrat whose most strenuous exercise is occasional horseback riding. And if he has the slightest blemish, it’s because he’s scarred from battle, so that makes his “ugliness” okay. I guess you could argue that’s par for the course for romance in general, but I will say I’ve seen a little bit more variation in hero appearance and personality from other publishers- and *definitely* in queer romances, which I find quite refreshing.
But those complaints aside, Harlequin is a publisher I return to a lot for HR. Although I love Carina Press, I feel like they’ve been floundering a bit lately when it comes to their historical offerings.
I can’t remember if I asked this specifically, but would Harlequin or Carina Press appeal to you as publishers for your work? They accept both agented and unagented manuscripts, which is a huge point in their favor.
Marian PereraParticipant04/18/2021 at 12:53 amPost count: 12
While I haven’t read many Harlequin Historicals, and am probably missing out, the ones I’ve read did seem formulaic. Two of them used the “heroine wants to avoid marriage by ruining herself” plot and played it straight, which gave me the impression that the publisher wasn’t looking for tropes to be subverted, as I sometimes do. The heroes and heroines of the novels I’ve reviewed didn’t seem to challenge any status quos either.
So I’m not sure my work would be something that would fit Harlequin as a publisher, though I’m open to being proven wrong here, because it’s clear from yours and Caz’s post that they they do put out quality books. Maybe my problem is the subversion of tropes, but since I enjoy doing that while still trying to keep my stories romantic, I’ll just have to keep plugging along for now and hope I find a publisher who’s on board.
Caz OwensKeymaster04/18/2021 at 2:27 amPost count: 55
Sorry, my comment about Harlequins was made in response to yours about there being a place for HR that combines tropes and accuracy. HH is probably not a good fit for the stories you want to tell – not at the moment, anyway.
Most of the really good – DIK worthy – HR I’ve read recently has been self-pubbed (Mia Vincy, KJ Charles, Sally Malcolm). and I’ve given a couple of B+ grades to a couple of trad published books. But 95% of the stuff coming from the big publishers is meh.
Marian PereraParticipant04/18/2021 at 2:41 amPost count: 12
HH is probably not a good fit for the stories you want to tell – not at the moment, anyway.
Thanks for confirming it. I had a feeling that my sorts of stories wouldn’t fit with HH. Not that I’m breaking the rules left and right, but I do like examining and challenging certain tropes. A pity there isn’t much trade publishing market space for that.
Nan De PlumeParticipant04/18/2021 at 10:52 amPost count: 30
Back in December, Harlequin Historical put out an updated wish list on their blog here: https://www.writeforharlequin.com/what-the-harlequin-historical-team-want-2/.
This in particular got my attention:
We’re always looking for creative, fresh takes on classic tropes! And strong heroines – with agency and independent thought, whatever her situation. Sometimes she saves him! Sometimes they save each other.
I’m not sure though if they’re really considering expanding their parameters to include subverted tropes (is that what they mean by “fresh takes on classic tropes?”), or if this is just lip service. Anyway, you might enjoy reading the wish list. Carina Press has one too, as do some of the other Harlequin lines.
Marian PereraParticipant04/19/2021 at 12:52 amPost count: 12
I think that “we want new and different and diverse stories” often means “apply a tweak or two to the formula, but don’t rock the boat”.
Nan De PlumeParticipant04/12/2021 at 12:10 pmPost count: 30
Yes to all of this, Caz. That was a great article from KJ Charles too, although I do have one nitpick about her criticism of the blurbs. Yes, the inaccurate blurbs are atrocious, but she should know as a traditionally published writer that authors don’t write the blurb unless they are self-published. In other words, those poorly used titles on the cover copy are written by somebody else who probably knows even less about the time period than the HR writer. Other than that, I think she was spot on.
“It’s been said here or on other threads that perhaps a bigger pass can be given to Historical Romance than to Historical Fiction. But – why? If you’re writing HF about real people and events, then sure, the author has to make sure they’re as accurate as possible. But saying that romance writers don’t have to do their best to do the same is tantamount to telling them not to worry their pretty little heads about difficult things like that, and buying into that whole “writing romance is easy/romance is trashy mummy-porn/romance isn’t as good as x,y,z” thing, isn’t it?”
I agree to a point, but I think some of the “bigger passes” allotted to HR than historical fiction have more to do with genre conventions that are popular but improbable. The excessive number of young, hot dukes over six feet tall who marry governesses, for example. Or the convenient ignoring of rakes without every STD under the sun. Or characters who don’t have half of their teeth missing. And I would argue that some of these glazed over realities are necessary to create a romantic veneer. After all, it is a *romance.* But I draw the line with anything that would have been wildly impossible for the time period and place just because “Ooh! Pretty costumes!”
It’s sort of like the conventions of old episodic TV shows like “Gunsmoke.” Maybe viewers just have higher standards and accuracy expectations now than in the 1950s-1970s, but then, people just kind of went along with the fact that the hero got shot 60 times over a 20 year period, got held hostage/kidnapped more than any person in real life would ever experience, and got clunked over the head more times than a heavyweight boxer with no permanent brain damage. Does that mean “Gunsmoke” was a bad show, or did people just recognize it as a mildly entertaining diversion? I see wallpaper HR largely the same way, but my beef comes from when it isn’t clearly labeled as such. Considering there are readers who just want the “Ooh! Pretty dresses!” wildly inaccurate version of Regency England, I think there should be an official category called “HR-lite” to separate those stories from solidly researched HR which I and many others strongly prefer. Because, I think throwing those two separate subgenres into the same pile gives that false impression of “writing romance is easy/romance is trashy mummy-porn” as you say.
On that note, any HR writer who insists on trampling over history like so many do ought to switch to erotica. With all respect to my fellow erotica writers and readers, that really is the one genre where you can go straight up fantasy without much complaint. I mean, don’t give characters anachronistic underwear or technology, and you should do just fine…
Caz OwensKeymaster04/12/2021 at 12:30 pmPost count: 55
Ah, okay – your “bigger passes” are what I think of as among the escapist elements of the romance genre in general (lots of young hot, fit billionaires and ripped hockey players who still have all their teeth and maybe a minor knee injury!) rather than things that only occur in HR.
I can’t see there ever being an “HR lite” label, for a number of reasons. One – publishers want to pull in readers like me and that sort of label will put us off, and Two, I think the authors whose books fall into that category would object to having their books categorised as “less than”.
And on blurbs – I know of some traditionally authors who are asked to provide them, so it’s not just the self-pubbing authors who write their own.
Nan De PlumeParticipant04/12/2021 at 1:03 pmPost count: 30
“on blurbs – I know of some traditionally authors who are asked to provide them, so it’s not just the self-pubbing authors who write their own”
That’s news to me. I learn something new every day. :-)
JaneOParticipant04/13/2021 at 11:38 amPost count: 6
On blurbs, it varies from publisher to publisher. It can be annoying to the author when the blurb has entirely the wrong flavor for the book, but writing a decent blurb is hard work!
chrisreaderParticipant04/12/2021 at 1:25 pmPost count: 35
I think there is always going to be a certain level of “dumbing down” or “modernizing” in historical romance because publishers want to cast as wide a net as possible and therefore water things down as much as they can.
It really happens across the board in anything that wants to gain wide appeal. It’s notorious in film and TV. For every movie like “The Witch” that wants to be scrupulously faithful in costume, lighting and language, you will have a hundred “Shakespeare In Love” (which I admittedly truly enjoyed) where costume changes are made not only to be attractive to the modern eye but to make them “contemporary” and “relatable”. That’s why Shakespeare had a leather doublet, to tie into modern viewers ideas of a “leather jacket”.
You will rarely (or never) find a Medieval movie or TV show without women running around with their long hair loose because modern audiences don’t want to see the actresses with their hair up in wimples. It’s not “pretty” enough,
Nan De PlumeParticipant04/12/2021 at 3:35 pmPost count: 30
“I think there is always going to be a certain level of “dumbing down” or “modernizing” in historical romance because publishers want to cast as wide a net as possible and therefore water things down as much as they can.”
“You will rarely (or never) find a Medieval movie or TV show without women running around with their long hair loose because modern audiences don’t want to see the actresses with their hair up in wimples. It’s not “pretty” enough,”
I have to say though that Olivia De Havilland in the 1938 version of “The Adventures of Robin Hood” looked quite pretty with her hair up in wimples. Come to think of it, we only see her hair down in one scene in her bedchamber. And sure, the film suffers from some plot holes and whatnot, but it’s really presented more as a fairy tale than being historical anyway, so I can live with even some of the bigger nitpicks.
“It really happens across the board in anything that wants to gain wide appeal.”
That’s always the great struggle between art and money. As Elmore Leonard once said, if he could make all the decisions on adaptations of his books to film, they would have no stars- only good actors- and be in black and white. The films would be great, he said, but they unfortunately wouldn’t make any money. But he did concede that Quentin Tarantino’s adaptation of “Rum Punch” as “Jackie Brown” was the best of the efforts, to the point where he wished Tarantino adapted all of his works. Having watched “Jackie Brown” not too long ago after reading the book, I would go as far as to say it’s one of those examples where the movie is a little better than its original source material. Anyway, I digress.
Caz OwensKeymaster04/12/2021 at 6:19 pmPost count: 55
But Olivia de Haviland was… well, Olivia de Haviland and was utterly luminous in that role.
chrisreaderParticipant04/12/2021 at 11:44 pmPost count: 35
Yes, yes she was.
Amd we do get that great scene with her and Errol Flynn in her window when she’s wearing the silver lame gown and she has the two long “Medieval” braids with the little 1930’s curls around her face.
I think it’s tragic they made something like eight movies together but only end up together or happily together in half of them.
Dabney GrinnanKeymaster04/12/2021 at 6:22 pmPost count: 128
Elmore Leonard loved the two stars that made Justified the best damn show ever. And the show, thank you baby Jesus, was filmed in color.
Nan De PlumeParticipant04/12/2021 at 6:28 pmPost count: 30
Elmore Leonard lived long enough to see the beginning of the series “Justified,” so I’m glad he liked it. In all fairness, his comment about no stars and black and white filming was in an old interview probably long before “Justified” as a TV series was a thought. And who knows? Maybe he was being facetious…
Dabney GrinnanKeymaster04/13/2021 at 6:43 amPost count: 128
I’m very belligerent when it comes to Justified!
Dabney GrinnanKeymaster04/13/2021 at 6:43 amPost count: 128
I’m very belligerent when it comes to Justified!
Caz OwensKeymaster04/12/2021 at 6:18 pmPost count: 55
Yes, and authors sometimes have to tread a fine balance between something that IS right or something that LOOKS (or sounds) right, because of some reader perceptions about word usage. The classic example there is the name Tiffany, which was used as early as the 14th century – but which I suspect many HR readers might believe is too modern (in the UK, it was the name of a character in a popular soap back in the 90s and 00s).
I still defy anyone to find me a medieval duke called Jayden or Ethan, though.
Nan De PlumeParticipant04/12/2021 at 6:34 pmPost count: 30
That’s a good point about the name “Tiffany.” Also “Briana,” which dates back to at least 1590. I think in these cases, it would behoove the author to write a little note at the front or back of the story to say, “Hey, this was an actual name from the time period, and here’s a little history about it.”
Actually, I think a lot of HR in general would benefit from a page spread in the back to show some of the author’s research. Beverly Jenkins is really good about this, which I appreciate. And Mary Jo Putney wrote a note for “Once a Scoundrel” to prove that, yes, there really was a historical precedent for an English sea captain to deliver an exotic menagerie as a ransom payment to free some captured women from a harem. (Or something like that; it’s been a long time since I’ve read it.)
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