Home Forums Let’s Talk Romance How Accurate Does Romance Have to Be?

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    • Nan De Plume
      Participant
      Post count: 15

      Hello, All!

      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!

    • chrisreader
      Participant
      Post count: 21

      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.

    • Mark
      Participant
      Post 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 G
      Participant
      Post count: 18

      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.

      • chrisreader
        Participant
        Post count: 21

        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.

        • This reply was modified 2 days, 2 hours ago by chrisreader.
      • Marian Perera
        Participant
        Post count: 2

        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 Plume
          Participant
          Post count: 15

          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 Plume
      Participant
      Post count: 15

      “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 G
        Participant
        Post count: 18

        “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 smith
      Participant
      Post count: 8

      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 G
        Participant
        Post count: 18

        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 smith
          Participant
          Post count: 8

          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 Plume
          Participant
          Post count: 15

          “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! ;-)

        • Carrie G
          Participant
          Post count: 18

          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.

      • chrisreader
        Participant
        Post count: 21

        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 Plume
      Participant
      Post count: 15

      @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.”

      • chrisreader
        Participant
        Post count: 21

        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 Grinnan
          Keymaster
          Post count: 113

          This is a glorious article on the history of blow jobs…..

          https://www.vanityfair.com/news/2006/07/hitchens200607

        • Nan De Plume
          Participant
          Post count: 15

          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 G
        Participant
        Post count: 18

        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 Plume
      Participant
      Post count: 15

      “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 Plume
      Participant
      Post count: 15

      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.

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