Historical wallpaper

Magicman_2 From Patricia Rice:

Susan/Miranda started a thread I’d like to comment on, and I’m posting it here to keep the thread going. (and I’m playing with images, forgive me!)

When I first started reading historical romance, I was awed by the immense amount of details in books written by Anita Mills or Roberta Gellis or any number of other amazing writers.  I soaked in the historical ambiance like a dry sponge–which I was.  I used to research history for the fun of it, so soaking it up through fiction was thrilling.  But I was fairly uneducated in a great deal of history. If there were any anachronisms in the books I was reading, I didn’t know it.  I read for story, for romance, for wonderful characters. I was quite happy with romances that didn’t have much history.  The history was just a fun bonus.

When I first started writing historical romance, I was a bit overwhelmed by the amount of research required.  So I began that book in the rural area where I lived, figuring the local library would at least carry local history.  I had limited resources, and this was before the days of the internet or big bookstores.  I suppose my historical research was doomed from the start.  Smileysmile_1 I had too many things I wanted to read about, too little time, and too little access.

All of which leads up to my saying that I don’t mind “historical-lite” as long as it’s done well.  I do mind contemporary characters in costumes.  I do mind egregious errors in fact.  I’m not thrilled with 250 pages of sex and drool, because I want story and characterization. “Romance” isn’t just about sex, it’s about relationships—how the characters deal with the realities of their lives and families and make the romance work. But if an author can give me those qualities I want, I don’t need to know how a mill wheel turns. 

But I believe our “littlest wenchling” is correct. Today’s younger readers haven’t had the same access to those older historicals, and in most cases, they haven’t had history taught to them in schools. They don’t know the terms “viscount” or the rules of engagement.  So, as writers, we have to decide if we want to write the detailed history we love—and explain it—or simply use history as wallpaper.  I’m sure there is some combination in between that we can achieve, but it’s a delicate balance.

Mostly, I believe historical romance needs to reflect a different time and place than the one we live in, a time when strange things can happen, a place where the wonderful and horrible might occur.  We want surprise, fantasy, horror—in other words, we want our emotions engaged.  If our minds are engaged as well, that’s a bonus.Purpleman_1

Does this mean that in the near future, we need to start separating true “historicals” from our “fantasy” romances?  Or is there some manner in which publishers can indicate which type of book it is so the purists can have what they want, and the romance readers can indulge without a qualm? Do we, as writers, owe it to our readers to separate the two, or are we allowed to muddy the waters?

66 thoughts on “Historical wallpaper”

  1. Patricia – I’m always torn on this topic. I LOVE history and am one of the older readers who really appreciates lots of detail etc.
    As an unpub I find it a struggle to balance my love of history with the knowledge that a lot of today’s readers prefer the wallpaper type of novel. I try to slip the history in as unobtrusively as possible – nothing bothers me more in any novel than info dumps.
    Also think it’s so sad that history has been tossed by the wayside in so many education systems. It’s sooo important to understand where we came from. Still, can’t change that *g*.
    And there are still a lot of readers out there who DO love the more detailed books, who revel in the nitty gritty of the past and want to see it reflected in the fiction they read.
    Maybe publishers could find a way to mark the books – a symbol of some sort to indicate. Or maybe a line, named after Gellis or Mills.
    Hmmm.

    Reply
  2. Patricia – I’m always torn on this topic. I LOVE history and am one of the older readers who really appreciates lots of detail etc.
    As an unpub I find it a struggle to balance my love of history with the knowledge that a lot of today’s readers prefer the wallpaper type of novel. I try to slip the history in as unobtrusively as possible – nothing bothers me more in any novel than info dumps.
    Also think it’s so sad that history has been tossed by the wayside in so many education systems. It’s sooo important to understand where we came from. Still, can’t change that *g*.
    And there are still a lot of readers out there who DO love the more detailed books, who revel in the nitty gritty of the past and want to see it reflected in the fiction they read.
    Maybe publishers could find a way to mark the books – a symbol of some sort to indicate. Or maybe a line, named after Gellis or Mills.
    Hmmm.

    Reply
  3. Patricia – I’m always torn on this topic. I LOVE history and am one of the older readers who really appreciates lots of detail etc.
    As an unpub I find it a struggle to balance my love of history with the knowledge that a lot of today’s readers prefer the wallpaper type of novel. I try to slip the history in as unobtrusively as possible – nothing bothers me more in any novel than info dumps.
    Also think it’s so sad that history has been tossed by the wayside in so many education systems. It’s sooo important to understand where we came from. Still, can’t change that *g*.
    And there are still a lot of readers out there who DO love the more detailed books, who revel in the nitty gritty of the past and want to see it reflected in the fiction they read.
    Maybe publishers could find a way to mark the books – a symbol of some sort to indicate. Or maybe a line, named after Gellis or Mills.
    Hmmm.

    Reply
  4. Patricia said: ‘I believe historical romance needs to reflect a different time and place than the one we live in, a time when strange things can happen, a place where the wonderful and horrible might occur.’
    I think this sums up neatly both the difficulty and the endless fascination of history. The key fact about observing the people in other human cultures (in both past and present) is that (1) they are just like us in many ways, because we are all human, and (2) they are very different from us because they have been conditioned by other traditions, beliefs and customs than our own.
    The trick in getting it right is to identify the similarities and the differences accurately, and it is very, very difficult, because we are truly objective observers, but are conditioned by our OWN culture. We are all too likely to imagine that the traditions of our own society are universal norms, and have to examine and scrutinise all our assumptions.
    Any writer who can bring out the balancing elements of strangeness (different ways of life and beliefs) and familiarity (universal human values) is spreading culture and civilisation as well as a good story and a lot of facts. I think that good historical fiction performs this valuable office better than much scholarly work on history, for reasons I won’t go into here. But bad historical fiction – getting the balance wildly wrong – is really damaging to a reader who accepts what she is reading as a fair picture of the past.

    Reply
  5. Patricia said: ‘I believe historical romance needs to reflect a different time and place than the one we live in, a time when strange things can happen, a place where the wonderful and horrible might occur.’
    I think this sums up neatly both the difficulty and the endless fascination of history. The key fact about observing the people in other human cultures (in both past and present) is that (1) they are just like us in many ways, because we are all human, and (2) they are very different from us because they have been conditioned by other traditions, beliefs and customs than our own.
    The trick in getting it right is to identify the similarities and the differences accurately, and it is very, very difficult, because we are truly objective observers, but are conditioned by our OWN culture. We are all too likely to imagine that the traditions of our own society are universal norms, and have to examine and scrutinise all our assumptions.
    Any writer who can bring out the balancing elements of strangeness (different ways of life and beliefs) and familiarity (universal human values) is spreading culture and civilisation as well as a good story and a lot of facts. I think that good historical fiction performs this valuable office better than much scholarly work on history, for reasons I won’t go into here. But bad historical fiction – getting the balance wildly wrong – is really damaging to a reader who accepts what she is reading as a fair picture of the past.

    Reply
  6. Patricia said: ‘I believe historical romance needs to reflect a different time and place than the one we live in, a time when strange things can happen, a place where the wonderful and horrible might occur.’
    I think this sums up neatly both the difficulty and the endless fascination of history. The key fact about observing the people in other human cultures (in both past and present) is that (1) they are just like us in many ways, because we are all human, and (2) they are very different from us because they have been conditioned by other traditions, beliefs and customs than our own.
    The trick in getting it right is to identify the similarities and the differences accurately, and it is very, very difficult, because we are truly objective observers, but are conditioned by our OWN culture. We are all too likely to imagine that the traditions of our own society are universal norms, and have to examine and scrutinise all our assumptions.
    Any writer who can bring out the balancing elements of strangeness (different ways of life and beliefs) and familiarity (universal human values) is spreading culture and civilisation as well as a good story and a lot of facts. I think that good historical fiction performs this valuable office better than much scholarly work on history, for reasons I won’t go into here. But bad historical fiction – getting the balance wildly wrong – is really damaging to a reader who accepts what she is reading as a fair picture of the past.

    Reply
  7. ‘we are truly objective observers’,
    That should, of course, be ‘we are NOT truly objective observers’.
    You’d think I’d have learnt to proof-read better at my age, but I don’t think I’ll ever learn to pick up all the typos when reading on a screen, rather than on a printed sheet of paper.

    Reply
  8. ‘we are truly objective observers’,
    That should, of course, be ‘we are NOT truly objective observers’.
    You’d think I’d have learnt to proof-read better at my age, but I don’t think I’ll ever learn to pick up all the typos when reading on a screen, rather than on a printed sheet of paper.

    Reply
  9. ‘we are truly objective observers’,
    That should, of course, be ‘we are NOT truly objective observers’.
    You’d think I’d have learnt to proof-read better at my age, but I don’t think I’ll ever learn to pick up all the typos when reading on a screen, rather than on a printed sheet of paper.

    Reply
  10. I guess that when I say “wallpaper historical” I mean the books where it seems obvious to me that the writer couldn’t have cared less about the history. That it’s really just so much widow dressing to them. Where very basic things are wrong: titles, laws surrounding primogeniture and/or inheritance; having real people “on stage” before they were born or after their death. Things that a simple google search or email on one of the MANY history orientated yahoo loops could have fixed. The sloppiness offends me. I won’t really nitpick about the anachronistic use of a word (unless it’s a glaringly modern word, like “surreal”), but I am put off by anachronisms of other sorts (like the afore mentioned medieval flush toilet, or stupendously incorrect clothing details).

    Reply
  11. I guess that when I say “wallpaper historical” I mean the books where it seems obvious to me that the writer couldn’t have cared less about the history. That it’s really just so much widow dressing to them. Where very basic things are wrong: titles, laws surrounding primogeniture and/or inheritance; having real people “on stage” before they were born or after their death. Things that a simple google search or email on one of the MANY history orientated yahoo loops could have fixed. The sloppiness offends me. I won’t really nitpick about the anachronistic use of a word (unless it’s a glaringly modern word, like “surreal”), but I am put off by anachronisms of other sorts (like the afore mentioned medieval flush toilet, or stupendously incorrect clothing details).

    Reply
  12. I guess that when I say “wallpaper historical” I mean the books where it seems obvious to me that the writer couldn’t have cared less about the history. That it’s really just so much widow dressing to them. Where very basic things are wrong: titles, laws surrounding primogeniture and/or inheritance; having real people “on stage” before they were born or after their death. Things that a simple google search or email on one of the MANY history orientated yahoo loops could have fixed. The sloppiness offends me. I won’t really nitpick about the anachronistic use of a word (unless it’s a glaringly modern word, like “surreal”), but I am put off by anachronisms of other sorts (like the afore mentioned medieval flush toilet, or stupendously incorrect clothing details).

    Reply
  13. I’m pretty much with Tonda. I’m not expecting every tiny little detail right, and I cut authors plenty of slack for missing minute, obscure details I happen to know, especially when they’re peripheral to the story. But I want enough to be right, both the historical facts and how the characters think and act, to believe that the author shares my passion for history.

    Reply
  14. I’m pretty much with Tonda. I’m not expecting every tiny little detail right, and I cut authors plenty of slack for missing minute, obscure details I happen to know, especially when they’re peripheral to the story. But I want enough to be right, both the historical facts and how the characters think and act, to believe that the author shares my passion for history.

    Reply
  15. I’m pretty much with Tonda. I’m not expecting every tiny little detail right, and I cut authors plenty of slack for missing minute, obscure details I happen to know, especially when they’re peripheral to the story. But I want enough to be right, both the historical facts and how the characters think and act, to believe that the author shares my passion for history.

    Reply
  16. I’m glad you’re keeping this thread going, Pat — we could probably toss this around among us for at least another week. 🙂
    I wanted to follow up on the notion of younger readers not being taught enough history to find historical romances interesting. I think it’s a deeper issue than that.
    My teenaged daughter is a reader (what a surprise), and so are all her friends — best birthday presents are the B&N giftcards. Most of these girls (16 and 17) are very good students, in advanced placement and honors history classes, and they’re all college-boung. They’ve got great teachers, wonderful books, lots of encouragement at home, and yet when they read for fun ….
    They read “Gossip Girls”, “The Pretty Committee”, “The Au Pairs” — basically teen soap operas. There’s a smattering of chick-lit — the Shopaholic books, “The Devil Wears Prada”. There are also old favorites in the mix — a few summers ago, they were all enthralled by “A Tree Grows in Brooklyn” and “Little Women”, the Harry Potter books, and “The Other Bolyen Girl” has also made the pass-around. So has “Memoirs of a Geisha.”
    But they have zero interest in any traditional romance books, whether it’s a Harlequin or a historical. They lump them all together as “old-lady books” — books that moms read. (Having a mom write them is even more mortifying.) They avoid that section of the bookstore like the plague, and worse, they ridicule it.
    A couple of years ago, Meg Cabot (who wrote “The Princess Diaries”, and is wildly successful with the pre-teen crowd) tried to woo her audience with a couple of teen-oriented Regency historicals. The covers were very much in the chick-lit manner, designed to catch the girls. From what I’ve heard, the girls stayed away, and Meg’s back with the modern day Princesses.
    I don’t have any answers — just reporting. 🙂 Anyone else out there with ideas of how to get “the next generation” into reading historical romance?

    Reply
  17. I’m glad you’re keeping this thread going, Pat — we could probably toss this around among us for at least another week. 🙂
    I wanted to follow up on the notion of younger readers not being taught enough history to find historical romances interesting. I think it’s a deeper issue than that.
    My teenaged daughter is a reader (what a surprise), and so are all her friends — best birthday presents are the B&N giftcards. Most of these girls (16 and 17) are very good students, in advanced placement and honors history classes, and they’re all college-boung. They’ve got great teachers, wonderful books, lots of encouragement at home, and yet when they read for fun ….
    They read “Gossip Girls”, “The Pretty Committee”, “The Au Pairs” — basically teen soap operas. There’s a smattering of chick-lit — the Shopaholic books, “The Devil Wears Prada”. There are also old favorites in the mix — a few summers ago, they were all enthralled by “A Tree Grows in Brooklyn” and “Little Women”, the Harry Potter books, and “The Other Bolyen Girl” has also made the pass-around. So has “Memoirs of a Geisha.”
    But they have zero interest in any traditional romance books, whether it’s a Harlequin or a historical. They lump them all together as “old-lady books” — books that moms read. (Having a mom write them is even more mortifying.) They avoid that section of the bookstore like the plague, and worse, they ridicule it.
    A couple of years ago, Meg Cabot (who wrote “The Princess Diaries”, and is wildly successful with the pre-teen crowd) tried to woo her audience with a couple of teen-oriented Regency historicals. The covers were very much in the chick-lit manner, designed to catch the girls. From what I’ve heard, the girls stayed away, and Meg’s back with the modern day Princesses.
    I don’t have any answers — just reporting. 🙂 Anyone else out there with ideas of how to get “the next generation” into reading historical romance?

    Reply
  18. I’m glad you’re keeping this thread going, Pat — we could probably toss this around among us for at least another week. 🙂
    I wanted to follow up on the notion of younger readers not being taught enough history to find historical romances interesting. I think it’s a deeper issue than that.
    My teenaged daughter is a reader (what a surprise), and so are all her friends — best birthday presents are the B&N giftcards. Most of these girls (16 and 17) are very good students, in advanced placement and honors history classes, and they’re all college-boung. They’ve got great teachers, wonderful books, lots of encouragement at home, and yet when they read for fun ….
    They read “Gossip Girls”, “The Pretty Committee”, “The Au Pairs” — basically teen soap operas. There’s a smattering of chick-lit — the Shopaholic books, “The Devil Wears Prada”. There are also old favorites in the mix — a few summers ago, they were all enthralled by “A Tree Grows in Brooklyn” and “Little Women”, the Harry Potter books, and “The Other Bolyen Girl” has also made the pass-around. So has “Memoirs of a Geisha.”
    But they have zero interest in any traditional romance books, whether it’s a Harlequin or a historical. They lump them all together as “old-lady books” — books that moms read. (Having a mom write them is even more mortifying.) They avoid that section of the bookstore like the plague, and worse, they ridicule it.
    A couple of years ago, Meg Cabot (who wrote “The Princess Diaries”, and is wildly successful with the pre-teen crowd) tried to woo her audience with a couple of teen-oriented Regency historicals. The covers were very much in the chick-lit manner, designed to catch the girls. From what I’ve heard, the girls stayed away, and Meg’s back with the modern day Princesses.
    I don’t have any answers — just reporting. 🙂 Anyone else out there with ideas of how to get “the next generation” into reading historical romance?

    Reply
  19. As someone who didn’t read romance until I was WELL into my 20s, I have no idea how to lure younger readers in. Romance as a genre didn’t appeal to me as a girl/teen (I wouldn’t have been caught DEAD with a GOSSIP GIRLS book; even now when I see these I have trouble imagining there is a market for them, let along a HUGE one). I got sucked in via the history when my godmother loaned me Heyer novel. And it still took me about 5 years before I ever picked up a romance by someone other than Heyer. Ten years after that and I’ve only JUST picked up my first contemp (BET ME by Jennifer Crusie).
    I figure today’s girls will come to the genre when they’re ready (aka when they’ve outgrown the GOSSIP GIRLS and are looking for something that will deliver that same fix). We’ve essentially already got them: A) They read (!); B) They read romance (YA romance, but it’s still basically romance).

    Reply
  20. As someone who didn’t read romance until I was WELL into my 20s, I have no idea how to lure younger readers in. Romance as a genre didn’t appeal to me as a girl/teen (I wouldn’t have been caught DEAD with a GOSSIP GIRLS book; even now when I see these I have trouble imagining there is a market for them, let along a HUGE one). I got sucked in via the history when my godmother loaned me Heyer novel. And it still took me about 5 years before I ever picked up a romance by someone other than Heyer. Ten years after that and I’ve only JUST picked up my first contemp (BET ME by Jennifer Crusie).
    I figure today’s girls will come to the genre when they’re ready (aka when they’ve outgrown the GOSSIP GIRLS and are looking for something that will deliver that same fix). We’ve essentially already got them: A) They read (!); B) They read romance (YA romance, but it’s still basically romance).

    Reply
  21. As someone who didn’t read romance until I was WELL into my 20s, I have no idea how to lure younger readers in. Romance as a genre didn’t appeal to me as a girl/teen (I wouldn’t have been caught DEAD with a GOSSIP GIRLS book; even now when I see these I have trouble imagining there is a market for them, let along a HUGE one). I got sucked in via the history when my godmother loaned me Heyer novel. And it still took me about 5 years before I ever picked up a romance by someone other than Heyer. Ten years after that and I’ve only JUST picked up my first contemp (BET ME by Jennifer Crusie).
    I figure today’s girls will come to the genre when they’re ready (aka when they’ve outgrown the GOSSIP GIRLS and are looking for something that will deliver that same fix). We’ve essentially already got them: A) They read (!); B) They read romance (YA romance, but it’s still basically romance).

    Reply
  22. Ag, I knew what you meant. We’re on the same page.
    As to “wallpaper,” I believe the terminology has been thrown around too much to be very clear, so I shouldn’t have used it. I don’t denigrate “wallpaper” historicals as inaccurate, so much as the history being irrelevant to the story. The author claims it’s 18th century England then proceeds with the romance. The same story could be set in 19th century France with little difference.
    Historically inaccurate books I call wallbangers.
    Generally, if an author hasn’t take the time to do their research, they haven’t taken the time to develop characters or plot either, so they lose my interest on page one and lost my patience by page two.
    And Teresa, NEVER give up on what can’t be changed. We as a society have changed a great deal and can change again, if enough of us keep plugging at it. I’m with you–history is essential to prevent repeating our mistakes.
    As to the generation gap–I’m clueless. I have always read romance. I never saw anything wrong with it. I figure if 50% of mass market is romance, SOMEONE is reading it, even if they don’t claim to be. So I’m just going to assume that as long as we keep writing good stuff, little by little, we’ll suck them in.

    Reply
  23. Ag, I knew what you meant. We’re on the same page.
    As to “wallpaper,” I believe the terminology has been thrown around too much to be very clear, so I shouldn’t have used it. I don’t denigrate “wallpaper” historicals as inaccurate, so much as the history being irrelevant to the story. The author claims it’s 18th century England then proceeds with the romance. The same story could be set in 19th century France with little difference.
    Historically inaccurate books I call wallbangers.
    Generally, if an author hasn’t take the time to do their research, they haven’t taken the time to develop characters or plot either, so they lose my interest on page one and lost my patience by page two.
    And Teresa, NEVER give up on what can’t be changed. We as a society have changed a great deal and can change again, if enough of us keep plugging at it. I’m with you–history is essential to prevent repeating our mistakes.
    As to the generation gap–I’m clueless. I have always read romance. I never saw anything wrong with it. I figure if 50% of mass market is romance, SOMEONE is reading it, even if they don’t claim to be. So I’m just going to assume that as long as we keep writing good stuff, little by little, we’ll suck them in.

    Reply
  24. Ag, I knew what you meant. We’re on the same page.
    As to “wallpaper,” I believe the terminology has been thrown around too much to be very clear, so I shouldn’t have used it. I don’t denigrate “wallpaper” historicals as inaccurate, so much as the history being irrelevant to the story. The author claims it’s 18th century England then proceeds with the romance. The same story could be set in 19th century France with little difference.
    Historically inaccurate books I call wallbangers.
    Generally, if an author hasn’t take the time to do their research, they haven’t taken the time to develop characters or plot either, so they lose my interest on page one and lost my patience by page two.
    And Teresa, NEVER give up on what can’t be changed. We as a society have changed a great deal and can change again, if enough of us keep plugging at it. I’m with you–history is essential to prevent repeating our mistakes.
    As to the generation gap–I’m clueless. I have always read romance. I never saw anything wrong with it. I figure if 50% of mass market is romance, SOMEONE is reading it, even if they don’t claim to be. So I’m just going to assume that as long as we keep writing good stuff, little by little, we’ll suck them in.

    Reply
  25. Oh, Susan, that insight about romances being for the old folks…!
    It’s not universally true, obviously, as I have many readers in their teens and early twenties, as I’m sure we all do. They write and tell me so.
    But I look at bridge, the card game, which has seriously fallen out of favor because it’s seen as an old people’s game. Such a shame.
    So I wonder what we do about this.
    Perhaps I’ll pick up that in tomorrow’s blog if it hasn’t been thrashed out already.
    Even though I have a history degree and a life-long love of English history, I can be as easily turned off a book by weighty historical detail as by ridiculous anachronisms. I want story, story, story, and fabulous, exciting characters.
    I simply expect the author to find ways to tell a story that makes sense in the period and place she’s chosen, and to know enough about how life was lived there and then to get the general stuff right.
    Like Loretta, if an author clearly hasn’t been willing to do even that, I feel insulted not just for myself but for romance readers and the whole genre.
    Jo

    Reply
  26. Oh, Susan, that insight about romances being for the old folks…!
    It’s not universally true, obviously, as I have many readers in their teens and early twenties, as I’m sure we all do. They write and tell me so.
    But I look at bridge, the card game, which has seriously fallen out of favor because it’s seen as an old people’s game. Such a shame.
    So I wonder what we do about this.
    Perhaps I’ll pick up that in tomorrow’s blog if it hasn’t been thrashed out already.
    Even though I have a history degree and a life-long love of English history, I can be as easily turned off a book by weighty historical detail as by ridiculous anachronisms. I want story, story, story, and fabulous, exciting characters.
    I simply expect the author to find ways to tell a story that makes sense in the period and place she’s chosen, and to know enough about how life was lived there and then to get the general stuff right.
    Like Loretta, if an author clearly hasn’t been willing to do even that, I feel insulted not just for myself but for romance readers and the whole genre.
    Jo

    Reply
  27. Oh, Susan, that insight about romances being for the old folks…!
    It’s not universally true, obviously, as I have many readers in their teens and early twenties, as I’m sure we all do. They write and tell me so.
    But I look at bridge, the card game, which has seriously fallen out of favor because it’s seen as an old people’s game. Such a shame.
    So I wonder what we do about this.
    Perhaps I’ll pick up that in tomorrow’s blog if it hasn’t been thrashed out already.
    Even though I have a history degree and a life-long love of English history, I can be as easily turned off a book by weighty historical detail as by ridiculous anachronisms. I want story, story, story, and fabulous, exciting characters.
    I simply expect the author to find ways to tell a story that makes sense in the period and place she’s chosen, and to know enough about how life was lived there and then to get the general stuff right.
    Like Loretta, if an author clearly hasn’t been willing to do even that, I feel insulted not just for myself but for romance readers and the whole genre.
    Jo

    Reply
  28. History IS fantasy. It changes with every source material we can get our paws on.
    No one I know can agree with me about what happened last week – try three centuries ago! That doesn’t stop me wanting more accuracy. A historical is about more than the clothes a character takes off.
    But yet – and still – some of the best historicals I’ve read have had little things wrong.
    (and btw – they did have a form of flush toilet in the olden days: a cistern on the roof, a pull cord, the water is released, rushes down and: presto: Flush! Into the moat.)
    So I guess I feel that if the author has the “feel” of the times, and the facts, it’s good enough.
    But Heaven save me from the ‘feisty’ wench of the 13th century and the ultra Beta hero of the 12th.
    The mode, the slang and the feel of the book. along with ancillary historical facts, should be right.
    best,
    opinionated Edith

    Reply
  29. History IS fantasy. It changes with every source material we can get our paws on.
    No one I know can agree with me about what happened last week – try three centuries ago! That doesn’t stop me wanting more accuracy. A historical is about more than the clothes a character takes off.
    But yet – and still – some of the best historicals I’ve read have had little things wrong.
    (and btw – they did have a form of flush toilet in the olden days: a cistern on the roof, a pull cord, the water is released, rushes down and: presto: Flush! Into the moat.)
    So I guess I feel that if the author has the “feel” of the times, and the facts, it’s good enough.
    But Heaven save me from the ‘feisty’ wench of the 13th century and the ultra Beta hero of the 12th.
    The mode, the slang and the feel of the book. along with ancillary historical facts, should be right.
    best,
    opinionated Edith

    Reply
  30. History IS fantasy. It changes with every source material we can get our paws on.
    No one I know can agree with me about what happened last week – try three centuries ago! That doesn’t stop me wanting more accuracy. A historical is about more than the clothes a character takes off.
    But yet – and still – some of the best historicals I’ve read have had little things wrong.
    (and btw – they did have a form of flush toilet in the olden days: a cistern on the roof, a pull cord, the water is released, rushes down and: presto: Flush! Into the moat.)
    So I guess I feel that if the author has the “feel” of the times, and the facts, it’s good enough.
    But Heaven save me from the ‘feisty’ wench of the 13th century and the ultra Beta hero of the 12th.
    The mode, the slang and the feel of the book. along with ancillary historical facts, should be right.
    best,
    opinionated Edith

    Reply
  31. Thanks to Susan/Miranda and to Pat for a most interesting and engaging topic.
    My personal preferences for detail/accuracy in historical fiction, romantic or otherwise, as reader and as author, should be fairly plain when I say I was raised by historians and studied to be one. At the same time, I was training as an actress. And the acting teacher who mentored me insisted on his actors delving very deeply into the social history surrounding the life and times of the character. I never escaped history, or wanted to.
    Historical accuracy, for me, covers a lot of territory: an accurate depiction of time and place, of character mindset and manners and morality, norms and aberrations. Practically any departure from a norm can be acknowledged as such, and justified. I tend to be forgiving, especially if the characters appeal to me and the storytelling is strong enouch. No way would I revoke anybody’s literary licence for accidental errors–my own included!
    As to “wallpaper” historicals, or historical “lite” or whatever–it clearly works well for a significant portion of the readership. Perhaps by boosting publishers’ bottom lines, (here’s hoping) it enables the publication types of books that please a different audience.
    If I analyse my own reading habits, I recognise that I’ve got much more selective about historical romance purchases in recent years. Whereas I’ll ready almost any sort of non-rom historical fiction.
    Is it because that’s where I find the variety in setting and period and character types? I suppose so.
    I feel as though I’m reading the same quantity of books as ever, but the type of books has definitely changed. I read mostly chick lit, mainstream historicals, contemporary relationship books (typically with romantic elements, but not marketed as romance) and mysteries. When I do read hist rom, I divide my attention between auto-buy authors and newer ones, because I like to sample fresh voices, and look for a range of eras and settings.

    Reply
  32. Thanks to Susan/Miranda and to Pat for a most interesting and engaging topic.
    My personal preferences for detail/accuracy in historical fiction, romantic or otherwise, as reader and as author, should be fairly plain when I say I was raised by historians and studied to be one. At the same time, I was training as an actress. And the acting teacher who mentored me insisted on his actors delving very deeply into the social history surrounding the life and times of the character. I never escaped history, or wanted to.
    Historical accuracy, for me, covers a lot of territory: an accurate depiction of time and place, of character mindset and manners and morality, norms and aberrations. Practically any departure from a norm can be acknowledged as such, and justified. I tend to be forgiving, especially if the characters appeal to me and the storytelling is strong enouch. No way would I revoke anybody’s literary licence for accidental errors–my own included!
    As to “wallpaper” historicals, or historical “lite” or whatever–it clearly works well for a significant portion of the readership. Perhaps by boosting publishers’ bottom lines, (here’s hoping) it enables the publication types of books that please a different audience.
    If I analyse my own reading habits, I recognise that I’ve got much more selective about historical romance purchases in recent years. Whereas I’ll ready almost any sort of non-rom historical fiction.
    Is it because that’s where I find the variety in setting and period and character types? I suppose so.
    I feel as though I’m reading the same quantity of books as ever, but the type of books has definitely changed. I read mostly chick lit, mainstream historicals, contemporary relationship books (typically with romantic elements, but not marketed as romance) and mysteries. When I do read hist rom, I divide my attention between auto-buy authors and newer ones, because I like to sample fresh voices, and look for a range of eras and settings.

    Reply
  33. Thanks to Susan/Miranda and to Pat for a most interesting and engaging topic.
    My personal preferences for detail/accuracy in historical fiction, romantic or otherwise, as reader and as author, should be fairly plain when I say I was raised by historians and studied to be one. At the same time, I was training as an actress. And the acting teacher who mentored me insisted on his actors delving very deeply into the social history surrounding the life and times of the character. I never escaped history, or wanted to.
    Historical accuracy, for me, covers a lot of territory: an accurate depiction of time and place, of character mindset and manners and morality, norms and aberrations. Practically any departure from a norm can be acknowledged as such, and justified. I tend to be forgiving, especially if the characters appeal to me and the storytelling is strong enouch. No way would I revoke anybody’s literary licence for accidental errors–my own included!
    As to “wallpaper” historicals, or historical “lite” or whatever–it clearly works well for a significant portion of the readership. Perhaps by boosting publishers’ bottom lines, (here’s hoping) it enables the publication types of books that please a different audience.
    If I analyse my own reading habits, I recognise that I’ve got much more selective about historical romance purchases in recent years. Whereas I’ll ready almost any sort of non-rom historical fiction.
    Is it because that’s where I find the variety in setting and period and character types? I suppose so.
    I feel as though I’m reading the same quantity of books as ever, but the type of books has definitely changed. I read mostly chick lit, mainstream historicals, contemporary relationship books (typically with romantic elements, but not marketed as romance) and mysteries. When I do read hist rom, I divide my attention between auto-buy authors and newer ones, because I like to sample fresh voices, and look for a range of eras and settings.

    Reply
  34. It seems to me that there is more agreement than disagreement among those posting here. And the disagreement that exists seems to me more a matter of terms that lack precise definitions than more substantive issues. I can’t imagine that a reader would even be a part of this community if she/he did not value writers who create stories that are emotionally powerful and highly accurate in their re-creation of time and place.
    I do think “froth” can also be well-researched and well-written. Sometimes I treat myself to a piece of fudge; I just make sure that it is the best quality fudge.
    On the subject of younger readers (conclusions based on an unscientific sampling):
    I spend a good part of my life with young adults 18-24, and since I teach both composition and literature, we spend a lot of time talking and writing formally and informally about reading. I always have a few students who are true readers with well-defined enthusiasms for particular writers and/or popular genres, but most of my students read little that is not required. When they do read for pleasure, they tend to read movie tie-ins or best-sellers. Some of these choices I attribute to the path of least resistance; they buy from the displays that are staring them in the face at superstores.

    Reply
  35. It seems to me that there is more agreement than disagreement among those posting here. And the disagreement that exists seems to me more a matter of terms that lack precise definitions than more substantive issues. I can’t imagine that a reader would even be a part of this community if she/he did not value writers who create stories that are emotionally powerful and highly accurate in their re-creation of time and place.
    I do think “froth” can also be well-researched and well-written. Sometimes I treat myself to a piece of fudge; I just make sure that it is the best quality fudge.
    On the subject of younger readers (conclusions based on an unscientific sampling):
    I spend a good part of my life with young adults 18-24, and since I teach both composition and literature, we spend a lot of time talking and writing formally and informally about reading. I always have a few students who are true readers with well-defined enthusiasms for particular writers and/or popular genres, but most of my students read little that is not required. When they do read for pleasure, they tend to read movie tie-ins or best-sellers. Some of these choices I attribute to the path of least resistance; they buy from the displays that are staring them in the face at superstores.

    Reply
  36. It seems to me that there is more agreement than disagreement among those posting here. And the disagreement that exists seems to me more a matter of terms that lack precise definitions than more substantive issues. I can’t imagine that a reader would even be a part of this community if she/he did not value writers who create stories that are emotionally powerful and highly accurate in their re-creation of time and place.
    I do think “froth” can also be well-researched and well-written. Sometimes I treat myself to a piece of fudge; I just make sure that it is the best quality fudge.
    On the subject of younger readers (conclusions based on an unscientific sampling):
    I spend a good part of my life with young adults 18-24, and since I teach both composition and literature, we spend a lot of time talking and writing formally and informally about reading. I always have a few students who are true readers with well-defined enthusiasms for particular writers and/or popular genres, but most of my students read little that is not required. When they do read for pleasure, they tend to read movie tie-ins or best-sellers. Some of these choices I attribute to the path of least resistance; they buy from the displays that are staring them in the face at superstores.

    Reply
  37. I always hear that the Gen-Y kids don’t read (or cook, or sew) but this just doesn’t seem to be true of any of the ones I know. My sister is 24 and my brother 19. So I know a lot of “kids” (seems like I raised half of them!). All of them read voraciously. My brother and his friends like Sci-Fi and historical fiction. My sister is a true crime freak, but she also reads mysteries and thrillers. Most of her friends read romance (and the most intelligent of them—IMO—read historical romance).
    Do you think it comes down to whether or not we are raised to be readers?

    Reply
  38. I always hear that the Gen-Y kids don’t read (or cook, or sew) but this just doesn’t seem to be true of any of the ones I know. My sister is 24 and my brother 19. So I know a lot of “kids” (seems like I raised half of them!). All of them read voraciously. My brother and his friends like Sci-Fi and historical fiction. My sister is a true crime freak, but she also reads mysteries and thrillers. Most of her friends read romance (and the most intelligent of them—IMO—read historical romance).
    Do you think it comes down to whether or not we are raised to be readers?

    Reply
  39. I always hear that the Gen-Y kids don’t read (or cook, or sew) but this just doesn’t seem to be true of any of the ones I know. My sister is 24 and my brother 19. So I know a lot of “kids” (seems like I raised half of them!). All of them read voraciously. My brother and his friends like Sci-Fi and historical fiction. My sister is a true crime freak, but she also reads mysteries and thrillers. Most of her friends read romance (and the most intelligent of them—IMO—read historical romance).
    Do you think it comes down to whether or not we are raised to be readers?

    Reply
  40. As a teen and young woman, I wasn’t interested in romance novels. I think part of the reason was my level of experience and maturity. Historical romances dealt with complex relationships, sizzling passions, and in the case of the older romances, sweeping plots and exotic worlds so foreign to what I knew, that it was hard to relate.
    I’ve always been a romantic at heart, even as a teenager, but my experience level at that age wasn’t sufficient to understand or appreciate the kinds of passions and fiery relationships found in the stormy historical romances of the mid-1960s when I was in high school, and the early 1970s as a young working woman.
    I backed into romances as a natural progression for two reasons: my membership in the Doubleday Book Club and thus my exposure to the Phyllis A. Whitneys and the Victoria Holts of my earlier days when I was in my twenties. They whetted my appetite, and when I discovered the Forever Ambers and the Ginnys and Steves, I was hooked.
    Last night I saw the new Pirates of the Caribbean, and it reminded me why I fell in love with the romances of old–the adventure, the sweeping plots, the vivid casts of a 1,000 characters, the bigger-than-life heroes and heroines. Pure entertainment!
    Back in the ’60s, I was an “uneducated” reader, knowing little of history. I wouldn’t have known an anachronism if it stepped on my toe and spouted Valleyspeak. But the more I read historical romances, the more educated I became. And the more discerning as to historical accuracy. And then I became a writer. Woe! It almost ruined me as a reader. But I’ve learned to go with the flow, especially if it is an engaging story, and unless the anachronisms are really bad, I’ll keep reading.
    The one thing I cannot abide are writers who give their historical characters 20th Century sensibilities–especially when they whitewash them into being so PC that they become ridiculous.
    Sherrie
    http://www.holmesedit.com

    Reply
  41. As a teen and young woman, I wasn’t interested in romance novels. I think part of the reason was my level of experience and maturity. Historical romances dealt with complex relationships, sizzling passions, and in the case of the older romances, sweeping plots and exotic worlds so foreign to what I knew, that it was hard to relate.
    I’ve always been a romantic at heart, even as a teenager, but my experience level at that age wasn’t sufficient to understand or appreciate the kinds of passions and fiery relationships found in the stormy historical romances of the mid-1960s when I was in high school, and the early 1970s as a young working woman.
    I backed into romances as a natural progression for two reasons: my membership in the Doubleday Book Club and thus my exposure to the Phyllis A. Whitneys and the Victoria Holts of my earlier days when I was in my twenties. They whetted my appetite, and when I discovered the Forever Ambers and the Ginnys and Steves, I was hooked.
    Last night I saw the new Pirates of the Caribbean, and it reminded me why I fell in love with the romances of old–the adventure, the sweeping plots, the vivid casts of a 1,000 characters, the bigger-than-life heroes and heroines. Pure entertainment!
    Back in the ’60s, I was an “uneducated” reader, knowing little of history. I wouldn’t have known an anachronism if it stepped on my toe and spouted Valleyspeak. But the more I read historical romances, the more educated I became. And the more discerning as to historical accuracy. And then I became a writer. Woe! It almost ruined me as a reader. But I’ve learned to go with the flow, especially if it is an engaging story, and unless the anachronisms are really bad, I’ll keep reading.
    The one thing I cannot abide are writers who give their historical characters 20th Century sensibilities–especially when they whitewash them into being so PC that they become ridiculous.
    Sherrie
    http://www.holmesedit.com

    Reply
  42. As a teen and young woman, I wasn’t interested in romance novels. I think part of the reason was my level of experience and maturity. Historical romances dealt with complex relationships, sizzling passions, and in the case of the older romances, sweeping plots and exotic worlds so foreign to what I knew, that it was hard to relate.
    I’ve always been a romantic at heart, even as a teenager, but my experience level at that age wasn’t sufficient to understand or appreciate the kinds of passions and fiery relationships found in the stormy historical romances of the mid-1960s when I was in high school, and the early 1970s as a young working woman.
    I backed into romances as a natural progression for two reasons: my membership in the Doubleday Book Club and thus my exposure to the Phyllis A. Whitneys and the Victoria Holts of my earlier days when I was in my twenties. They whetted my appetite, and when I discovered the Forever Ambers and the Ginnys and Steves, I was hooked.
    Last night I saw the new Pirates of the Caribbean, and it reminded me why I fell in love with the romances of old–the adventure, the sweeping plots, the vivid casts of a 1,000 characters, the bigger-than-life heroes and heroines. Pure entertainment!
    Back in the ’60s, I was an “uneducated” reader, knowing little of history. I wouldn’t have known an anachronism if it stepped on my toe and spouted Valleyspeak. But the more I read historical romances, the more educated I became. And the more discerning as to historical accuracy. And then I became a writer. Woe! It almost ruined me as a reader. But I’ve learned to go with the flow, especially if it is an engaging story, and unless the anachronisms are really bad, I’ll keep reading.
    The one thing I cannot abide are writers who give their historical characters 20th Century sensibilities–especially when they whitewash them into being so PC that they become ridiculous.
    Sherrie
    http://www.holmesedit.com

    Reply
  43. Miranda Nevelle wrote in response to Susan’s blog yesterday, “I just read a Regency by a major bestselling author and the first chapter contained the word ‘patio.’ Being a Brit, I was fairly sure that was an Americanism and probably a recent one. Webster’s (not even OED) said 1820s-30s, American.”
    I was bothered by the same word, although I like this writer’s characters enough to ignore her offenses. I did check the OED, and the first use of the word with a meaning fairly close to the 21st century one came in 1764 in George Glas’s The History of the Discovery and Conquest of the Canary Islands, which he had translated from the manuscript of an Andalusian monk named Juan Abreu de Galindo and published in London (this last bit according to Wikipedia). The OED’s fourth quotation is from American Washington Irving in 1828.
    I know this info seems irrelevant, but I too thought the use of “patio” was clearly 20th-21st century usage, and it turned out that I knew less than I thought I did.

    Reply
  44. Miranda Nevelle wrote in response to Susan’s blog yesterday, “I just read a Regency by a major bestselling author and the first chapter contained the word ‘patio.’ Being a Brit, I was fairly sure that was an Americanism and probably a recent one. Webster’s (not even OED) said 1820s-30s, American.”
    I was bothered by the same word, although I like this writer’s characters enough to ignore her offenses. I did check the OED, and the first use of the word with a meaning fairly close to the 21st century one came in 1764 in George Glas’s The History of the Discovery and Conquest of the Canary Islands, which he had translated from the manuscript of an Andalusian monk named Juan Abreu de Galindo and published in London (this last bit according to Wikipedia). The OED’s fourth quotation is from American Washington Irving in 1828.
    I know this info seems irrelevant, but I too thought the use of “patio” was clearly 20th-21st century usage, and it turned out that I knew less than I thought I did.

    Reply
  45. Miranda Nevelle wrote in response to Susan’s blog yesterday, “I just read a Regency by a major bestselling author and the first chapter contained the word ‘patio.’ Being a Brit, I was fairly sure that was an Americanism and probably a recent one. Webster’s (not even OED) said 1820s-30s, American.”
    I was bothered by the same word, although I like this writer’s characters enough to ignore her offenses. I did check the OED, and the first use of the word with a meaning fairly close to the 21st century one came in 1764 in George Glas’s The History of the Discovery and Conquest of the Canary Islands, which he had translated from the manuscript of an Andalusian monk named Juan Abreu de Galindo and published in London (this last bit according to Wikipedia). The OED’s fourth quotation is from American Washington Irving in 1828.
    I know this info seems irrelevant, but I too thought the use of “patio” was clearly 20th-21st century usage, and it turned out that I knew less than I thought I did.

    Reply
  46. Edith wrote…
    “and btw – they did have a form of flush toilet in the olden days…”
    You’re right, of course, Edith. But I don’t believe they had porcelain bowls, as the author I read ‘attested.’
    Even writing fantasy set in a castle (what I write) can be hard work, in the opposite direction. So many people think those folks never bathed, there was no “plumbing” of any sort, and they all slept on the floor. But, that’s just not so. History, morphed, can be as hard to combat as history, true.
    As to the question on young readers… my 11 year old daughter usually has a book permanently attached to her hand at all times. She likes mystery, thrillers, but most of all, she likes books that have “more than one meaning.” She calls them ‘deep.’
    I like these kinds of books too. Perhaps because the last frontier just might be the one inside… our inner self, our souls. Most of the adults I know who read Harry Potter (and there are lots of them) do so because they like the alternate story they find among the thousands of pages. I really liked MJ’s TMS for this reason. The story spoke deeply to my soul. THE RED TENT is another. To me these stories are about the past, present and future with warnings for and insight into all three set against a backdrop that lulls me into learning and considering things I would not have otherwise. I am better for having read them.
    If I recall correctly, the original concern posed was how to sell more books. A valid business concern. Maybe adding another layer of how to deal with “real” this century problems and ethical dilemmas against the backdrop of history might be in order. (*Please know, I am cringing as I write this.) But in real life, the girl doesn’t always get the guy and sometimes walking away, head held high, is a better choice than matrimony. I know this defies the rules of romance as set forth by the RWA. I think these rules are why I don’t write romance. Although, I love to read historical romance more than any other genera because it truly deals with the emotions of life.
    Keep writing, Word Wenches. I’ll keep buying.
    Nina
    — the littlest wenchling

    Reply
  47. Edith wrote…
    “and btw – they did have a form of flush toilet in the olden days…”
    You’re right, of course, Edith. But I don’t believe they had porcelain bowls, as the author I read ‘attested.’
    Even writing fantasy set in a castle (what I write) can be hard work, in the opposite direction. So many people think those folks never bathed, there was no “plumbing” of any sort, and they all slept on the floor. But, that’s just not so. History, morphed, can be as hard to combat as history, true.
    As to the question on young readers… my 11 year old daughter usually has a book permanently attached to her hand at all times. She likes mystery, thrillers, but most of all, she likes books that have “more than one meaning.” She calls them ‘deep.’
    I like these kinds of books too. Perhaps because the last frontier just might be the one inside… our inner self, our souls. Most of the adults I know who read Harry Potter (and there are lots of them) do so because they like the alternate story they find among the thousands of pages. I really liked MJ’s TMS for this reason. The story spoke deeply to my soul. THE RED TENT is another. To me these stories are about the past, present and future with warnings for and insight into all three set against a backdrop that lulls me into learning and considering things I would not have otherwise. I am better for having read them.
    If I recall correctly, the original concern posed was how to sell more books. A valid business concern. Maybe adding another layer of how to deal with “real” this century problems and ethical dilemmas against the backdrop of history might be in order. (*Please know, I am cringing as I write this.) But in real life, the girl doesn’t always get the guy and sometimes walking away, head held high, is a better choice than matrimony. I know this defies the rules of romance as set forth by the RWA. I think these rules are why I don’t write romance. Although, I love to read historical romance more than any other genera because it truly deals with the emotions of life.
    Keep writing, Word Wenches. I’ll keep buying.
    Nina
    — the littlest wenchling

    Reply
  48. Edith wrote…
    “and btw – they did have a form of flush toilet in the olden days…”
    You’re right, of course, Edith. But I don’t believe they had porcelain bowls, as the author I read ‘attested.’
    Even writing fantasy set in a castle (what I write) can be hard work, in the opposite direction. So many people think those folks never bathed, there was no “plumbing” of any sort, and they all slept on the floor. But, that’s just not so. History, morphed, can be as hard to combat as history, true.
    As to the question on young readers… my 11 year old daughter usually has a book permanently attached to her hand at all times. She likes mystery, thrillers, but most of all, she likes books that have “more than one meaning.” She calls them ‘deep.’
    I like these kinds of books too. Perhaps because the last frontier just might be the one inside… our inner self, our souls. Most of the adults I know who read Harry Potter (and there are lots of them) do so because they like the alternate story they find among the thousands of pages. I really liked MJ’s TMS for this reason. The story spoke deeply to my soul. THE RED TENT is another. To me these stories are about the past, present and future with warnings for and insight into all three set against a backdrop that lulls me into learning and considering things I would not have otherwise. I am better for having read them.
    If I recall correctly, the original concern posed was how to sell more books. A valid business concern. Maybe adding another layer of how to deal with “real” this century problems and ethical dilemmas against the backdrop of history might be in order. (*Please know, I am cringing as I write this.) But in real life, the girl doesn’t always get the guy and sometimes walking away, head held high, is a better choice than matrimony. I know this defies the rules of romance as set forth by the RWA. I think these rules are why I don’t write romance. Although, I love to read historical romance more than any other genera because it truly deals with the emotions of life.
    Keep writing, Word Wenches. I’ll keep buying.
    Nina
    — the littlest wenchling

    Reply
  49. Edith, I so totally agree that historical accuracy is often a question of who is reporting. I meant to bring up that topic but figured I’d rambled on enough for one day. History is often “whitewashed” and made PC, so it’s hard to blame romance writers for doing it, too. In the early years of romance writing, we could get away with a lot more realism than we can these days, unfortunately.
    Although I’m very inclined to bury parallels and symbols in my layers, for those who like to look for them. I get too frustrated having to write by “the rules” to not let any opportunity to sneak in a snatch of reality.
    So froth on the outside and a good stiff drink beneath. Sounds like a potent mixture!

    Reply
  50. Edith, I so totally agree that historical accuracy is often a question of who is reporting. I meant to bring up that topic but figured I’d rambled on enough for one day. History is often “whitewashed” and made PC, so it’s hard to blame romance writers for doing it, too. In the early years of romance writing, we could get away with a lot more realism than we can these days, unfortunately.
    Although I’m very inclined to bury parallels and symbols in my layers, for those who like to look for them. I get too frustrated having to write by “the rules” to not let any opportunity to sneak in a snatch of reality.
    So froth on the outside and a good stiff drink beneath. Sounds like a potent mixture!

    Reply
  51. Edith, I so totally agree that historical accuracy is often a question of who is reporting. I meant to bring up that topic but figured I’d rambled on enough for one day. History is often “whitewashed” and made PC, so it’s hard to blame romance writers for doing it, too. In the early years of romance writing, we could get away with a lot more realism than we can these days, unfortunately.
    Although I’m very inclined to bury parallels and symbols in my layers, for those who like to look for them. I get too frustrated having to write by “the rules” to not let any opportunity to sneak in a snatch of reality.
    So froth on the outside and a good stiff drink beneath. Sounds like a potent mixture!

    Reply
  52. Nina P. wrote:
    “But in real life, the girl doesn’t always get the guy, and sometimes walking away, head held high, is a better choice than matrimony.”
    This is probably the hard truth for a lot of younger readers. Many of them have grown up with divorced parents, step-parents, blended families. They don’t necessarily have much reason to believe in “happily ever after.”
    Unfortunately, too many of them look at a traditional romance happy ending, and think they’re sappy and unrealistic. This is often the appeal of the chick-lit books, too: boys are nice, but they’re not the be-all, end-all, and friends, family, career, even pets will more likely be there for you in the long haul.
    It will be interesting to see what these girls will like to read in another ten or twenty years, won’t it?

    Reply
  53. Nina P. wrote:
    “But in real life, the girl doesn’t always get the guy, and sometimes walking away, head held high, is a better choice than matrimony.”
    This is probably the hard truth for a lot of younger readers. Many of them have grown up with divorced parents, step-parents, blended families. They don’t necessarily have much reason to believe in “happily ever after.”
    Unfortunately, too many of them look at a traditional romance happy ending, and think they’re sappy and unrealistic. This is often the appeal of the chick-lit books, too: boys are nice, but they’re not the be-all, end-all, and friends, family, career, even pets will more likely be there for you in the long haul.
    It will be interesting to see what these girls will like to read in another ten or twenty years, won’t it?

    Reply
  54. Nina P. wrote:
    “But in real life, the girl doesn’t always get the guy, and sometimes walking away, head held high, is a better choice than matrimony.”
    This is probably the hard truth for a lot of younger readers. Many of them have grown up with divorced parents, step-parents, blended families. They don’t necessarily have much reason to believe in “happily ever after.”
    Unfortunately, too many of them look at a traditional romance happy ending, and think they’re sappy and unrealistic. This is often the appeal of the chick-lit books, too: boys are nice, but they’re not the be-all, end-all, and friends, family, career, even pets will more likely be there for you in the long haul.
    It will be interesting to see what these girls will like to read in another ten or twenty years, won’t it?

    Reply
  55. I’m surprised that the Tigress didn’t make her usual point about historical fiction–that once you get far enough back, it’s ALL fantasy because we really have no idea what the people then thought or felt–or very little.
    One of the great moments for me of vivid realization of the past was in one of the mysteries about Lord Meren, the Eyes and Ears of Pharaoh, by Lynda S. Robinson (who also writes romance as Suzanne Robinson), set in the reign of King Tut. In one book, a series of murders appears to have been committed by a demon, so Meren and his aides strap on their protective amulets with the same air of routine with which modern cops strap on their kevlar vests.
    The historicals I began with weren’t romances at all, but old-fashioned “three-deckers,” as Kipling called them, like LORNA DOONE, THE CLOISTER AND THE HEARTH, WESTWARD HO!, VANITY FAIR, and various Waverly Novels; the first romances I really got into were Jeffery Farnol’s (even before I read Jane Austen and Georgette Heyer).
    As for accuracy, it often gets up my nose when writers get the forms of address for the nobility wrong, since I lived in the same century as Sir Winston Churchill and have read all the Lord Peter Wimsey stories many times. (By the way, what DO you call the second son of a marquis? I prefer “Hey! You in the hat!” myself.)
    The thing that maddens me most in anachronisms is characters’ taking it for granted that they can always get a divorce, when until quite recent times it took a special Act of Parliament and often a dispensation from the Pope!
    But as one of the founders of the Society for Creative Anachronism, I suppose I mustn’t complain. Oh, hell! I’ll complain if I want to!
    A couple of other things I noticed recently: in a Regency, “the penny dropped;” and in a fantasy set on a colony planet that has long since lost all memory of Earth, the reference to a place as a “mecca.”
    I was also annoyed by a novel (those who read it will recognize it, otherwise, no names, no pack drill) set in about the 13th century in which the heroine’s father, who was hipped on his Norman heritage, had named his daughter Hastings. (Later it turned out he had four other daughters all with Conqueror-related names; one was named after William’s horse!) I am bothered not only by the very idea, but by the fact that I’m pretty sure that at that time the battle was still referred to as “Santlache” (the ridge where it actually took place) not “Hastings.”
    Of course that pales in comparison with the scene where they got milk from the billy-goat…
    Edith writes: “But Heaven save me from the ‘feisty’ wench of the 13th century …”
    Even if it’s Katharine Hepburn as Eleanor of Aquitaine in THE LION IN WINTER?

    Reply
  56. I’m surprised that the Tigress didn’t make her usual point about historical fiction–that once you get far enough back, it’s ALL fantasy because we really have no idea what the people then thought or felt–or very little.
    One of the great moments for me of vivid realization of the past was in one of the mysteries about Lord Meren, the Eyes and Ears of Pharaoh, by Lynda S. Robinson (who also writes romance as Suzanne Robinson), set in the reign of King Tut. In one book, a series of murders appears to have been committed by a demon, so Meren and his aides strap on their protective amulets with the same air of routine with which modern cops strap on their kevlar vests.
    The historicals I began with weren’t romances at all, but old-fashioned “three-deckers,” as Kipling called them, like LORNA DOONE, THE CLOISTER AND THE HEARTH, WESTWARD HO!, VANITY FAIR, and various Waverly Novels; the first romances I really got into were Jeffery Farnol’s (even before I read Jane Austen and Georgette Heyer).
    As for accuracy, it often gets up my nose when writers get the forms of address for the nobility wrong, since I lived in the same century as Sir Winston Churchill and have read all the Lord Peter Wimsey stories many times. (By the way, what DO you call the second son of a marquis? I prefer “Hey! You in the hat!” myself.)
    The thing that maddens me most in anachronisms is characters’ taking it for granted that they can always get a divorce, when until quite recent times it took a special Act of Parliament and often a dispensation from the Pope!
    But as one of the founders of the Society for Creative Anachronism, I suppose I mustn’t complain. Oh, hell! I’ll complain if I want to!
    A couple of other things I noticed recently: in a Regency, “the penny dropped;” and in a fantasy set on a colony planet that has long since lost all memory of Earth, the reference to a place as a “mecca.”
    I was also annoyed by a novel (those who read it will recognize it, otherwise, no names, no pack drill) set in about the 13th century in which the heroine’s father, who was hipped on his Norman heritage, had named his daughter Hastings. (Later it turned out he had four other daughters all with Conqueror-related names; one was named after William’s horse!) I am bothered not only by the very idea, but by the fact that I’m pretty sure that at that time the battle was still referred to as “Santlache” (the ridge where it actually took place) not “Hastings.”
    Of course that pales in comparison with the scene where they got milk from the billy-goat…
    Edith writes: “But Heaven save me from the ‘feisty’ wench of the 13th century …”
    Even if it’s Katharine Hepburn as Eleanor of Aquitaine in THE LION IN WINTER?

    Reply
  57. I’m surprised that the Tigress didn’t make her usual point about historical fiction–that once you get far enough back, it’s ALL fantasy because we really have no idea what the people then thought or felt–or very little.
    One of the great moments for me of vivid realization of the past was in one of the mysteries about Lord Meren, the Eyes and Ears of Pharaoh, by Lynda S. Robinson (who also writes romance as Suzanne Robinson), set in the reign of King Tut. In one book, a series of murders appears to have been committed by a demon, so Meren and his aides strap on their protective amulets with the same air of routine with which modern cops strap on their kevlar vests.
    The historicals I began with weren’t romances at all, but old-fashioned “three-deckers,” as Kipling called them, like LORNA DOONE, THE CLOISTER AND THE HEARTH, WESTWARD HO!, VANITY FAIR, and various Waverly Novels; the first romances I really got into were Jeffery Farnol’s (even before I read Jane Austen and Georgette Heyer).
    As for accuracy, it often gets up my nose when writers get the forms of address for the nobility wrong, since I lived in the same century as Sir Winston Churchill and have read all the Lord Peter Wimsey stories many times. (By the way, what DO you call the second son of a marquis? I prefer “Hey! You in the hat!” myself.)
    The thing that maddens me most in anachronisms is characters’ taking it for granted that they can always get a divorce, when until quite recent times it took a special Act of Parliament and often a dispensation from the Pope!
    But as one of the founders of the Society for Creative Anachronism, I suppose I mustn’t complain. Oh, hell! I’ll complain if I want to!
    A couple of other things I noticed recently: in a Regency, “the penny dropped;” and in a fantasy set on a colony planet that has long since lost all memory of Earth, the reference to a place as a “mecca.”
    I was also annoyed by a novel (those who read it will recognize it, otherwise, no names, no pack drill) set in about the 13th century in which the heroine’s father, who was hipped on his Norman heritage, had named his daughter Hastings. (Later it turned out he had four other daughters all with Conqueror-related names; one was named after William’s horse!) I am bothered not only by the very idea, but by the fact that I’m pretty sure that at that time the battle was still referred to as “Santlache” (the ridge where it actually took place) not “Hastings.”
    Of course that pales in comparison with the scene where they got milk from the billy-goat…
    Edith writes: “But Heaven save me from the ‘feisty’ wench of the 13th century …”
    Even if it’s Katharine Hepburn as Eleanor of Aquitaine in THE LION IN WINTER?

    Reply
  58. This is purely anecdotal, but I’m in my early 30’s and historical romances have always been my favorite part of the romance genre. While I can’t find as many of the “smart” historicals I prefer to read anymore (or the american-set historicals I enjoy), one change that I like is that the heroines tend to be stronger on the whole than they were in the old 80’s romances I’ve read.
    Of the women I know in their 20’s who read romance, they tend to prefer historical romances.
    And yes, I think cynicism plays a part in it. They don’t believe in the HEA relationships in contemporaries, but historicals don’t have to be “real”. They’re not supposed to be about today. Some of these women do like chick lit bc it is more relevant.
    I don’t think any 20-something woman I know reads category. I’m sure they’re out there. I just don’t see them buying them in the bookstores in DC or reading them on the subway, at work, etc. I did know one woman when I was in college who ordered her category through the reader service so nobody would see her buying them.
    I do think women in their 20’s are likelier to think that others are noting what they are reading and judging them for it. They may have a type of book to read in public and another to read in private. I’ve seen 20-something women in Borders look around to make sure nobody is watching them, approach the romance table at the front of the store, grab a couple of romance novels without slowing down, and go buy them while trying to hide the covers from anybody who may be watching. Almost inevitably, they’re grabbing they latest Avon historical lead titles.
    -Michelle

    Reply
  59. This is purely anecdotal, but I’m in my early 30’s and historical romances have always been my favorite part of the romance genre. While I can’t find as many of the “smart” historicals I prefer to read anymore (or the american-set historicals I enjoy), one change that I like is that the heroines tend to be stronger on the whole than they were in the old 80’s romances I’ve read.
    Of the women I know in their 20’s who read romance, they tend to prefer historical romances.
    And yes, I think cynicism plays a part in it. They don’t believe in the HEA relationships in contemporaries, but historicals don’t have to be “real”. They’re not supposed to be about today. Some of these women do like chick lit bc it is more relevant.
    I don’t think any 20-something woman I know reads category. I’m sure they’re out there. I just don’t see them buying them in the bookstores in DC or reading them on the subway, at work, etc. I did know one woman when I was in college who ordered her category through the reader service so nobody would see her buying them.
    I do think women in their 20’s are likelier to think that others are noting what they are reading and judging them for it. They may have a type of book to read in public and another to read in private. I’ve seen 20-something women in Borders look around to make sure nobody is watching them, approach the romance table at the front of the store, grab a couple of romance novels without slowing down, and go buy them while trying to hide the covers from anybody who may be watching. Almost inevitably, they’re grabbing they latest Avon historical lead titles.
    -Michelle

    Reply
  60. This is purely anecdotal, but I’m in my early 30’s and historical romances have always been my favorite part of the romance genre. While I can’t find as many of the “smart” historicals I prefer to read anymore (or the american-set historicals I enjoy), one change that I like is that the heroines tend to be stronger on the whole than they were in the old 80’s romances I’ve read.
    Of the women I know in their 20’s who read romance, they tend to prefer historical romances.
    And yes, I think cynicism plays a part in it. They don’t believe in the HEA relationships in contemporaries, but historicals don’t have to be “real”. They’re not supposed to be about today. Some of these women do like chick lit bc it is more relevant.
    I don’t think any 20-something woman I know reads category. I’m sure they’re out there. I just don’t see them buying them in the bookstores in DC or reading them on the subway, at work, etc. I did know one woman when I was in college who ordered her category through the reader service so nobody would see her buying them.
    I do think women in their 20’s are likelier to think that others are noting what they are reading and judging them for it. They may have a type of book to read in public and another to read in private. I’ve seen 20-something women in Borders look around to make sure nobody is watching them, approach the romance table at the front of the store, grab a couple of romance novels without slowing down, and go buy them while trying to hide the covers from anybody who may be watching. Almost inevitably, they’re grabbing they latest Avon historical lead titles.
    -Michelle

    Reply
  61. About ages and readers– I think the romances I like appeal to mature women because they are dealing with the way two people are change by their interaction with each other. This is kind of a description in fast motion of things that happen in slower motion in a good long term committed relationship– be it marriage or other. Young women are dealing with something different -figuring out who they are and finding a mate.(if they want one.)In romance the eventual partners find each other pretty quickly, so the focus is overcoming obstacles to and deepening relationship. The focus is not really on figuring out who is the right partner. I have also found themes (this may be my taste in particular) of negotiating the balance between being unconventional, and able to reject some of the silliness of society, without rejection of some kinds of deeper values. I think, again, this may reflect the experience of someone a little older.
    On the other hand, this argument may not match my own experience.
    I have loved Pride and Prejudice for as long as I can remember, and read it when I was young.
    I like learning about various things, including history, poetry (dorothy sayers, amanda cross) and egyptology (elizabeth peters) through reading fiction. While historical facts are important,I think it is important to remember that people vary greatly in every historical period– so how could we know what an accurate “character mindset” or historical sensibilty would be?
    I wonder: if we didn’t know that Jane Austen was Jane Austen, would we might think her sensibility too modern to be historically accurate.
    Merry

    Reply
  62. About ages and readers– I think the romances I like appeal to mature women because they are dealing with the way two people are change by their interaction with each other. This is kind of a description in fast motion of things that happen in slower motion in a good long term committed relationship– be it marriage or other. Young women are dealing with something different -figuring out who they are and finding a mate.(if they want one.)In romance the eventual partners find each other pretty quickly, so the focus is overcoming obstacles to and deepening relationship. The focus is not really on figuring out who is the right partner. I have also found themes (this may be my taste in particular) of negotiating the balance between being unconventional, and able to reject some of the silliness of society, without rejection of some kinds of deeper values. I think, again, this may reflect the experience of someone a little older.
    On the other hand, this argument may not match my own experience.
    I have loved Pride and Prejudice for as long as I can remember, and read it when I was young.
    I like learning about various things, including history, poetry (dorothy sayers, amanda cross) and egyptology (elizabeth peters) through reading fiction. While historical facts are important,I think it is important to remember that people vary greatly in every historical period– so how could we know what an accurate “character mindset” or historical sensibilty would be?
    I wonder: if we didn’t know that Jane Austen was Jane Austen, would we might think her sensibility too modern to be historically accurate.
    Merry

    Reply
  63. About ages and readers– I think the romances I like appeal to mature women because they are dealing with the way two people are change by their interaction with each other. This is kind of a description in fast motion of things that happen in slower motion in a good long term committed relationship– be it marriage or other. Young women are dealing with something different -figuring out who they are and finding a mate.(if they want one.)In romance the eventual partners find each other pretty quickly, so the focus is overcoming obstacles to and deepening relationship. The focus is not really on figuring out who is the right partner. I have also found themes (this may be my taste in particular) of negotiating the balance between being unconventional, and able to reject some of the silliness of society, without rejection of some kinds of deeper values. I think, again, this may reflect the experience of someone a little older.
    On the other hand, this argument may not match my own experience.
    I have loved Pride and Prejudice for as long as I can remember, and read it when I was young.
    I like learning about various things, including history, poetry (dorothy sayers, amanda cross) and egyptology (elizabeth peters) through reading fiction. While historical facts are important,I think it is important to remember that people vary greatly in every historical period– so how could we know what an accurate “character mindset” or historical sensibilty would be?
    I wonder: if we didn’t know that Jane Austen was Jane Austen, would we might think her sensibility too modern to be historically accurate.
    Merry

    Reply
  64. what amazing insights into the mind of today’s young readers! This is quite thought provoking, although I’m truly sad to think that people no longer believe in love and romance. Love truly is one of the most amazing experiences, and it’s capable of changing the world if we open our hearts to it.
    And I suppose women today are more free to pursue their own lives than twenty or thirty years ago, so they’re not as likely to be looking for permanent relationships in their early twenties. I think this has just given me an idea for one of my contemporaries…
    Thank you all!

    Reply
  65. what amazing insights into the mind of today’s young readers! This is quite thought provoking, although I’m truly sad to think that people no longer believe in love and romance. Love truly is one of the most amazing experiences, and it’s capable of changing the world if we open our hearts to it.
    And I suppose women today are more free to pursue their own lives than twenty or thirty years ago, so they’re not as likely to be looking for permanent relationships in their early twenties. I think this has just given me an idea for one of my contemporaries…
    Thank you all!

    Reply
  66. what amazing insights into the mind of today’s young readers! This is quite thought provoking, although I’m truly sad to think that people no longer believe in love and romance. Love truly is one of the most amazing experiences, and it’s capable of changing the world if we open our hearts to it.
    And I suppose women today are more free to pursue their own lives than twenty or thirty years ago, so they’re not as likely to be looking for permanent relationships in their early twenties. I think this has just given me an idea for one of my contemporaries…
    Thank you all!

    Reply

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