We’ve been answering reader questions lately and I pounced on one that asked: “Why don’t characters go to the bathroom in Historical romances?”
Ha. My characters do. They certainly do go to the bathroom.
Strike that euphemism! They go to the toilet, wherever it may be, be it for male or female, or both, because that’s what real people do.
In fact, in a recent book, GYPSY LOVER, my lovers have a confrontation on the path from the Jericho to the Inn. No euphemisms! The Jericho= outhouse privy = outdoor toilet, in regency times.
I have included bedpans and under the bed basins in my novels; rural outhouses, stops along the road for a quickie behind a bush, and characters being really uncomfortable because they have to go.
I have detailed descriptions of the toilets in castles in the middle ages: they had cisterns on the roof that collected rain water, the person in the privy pulled a rope, down came the water and sluiced it into the moat, and presto! A form of flush toilet!
I’ve written about wealthy Regency noblepersons in London townhouses with lavish loos. (What a name for a new rock group: “The Lavish Loos!” )
In short, in fact, from the dawn of time until today, people go to the toilet, and so too, of course, do my characters. But, I do confess, that aside from an invalided hero or two, only my heroines make a fuss about it. That is easily understood. They need more privacy and have more to fear in an unguarded moment. (Is this where the concept of male supremacy started? I mean, a fellow can often relieve himself, sword in other hand, ready to spring into action… Uhm. I digress.)
I have not only written about toilets, I have researched them! A partial list of treasures in my library:
The Compleat Loo, a Lavatorial Miscellany, by Roger Kilroy
Flushed with Pride, The Story of Thomas Crapper, by Wallace Reyburn
(The wonderfully named Mr. C didn’t invent the flush toilet, btw. He merely refined it)
Clean and Decent, by Lawrence Wright (big concentration on the bath)
An Irreverent and Almost Complete Social History of the Bathroom, by Frank Muir
Now, lest you think I’m obsessed about the topic, let me assure you that I also have many books in my library that obsess on other arcane topics, such as: make-up through the ages, styles of hair, fashions, even games throughout the ages. I have books on the history of perfumes, and lots about herbs, foods, etc.
That’s because I believe that to know what your characters must do it daily life, whether they do it or not, is important.
So why not have a character duck away for a few minutes to answer the call of nature? I don’t think that makes them less romantic. Do you?