When I see posts about historical accuracy in romance novels—and there have been several lately—they always seem to be written by people complaining about pet peeves. They range from folks who get excited about the fine points of Regency etiquette, to people upset about anachronisms of one sort or another. Very rarely the writer has encountered an egregious in accuracy. It seems to me the issue of historical romance is more complex than that, and one factor stands out: people read for the romance. They like the historical setting and world building, but they are primarily interested in the love story.
As a reader, I want the relationship to progress nicely and leave me satisfied emotionally and I want it to be against a believable historic backdrop. The history has to be plausible, and not intrude on the romance plot. The very best writers are so steeped in their historical period, that they present a rich tapestry of detail without ever banging the reader’s head on their research, or leading us down side roads just to show us they know their stuff.
As writer I strive to do the same. First I have to get my head into the history. That involves way more research and thought than will ever show up in the story. I am careful to get my facts straight and my details authentic, but I do so in service to my characters and their story.
In writing The Renegade Wife, Book one in the series, for example, I needed to have a picture of Bristol, England, in my head. The hero has some unfortunate encounters with a crime syndicate there. Information about the riots of 1831 or the slave trade out of Bristol would never make it into the book, but that kind of research helped me understand the setting and serve it up to the reader.
But that is just what I LEARNED. Life is what I KNOW. I didn’t have to research military life. I grew up with it. A soldier driven by honor and duty? I was raised by one.
How about you? Do you read historical romance? How much history do you want with your story? I’ll give a copy of THE RENEGADE WIFE: Book One of the newest series, to one person who comments today on any of my posts today.
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