Well it's been a few months, so that means it must be time for yet another endless debate in Romance Novel Land about historical accuracy. The latest kerfuffle started over at one of the AAR message boards and soon spilled it's way over into Blog Land. Dear Author has a post up with links and stuff, so that's a good jumping off point for those of you with train wreck fetishes.
Since I generally avoid message boards (they just ain't my bag baby), I don't know if the author in question behaved like a jackass or not. And frankly, I don't really care. My knee jerk reaction to this whole thing is to side with the author, although she really, really should have just stayed far, far away and not waded into the discussion at all. Neither here nor there. That said, I firmly believe some readers really need to get a life. These are the readers who get their panties in a bunch about language, champagne flutes and travel distances - but don't seem to be bothered by the fact the hero smells good, plus is lice and flea free, back in the days when people bathed once a month and the streets were open sewers. And let us take a moment to ruminate on dental care prior to the 20th century. Ewwwww
But I digress.
Historical accuracy in historical romance (and novels in general) is the easy thing to harp on, and I think that's why some readers are obsessed with it. They do it, because they aren't willing to voice why they're really dissatisfied. Working my way through Lonesome Dove (page 425 y'all!) it hit me.
I don't think it's historical accuracy readers necessarily miss. It's the big, epic, saga-like qualities that a lot of the early historical romances had. These books were rich, meaty and really transported you. They swept you off your feet. Readers got lost in these books. Nowadays I suspect authors are providing too much GPS. Readers aren't getting lost. They're getting detailed road maps.
I don't want to talk out of my ass here, having never read either author, but I have a hard time believing that Kathleen Woodiwiss or Loretta Chase got every single minor minuscule detail right in their stories. And everybody points to Laura Kinsale's way with language, but trying to read her books is about as much fun for me as ramming an ice pick up my nose. But using these authors as examples, is it really the "historical accuracy" that make readers love their books?
Hell to the no.
It's the fact that their work has the ability to transport readers. To make readers "lose themselves." Say it with me: big, epic, meaty and saga-like.
Honestly I think that's what readers really miss, at least on a basic level. They want to "lose time" and "lose themselves." Which is why everybody needs to stop whining and pick up a western. Frankly Americans (OK, I'll give a slight nod to Canada and Australia too) cornered the market on big, epic, meaty and saga-like. It's OK to leave England. Seriously, it really is.