How much does this concern you? Are you a stickler for accuracy especially when it comes to Historical Romances? Does it irk you if something is incorrect? Or, do you not care?
I’ll be honest; at first it didn’t bother me. But, that’s because I was naïve and knew very little about the genre I was reading. I simply thought they were entertaining stories. But, as I continued to read – I think I’ve read upwards of one hundred novels, Regencies alone – I developed a certain knowledge pertaining to the time period. This was only furthered when I began arbitrary research because I wanted to write my own novel.
Reviewers on Amazon, Borders, and Barnes & Noble who give novels poor ratings often cite historical inaccuracies as one of the reasons. Sometimes, I would think: But, that’s not fair. That one little thing turned you off the plot?
I started thinking about this because the last four HR’s (time periods ranging from late 1700s to early 1800s) I’ve read have mentioned the word “hello” (repeatedly) as a greeting. Now, I have no problem with this as the only way I greet people is “hi”, not even “hello”. But, it seemed out of place. The word didn’t seem right coming out of the characters’ mouths and I couldn’t figure out why. I mean, how else would they greet each other?
Then, I remembered why. A few years ago, I discovered a post (I can’t seem to find the post of remember the author) that addressed when the word “hello” started its existence in the English language. While the word itself has many variants, it was not prominently used until the 1830s. Check the Oxford English Dictionary (online) if you don’t believe me. The author discussed this because apparently her readers became outraged when they found historical inaccuracies and would bash the book because it was “worthless”, “slapdash”, or “poorly researched”.
It’s something small and it only jumped out at me because I had prior knowledge about it. It’s a bit of esoteric knowledge, really, considering few people have an interest in the origins of the words they use. (I really want to take that History of Modern English class. >_<)
But, how much does it matter? Personally, I still enjoyed the book. But, I know there are people who would rail against it because of this.
Back in July 2010, Eloisa James discussed this issue, albeit in reference to ‘sex words’, but her post was interesting:
“One of the big difficulties in writing historical romances is that you have to write sex scenes without (for one) mentioning the word “sex,” because back then it referred to gender, and not to copulation until 1900.”
She goes on to explain how with each book she writes she thoroughly researches each aspect. She even has a research assistant to make sure everything she’s utilizing or referencing is on the mark. That’s crazy dedication. (For more read HERE.)
*Sidenote: the meaning or assumption behind the word ‘sex’ may have change, but many people still – especially sociologists – differentiate between the terms ‘sex’ and ‘gender’. I was reading up on Digimon (anime) and someone asked the creator if the Digimon had genders (meaning were they male or female). The paraphrased response was, No – meaning that the Digimon were not socialized to behave in a “male” or “female” manner.
(Er…I was a Sociology major for a couple semesters.)
POINT: How do you react to historical tidbits/errors? Do they negatively affect your reading experience? How much research do you do when writing your novel? Is it sad I know more about 1800s England than I do 21st century America? Should you spend more/less time on the research?
*Note: I haven’t finished the book I was reading, so no review today. Maybe tomorrow, especially since the book needs to be returned to the library.