Thursday, January 25, 2018

Do Historical Romance Heroes Wear Silk Drawers and Other Musings by @KarynGerrard #Opinion

As an author, if you decide to write historical romance, there are a few things you should prepare yourself for. Most readers prefer Regency and dukes, everything else is filtered through these perceptions. There are readers who tear apart historical romances because of inaccuracies (real or not) Someone on Facebook called it The Historical Romance Accuracy Police. Funny, but true.

Let me state right off the top there is a huge difference between Regency and Victorian. Many laws changed, especially when it comes to marriage and age of consent. Regency was a short era (1795-1837), Victorian was much longer (1837-1901) I decided I wanted to write in the Victorian era, there were so many changes, socially and economically, so many innovations and inventions. 

I've skimmed through many historical romance reviews, including a few of my own, and historical romance readers are very passionate about the books and that is fantastic. But many make incorrect assumptions and cut historical romance authors less slack than they do contemporary ones. I look at it this way, the TV show, Vikings, takes historical sagas and puts their own spin on it. They have compressed time, combined characters, etc. It's entertainment, not a documentary. Why can't a historical romance author be perceived as doing the same? We are writing fiction. Let me give a few examples.

 "There is no way there is this many dukes in England." 

If readers are willing to suspend believe for paranormal and urban fantasy world building, why not for historicals? Each author is building their own historical world, they don't all overlap. After all, what we are creating is fantasy as well to an extent. In Lorraine Heath's books, she has her own group of aristocrats. Anna Campbell has hers. And they belong to their worlds only, not any other author's. 

"I'm sick of the trembling virgin who tames the decadent rake!"

But opposites attract. Because of the strictures of society through each individual era, most women (though not all) were inexperienced virgins. And there is proof a lot of the young males of the aristocracy were wastrels and rakes to such an extent by the end of the Victorian age, a lot of the old families were on the brink of bankruptcy because their fathers or grandfathers gambled or blew their money on other vices. Which brings me to...

"There is no way an aristocrat would go to a sleazy alley for sex." 

Oh yes they did. Ever read "The Picture of Dorian Gray?" Also, by the Victorian era, there was one prostitute for every four men in the city of London. And those upper crust gents loved to get their cheap thrills in the East End at brothels or in those disgusting alleys. Facts bear this out. Though the Victorian age seems prudish on the surface, underneath was a raucous, seamy underbelly of sex and vice. That's why I love writing in this era! :)

"I can't stand the 'Big Misunderstanding' trope in a lot of historicals!"

I agree, as long as the misunderstanding isn't dragged out for the whole length of the book. But again, you have to remember the era the book takes place in. People were not as eager to share their feelings in previous centuries. Men in particular were seen as weak if they did so. Nor did couples communicate as openly as we do nowadays. Manners and social decorum ruled many lives. So I cut historical authors a little slack here. Plus it makes for great conflict if done correctly.

Now we come to the silk drawers. I do a lot of research, if I'm wrong, I am the first to admit it.

 "There is no way a man in this age wore silk drawers!" CLICKITY-CLICK!

Scroll down to men's undergarments. "...were usually made of cotton though linen and silk were also available." So yes, silk drawers for men were a thing! (and I was correct to include it in my story) There were other nit-picky items I could go on about, like the amount of sex in a historical romance and the objection to it, but that is a whole other discussion.

The bottom line is most readers go into historical romance with their own beliefs and knowledge. It's not always going to align with the author's. And that's okay. Just let it go (which I will do on the silk drawers thing, lol) Be diligent in your research not only the era itself but what use of words. Did you know the word "undercover" as we know it was not used until 1850-1855? I've seen it in Regency romance titles. Again, its okay. It's entertainment, it's fiction,

Enjoy historical romances, enjoy the eras they are set, and there is nothing like being swept away to another time with heroes and heroines that define the age. Enjoy!


  1. Yes, a hundred times yes. It is not a good idea to bother an author about historical inaccuracies unless you have checked said inaccuracies yourself.

  2. Very insightful post, so thanks for sharing! *Sigh, if only our readers, and most every reviewer, were half as intelligent as they presume to be ;-)


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