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a problem with perception

For discussions of historical fiction. Threads that do not relate to historical fiction should be started in the Chat forum or elsewhere on the forum, depending on the topic.
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Margaret
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Post by Margaret » Thu December 18th, 2008, 1:34 am

commenters on the romance board at Amazon who complain about authors like these because they're bored to death with the "endless pages" of historical details and facts.
This is why publishers are doing these authors a terrible disservice by packaging their books as something they're really not. I know bookstores want everything to fit into a comprehensive slot, and "historical romance" may be the closest slot, sometimes, to fit these authors into. But the cover art, at least, should clearly indicate the nature of the contents. I love the cover art taken from period artworks - to me, these suggest that the emphasis in a book is on the historical even when there is a strong love story.

The word "romantic" used to indicate a certain style of novel that had nothing to do with whether it included a love story. A lot of "romantic" war stories have been written in that sense, novels which glorify the heroic aspect of warfare and downplay the dirt and brutality of it. To me, that type of war novel has a great deal in common with the type of "historical romance" in which the women are all paragons of beauty and the men muscular brutes with more patience than anyone, male or female, has on this earth. They present the world as we wish it were rather than as it is.
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Misfit
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Post by Misfit » Thu December 18th, 2008, 1:48 am

Here's a fun axample of deceptive cover art. Yes it's Gellis and yes it's a bit of a bodice ripper, yet there are so many pages devoted to details on the Civil War between Stephen and Maude that your typical romance reader (I'm going to p*** someone off with that statement) would be bored to tears.

Image

It's funny, I joined (and subsequently left) a historical romance group at goodreads. One of the posters asked for romance rec's and I suggested a Listmania I'd done on romances that were too good too be classified as "straight romance" -- with authors like Gellis and Laker for examples. Got a couple of snarky comments from romance readers who felt a bit insulted. Never went back.

annis
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Post by annis » Thu December 18th, 2008, 3:07 am

It's interesting that "romance" in historical fiction has become associated with "bodice-ripper". As Margaret has pointed out, the original term "romance" in literature had a different meaning altogether- romances were fantastic stories about the marvellous adventures of a chivalrous, heroic knight, often of super-human ability, who goes on a quest, though themes of courtly love did become a later addition to the genre.

There also seems to be a feeling that HF is only for women, though in recent times authors like Bernard Cornwell have had an influence on changing that perception.

Ash
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Post by Ash » Thu December 18th, 2008, 3:22 am

Romance has also changed in music. My dear husband, when we were first dating, planned a lovely dinner for my birthday. When he turned on the stereo, out blasted Beethoven, one of his more vibrant symphonies. "wait, thats not romantic' my dear said. Um no, thats music from the romantic era....We both had a good laugh.

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Divia
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Post by Divia » Thu December 18th, 2008, 3:50 am

I think HF is associated with "romance novels" or bodice rippers, but I'm wondering if thats changing just a little. Slowly...but changing. We see more covers now with women in fancy dresses, not some soft porn stuff, like before.


Or maybe I"m wrong. :o
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Margaret
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Interest in HF: I can't answer this in 100 characters. Sorry.
Favourite HF book: Checkmate, the final novel in the Lymond series
Preferred HF: Literary novels. Late medieval and Renaissance.
Location: Catskill, New York, USA
Contact:

Post by Margaret » Thu December 18th, 2008, 4:56 am

I do think it's changing. Historical fiction is becoming more widely read, and a lot of smart people (like us) love it and are spreading the word. It wasn't so long ago that people who wanted to write historical fiction were being told by their agents and editors that they should wait and make a name for themselves with contemporary fiction first or see their debut historical novels fail. I don't think that's happening now, and a lot of really superb writers are publishing historical fiction of very high quality in all of the historical "genres," literary, mystery, romance, warfare, and even, I think an emerging "mainstream" market for historical fiction. I'm thinking of some that I recently read, like Sally Gunning's Bound, that don't have the depth or beautifully crafted prose of a literary novel, but which do concentrate on character development, have strong plot lines, and don't fit into any of the genre categories. Rosalind Laker, etc., might fit in that "historical mainstream" category as well.
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Madeleine
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Post by Madeleine » Thu December 18th, 2008, 11:37 am

[quote=""Perdita""]Oh this is a very timely thread for me! I was having a rather heated 'discussion' with my brother about books tonight, he just couldn't believe that I don't enjoy reading books about guns, tanks, explosions etc so in the end I just waved at the bookshelf and said 'look, this is what I enjoy'. He looked at the rows of Phillippa Gregory and Elizabeth Chadwick and said, 'Yeah, Bodice rippers!' :rolleyes:

It is the covers that give people these ideas. And to be fair, I do look out for the books with headless women on them because they tell me that it's HF but they do look funny and I can't blame people for thinking it's all Mills and Boon type stuff. There was a time when I was a bit embarrassed about reading HF at work but now I've just stopped worrying about what people think. :D [/quote]

Well I've just finished EC's A Place Beyond Courage and there are quite a lot of fights in that; and last year's The Firemaster's Mistress also has quite a bit of gore in it, including a horrendous execution scene, so HF books have a lot more in them then just a bit of bodice-ripping! :p

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Ludmilla
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Post by Ludmilla » Thu December 18th, 2008, 11:46 am

I think taste and interest in subjects are an evolution over one's lifetime. I consider it lost hours to try to persuade someone to read what I'm interested in when they clearly don't have the curiosity or interest. It's easier to come to the net and find people who are already interested (like here).

As for some Romance readers being bored by historical detail, I'm probably just as bored by long lusty descriptions of sex and sexual foreplay, especially when it's gratuitous to the story and growth of the characters.

Regardless, I think people should stop worrying about what other people read or don't read, like or don't like. People should read what they enjoy without shame or guilt, whatever type of book it may be.

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Perdita
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Post by Perdita » Thu December 18th, 2008, 2:38 pm

[quote=""Madeleine""]Well I've just finished EC's A Place Beyond Courage and there are quite a lot of fights in that; and last year's The Firemaster's Mistress also has quite a bit of gore in it, including a horrendous execution scene, so HF books have a lot more in them then just a bit of bodice-ripping! :p [/quote]

That's why it's so annoying when people (such as my dear brother ;) ) label them bodice rippers! Both of those books could be enjoyed by men as well but some men might take one look at the covers and judge them unfairly.

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Misfit
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Post by Misfit » Thu December 18th, 2008, 2:51 pm

Regardless, I think people should stop worrying about what other people read or don't read, like or don't like. People should read what they enjoy without shame or guilt, whatever type of book it may be.
Well said. I don't read much of the 'mainstream' fiction these days but when I have they are just loaded with overly detailed and gratuitous sex scenes. Shouldn't those be labeled as bodice rippers as well? Why is that label just stuck on historicals and romances and no others?

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