How important is historical accuracy in a historical romance?
I think with some things it is very important and for others, not so much.
Take bathing for instance. To say people didn’t bathe during the Middle Ages would be accurate. In fact, a person may have only bathed a few times a year. While people had various reasons for avoiding it, the practice is foreign to modern readers. I’ve read several novels where the hero or heroine often luxuriates in a bath of warm water. This is unlikely given what we know of the period. But, we like our characters to be clean and smell nice. We are writing romances and having your hero note that the heroine smells of lilacs on a spring day is much more romantic than comparing her scent to the fertilizer beneath said lilac bush, and doesn’t have that whole eeeeeeewwwww factor attached to it. Thus, we are more willing to set aside what we know is not true for the sake of romance
But how far can an author push the bounds of historical inaccuracy before we put a book down? One particular book comes to mind for me. I am not going to give the name of the book, author or when it was published. It is not the point of this post and I would never do that to another author. Besides, it was a long time ago. This author used an item, in a manner it was never used, and years prior to its invention. Maybe other readers never caught it, but I just happen to know about this particular subject. And, perhaps I was the only reader she almost lost. Still, one reader is one reader.
Fortunately, one of my critique partners kept me from making a similar mistake by commenting on a quill I used in a story. I made an assumption and didn’t research. She happened to know about quills. Another critique partner pointed out that my heroine baking bread in France wouldn’t have worked because I put the story at the beginning of the French Revolution. After I double checked my timeline, I realized my date was off by a few years. But, would anyone else have noted it or known there was no grain for flour while my heroine was baking her bread? Additionally, is it all that important if the story is good? You tell me?
So, in your opinion, where is that line for historical inaccuracy in a romance? I am interested in hearing your thoughts.
Amy De Trempe