CONVERSATION: More Thoughts on Anachronisms and Inaccuracies
Janine: In our last conversation post we discussed anachronisms. Some of the offshoots in our discussion were enjoyable so we hope that you will like them too. Here they are:
Jayne: If you don’t realize something is wrong or you couldn’t care less about it, does it bother you if someone points it out?
Janine: Whether that mars my enjoyment after the fact depends on how important my belief in the anachronistic thing was to my enjoyment. In an old Mary Balogh, Longing, the plot hinged on female miners being forbidden to participate in a real historical effort to improve mining conditions in Wales. The heroine was physically punished by the men of her community for trying to learn more about their plans to protest. In her author’s note, Balogh explained that the exclusion of women from the activism was her own invention. On the whole I like author’s notes that mention taking liberties, but in this case it took something away from my enjoyment because so much of the story hinged on that made-up fact and much of my reading pleasure had originated with that aspect of the story.
Jayne: If authors add notes at the end of the book explaining that yes, they know such and such was an anachronism but the plot really needed this slightly adjusted timeline or add references that hint that what they added could have been period, I’m usually okay with that.
Jennie: Count me as someone who is more likely to be annoyed by author’s notes justifying changes to real history than mollified by them. If it’s really minor, I can let it go, but anything reasonably significant, I find myself unsympathetic. This probably sounds awful to authors, but it just feels lazy to me to change facts to suit your plot – couldn’t you have changed your plot to suit the facts?
Kaetrin: Conversely, one of the (many) things I love about Susanna Kearsley’s books is that they are so meticulously researched and it’s always fascinating to read her author’s notes and find out which parts (and people) are real and which are fictional.
What’s in a name?
Jennie: “Anachronisms that aren’t” could be a whole separate discussion. I know I’ve experienced those, especially with names. I get that an author may somehow be able to dig up a 17th century Kylie, somewhere, somehow, and then they get defensive when readers complain about the “unrealistic” name. But I’m on record as being fine with all historical English/American heroines being named Elizabeth or Jane or whatever, simply because I’ve read too many that don’t feel right or real.
Layla: I also feel jarred when modern names are used in historicals.
Janine: For me this kind of thing depends very much on context. Does the character share the gender of the actual people who had that name? Are they or their family from the region the unusual name originates from (the internet tells me that Kylie is a Gaelic name)? Of the social class that may have been associated with that name? Is there evidence that at least a handful of people with that name existed in the book’s time period, even if it was uncommon, or is the author bringing in a name from the medieval era into a regency, for example? Even if all these criteria are met, it can still jar me if the name has a strong modern association.
Jennie: Sorry – Kylie was a hypothetical! It could as easily be Courtney or Mackenzie or whatever. A real-life example that I know I read years ago was a heroine named Brandy. But I haven’t looked into the etymology of that name, so I don’t know if it’s totally unbelievable or not. But I would venture to guess that the percentage of heroine names that I find UNLIKELY to have historical precedent (speaking of English and American historicals) is high in my reading history. It’s only the most egregious examples that I even blink at.
In the same vein, I was informed by a friend today that Tiffany is a MEDIEVAL name. We could have a medieval heroine named Tiffany, folks.
How should regencies refer to sex?
Layla: Ok I had to email you all about something I read—I was reading an ARC of Dukes Do it Better, a historical romance set in 1825, and the heroine writes this in her diary: “I miss sex. God I miss sex.” She is a widow. Talk about modern heroines and language!!! This is not something I imagine a widow of this time writing or saying out loud. Maybe she felt it sure but I doubt she would use that language to express that. Totally awful and threw me right out of the book.
Jennie: Ha – that’s terrible.
Janine: Re “I miss sex” — I don’t know about an aristocratic (I’m assuming) widow writing it in a personal journal (it seems risky with servants around) but I’m sure there were people in 1825 who wrote sexy letters their lovers burned after reading. However, the first example of the word “sex” in its “to have sex with” meaning (as opposed to sex meaning “gender”) cited by the OED is from 1900. So it’s definitely not 1825 vocabulary.
This is a tricky one though. “Fucking” was in use in 1598 but some readers think it’s modern. And it doesn’t always serve the purpose, for example if the character is being portrayed as genteel and the context as romantic. “Shagging” is another one some readers mistake for recent, but according to the Oxford English Dictionary it was in use as early 1772. Conversely, the earliest OED citation of “making love” in its “sex” meaning (which some readers believe was used in the nineteenth century), is from 1927–before that it just meant “wooing.”
I used to use “coupling” in my unpublished manuscripts but then I heard people say that it’s ugh, so I cut back on that. There’s “carnality” or “carnal act,” but for me that conjures a blatantly erotic experience that’s not necessarily a romantic one. So does “bedding,” to an extent. There were plenty even less romantic words already in use by then — “rutting”, “frigging”, “quaffing,” — but fewer romantic ones. If I were having a somewhat demure aristocratic widow write about missing sex in a personal journal in 1825, I might use something like “I miss the act of love” (“act of love” is first cited from 1638). So I’m not saying I don’t think there is a better way to do it. But it isn’t as easy as it looks.
Jayne: I guess “swiving” was already passe by then?
Janine: Passé is a much harder thing for me to research than anachronistic because in many periods there were fictional works that used vocabulary that was already outdated or even archaic by then—the way “swiving” is still used in twenty-first century medieval romances.
Words for sex in the OED that are earliest cited between 1697 and 1822: “old hat”, “correspondence”, “frigging”, “Moll Peatley”, “coitus”, “sexual intercourse”, “shagging,” “connection”, “intercourse”, “interunion.” A couple of those read as really clinical to me.
Inaccuracies in Contemporaries
Janine: If I have some expertise in an area, inaccuracies bother me more. This is not an anachronism per se, since the book is contemporary, but I have some theater experience and not only did Lucy Parker get a lot of theater stuff wrong in her book Act Like It, some of it was very easy to look up. I couldn’t help but conclude that she wasn’t at all interested in getting it right. That did really did piss me off.
Kaetrin: I’m far more likely to be bothered by poor/incorrect worldbuilding in contemporaries actually. That’s not anachronism though. It’s worse when I have some level of expertise/knowledge about the thing that’s wrong. It gnaws like a toothache.
There was a Sarah Mayberry (and I love Sarah Mayberry!) where she changed the location of the AFL Grand Final for plot reasons and up until Covid it had never happened and would never have happened and everyone who followed AFL would know that. (Like Jennie, I’m more in the “change the plot” camp in that kind of situation.) There was a romantic suspense story I read years ago (the title and author escape me now) but the heroine was in witness protection and even though I knew almost nothing about WitSec I knew it just couldn’t be right – or at least, if that’s how WitSec actually works all their witnesses are dead now because they’re so easy to find. It threw me so completely out of the story I couldn’t enjoy the rest of it. And don’t get me started about Summer Days by Susan Mallery. I DNFd it after a couple of chapters because of the terrible real estate shenanigans. My Goodreads rant about it was epic!
Readers, what are your thoughts? Do authors’ notes make you more or less tolerant of authorial liberties? Does the use of historical names that are used much more frequently nowadays bother you? Which synonyms for having sex work least/best in regencies? What bothers you more, historical inaccuracies or inaccuracies in contemporaries?
I knew Tiffany was a medieval name :) I didn’t know referring to sex as such would be anachronistic in most historicals.
With contemporaries (and I include romantic suspense in that), there’s a significant likelihood that at least some readers will be familiar with the context and bothered by mistakes, like Janine was with Act Like It. For this reason, I find it hard to read sports romances – they tend to get the sport parts right but the business/organization aspects very wrong, rather in terms of organizational structure and professional responsibilities. And I just can’t with male athletes getting in trouble with their teams for being slutty or partying. I can buy this if the problem is with sponsors, or if the team is upset about partying that impacts performance. Otherwise, nobody cares.
I also struggle with books set in academia or that have academic characters; there’s so much that authors get wrong. A typical mistake is characters working on dissertations on their own, with seemingly no involvement from an advisor or committee. There’s also the over-emphasis on teaching for tenure-track characters, seemingly no research collaborations with anyone, and grants that materialize out of thin air. Also, I just read a romance in which a character started as an associate professor immediately upon finishing her dissertation, without going on the job market and without doing a post-doc/having relevant academic accomplishments/anything else that would allow her to skip the assistant professor stage. This does not happen in real life.
I don’t mind some liberties taken for the sake of of plotting or characterization, but the things I mentioned are typically unnecessary, and suggest to me a lack of familiarity with the world the author is trying to portray rather than a creative choice. So I guess that’s where I draw the line.
Yes! Yes, to this.
@Rose: I have a really tough time with the academia stuff too (my dad is a professor). Years ago I read a Johanna Lindsey book (it was a time travel) where the heroine was a history professor at only twenty-three. Supposedly she was a prodigy but even so that didn’t seem at all possible to me. I wanted to throw the book across the room.
Ali Hazelwood’s recent book was full of inaccuracies also. Readers say the representation was great but they clearly know nothing about it and are probably saying it because Hazelwood, like the heroine, is pursuing a PhD in Stanford. However from what I’ve heard she wasn’t there yet when she wrote The Love Hypothesis. That’s a whole other topic, readers assuming something is accurate because of the author’s expertise. That’s not always necessarily the case at all.
In any case the plot is ridiculous–the heroine’s HEA would be tarnished because she and the hero are in the same department. Any position she got, she would be suspected to have gotten because of her relationship with him and his with his contacts. Further, she could have ended up defending her thesis in front of him, even if he wasn’t her professor. He could be int trouble with his department himself or looked askance at by his colleagues at the very least. There were other inaccuracies in the book too. But beyond all that, the biggest issue is that it’s a huge abuse of power. I can’t read doctor / patient or therapist / client books for that reason either. The one person is too vulnerable to the other and comes to them or (in the heroine’s case) the school with a great deal of trust. When the person in the more powerful position begins a relationship, they are abusing that trust and abusing their power.
A huge eyeroller for me was Susan Elizabeth Phillips’ book Nobody’s Baby But Mine. The heroine, supposedly a physicist, seduces (half-rapes, really) a football player to conceive a baby with him because she wants an average intelligence child and she believes jocks aren’t very intelligent. I can’t even with this story. No scientist worth her salt, no matter the field, wouldn’t know that genetics doesn’t work that way, or that jocks aren’t guaranteed to be low-intelligence people. Scientists are meticulous people, they have to be, and they know basic science in other fields too. And it’s not like genetics isn’t something we study a bit of in high school biology in this country. For the same reason of meticulousness I also can’t stand the books where scientists blow up their labs. I’ve worked in three research labs and we were very, very careful with hazardous substances in all of them.
A third book that really bothered me is another SEP, Heaven, Texas. The hero was three days late to the first day of work of the set of a movie he starred him. I’m sorry, but he would be fired. Movie sets have huge crews and the studios have to pay these people for their time. All these people had to wait for him and the studio would have lost considerable money on that stunt. Maybe if he was a huge movie star it would have been worth putting up with for them, but it was his first role in a movie ever. He was a football player, so he hadn’t even proven he could act, much less that he was bankable. Further, he didn’t even have a good reason. He wasn’t injured. His mother wasn’t on her deathbed. He was partying with a bunch of women when the heroine, who had been sent to wrangle him, found him. He hadn’t even picked up the phone.
And then she drives him to the movie set! They don’t fly, even though that would be a lot cheaper for the studio. I was really irked by that book.
I think every book I’ve ever read by SEP has included a moment where I wanted to throw the book against the wall. Some of them have wound up being great reads but still her super smart heroines and heroes do the dumbest, meanest things.
@Rose: Based on the YouTube video I linked to, Tiffany-like names (not exactly Tiffany in spelling, and possibly not in pronunciation) had migrated to France by the medieval era, but unless I’ve forgotten it (it’s possible) it doesn’t seem like there’s much evidence of them in England around that time. It’s a big reach to write a medieval romance with an English Tiffany, even if that wasn’t impossible.
Jennie mentioned Courtney in the piece. That is actually really old name although as a family name. For the past few centuries it has also been used as a man’s first name. I would have no problem with a regency era hero named Courtney but a heroine would be a different story.
@Rose, I have the same issue with books set in academia or academic characters. I recently quit reading a book because it was set in academia but wildly unrealistic.
@Janine, I also have a lot of issues with romances where there is a potential abuse of power. Workplace ones are usually not for me unless they openly address this. There was a book I considered but it involved a father and his son’s teacher which seemed off to me, so I didn’t read it.
I’m pretty generous towards inaccuracies in romantic suspense unless they’re really glaring.
Will it be seen as dissing the whole genre if I say that author’s notes at least show that they have done some research? They may have bent the truth but at least they know it…..
Regarding historical names, I would have thought the aim of an author is to create an atmosphere and tone of the Regency or the Victorian era or medieval Wales or wherever. So why not just pick names that were common in that era, or names that can be plausibly explained in the book? If readers feel that a character’s name is anachronistic they won’t be able to suspend disbelief and enjoy the book, and the smug author pointing out that this name was occasionally used in that time is no comfort.
Regarding inaccuracies, I guess I’m annoyed by the ones I notice! That’s why I hardly ever bother with English historicals anymore but I can enjoy well-written hockey romances. All I know about the NHL comes from romance novels and all of it may be wrong but I couldn’t care less. I’m not American so I won’t find inaccuracies in my sports romances very often, given that AFL and cricket romances are very very rare…. However, confuse an English peer’s title with a courtesy title and steam comes out of my ears!
(This comment is from DiscoDollyDeb but got caught in the spam filter and I mis-juggled it trying to restore it.)
(It appears my earlier comment got vaporized, so apologies if it turns up and this is a duplicate.)
When an inaccuracy is not a major element of the story line, I usually have no problem suspending disbelief and letting it go. However, when the inaccuracy is a central part of the plot or a character’s personality, I find myself fighting to stay engaged with the book. A few years ago, Jackie Ashenden (generally one of my favorite writers) published a book that featured a hero who was on the autism spectrum. A formative part of his childhood was going with his foster father to casinos in Las Vegas and counting cards at the blackjack tables for him. I read that and wash shaking my head. A child would never be permitted in the gambling areas of any casino; it simply wouldn’t happen. Because something that could not possibly have happened formed such a key part of the hero’s life and background, I found it difficult to continue reading the story.
Any thoughts on made-up locales vs. real spots? I ask because I needed an island off the Florida coastline in one of my early books, and I find myself revisiting that spot in subsequent novels because I tweaked the topography to work for me. I did mention in the original Author’s Notes that it was loosely modeled on Key Biscayne (contains a freshwater well) but had some geographic features I needed for my novel.
I was concerned anyone familiar with Florida would know there’s no Key Marquez off the coast, so I was certain to clarify that. I always remember the Regency with the H&H visiting the Eiffel Tower as being my gold standard of anachronisms in Historicals.
Thanks for continuing this discussion. It’s fascinating to me as both a reader and a writer!
@Darlene Marshall: Ouch on the Regency visit to the Eiffel Tower! Personally speaking, I’d rather an author made up a location such as you describe instead of bending a real place totally out of shape either deliberately or accidentally. That is one thing I’ve noticed in comments – people who know a location get upset that it isn’t described accurately in a book.
Are you working on another historical Florida novel? Pretty please!
I think a lot of “is this anachronism a deal breaker?” comes down to personal taste. I’m an American and when I’m reading a “light historical” by an American author like Julia Quinn or Tessa Dare that is pretty clearly marketed as being such, I let a lot go b/c I feel like you’ve been told up front what you’re going to get. Something that is marketed as more literary and gets a lot of mainstream praise, I hold to a higher standard of accuracy. Hypocritical maybe, but I have different expectations for different types of books.
It does seem like it’s almost always Americans getting non-American stuff wrong (for a lot of reasons I probably shouldn’t get into), but I did read a historical mystery set in the 1950s written by a British author where her British characters took a side trip to the US. The American hotel maid mentioned “the wireless.” No, no never ever in American English. Even in the 1920s, it was the radio. It wasn’t a dealbreaker to me, but to me it was such a obvious one for an editor to catch (if not the writer) that I was convinced it was somehow a secret clue that was going to be important later. Nope, just an honest mistake. She also had a middle-aged middle-class American housewife call something “cool” and it sounded jarring, if not technically incorrect. The word cool has been around a long time, but someone her age back then using it around people of her own age and background would be like me saying “that’s hella gangsta, yo” to one of my friends. I might be understood, but it would seem bizarre or like I was being sarcastic.
My pet peeve in contemporaries is just Spanish and Italian stuff being wrong. Not just the language (although that crops up), but huge cultural blunders. A heroine drinking iced tea in the hero’s villa was one. You may be able to find iced drinks it Italy, but it’s generally for tourists. Most Italians believe drinks that are too hot or too cold lead to digestive issues and illness.
I think more than that it’s just often a very “disneyfied” version or perhaps “eat, pray, love-ified.” Like the whole experience is marketed as “I get to go to this country and have this wonderful ephiphany without engaging in the culture or with the people on deeper level.” They don’t have to think about things like the treatment of immigrants and Romani, high unemployment, corruption, etc. I say that as someone who deeply loves both those countries. I’ve lived in both. I’m just not blind to their flaws any more than I am blind to flaws of the United States.
I’m sure that complaint could be true of almost any country or part of the world that has a large influx of tourists/visitors, Italy and Spain just happen to be the two I know well, so they stand out to me. I tend to avoid books set in that part of the world, much like some people avoid historicals b/c they know the inaccuracies will bug them. I don’t eat at Olive Garden either . (but don’t knock anybody who eats it, it takes all kinds!)
@Jayne–I am indeed working on another Florida-set historical because in Florida, the reality is always stranger than anything I could make up, both in history and in modern days.[g]
When I read a historical, I want it to *feel* historical, so modern names and language are distracting. I’m unlikely to notice something like an author moving a historical event forward by a month to make the plot work, but I would be bothered by significant cultural changes. That said, I really like historical romances that take place in settings I don’t know much about (and thus may not notice if the author has taken liberties). The worldbuilding in Jeannie Lin’s Tang dynasty books really appeals to me, but my knowledge of that period is pretty vague.
I get the impression that some contemporary authors just don’t really think about worldbuilding? I tend get hung up on details that could easily be changed, like improbably young doctors and lawyers or characters with relatively low-paying jobs in expensive cities living in nice apartments with no roommates. Or books set in Brooklyn (for example) that only have white characters. I usually avoid contemporaries with characters who work in my field or have jobs that I used to have because I don’t want to get distracted by thinking “but that’s not how it works.”
@Jenreads: I haven’t read many of her books and partly for that reason.
@Sydneysider: Years ago I read a review of a book called The Soul’s Expression, by Amy Alston. It was set in the late Victorian era and featured a heroine who was married to an abusive husband and couldn’t bring herself to consummate her marriage. Her husband got angrier and angrier and finally her mother-in-law takes her to see a doctor who can help women who have difficulty with sex (this includes some sexual experiences at the doctor’s office). At the time I read it I shared the belief in the story that vibrators were originally invented for doctors to treat women for “hysteria” (it’s pretty widespread) although it turns out this is not correct (at least according to The Atlantic). They were medical devices but not for that purpose. But anyhow, this book included some sexual “treatment” and I got more and more uneasy as I read it. I ended up looking up doctor/patient relationships to see whether any studies had been done on the power differential and how it impacts the relationship. I found this study which makes a pretty strong case that a doctor/patient relationship can’t be an ethical one. It makes for interesting reading.
(Amy Alston’s writing was good language-wise and I do hope she writes more books. I would read her again.)
Workplace romances are less of an issue for me, at least if one isn’t the boss of the other. While a co-worker can affect your work situation considerably, you can walk away from that relationship if you want to. That’s not so easy with a doctor or therapist. They will have the goods on you for life because they know your medical record. If you divorce them, they can bring that to bear in court, for example. I consider those relationships (as well as professor/student, even graduate student) an abuse of power from the get-go.
@oceanjasper: At this point in my romance reading I think that’s (sadly) more than fair to say. I agree on names too, mostly.
What is the AFL? All I can think of is the American Football League (a thing that exists here in the US, with that acronym) but you must mean something else since you and Kaetrin are not American and American football romances are pretty common.
@Darlene Marshall: I struggle with made up locales even though I know that in many ways they are a good solution. It’s an instant eye-roller for me and it didn’t used to be. Not sure why—maybe I’m just too quick to roll my eyes.
I wrote a romance manuscript (now tossed out, so it won’t see the light of day) with a character whose past was based on the parts of the life of someone who actually existed. That real life person isn’t very known and I don’t think many readers would have picked up on it. I would have included a historical note too. But I still felt kind of weird about doing it, you know? I mostly used his professional accomplishments and it seemed better than making up fake ones that might therefore be less accurate in a different way. But I still feel weird about it. I’m curious what people here think about that kind of thing.
@Janine: AFL for Australians means the Australian Football League. The sport itself is Australian Rules Football. Just like American Football, nobody else in the world plays it but it has a religious following at home.
It’s fairly indescribable in words (it’s most similar to Irish Gaelic football which most people have never heard of either). Anyone who wants to get an idea of it, head over to YouTube. I don’t actually follow the AFL closely but it requires supreme athleticism and is often an amazing spectacle to watch.
The anachronistic names get to me, too. Georgette Heyer, who almost always got it right, had an anti-heroine character named Tiffany (it was a nickname for Theophania or something horrid like that) and it was a little jarring but since it was Heyer I accepted it. Glad to know it has Medieval roots. Tiffany’s (male) cousin was named Courtney. This was in The Nonesuch. (I had a friend who gave all her daughters names like Courtney and Brooke, and I remember her aghast horror when another acquaintance gave her daughter the somewhat old-fashioned name Eliza.)
I have a series of novels in the back of my mind in which the setting is a created place very closely based on the North Yuba River my family camped at every summer of my childhood and well into my adult life as well, until my dad became too frail to go camping. I didn’t want to use the actual location because it was conceived as a trilogy starting in the California Gold Rush and ending in the 1950s, following the families who had founded the communities and the invented history of those communities, plus I played with the geography a bit. So I understand Darlene Marshall’s motive for inventing her own Florida island very well. (In a bit of family trivia, several months before my mother died she requested that we scatter her ashes at the Yuba.)
Carla Kelly uses the term “rogering” for sex in some of her Regency romances, many of which are a little spicy. Apparently it is a genuine historical term dating from the 18th century.
@Darlene Marshall and @Jayne: The Eiffel Tower in the regency is LOL funny! A friend told me she read a historical mystery series set in the Regency with trains once. She didn’t mind because the characters had to be able to get from one location to another quickly but her tolerance for anachronisms is higher than mine. I thought it was LOL funny.
@YF: Same here re historicals in other locations, if they’re sensitively handled. I have heard Jeannie Lin does a lot of research but you’re right I wouldn’t know. I like her books a lot (The Lotus Palace is my favorite).
@oceanjasper: D’oh! I should have guessed that. I will take a look at Australian football on YouTube because now I’m curious. I haven’t the faintest what Irish football is either. For me what Americans call soccer will always be football, but I usually use the word soccer online to differentiate.
@Kari S.: I remember that Tiffany and I did notice that when I read the book. That was in The Nonesuch. If you watch the YouTube video I posted, while that was not impossible, it was highly unlikely in the Regency. On the other hand a male Courtney is perfectly fine with me. BTW Heyer made up more than many readers think. For example that bit about a limit on the number of dances with the same man to three. Author Miranda Neville once talked about how she tried very hard to find a historical reference to that and couldn’t come up with one.
The OED site is down right now but I’ll look up rogering later. I know it was in use in the 19th century though, because a friend of mine found it when she was searching Victorian erotica for synonyms. That’s one that turns me off, but then Carla Kelly’s books can be sex negative anyhow.
Back in the Stone Age when I was in college, we had to read the diaries of William Byrd (a Colonial governor of South Carolina) in American Lit 301. I clearly remember him writing about how he “rogered the maid on the billiard table after breakfast.” Iirc, the term arose because “Roger” was a common name for a bull.
@DiscoDollyDeb: Oh, wow.
Regarding Heyer, a really good source regarding her research is Jane Aiken Hodge’s The Private World of Georgette Heyer. Hodge was granted some access to Heyer’s papers. Apparently Heyer collected historical details in notebooks from her reading but she didn’t record the sources! So it’s really hard to know where she got some of her facts. I believe she read a lot of diaries.
One questionable thing she did was use mother-in-law interchangeably with stepmother in The Quiet Gentleman. Yes, that was in some sources – but not in others.
She definitely invented the Regency Romance. Don’t let any Regency author get away with claiming Jane Austen as a model. Austen and Heyer don’t read at all alike. But I know Heyer was really bothered when other authors didn’t do their homework and got things wrong, so I think she did her best to get historical details right.
@Kari S.: I recall hearing that Heyer deliberately included some inventions (in the cant maybe?) to trip up authors who copied her. I wish I could remember my source for that information.
I don’t remember that particular item, but I wouldn’t put it past her. She was very annoyed by the copycat authors – including, notably, Barbara Cartland. Naturally all my Heyer bios are packed right now; I’m moving in two weeks! So I can’t look it up, but I do remember, from Hodge’s book, that Heyer was incensed when a copycat used a phrase she had found in a privately held diary that would have been out of anyone else’s reach.
@Jill Q.: I meant to reply to this. It does seem to me also that American authors are, on average, more likely to put Americanisms in their Britain-set romances than authors from any other English-speaking country are to mess up American English.
However, I too have caught exceptions. A.S. Byatt’s Possession, a book I’ve loved and read a bunch of times (it has some problematic aspects though) has a scene where an American professor accompanies an English one to France (they are trying to track down the main characters). The American character suggests that maybe they should get “a hire car.” Every time I reach that point in the book it always snaps me out of my enjoyment. I want to say, “No, no, no, it’s a rental car!”
Authors from Down Under also sometimes make mistakes. New Zealander Nalini Singh has used the word “torch” in place of “flashlight” in a few books, and I think she’s made one or two other minor errors (I think one may have been using “different to” instead of “different from,” but it was in an early book or books and I’m fuzzy on those details now, so I could be wrong). In my recent review of Perfect on Paper (up now) I mention that Australian author Sophie Gonzales did a great job with American English generally but there was one egregious error—an American character saying “I daresay” (a Briticism if ever there was one).
The worst error of this kind (well, not exactly of this kind, since the book is set in England, but not entirely dissimilar) I have come across was in British romance author Eve Pendle’s novella, Once a Fallen Lady. Pendle’s hero (a schoolteacher!) notes that “All men are created equal” was in the Bible. That is something every schoolchild in America has probably been taught is from the Declaration of Independence.
Re Disneyfied Italy and Spain—it’s just as bad if not worse with books set in Paris and other parts of France. You would think the whole country was nothing but pastry shops, cafes and chocolatiers if your idea of France was based on the romance genre.
@DiscoDollyDeb: You are so right about that casino plot line. Also, the concept sounds like a ripoff of the Tom Cruise / Dustin Hoffman movie Rain Man.
And because of this, I usually don’t get my knickers in a twist over an occasional slip by international authors. ☺
@Jayne: Oh, my knickers aren’t in a twist either. But it still jars me when it happens.
@Kari S.: I don’t blame her. That is horrible.
Yes, in my Great Guild-hunter Reread I did notice a few British phrases that Nalini’s editor must have missed. Torch was one of them, but there were a few more that I can’t remember right now.
I’ve taken a break from my obsession and am currently rereading the Alpha and Omega books. Honestly, I consider Dead Heat one of the best books Patricia Briggs has written. No fatal errors in that book! I keep hoping that eventually she will revisit the Sani family.
@Kari S.: I think Nalini Singh has improved on that score. I haven’t noticed it in her recent books.
I love the Alpha and Omega books and have read the first couple multiple times. I don’t think Dead Heat was one of those though. I remember loving it at the the time I read it. I need to catch up on my Mercyverse reading anyhow (I’ve only gotten as far as the fourth Mercy book) — hopefully I’ll get around to reading Dead Heat again when I do.