Guest Blogger Meredith Bond writes about creating beautiful history.
I love history and reading about how people lived. And I love writing historical romance. But one doesn’t have anything to do with the other and rarely do I use very much of what I read in my novels. Historical novels—all, although romance is certainly the most guilty—takes history and makes it beautiful. That’s wonderful, except for one minor fact. History is not beautiful. Life before electricity and toilets was really not pretty or comfortable. And yet when was the last time you read a historical novel which actually made you aware of that? Or mentioned it at all?
There are, from time to time, mentions of some villains awful breath. But the scent of a hero or heroine is always something wonderful—flowers or leather. But is that accurate? Did people in the 18th century really smell that way. Highly unlikely. If they bathed, it wasn’t often. In medieval England the monks of Westminster were required to bath four times a year. That’s it. And we’re not even certain they bathed that often. So, now how are people supposed to smell so nice? If they did so, it was due to the liberal use of perfume. The next time you read that a hero smelled like “musk”, it was probably his own personal musk that the heroine is smelling because the guy hasn’t bathed for a while.
Of course we all know that people in novels rarely use the toilet. Why? Because it was a disgusting experience. The wealthy might have a pot which would be cleaned out by some poor servant (sometimes by simply throwing the contents out the window – be careful how closely you walk next to a house). If there was an outhouse—well, you can imagine how lovely that smelled.
And then there were the animals. Yes, horses which leave what wherever they’ve gone? And no, there was no one picking it up. There were also pigs, rats, goats and all manner of other animals living in cities, eating whatever waste lay about on the streets—and there was definitely enough of it to feed them well.
So where is all of this lovely detail in historical novels? Nowhere. Are you surprised? No, I didn’t think so.
And what of women? People who read romance novels love a feisty heroine. A woman who will stand up for herself. Who rides as well as the men. Or thinks nothing of engaging in some witty, sarcastic repartee with our hero. But did girls, especially unmarried young women, really behave so boldly? I don’t think so. Not if they wanted to get married. And if they didn’t get married they became nothing but a burden on their family. They had no other option. Women were quiet. Submissive. Treated like children—who only spoke when spoken to. The brave young souls of the modern romance novel bears no resemblance to the actual women of time. It is a sad story, but true nonetheless.
So enjoy your romance and other historical novels, but especially enjoy the fantasy that they create—that’s why it’s called “world building.”
Meredith Bond is an award-winning author of a series of traditionally published Regency romances and indie-published paranormal romances. Known for her characters “who slip readily into one’s heart,” Meredith’s paranormal romances include Magic In The Storm, Storm on the Horizon, and the short story “In A Beginning.” Her traditional Regencies include The Merry Men Quartet of which An Exotic Heir and A Dandy In Disguise have recently been republished. Her new series of New Adult Medieval Fantasy Romances, will be coming out beginning March 18th, 2014 with Air: Merlin’s Chalice, followed by Water: Excalibur’s Return in April and Fire: Nimue’s Destiny in May. Meredith also teaches writing at her local community college. If you want a taste of her class in book form, Chapter One is available at your favorite e-retailer.
Want to know more? Visit Meredith at her website, or chat with her on Facebook or Twitter (@merrybond). If you’d like to be one of the first to know of Meredith’s new releases, join her no-spamming email list by clicking here.
Thanks so much! Meredith.