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Thursday, September 20, 2007

An attempt at historical accuracy. No lace panties in the Regency, please, and whatever the covers show, no polyester gowns or men's shirts that button all the way down.

This is a quote from Janet's blog from a few days ago, discussing what she likes in an Historical. Ordinarily I would agree with her about the Regency gentleman's shirt buttoning all the way down, but I recently received the cover for my January 2008 Harlequin Historical--A Regency--The Vanishing Viscountess.

Note the open-front shirt. Totally wrong for the time period, but I love this cover!

The shirt is wrong, but the cover is so right. It conveys the right situation and mood between the hero and heroine. And I love the sensuality of it. Plus, having a handsome man baring his chest on the cover ought to entice readers to pick up the book!

I think historical accuracy is very important in historical romance and, like Janet, I work hard at trying to make my Regency Historicals as accurate as I can. I know some other authors are not hard-and-fast about this and it doesn't seem to affect their popularity with readers.

So what is important to readers? I know what is important to me as a reader.

1. Characters I can care about--I can forgive a lot of other problems if the characters seem like real people I can care about. I want a hero I can fall in love with and a heroine I can either identify with or someone I wouldn't mind having as a friend.

2. Something interesting happening--It doesn't have to be something complicated happening, or even something with lots of inherent drama, like a life-or-death situation. Just something that keeps me turning the pages.

3. Something surprising or unexpected--I want something about the story to be different from other books I've read.

4. I want the love story to feel genuine. I want to understand why these two people fall in love and to believe that no one else would be better suited for them.

5. I want sensuality in the story. I want to be able to feel the physical attraction between the hero and heroine and I want this expressed in a way that seems right for these characters.

6. I want to suspend my disbelief and be transported to whatever time period the book is set. This inevitably means historical detail, but I want the detail to be incorporated into the story. I don't want to be thrust out of the story by feeling like the author is showing off historical knowledge.

7. I also don't want to be thrust out of the story by historical inaccuracies. Because I write Regencies, I know a lot about the time period. I would forgive minor mistakes, but not ones that would be easy to research.

8. I don't want to be thrust out of the story by historical accuracy either. Sometimes historical accuracy is so foreign to us we cannot relate to it. I think Regency titles and names are sometimes an example of this. Use of title names instead of first names; having sons with different title names than their fathers; having surnames that are different than title names. It can get very confusing.

What is most important to me is that the mood and tone and characters feel as if they belonged in the historical time period.

This brings me back to my cover. It works perfectly for me, even with the inaccurate shirt, because it conveys the right mood, the right situation, the right sensuality for the story.

Plus it has that handsome bare-chested man on it!

What is important to you as a reader?

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At 12:50 PM, Blogger Karen said...

Great cover, Diane! I beg to differ, though. His shirt doesn't button down the front---she ripped his "bodice."

Can't wait to read this one.

At 2:34 PM, Blogger Norah Wilson said...

Diane! Terrific cover. I love the job they do on Harlequin Historical covers. I think they stack up very well against other publishers' covers. And this one is a real winner! And I'm LOL over Karen's commet!

At 5:31 PM, Blogger Diane Gaston said...

Ha ha ha ha ha!
I'm writing "Bodice Rippers"

At 3:16 PM, Blogger Delle Jacobs said...

Love the cover, Diane, you bodice-ripper writer, you!

I kind of half-think maybe I'm sort of on the fence about the historical accuracy thing. (Is that ambivalent enough for you?)

Some authors snicker and sneer at "man-titty" covers, but I love them. And if a historically inaccurate shirt can give them to me, then I'll take the button-down-the-front shirt. At the same time, I despise the traditional clench covers with the poor heroine's back broken backwards while she hoists her knee up almost to hero's chin while lifting her skirt enticingly.

I want historical accuracy in my story, but if the story is intriguing in other ways, I'm content to just know I knew better. But at the same time, I am so sick of stories with any heroine who must have time-traveled back to the past because no woman of that era would have ever behaved or thought like her. I think that's the one thing I dislike most in historicals, and it's enough to keep me from reading any more of that author.


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