A Royal Blunder?

A Royal Blunder?

Just the other day, I was reading a top-selling Regency book (NOT by one of the Austen Authors) and I have to confess, I’m really glad it was on Kindle Unlimited because it was…to be perfectly honest…awful.

As I writer, I strive for a lot of things: authenticity and accuracy are two of them. This is harder to do with Regency than any other genre, in my opinion. There are so many self-professed experts that write and read the Regency genre that there will always be someone who chimes up with a complaint or observed error.

A perfect example is the “season.” Different sources have the “season” when all of the upper crust of English society went to London as being over winter vs. into spring. Most websites that I found agree that “…the London Season coincided with the sitting of Parliament ” (http://www.literary-liaisons.com/article024.html).

However, some websites say that was after Christmas while others state it was after Easter!

Additionally I found a lot of disagreement as to when it ended:

Jane Austen World: Mid-June

The History Box: Early April to Late July

I found a slew of other websites, mostly by authors, who continue to give additional dates: April to August 12th (yes, the12th–not the 11th or 10th, but the 12th); January to June; etc.

And then there is the issue with special licenses. In The Wedding of Shire Hall, my couple married by a special license. Before the fact checkers cringe, let me reassure everyone that, yes, my hero obtained it through the bishop of Canterbury and yes, my hero was connected. My hero wanted to marry Amanda in the garden, not a chapel. So that’s why he went to that effort. But I do believe that readers who are experts in the Regency era need to remember that these books are works of fiction and that sometimes requires some creative liberties on the part of the author as well as creative forgiveness on the part of the (expert) reader.

I suppose the bottom line is that there is only so much research one can do and then, as an author, we have to take the plunge and figure out what is the best we can do with such a wide-spread scattering of “facts.” After all, even the best of us cannot ensure that every little detail is correct in our work of fiction because (gasp) we didn’t live through that era of time! Oh that I could have! Well, if I could have but as a daughter of an earl or duke or something romantic like that.

See? That’s the romance writer in me!

But, while I am new to the world of Regency writing (under the name Catherine Eleanor) and I do not profess to being an expert on this time-period for the reasons mentioned above, I am NOT new to writing. I have over 40 novels published, the majority of them published between five different publishers. Thanks to those publishers, I have learned a lot about editing and proofreading (not just once or twice but a bazillion times). It doesn’t matter, though. No matter how often you proofread, there WILL be a typo. And some reader will find it. 🙂

With this particular author, I was stunned at the number of blatant, obvious errors in the book. Little things like “…she gave him a the credulous look she gave him…” That’s a HUGE error. And my favorite is the use of the same word multiple times in the same sentence:

She looked at the mirror and saw him looking at her. While they looked at each other, she realized he looked like his father.

OK, I’m making that up but you get the picture, right? Immediately, I began to look for another book to read (enter Amanda Quick to the rescue).

Anyway, if you are a reader of the Regency genre, you should know that authors, as a rule, do work hard to provide a great story with authentic details in a well-written literary style. When one of those ingredients is very obviously missing, well, there’s always one of the Austen Authors to fill in the gap! 😀

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15 Responses to A Royal Blunder?

  1. I think, actually, there’s come to be a genre of Regency Writing that has it’s own myths and culture. Not totally historically correct or true, but generally thought of as correct and true and accepted by readers. I don’t know if that’s good or bad. I think we must all do our best in the name of accuracy, but read a lot of books so we can also know what the current culture of Regency reading considers to be accurate. If that makes sense 🙂

  2. Though the season and the sitting of parliament generally coincided– parliament was the reason the families came to town– the dates weren’t exact matches. The Queen’s Official birthday was usually in February. If Parliament met in November or December they usually went home just before Christmas to return in February. Some dinners and routs were held then but entertainment was limited because Lent often started in February . Lent was usually in March. Though many of the aristocracy weren’t religious, they didn’t scandalize those who were with balls. Most families went to Town in April after Easter. The Parliamentary session usually lasted until July. However, for the first fifteen years of the 19th century, England was at war and had domestic disturbances and deaths requiring Parliament being in session at different times.
    It wasn’t uniform for they could go home in July of one year and not return until February of the next.
    If a general election was called, they would have a ceremonial opening of parliament in November. A parliament was supposed to be elected ( House of Commons) for a seven year period but death of a PM , a King, or other events could necessitate a general election. Easiest and generally most correct way was the season lasted from after Easter to mid July.
    August 12th was the opening of the season for shooting some fowl in Scotland . I think the word season confused the shooting season with the social season for some.
    The Archbishop of Canterbury’s office at Doctors’ Commons was the only place where special licenses were available. They cost 5£ and were only available to the upperechelons ,MPs. Judges and such. A regular or bishop’s license allowed one to forgo the banns but the wedding had to be in a church named n the document between 8 in the morning and noon. There was a seven day wait,
    Bad grammar is always annoying and will make me drop an author if no improvement is shown. Auto correct causes some errors . Careful editing on the author’s part is needed.
    It is difficult to get period language correct because so much of our language use is unconscious.

  3. Since we’re talking about language, in addition to grammar and spelling issues, another thing that distracts me is when the author is using words incorrectly. Trying too hard to sound Austenian, but a bit out of their depth with vocabulary.

  4. I commend any writer who does research to be as accurate as possible in their stories. I love to read Regency era novels but would never attempt to write one due to the time it would take me to try to get all my facts right. And even then, I know there would be lots of experts who would point out every thing I got wrong. As a reader, I don’t mind some inaccuracy as long as it’s well written.

  5. Oh, yes, the ever-present special license for marriage! I agree that at some point, the writer and reader have to agree to mentally set aside small historical inaccuracies for the sake of the plot. Another example of this is when an engaged couple in Regency England announces their engagement in the paper, a thing which wasn’t done. But how else is some other important person supposed to find out about the pending nuptials? 🙂 If the rest of the story is good, just go with it and enjoy the reading.

  6. Echoes – those lovely repeats of the same word several times within a couple of paragraphs or even within one. My editor just highlights them so I’ll know to put in another word. After all, if one is good, a second usage ought to be great. Yeah, right! 🙂

    I also write Regency romance other than Pride and Prejudice variations and have found it can be real easy to trip up in the speech. I’m always on the lookout for anachronisms. They are way to easy to include without catching them. And I’m not British, so sometimes I use an American expression. So, I’m starting to use British betas more in addition to my editor.

    But, even with research, a Regency writer can still err. After I had my duke offer his sister port, I discovered port was verboten to women. It was a man’s drink and usually was not offered to women…ever.

    • Regency, in a sense, can be hard to write as there is so much detail that is different from today: society’s actions, speech, fashion, etc. But I look at it as a challenge. I love reading Regency romances to the point I just about will NOT read contemporary romance at all. Occasionally Georgian or Victorian romance. Because I do recognize the obstacles in writing a good Regency romance without error, I’m like Zoe, that if it’s a good story and basically well-written, etc. I will also forgive problems with speech and details that may not be quite accurate. I hope that readers will do the same for me. 🙂 I’m not Jane Austen or Georgette Heyer and found I can’t write like them. So, I try to write a good yarn, clean of fifty million errors and hope my readers will overlook the rest. One of my reviewers said it best: “Just read the story and enjoy it.” So, that’s my goal with every book I read.

      Thank you, Sarah, for an interesting post. Authors should never edit their own work. Our brains autocorrect subconsciously, and we don’t catch that a word is missing, an echo is there six places in two paragraphs or we reversed the wording in a sentence to make it sound better but forgot to delete the original wording and have the phrase in the sentence twice. Using Grammarly and reading aloud helps but is not 100% nor is an editor but using all three can make a difference in a manuscript being more free of errors. And as you said, at some point we take the plunge, and we do our best and hope that the reviewers will at least be a little kind with their criticism. And if they’ve found a blatant mistake, we try to learn from it. Thanks again. 🙂

  7. 1 of 2: An excellent and thought-provoking post, Sarah.

    Zoe, forgive me but I don’t know how you taught yourself to ignore poor writing and editing. I love the English language too much to ignore painfully awful writing and editing. I’m quite willing to agree that almost every book has a handful of typos, and that writers are certainly allowed literary license to move a story along. But when I see the same error repeated in a book — sometimes on the same page, and a few times in the same paragraph! — I know that the book was not properly proofread or edited. Yes, most authors work very hard. But I just cannot forgive the lack of respect for not only the English language but also for the reader that is demonstrated by a book full of repeated errors. One grocer’s apostrophe, maybe even two, can be a typo; when there are three, four, ten, etc. then you know it’s inept editing. When I see “discrete” used for “discreet” (which I too-often do) once, yes it’s probably a typo; third or fifth time around it’s carelessness or incompetence. And don’t get me started on comma splices!

    • 2 of 2: Not being an expert in Regency history I pick up on only blatant historical errors, and yes I do find them annoying. Errors of language, however, completely ruin a book for me because they completely pull me out of the story as they obtrude on and submerge the story. Eventually I find myself unable to enjoy such a book so I just blue-pencil it. I simply cannot understand how an author can work so hard and long to produce an enjoyable book and then not ensure that it is properly edited.

      Having now ranted about poorly-presented books, I’d also like to recognize and thank the many authors in whose books I have learned new words, new terms, and new bits of history. Often I’ll come across a reference that sends me on a research project to learn more. Yes, sometimes I find that the reference is not completely accurate, altho’ more often I end up buying books on the topic to learn more!

      # #

  8. I am always happy when authors remind readers that we writers do, indeed, research our books, and proofread multiple times in one manner or another. Most of us out here are not lazy. And as you pointed out, Sarah, even books that are not self-published have errors. It’s inevitable.

    I have also come across books, in all the genres I read, that were poorly written and/or poorly edited. I usually struggle through them, because I like the story line. One of the hardest things I have ever had to do was learn, when I first began reading JAFF, to ignore poor grammar, usage, and mechanics. It still drives me crazy, but I have learned to make the change in my head to the correct word or punctuation (though I admit that using “continence” in place of “countenance” still pulls me right out of the story) and keep reading.

    Thank you for your post! 🙂

  9. Yea, I’ve opened a book and, after reading a bit, wanted to close it again. I appreciate authors that at least try to proofread and make corrections. Thank goodness we have the review system where readers can praise, recommend and [on the flip side to that coin] warn others to the virtues of a book. Good or bad reviews can give me a heads up before I venture down a path that will cost me precious reading time or my book fund. Thanks for this post and blessings in your writing career.

  10. Great post. What I found when I did research was that Parliament’s schedule shifted pretty dramatically throughout the period, so the season did too. If anyone has something different I would LOVE to hear about it!

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