Historical vs Contemporary
Hello again fellow readers. Thanks for allowing me to share my thoughts with you. Of course, a history of St. Patrick’s day would be of historical interest on this St. Patrick’s day, but most people are aware of the tale. There is little to add to the legacy of Leprechauns, pots of gold at the end of the rainbow, and even the color green. All celebrated with green beer, four-leaf clovers, and wearing green to keep from being pinched. I have something different to discuss, contemporary novels vs historical ones.
Recently, it has come to my attention the historical audience is changing. Many now prefer a historical novel written in a contemporary style, but dressed in a ball gown. No words from a different era, no allowance for behavior of gentlemen or ladies differing from the men and women of today seems acceptable. Readers seem to want the setting, but little else.
Example of this preference and lack of acceptance of a different way of life shows in one of the reviews for A Lady’s Vanishing Choices. The reviewer thought Lord Rivton should have found another way to save Bethany. The reader stated having to marry in order to salvage Bethany’s reputation was unbelievable. Two hundred years ago, that is exactly what happened if the man had an ounce of honor. If he placed a lady in a compromising position, he offered marriage. We are not speaking of ordinary folks such as shop owners, or servants and the like. This rule applies to ladies and gentlemen of the day.
Excerpt: She found being held against him intensely disturbing. When his breath touched the side of her face and feathered against her throat, she found the intimate embrace overwhelming. With a pounding heart and fluttering stomach, she slipped an arm around his shoulders. “Put me down.”
His voice chilled while he berated her. “Don’t take that tone with me, young lady. I’m furious with you. You walked straight back into the arms of danger when I told you I’d keep you safe. What did you expect to happen to you over at the manor?”
Fighting against the longing to remain in his arms and total exhaustion, she lowered her voice. “I don’t know. Regardless, I couldn’t remain under your roof indefinitely.”
He stared directly into her eyes with a blaze in his own. “Your logic is astounding. Bird-witted, twisted thinking, and you mouth such dribble. You should have known I’d offer for you. As my wife, it shall be your duty to abide with me.”
Surprised, she stiffened before spouting, “You never mentioned marriage before. You’ve held me in contempt, and you seem suspicious of me for some unknown reason. How was I to know? Why now?”
“You should have known I would correct my mistake. Although Mrs. Tackler is trustworthy and was there to chaperon, I should never have taken you to the hall. A couple of tittering maids couldn’t resist the temptation to spread the tale. The entire village is alight with speculations and finger pointing. Your reputation is in tatters. It’s my duty to restore your good name.”
Although she remained in his arms, she pushed back and sucked in a breath. “And that’s the reason you offered to marry me—duty?”
The light of battle entered his eyes again. “It’s a perfectly legitimate reason. And I want you safe and under my eye. I won’t allow another man to claim you, so don’t think it.”
I’m in a quandary. Will my writing lose its flavor if I change the wording? Perhaps. I have considered toning down the language somewhat, but I’m not certain I can fully follow the trend to go contemporary within the confines of a historical novel. If I drift into writing in the more modern fashion, does that leave out all the readers who want a historical to take them back to long ago in both setting and dialogue? These readers often complain if contemporary words are used saying it sounds too modern.
Excerpt: “Do you recall when I ran away from Birdelwood Manor all those years ago? I was only ten. I didn’t want to belong to Aunt Gertrude and Uncle Arthur, so I left.”
Maggie nodded. “Course I do. We was all relieved when the vicar found you. ‘Tis a wonder you was found, them woods being so thick and the lane without a body on it in years. The hand of God was in it.”
“At the time, I didn’t want to be found, but I’m grateful now the vicar didn’t abandon the search.” Bethany scrunched her shoulders, half expecting censure, and forced out words that condemned her in her own eyes. She couldn’t bring herself to glance at Maggie. “I took the gig without permission and drove over to that very spot.”
After a full minute, Maggie said, “I do declare, you was much more reckless than usual. I suspect someone drove you to it.”
Always supportive, Maggie’s attitude brought a measure of guilt to Bethany. “Aunt Gertrude started ringing a peel over me again. I could stand no more, and I escaped for a few hours. I drove around for a while, out of charity with everything and everyone.”
“Natural you would want to seek a little quiet. Set yourself straight and the like.”
Not exactly the language of today, but those expressions were used in the 18th and 19th century according to literature of the era. I’m not strictly against change, but I do enjoy all the language of a by-gone era. Oh well! The audience, like the voter, always calls the tune. I suppose I’ll do a little pruning of the verbiage in my next story. It’s a prequel to Conduct Unbecoming of a Gentleman, titled—Before She Became a Lady.
You can view the covers, excerpts and more about my books on my website: www.wareezewoodson.com
I’ll look for you there. Until next time I take part on the Soul Mate Publishing blog, have a happy time reading and good fortune to you all.