You know what I mean. Some books are just destined to become projectiles. But what is it that makes us want to hurl a book across a room?
For me, it's a blatant historical error. Now, no one is perfect, and I'm sure I've committed a few faux pas in my body of work. But getting the history right is something I always aspire to. Research is what I do for fun, so I may set a rather high bar of expectation for other historical writers and for the most part, I'm not disappointed. Historical writers are meticulous because we have to be. Our readership is probably the most knowledgable, most sophisticated of all the romance sub-genres.
That's why I was shocked to my curled toes to find a glaring error in the novel I started yesterday. Nothing will induce me to name the author, but she is a well-known NYTimes Bestseller with plenty of experience under her belt. You would recognize her name. I'll bet you've read her books.
But within the first few pages of this story set in 1824, she reveals that her heroine was adopted.
Impossible. Adoption was not practiced in the UK until well into the 20th century. Fostering, yes. Taking on a ward, absolutely. But no one adopted anyone legally because there were no laws dealing with it. It simply wasn't "the done thing."
Now this NYTimes Bestseller gives her readers the feel of the period. She uses all the right slang--phaetons driving neck-for-nothing and rakes trying to "turn the girls up sweet." She knows how to properly address a duchess. The fashions and food are all there in appropriate measure.
But underlying it all, there's something terribly important from history that's missing. How the people thought about themselves. The reason there was no adoption at the time is because bloodlines were everything to the upper crust. A man was born to a certain station and that was pretty much that. If he had a privileged birth, he expected lesser mortals to give way. It had nothing whatever to do with which of them was the better man. The higher ranking one was assumed to be.
In one of Jo Beverley's books (and she's someone whose historical accuracy I trust implicitly!), when her titled hero finds himself without shoes, he demands and gets the shoes off the feet of the man who just freed him from a rather nasty place of confinement. The other fellow--a stranger to the hero--doesn't hesitate for a blink. The man of rank is the one who, by right of birth, ought to have his shoes. How they perceived themselves dictated their actions.
History is more than the stuff people surrounded themselves with. It's what they read and thought about and believed about themselves and their world. That's what motivates their actions in a way that the mere outward trappings can't. I get excited when a writer gives me something more than a costume drama. I love to climb inside someone else's life and try it on, odd old ideas and all.
And no, I didn't really hurl the NYTimes Bestseller's book across the room. (The only one I've ever really done that to is Nicholas Sparks' Message in a Bottle because he resorted to making his hero an imbecile who did something completely out of character rather than have a happy ending and therefore be guilty of penning a real romance!) Once my hackles settled this time, I decided the bit of fluff Ms. NTTimes writes never hurt anyone and the story is charming.
But my sense of suspended disbelief is gone. I'm waiting for the next nasty little mole of historical inaccuracy to pop up its pointed litttle head.
How about you? Do you have any pet peeves about books? What will yank you so far out of the story there's no going back?