So, as some of you know, I’ve been reading a lot of (mostly regency) romance.  I have kept it to a certain type of formulaic offering, because this is stuff I’m reading in 20 free minutes, between writing chapters.  I also read cozies, but I’ve run out of cozies that balance on the fine edge of “not throwing against the wall” and “Not so riveting I’ll loose hours to finishing the book.”

My favorite regency romance authors are really historical mystery authors, just with the romance hyped a little.  In fact, though the name would be different, so I can’t tell, I’d bet you a lot of them were writing historical mystery when it was decided the genre shouldn’t be published because it wasn’t selling.  As usual the publisher had published a lot of crap under that name, of course, so it wasn’t that historical mystery wasn’t selling, but that there were a lot of them that weren’t.  But this is Traditional Publishing Thinking TM, not to be confused with real thinking of any type.  So a lot of the people who would have written historical mystery went to Romance.  (Which never occurred to me, since at the time I didn’t read it.)

However, I’m trying to be frugal, and the authors I know are still traditional and expensive.  So I’ve been using my KULL free reads.

And I’ve come face first into the REAL problem of indie in this field — weirdly NOT in historical mystery.  My guess is because more regency romances than mysteries sell, anyway, and people are looking for a quick buck, while those who write the historical mysteries are engaged in a labor of love. — which is “OMG, READ A BOOK.”

For those who haven’t read regencies, they are highly codified romances, set about at the time of Pride and Prejudice.  Yes, now they have sex in them, which is beyond absurd (in fact one I read last night with sex made me roll my eyes so much they almost fell out.  It was a very short read though, as I must have flipped past 80% of the book.) BUT the setting is codified.  There are things your characters can and can’t do.  There are places you’ll visit and events that happen.

The Ton, in Regency England was a small set of people who were landed gentry (Or were related to.  Or hoped to be.)  It was, numbers wise, the size of a village.  And like all villages, it had rigid rules.

I’m perfectly willing to give the dog a bite, as you know, even with the best research in the world, you’ll write a line without thinking.  At least it happens to me.  So, when a female character attends a funeral, say, I roll my eyes and carry on.  Or if a character writes and reads in “Parchment” even though paper had been in wide use for centuries, I sort of sigh and carry on.

But the one yesterday — the 20% I actually read — and the one over breakfast (I ended up skimming a lot and not because of sex) had me rolling my eyes so hard they couldn’t focus.

Look, if you want to write a regency, you presumably have read one, or maybe two.  This should be enough.  Though most people who are going to read this, will probably have read dozens.

Which is when I must ask WHAT WERE YOU THINKING?

I’ll excuse the author of the “Spicy” romance (that’s what she called it at the end, though unfortunately not in the blurb, or I’d have stayed away.  What I mean is, seriously, if you’re going to put at the end “read more spicy romances by” put that in the beginning.  That way people who aren’t looking to read with one hand will just not get it) because I suspect she only reads the sex scenes in romances.  But the other one is a sweet romance, and good LORD IN HEAVEN, what is wrong with this woman’s head?

Some errors — not an exhaustive list:

“A season in town” meant a season in London, not a season in Dunhaven or whatever the heck the author decided to name the town, so (she thought) the author could get away with not researching London or the real season.

Getting new dresses for young ladies to wear for the season was NOT the most important point of presenting them.  That was just a way of signaling they were rich enough. They’re not suddenly okay, because they got a seamstress to remake their old dresses, if their family is ruined.

A duke doesn’t OPEN HIS OWN HOUSE FOR THE SEASON.  He just doesn’t.  He doesn’t go around removing the holland covers himself.  And he certainly doesn’t clean the house himself.  No, I don’t care how “broke” he is.  If he’s that broke, he’d sell the townhouse.  Labor was CHEAP.  He’d probably bring his housekeeper and butler down with him (and maybe his cook) and set about hiring locals for the hard work.  Also, if he came to town alone, he’d stay at his club, not his town house.

When a duke spends money on his renters, he’s NOT LITERALLY HANDING MONEY TO THE RENTERS.  I mean, he might, but usually not.  Improving the renters lives usually meant building new cottages, building irrigation ditches, etc, and this normally — in the end — brought in more money, not less.

A duke wouldn’t marry a seamstress.  Not a young duke, trying to do his best for the family.  Holy hell, people, a duke wouldn’t MEET a seamstress in the normal course of life.  Yes, dukes could and sometimes did marry actresses and opera dancers (not a mistake on my part though a lot of these idiots do it as opera singers, because SURELY the first is a mistake) but they did it clandestinely, and were ready to repudiate the marriage at the drop of a succession.  I don’t care how great the love was, there were things they couldn’t do and wouldn’t occur to them to do.  Remember, Mr. Darcy, worth about ten times what Lizzy’s father had, and vaguely connected to nobility was thought to be out of her reach.  A duke and a seamstress.  My disbelief is gasping for air as the rope tightens.

Look, I haven’t extensively studied the regency.  I simply read Heyer and spent some years writing austen fanfic for a group online.  If I know this stuff, anyone passably interested in the genre should know it.

And I suspect the authors would tell me it doesn’t matter because it’s “fiction” — but it matters.  It matters because — as Dave Weber taught me — ninety percent of storytelling is convincing the reader they’re in the hands of someone who knows the story he/she is telling.  I.e. if you feel the author knows what he/she’s talking about, you’ll go a long way and swallow a lot.

If you’re continuously hitting me on the head with the hammer of your ignorance, I’m going to get mad and also popped out of the book.  Then skimming the rest of it becomes and exercise in watching the train wreck.

BTW this same type of issue applies to Americans writing Nobility In Space.  Sure, you get a lot more leeway because it’s the future and we don’t know how things will be.  But anyone very wealthy will not go and open his secondary house himself or perform manual labor.  It’s not a matter of pride, btw, it’s a matter of economy.  I’m being reminded constantly these days that I shouldn’t do furniture refinishing.  “Just buy the damn table in better condition” because the time I spend on that costs me more ultimately.  In the same way a nobleman’s (if they’re administrators of a vast estate, be it in England or planetary) time is going to be more valuable than the money he shells out for a servant.

For instance, if I ever get enough money, I’ll hire someone to clean once a week, so I don’t lose a day a week to domestic stuff.  I probably will then take a day off.  Maybe go for a walk in the park or something.  BUT that is worth the expenditure, if I ever have the money.  (Not right now.)

Most of the Nobility in Space books give me the feeling of high school students dressed in costumes, in front of a painted background.

I’ll confess I find it almost charming how inept Americans-by-birth are with orders of nobility, but seriously, guys, if you’re going to write it, read a couple of books from a time/place that had such.  (Heyer romances are possibly the best.)

I can imagine those indie authors sitting there, wondering if the reason they haven’t caught fire is that their writing isn’t good enough.  Or perhaps they should have more/less sex or…

When in fact, as writers they’re perfectly fine and professional.  It’s the research.  Something that would take them a week, at most, to rectify.

I repeatedly have a conversation with older son, which echoes a meme HE posted on Facebook.  “Me: I feel so odd.  Brain: Caffeine is not a food group.  Eat a vegetable.  Sleep.  Me: Oh, well, I guess I’ll never know why.  Brain: Just shoot me now.”  I quote this at him when he emerges from the basement before a major test going “I can’t sleep and I’m vaguely nauseated.”  And it always plays exactly like the meme.  “No, I ate a leaf of lettuce three days ago.  I slept four hours last night. Must be something else.”

I suspect the result of this rant, if I addressed it to the two authors would be the same, which is why I’m not, but seriously: Pull from air is not a viable long term strategy for writing historicals.  Do some research.  Read a book!

301 responses to “Research

  1. I’ve noticed that in the genre, too, even in the online group you mention. I just … some of them, I just _can’t_. The social situation of the Regency period does not mesh well with our current social situation. Landry gentry and the working classes operated fairly differently, but still far more closely aligned than ours NOW vs. then.

    My research isn’t _perfect_, but I’ve gotten better as I go along. One of the reasons the longer story has taken so long is, well, between writing for pay (however meager) and school, I’ve been *researching*.

    I have timelines and calendars. I’ve been tweaking. I’ve been trying to make it as accurate as possible.

    … And then there’s the people who just throw sex into every page, and all I wish to do is facepalm. I can’t read ’em.

    • Yes. Also they’ve just re-released Georgette Heyer’s Regency (I THINK that’s what it’s called.) It used to be in the hundreds of dollars used, but I bought it now, because it was like $25. Also, if you wish I’ll send you a list of my books, and you can borrow (research books) and return them at Liberty, if you want. I have a half dozen nice ones.
      Seriously, though, the field has a minimum knowledge, and what they’re doing doesn’t even TRY.

      • You’d think if they actually read the genre, they’d have absorbed by osmosis at least the social basics, simply because humans are copycats.

        Sounds like they really wrote contemporary romance, then pasted a different setting on top, cuz they’d heard about it and it sounded neat.

        • Five bucks says pretty TV show.

        • Or at least hunt up a friend who read the genre and stuff the book at them and go ‘tell me what I’m doing wrong you know this stuff.’

        • Some peoples’ osmotic learning suffers from substantially lower mental permeability for unfamiliar ions. A solution, of course, is to read analytically – which presupposes they have the necessary analytic tools.

          Don’t know if an indie-published text on ‘how to do research for writing from exemplars’ would help, or just end up preaching to the choir.

  2. There is nothing like having a Model T drive thru a Civil War battle (or earlier). Though I have some confidence that there ARE people who would accept it. C. Brown, Esq.: “AUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUGH!”

    • scott2harrison

      No, no, no. If you must have an automobile in your Civil War battle, it would be a DeLorian.

      • A steam powered armored locomotive that the inventor thinks will be like ironclads on land, literally crushing the rebels. Except locomotives are heavy and the armor makes it heavier, and wood fired boilers are not only hot but need lots of air and lots of fuel. And the thing has these huge iron wheels.that sink into the ground.

        Amazingly, it makes it to the earthworks of Richmond, where it grounds out, the drive wheels spinning in the trench as the bottom of the locomotive runs aground on the far side of the earthwork. And Confederate cannon is starting to get the range.

        Yeah, it’s possible.

    • BobtheRegisterredFool

      There was a manga which had as a fairly significant backstory item confederate foresters with chainsaws. I think from Texas. In fairness, the Japanese history curriculum probably does not give a good feel for US technical history.

      • Heh. My father and one of his brothers once worked as loggers. This consisted of downing trees with crosscut saws and dragging them from the woods with oxen.

        Their employer was sufficiently impressed with them that he had the idea of them using a gasoline powered cutter. The thing required two men to operate, and may have used a saw blade. My father and uncle took one look at the contraption, and convinced the owner to let them keep using a crosscut saw.

        • Oh: Need to mention some concurrent tech. Big logging operations used a stationary steam engine, cables, and huge hooks to replace oxen. Huge operations used temporary railways to haul lumber. A portable saw mill set up on site was common. And timber carts, which were two huge wagon wheels connected by a single axe, were still in use. Two were used, with one placed at the front and at the back.

          • There was a huge sawdust pile back next to “the old field” (just down the road) from someone setting up a sawmill in that area back when (the 50’s, maybe before) that we hauled sawdust out of to put around the bushes until, oh, the early ’80s.

          • and, I think I’ve seen a picture showing, sometimes a chain between the two so that bumpy logging roads wouldn’t result in the back timber cart working out from under the load.

    • Actually, self-propelled steam vehicles date back to 1769 and were in general manufacture by 1820. Steam coaches were common by 1860. So it’s not out of the realm of possibility.

      However, given that they were, to my understanding, at best a bit finicky, it wouldn’t be my first choice as a Civil War battle wagon.

      There’s a guy in Russia who has built a steam-powered trike — works pretty well, considering it’s built entirely from scrap.

    • I once read an archaic Greek setting with a character named John and potatoes.

      Turns out later that those were clues, but they looked like errors. Not enough clues to have me looking for clues! (What gave it away was when he encountered a computer that scrolled a Bible verse in ALL-CAPS. I wonder how many youngsters even know there was an era when many computers could not cope with lower case?)

  3. Back in my salad days of misspent yoot, I worked for a literary agency that designed and sold Romance packages. They decided to come up with a series of “American Regencies” and had to figure out ways to translate the genre’s codifications into a young and green country. Actually, America was trying to develop a ton of its own as fast as its climbers could climb, and the family lines of the American Royalists who fled to Canada added a whole ‘nother tier of flavor.

    • sabrinachase

      There is an actual area of American history that would be interesting to mine (if a bit fraught racially) which was the dual haute monde of New Orleans. One black, one white, both wealthy. I learned a bit about this through a relative who is a rabid antique doll collector. The famous Jumeau fashion dolls (very expensive now, in the multiple thousands of dollars) were used to show the latest Paris fashions to customers. What is *less* commonly known is there were black Jumeau dolls, for the black fashionistas. They are EXTREMELY rare and ungodly expensive when you can find them.

  4. Im having the exact same problem with my research/reading of novels set in the 18th century. Im looking more specifically for stories grounded in the “rising middle class” (ie nouveau riche of the merchant class) rather than nobility and if its not someone’s attempt to capitalize on Galbadon’s “Outlander” series, its someone trying to imitate Heyer (or its just plain biography, which helps some but not to the extent I’m looking for).

    So I’m back to reading Tom Jones by Henry Fielding.

  5. Paul (Drak Bibliophile) Howard

    “But why should I do all that hard research? The readers won’t spot the errors or care about the errors.” [Sarcastic Grin]

    One thing I’ve noticed about “the ton” and other nobility is their focus on Status.

    They had to show their High Status in everything they did or risk “lowering their Status” in the eyes of their peers.

    Note, I laughed at the people who “whined” about Padmé Amidala (Star Wars Phantom Menace) and that dress she had to wear.

    Of course, it would have been hard to put on and fight in but that was the point of that outfit. Only a woman of High Status could afford the servants to help her put it on and as for fighting, she could afford body-guards.

    Of course, their servants especially the “higher ranking” ones were just as interested (or more) in showing Status as their Masters.

    Often, their Masters would find their own servants “pushing them” to show the proper Status as their servants saw their Status threatened if their Masters weren’t interesting in showing the Proper Status.

    As for a Duke and a seamstress, a polite Duke might “see” a seamstress especially one who works for his mother or sister, but wouldn’t “notice” her unless the seamstress was “out of line”.

    Now, an impolite Duke might notice the seamstress but she wouldn’t like the notice. 😦

    • “Often, their Masters would find their own servants “pushing them” to show the proper Status as their servants saw their Status threatened if their Masters weren’t interesting in showing the Proper Status.”

      Too true. In “The Quivera Trail” I have the character of the long-time butler to the heroine’s titled family, who is very much a stickler for proper protocol and correct conduct … rather much more than lord who is the head of the family, and is very much a jolly, egalitarian sort. (Although the lord’s lady is a frigid, snobbish b*tch.)

    • Later on, in the Victorian era, you see people of the highest status free to act as eccentric as they want to- Lord Salisbury and Albert, Prince of Wales come to mind. In the case of the Prince of Wales, socializing with wealthy commoners and American millionaires (something British Peers didn’t do) allowed him a whole range of potential mistresses.

      • The extremely powerful are generally free to act with impunity.

        • As has been sung:

          When a rich man doesn’t want to work,
          He’s a bon vivant, yes, he’s a bon vivant,
          But when a poor man doesn’t want to work,
          He’s a loafer, he’s a lounger, he’s a lazy good for nothing, he’s a jerk.

          When a rich man loses on a horse, isn’t he the sport?
          Oh isn’t he the sport?
          But when a poor man loses on a horse,
          He’s a gambler, he’s a spender, he’s a lowlife,
          He’s a reason for divorce.

          When a rich man chases after dames,
          He’s a man about town, oh, he’s a man about town,
          But when a poor man chases after dames,
          He’s a bounder, he’s a rounder, he’s a rotter and a lotta dirty names.

        • When you’re at the very top, you don’t have the need to prove it- pressure’s off, in a lot of ways.

    • Often, their Masters would find their own servants ‘pushing them’ to show the proper Status as their servants saw their Status threatened if their Masters weren’t interesting in showing the Proper Status.

      A recurring motif in the Jeeves & Wooster tales.

  6. But, you see, the realities of the mores of that long ago period are so abhorrent to modern sensibilities that some feel compelled to reject historical fact and substitute a kinder gentler fiction set in a Regency simulacrum that they’ve imposed modern class and societal structure on.
    See, simple. modern Regency Romance is really just alternate history SF.

    • If it only was presented and marketed as such. Fairy tale history or whatever you might call it where Cinderella the servant girl might actually get the prince and end up as the queen of her land, and most of the more unpleasant facts of life before modern technology and medicine just don’t exits could be kind of relaxing place to spend an afternoon in if it was marketed as such. Admittedly works a lot better if you add enough magic that the aforementioned lack of certain unpleasant facts becomes easier to accept. Just ignoring those problems can intrude in the reader trance in most irritating ways.

      • Actually, Cinderella wasn’t a servant; she was simply the natural daughter of minor(?) nobility who was displaced by the children of her father’s second wife.

        She was treated like a servant which was part of her humiliation.

        • She was a merchant’s daughter.

          Did you know that in the first Beauty and the Beast, being a literary fairy tale, Beauty is secretly a princess who was changed for a merchant’s dead daughter?

          I have my fairy tale princesses going through becoming scullery maids and the like and then rising again, and having kings marry servant girls and strange women met in the woods who had no hands, but then I emphasize that this is fairy-tale-land.

          • I very much would like to see some books for kids with an USAsian ideals on royalty and “chosen ones”. Maybe where the secretly hidden prince gets himself killed early on and a team of Odds with no credentials just muddles through until they succeed. Anyone have recommendations for such stories that aren’t propaganda for monarchies?

            • M. Lackey’s _The Godmother_ (age 16+) has some tart comments on “destined princes” and that sort of things. The other books in the series are a little less sharp on that point. But not for kids, because of a sex scene.

              • Yes! Where could we possibly look for these stories? What author could we seek out who had written such?!?

                It is quite a puzzlement indeed.

                • Don’t be coy. I’m not up on all of Mrs. Hoyt’s nom de guerres and nom de plumes, so if she or anyone else here has written children’s books with an American sort of attitude towards royalty let me know.

                  My son and I are in the middle of The Lion the Witch and the Wardrobe, where Edmund meets the White Witch and she asks “Is that how you speak to a Queen?!” So the subject of how he, as a Texan, is expected to behave around royalty came up… that he is not required to bow as a sign of submissiveness, but bowing to Japanese, for example, as part of a mutual greeting is okay (as long as you keep your eyes up). But the other side of that coin is he is not allowed to bow either, even if pressed. It is really easy to say “Yes, is that how you speak to a Texan?” when you are snug in your bed and your dad is reading you a story… but what do you say when you’re alone in a strange cold woods and a half giant half djinn witch is scowling at you? (Winning answer: “Look out! There’s a bear behind you!!!” [runs]) I know there’ll be another conversation later about what to do if offered the chance to be king and a know the standard answer… but what do you say to the Lion of the tribe of Juda, the Root of David, if He is the one who says you are to be king?

                  • Re: “keep your eyes up” – There’s a maxim – whose source I don’t know – that says, in polite bowing “only God and the King should see the top of your head”

            • eh, actual fairy tales are very weak on “chosen ones” except in specific cases, like Sleeping Beauty, where the chosen one was specifically chosen by someone. the usual means of triumph was to pass a test. Whether working diligently as a servant at a farm for months all the way to addressing someone respectfully, it was still a test.

            • PTerry likes to muck about with the whole “Chosen One/secret king” bit.
              Captain Carrot may be the secret king of Ankh-Morepork, but it’s Old Stoneface Vimes that gets stuff done.

              • Paul (Drak Bibliophile) Howard

                To be fair, Captain Carrot may be the “lost prince” (and knows it) but he has shown no interest in being King.

                Note, there’s a scene where nobody is in charge of Ankh-Morepork and many of the City Guard want to quit.

                Captain Carrot slaps his sword (believed to be a royal sword that only the true king can use) on his desk and says “You have sworn to serve the king and I haven’t released you from that service“.

                Oh, IIRC they stay. 😉

                • Ah, but earlier in the same novel (The Fifth Elephant), Carrot foolishly tries to square off fair and square with a werewolf, and almost gets killed.
                  Sam Vimes, knowing that the Marquis of Fantailler was for bloody idiots, manages to finish him off with a flare gun.

        • True, but the way the story usually is told the prince doesn’t know that.

          • He usually thinks she’s a princess or great lady, because she’s so well dressed.

            I’ve run across a Mexican and an English one where she’s not so fancy at their meeting time, but usually. . . .

            • Yes, exactly that. In the French and Portuguese versions, she has dresses of cloth of silver and the like.

              • For those who want a broad vision of the possibilities, I recommend
                Cinderella Tales From Around the World by Heidi Anne Heiner.

                For those who want her not dolled up, I recommend the Mexican version found in Little Gold Star: A Spanish American Cinderella Tale
                by Robert D. San Souci, and the English version Tattercoats, which you can find here.

            • But he finds out she’s not, and then he does think she is a servant but chooses her anyway.

        • “Natural daughter” or “natural son” is a polite expression for an illegitimate child. I don’t know if that’s how you meant it.

          • I’ve only read one variant where the heroine was illegitimate, and strictly speaking it was a Catskin variant; the heroine’s father wanted to marry her because he didn’t know she was his daughter — but she knew. So the usual run-away, job as scullery maid, three balls, and marriage.

            • Sara the Red

              Well…at least that’s a mildly less disturbing variant. It’s the versions where the father *knows* she’s his daughter but plans to marry her anyway…::shudders::

              • Yeah. though there’s a number, like Catskin itself, where he’s odious in less disturbing ways.

              • oh yeah. Those are… ick.

                • There’s one Robin McKinley novel about that that made me feel unclean, to the point of having nightmares, even though justice is done in the end. I have never, ever gone back to that book. Intellectually I can understand why she changed the traditional story the way she did, but my gut response was and is “Arrrgh, ick, get it away!” and furious hand-washing with pumice soap.

                  • and worse, it gets put on YA reading lists.

                    • I would have heads over that. Spines possibly attached. And then I’d start talking lawyers.

                    • It first came out in paperback when I was about twelve years old, and I got a copy because I knew I liked the other books of hers that I’d read, plus I enjoyed fairytales. The thing is, all the other books of hers I had read fell firmly into the middle grade to YA category….

                      Yeah, that was rather traumatic to me as a voracious and somewhat precocious reader. I cannot remember if I ever finished reading it, and I know it made me quite wary of picking up any other books by McKinley for *years* after the fact.

                  • For those wondering:

                    And TXRed isn’t exaggerating about how traumatic it is.

                    From what I remember, a lot of it is phrased very poetically– but y’all know how McKinley writes, you are in that story. I was dang near 30 and… yeah, nightmares, bad bad bad stuff, etc.

                    That lady is one POWERFUL writer.

          • It’s also used to differentiate between biological offspring and adopted, foster or by-marriage children– ie, Cinderella was not the “natural child” of the legal parent who put her to work as a servant.

            It looks like “natural child” is a legal term for a recognized bastard. (Obviously, the father is the who’d do the recognizing. Other than Rincewind, not many mother run away before the child’s birth.)

            • Seldom in my experience.

              • That may have more to do with your experience than with how common it is.

                I’d never run into the bastard, much less the legitimized bastard, variation until very recently. And then it was in the context of a common law marriage in a state that doesn’t recognize them.

                In contrast, the adopted and step-child version came up a lot, especially before the phrase “biological” as an alternative became popular.

                You read a lot more historical stuff than I do, and the by-blow version has a lot more oomph to it in that context.

                • That may have more to do with your experience than with how common it is.

                  I read a lot of modern stuff, too.

                  • *chucks the olive branch back again and walks off*

                    • LOL. I will admit I’ve ONLY heard “natural” son or daughter as “bastard.” But mostly I read historical.

                    • I checked, just to see if my extended family, three different geographic communities and every mommy group where integrating kids had been brought up were all being odd– nope, it even shows up in psychology papers as an alternative to talking about biokids. (…which honestly sounds like a PBS show.)

                      Searches for legal terms also brought it up as a different way of saying children of their body. (Mostly in context of laws holding that adopted children were not legally any different than natural children.)

                      Hm, if it wasn’t already getting late I’d see if anyone had applied it to the Surrogate Child situation, especially when the bought-the-child mother isn’t even genetically related to the child carried by the birth-mother.

                    • I believe you. It might be a relatively recent usage, though, due to the blended families? Remember I’m older and come from older lands.

                    • A really big difference may be how common divorce is; blending a family when the Not Living There parent is either not alive or not going to be allowed in ten miles of the kids is one thing, when they’re just non-custodial is another.

                      Different cultures with different ideas of what adoption means are probably a big aspect, too. A lot of those ideas are… um… very much not compatible, on the order of “nuke it from space, it’s less destructive.”

                    • Paul (Drak Bibliophile) Howard

                      Does that mean that a legitimate child was unnatural? 👿

                    • “according to nature” as opposed to “according to the spirit” I think.

                    • I guessed it had more to do with the assumption that a child born into a marriage was both a natural child, and belonged to both parents.

                      Sort of the “she’s got a GREAT personality” of parental descriptions.

                    • No, no, natural meant bastard, so that wasn’t the assumption.

                    • *Specifying* natural meant bastard– like when you say “common law wife” vs just saying “wife,” the formally married wife has all the same attributes as the common-law but she also has the formal legal recognition.

                    • Muwahahaha! I think I found a root!

                      Catholic theology.

                      A “natural marriage” is one that is not sacramental.

                • It comes up a lot in family history research. So the illegitimate meaning is the one I’m most familiar with.

      • ” Fairy tale history or whatever you might call it where Cinderella the servant girl might actually get the prince and end up as the queen of her land,”

        one notes that this is unlikely to be a fluke. If the servant girl marries a prince, it was quite likely that his mother, when the princess, married the servant boy who killed the dragon, and her father married the troll’s daughter who helped him escape the troll’s power, and his mother married the peasant boy who disenchanted her from frog form. . . .

        • though there are some where the queen mother (or stepmother) disapproves of the new queen and tries to frame her for murdering her children (Six Swans) or giving birth to animals (Three LIttle Birds).

          though the reason why Perrault’s prince hid Sleeping Beauty and their children was fear that she, being part ogress, would eat them up, there’s an Italian variant (Sun, Pearl, and Anna) where the mother disapproves for more conventional reasons.

        • The beauty of this theory is that it explains why people are routinely having 16 daughters, or a dozen sons– high mortality rate, and with ogres, dragons and evil wizards destroying kingdoms often enough that folks can’t be sure who the neighboring king is, if they survive there’s a good chance they WILL become a king. Or at least get a decent job. (knight, lord, adviser….)

        • Patricia Wrede’s Enchanted Forest Chronicles does this. I think Princess Cimorene’s aunt is Snow White, a great grandmother is Sleeping Beauty, etc.

  7. c4c

  8. AMEN! Oops, sorry, didn’t mean to shout. One of the hardest parts of writing the Powers books was finding the blend between 19th century European nobility attitudes and what modern readers will stomach. I cheated by using the Houses to pull the protagonist into being far more egalitarian than he would ever have been in real life, but he’s still an arrogant, stuck-up, entitled snob by modern US standards. Which took a fair amount of reading, imagining, reading more, and stopping from time to time and saying, “No, think about [Czech country palace] and how much the staff did. Think about the Hofburg. He would expect that if he dropped his handkerchief, a servant would catch it before it hit the floor and then hand him a clean one.”

    I still probably got it wrong, but not as wrong as I started to.

    • Paul (Drak Bibliophile) Howard

      Of course, the servant might have been shocked if he picked up the handkerchief himself. 👿

      • Insulted, too.

        Believe you me, it sucks when you have to get dressed up in the monkey suit, go out, sit there for hours to do the Honorary Welcome Aboard shtick… and the guy sneaks in to avoid the fuss.

        You’re miserable, and it’s for freaking NOTHING.

  9. Part of the issue is with historical fiction is that modern writers don’t realize that they need to do research in social issues. They’ve been taught that history is a straight line progression from “regressive” ideas, which are all bad to “progressive” ideas, which are all good.

    Thus you have heroes who talk and act like 21st Century Liberal Manhattanites and are ahead of their time and villains who talk and act like George Wallace. For them, showing a nobleman cleaning his own house is simply their way of showing that he’s one of the good guys. Characters who find love that transcends class lines are being progressive and virtuous.

    • I sometimes feel like I’m fighting a losing battle trying to convince students that, oh, Henry VIII wasn’t a sociopathic b*stard who hated women. He had a very good reason for needing a male heir, and that need overrode a lot of other things. Ditto Peter I Romanov (Peter the Great). Different time, different, place, different standards and needs.

      • Yeeeup. Hate it when modern ‘standards’ get irrelevantly applied like that.

        I had a little fun with this in my Epic… one planet decided to go with male heirs only (ordinarily it’s straight primogeniture, or occasionally eldest female) … then the ruling prince couldn’t get anything but girls. Winked at his half-brother-and-wife’s affair and still got a girl. Only available male heir ended up being the eventual son of that last girl who wasn’t even his own. Joke’s on you, bud…

      • For Henry the dispute between the Empress Maude and Stephen of Blois would have been all too familiar, and the need to avoid a repeat of The Anarchy would have been his foremost priority.

      • I need to brush off that bronze age adventure. Got some negative comments because in the first chapters the protagonists decided the best option would be to make slaves of the villagers. Never mind that the practice was standard, and the protagonists – raiders – showed some compassion in letting the villagers bury their dead. The slave issue was a huge sticking point, even though it would have been normal in that era.

        • Did you tell the objectors that the other era-appropriate option would have been to slaughter the villagers entirely?

          • Exactly. Not many choices beyond 1)Kill them all (simple, expedient), 2)sell them as slaves to someone else (complicated and time-consuming if you don’t already have it set up), 3)take their oaths & appoint a harsh administrator with enough soldiers to make sure they don’t become a problem (risky & expensive) or – 4)make slaves of them and at least get some use out of them to cover the expense of administering them. As an exercise for the class, discuss and estimate comparative costs vs. benefits to the protagonists.

      • He wasn’t?

        Bear in mind that searching for a wife after Jane, two foreign princesses declined the honor by explicitly saying they feared for their lives.

        One also notes that his French counterpart was in his exact situation — he had only a daughter — and didn’t go tearing through wives in search of a male heir.

        • The French, as best I recall, did not have a civil war within living memory (War of the Roses). And for the class I was making the point about the first three wives. His medical stuff, and what docs now think was lingering effects of a subdural bleed, probably shifted him into the paranoid sociopathic track later on. Peter the Great was better balanced in later life, BUT his first 20 years seem to have left him paranoid about family members, and his son Alexis . . . Well, after that Russia had three women rulers and then Catherine II’s son got the rules of inheritance changed

    • Christopher M. Chupik

      I suspect we’re going to get a lot of historical villains who talk like Trump, no matter who wins the election.

      • Paul (Drak Bibliophile) Howard

        Chuckle Chuckle

        I’m reading snippets of Chris Nuttall’s newest book and there’s a character that I think some will compare to Trump.

        Mind you, I think Chris created the character before Trump started his run for the Presidency and I’m not sure that the character is seen by Chris as a complete villain. 😉

      • BobtheRegisterredFool

        I really won’t mind that, so long as paired with an equally hostile and accurate depiction of Clinton.

      • Imagine them talking like Hillary!

    • Or how people remember G. Wallace anyway.

      • Yeah, I got a liberal’s head to explode when there was a story about a college setting up a “blacks only” dorm, and the liberal had no problem with it.

        “So you’re going to acknowledge that George Wallace was right about “segregation forever”?”

        • I’m afraid I really did laugh out loud reading this. And I’m by myself, so here was no one here to share it with.

          • I lived in the Montgomery AL area for over 30 years. From 8th grade until 12th, I was in the same class as his daughter Lee. I have been a dinner guest at the governor’s mansion while he was governor. George Wallace was a more complex person than most people realize.

            • I find it rather amusing that Hunter S. Thompson had a rather weird kind of respect for him- definitely more than he had for Humphrey or Muskie.

        • For real fun, point out that Wallace was a Democrat.

          • For even more fun, point out that in his first run for high political office he lost because his opponent said he was too liberal on the race issue.

            • Yeah, I should have pointed out that he had a change of heart.

            • Terry Sanders

              Or that Jimmy Carter ran against Carl Sanders in the day with the same strategy–said Sanders wasn’t racist enough. Friend of mine remembers the ads. Odd how they don’t mention that much nowadays…

              (And no, I’m not related.)

  10. Thank you for reminding me to start reading Heyer… Slowly getting reorganized, and that has been on the list so long it managed to drop off.

    • Reality Observer

      Wups, used the WP account. Actually, I think I’ll continue with Writing Observer now; I’m investigating a security problem that may have originated with the Disqus account.

    • I’m jealous!

      I wish I had all of Heyer’s oeuvre ahead of me, awaiting my very first read!

      • I’m probably courting a high-speed carp delivery, but… Romance is not my preferred genre for reading, by a long shot.

        This is for research purposes only; I am doubtful about my ability to write the romantic elements into my work, and need to study a master (or is mistress acceptable here?)

        Of course, if I ever need a kinky sex scene (doubtful right now for the “main line” novels, although the S & S novels that have been niggling at me may need a few), I know where to get those. There are back issues of Letters to Penthouse and the like available for very reasonable prices – just file off the serial numbers, and maybe a new coat of paint…

        • I don’t read much romance myself. It tends to provoke almost as may book-wall incidents as the regencies by modern writers.

          I like romantic elements in stories, but the full-on genre of romance just doesn’t seem to work for me as a reader.

          That said, I still love Heyer. I suspect that the thread of humor that underpins all her work has something to do with it.

        • For kinky sex scenes of highly variable authorial literacy, the Internet is your oyster. Two examples of multiple genres are and (which stands for Alt sex stories text repository.)

  11. Christopher M. Chupik

    That novel . . . ouch.

    That’s why I ask so many research questions. I want to avoid being That Author.

  12. Funeral: Are you implying that society ladies did not attend obsequies*

    (Thank you M. Twain.)

      • No, I’m saying women weren’t ALLOWED at funerals. They were too delicate.

        • Yes, the article Dr. Pournelle linked to pointed out that ladies were too delicate if they were Anglican and gentry or better (but not if they were not Church of England), plus being exhausted from setting up with the deceased (to make sure they were dead) plus making keepsakes and funeral badges. Plus thieves assaulting the funeral cortege at the graveside and the drunken louts in the streets and in the party aren’t the sort of thing one wants to expose your womenfolk to.

          The whole setting up with the dead persisted into the twentieth century; I’d heard of people doing it anyway. And my grandmother made keepsakes and decorations from the ribbons from my grandfather’s funeral flowers for months afterwards. I had thought that was just her.

          • Well into the 60 and maybe the seventies– my mom had to help prepare a body, then set up with the body, more than once after she hit…eight, I think– and I believe some funeral homes have never removed the practice of the family being able to have a wake/sit up with the dead/watch for movement, no matter how unsuited it is after they’ve been prepared legally.

            Might depend on the state. I know Washington they’re required to allow you to help if you want, but some of them will lie and say you’re not allowed.

            • Terry Sanders

              By that time, I think, it had become a mark of respect or something. Like holding a vigil over your armor in other contexts. I never heard the “are you sure he’s dead” interpretation in my own youth.

  13. the publisher had published a lot of crap under that name, of course, so it wasn’t that historical mystery wasn’t selling, but that there were a lot of them that weren’t.

    Brewer’s assistant to Brewmaster: I don’t understand why sales are off, sir. We’re bottling larger quantities than ever.

    Brewmaster: Well, just keep watering it down more so we can keep our costs down and maybe we will sell enough to cover this vat worth.

  14. If you’re continuously hitting me on the head with the hammer of your ignorance, I’m going to get mad and also popped out of the book.

    Exactly! I adore Heyer, but I pretty much refuse to read any other regencies. They all make me mad enough to do the book-wall thing. Because I long for more Heyer, I used to check the regencies penned by modern writers. But, honestly, it wasn’t book-wall. It was worse. Every time I forget that the search is pointless, I always regret it!

    Loved your rant! Perhaps you wouldn’t consider it a rant, but if I were to express myself on this subject, it would be a rant! 😀

  15. Probably everyone here is familiar with this, but I found very useful, as is some of the other research in her site. The comments are also sane and reasonable and often informative.

    • BobtheRegisterredFool

      New to me.

    • The high-class held funerals and burials at night? (Well, actually nowadays some people, around here at least, are doing the visitation and funeral all in one night thing which seems kinda rushed to me, but I didn’t have to miss work for the last funeral I went to—the internment was the next day, a Saturday.)

      And thieves would *attack* the funeral procession when it stopped? (That there were thieves doesn’t surprise me, that there were violent, brazen thieves does.)

      • Brazen? It was dark. No one could recognize you.

        There is a long tradition of laws prescribing different things for crimes based on whether it was night or day for that very reason.

        • I had to research this as I wasn’t entirely sure on the time frame, but memory served:

          The idea of professional policing was taken up by Sir Robert Peel when he became Home Secretary in 1822. Peel’s Metropolitan Police Act 1829 established a full-time, professional and centrally-organised police force for the greater London area known as the Metropolitan Police.

          The Prince ascended from Regent to King in 1920.


          • Remember the Jack the Ripper convo a few months back where we found out the London police were routinely stripped murder victims of their valuables?

            Remember how London bobbies haven’t been armed regularly until recently?

            And even with guns, smart folks don’t take really good targets into Bad Situations if it’s avoidable.

        • Still does. For example, in TX you are able to shoot someone for vandalizing your property (criminal mischief) at night but not in the daytime.

    • Thank you! Still not worth fighting what “everybody knows” mostly from Heyer.

    • Gotta pick a nit:

      Prior to this new age of rationalism and enlightenment, it was considered inappropriate to show one’s deep grief in public. The reason for this attitude was the expectation that the deceased had gone on to a better place, where he, or she, would enjoy an eternity of peace and serenity in the company of a loving God.


      It could be a factor, but they were often keenly aware that there was another possibility, and they could hope but not be certain of getting the better one. Among Christians. Earlier there were pagans who did not even hold out that hope but still thought deep grief and its display were inappropriate.

      For one thing, it evinced a lamentable lack of self-control. For another, it was ridiculous rebellion against God, or Fate, or reality.

      But to persever
      In obstinate condolement is a course
      Of impious stubbornness. ‘Tis unmanly grief.
      It shows a will most incorrect to heaven,
      A heart unfortified, a mind impatient,
      An understanding simple and unschooled.

  16. For me, it was the “steampunk” thing. For a whole lot of people, *any* technology is indistinguishable from magic. Even Victorian-level technology.

    Most of them came out as 2016-recast-as-Victorian or outright fantasy with a sprinkling of “steamtech.” No amount of steam and difference engines is going to make you a Japanese-style flying mecha with lasers and guided missiles…

    The fans of the genre either have no clue or don’t care. I guess it works for them, but for me it not only breaks the suspension of disbelief, it runs it through the Ronco Bass-A-Matic.

    • I would hazard to guess that the “true” steampunk fans are just as disgruntled and dismayed as you. Theyve studied the period and its mores enough to see what you described as fake and wannabes. Which is why I could never completely get into the steampunk stuff myself. I like it a lot, and get what the ‘purists’ are aiming for, but I dont like it enough to make it my entire life. There are far too many other genres/eras/subjects that fascinate me as well. If I were to decorate my house and tailor my life around all the genres and historical periods I loved, Id be a decorator’s nightmare.

      • I tend to go right past the absurd and into the utterly ridiculous: clockpunk. Sure, the springs weren’t up to it, but as long as the technology wouldn’t work in reality, why not avoid the mess?

        • BobtheRegisterredFool

          High tension springs breaking, or explosively disassembling the mechanism ought to hurt.

          • Hey, I’m putting literally impossible energy into them; I can make them unbreakable, too. 0:)

            • BobtheRegisterredFool

              I cannot help but imagine the device being taken halfway apart for maintenance, and things sliding out. Probably because I am a clumsy oaf.

    • Yes. I have actually worked on steam boilers, and there is a reason why internal combustion caught on so quickly. Steam is useful for some applications–it’s a nice way to transfer heat around a large building, and it can generate a steady supply of torque provided that you don’t mind waiting for it to start up and you’ve got a lot of room. For vehicles it is far less practical than internal combustion.

      • And a gasoline engine is less likely to explode if you mistreat it. Seeing all the safety gear on and around the steam-threshers at county fairs in Really-Flat-State was an eye-opener. It is one thing to read about boiler explosions, and another to see the precautions taken even when they are not running a full head of steam.

        • I’ve been burned by a gasoline fire and I’ve been burnt by live steam. There is no comparison. Flame burns aren’t anywhere near as bad as steam burns. Thankfully I have never been near an actual boiler explosion, but I have seen pictures and the damage is horrifying.

          • Remember “The Sand Pebbles”? Live steam got someone(s) in the movie.

          • Yow. Reminds me of seeing a picture of a seam-welded, heavy-walled (thick) steam pipe that failed (along the seam of course) and opened up “fish-mouth” shape right into a break room. For years now those pipes have been extruded, so they don’t have seams.

          • I broiled the back of my hand on steam roasting a turkey, once. Hand slipped and the lid I’d been lifting away from me fell, releasing half its load of steam right across the back of my fingers…..

            That was relatively minor, I’ve fallen on a wood stove…and the stove burn wasn’t as bad.

            • SheSellsSeashells

              My aunt used to work as an intensive care nurse. I have been obsessively careful around steam since the age of seven, when I overheard her discussing the results of a stem accident with phrases like “rubber gloves with fingernails on ’em”.

              • BobtheRegisterredFool

                It’s a good hook. Martial artist reincarnates in body killed by steam accident, recovers and spends the rest of the story thinking everyone else are pussies scared of a little heat.

        • When the US was operating narrow-gauge railways to support the troops in WWI France, the steam locomotives were allowed no further than x miles from the front, both to prevent them from being spotted by their boiler smoke and to prevent nasty explosions from their getting hit. The small gasoline locomotives they used closer to the front were less capable, but they they were less prone to betray their position, and an exploding gas locomotive was far less of a problem than a steam locomotive.

        • The number of ways a boiler can explode are amazing. Too much fuel, too little fuel, too much water, too little water, adding water too fast… Makes you long for a nice safe nuclear reactor.

          Mr. Reactor never really bothered me, but watching a steam line dance from water hammer or looking at steam leaking through the walls of a 1/2″ pipe that was a straight shot from the 600 psi steam main certainly made me contemplate my mortality.

        • Potential of steam to cause major hurt: When I had a summer job at a paper mill, the FIRST thing they warned me about was the steam pipes in the factory – as I recall, because a high pressure steam leak is very hard to see and the jet will cut flesh to the bone.

      • I think steam boilers work just fine, if you have a nuclear source for their heat.

        • I don’t know much about nuclear fired boilers. Your heat source would be smaller, sure, but does that really save you that much weight? You’d still need the water and the shielding and the piping and make up water and a turbine, right?

          • BobtheRegisterredFool

            Don’t have to tether the nuclear carriers to coal, at least.

            At the very least, it probably isn’t practical for personal land vehicles.

            • Refrigerator-size nuclear reactors certainly don’t seem over-large for a pick-up truck or even SUV, although its energy is likely best used directly rather than for generating steam. There might even be sufficient spare capacity to operate tactical lasers or rail guns.

              • You need a certain amount of shielding between your reactor core and anything you actually care about, and neutron shielding is necessarily low density. So a reactor the size of a refrigerator might have a core the size of a soda can. Not only wold you need to use plutonium, it wouldn’t generate that much power.

                Frankly, once the oil in the ground runs out (assuming current theories about the origin of oil are correct) we’ll be better off creating hydrocarbons from CO2 and water in nuclear powered chemical plants for use as transportation fuel.

                • I kind of like the idea of hydrogen fuel cell vehicles, supplied by nuke plants cracking sea water.
                  But, alas!, storage of hydrogen as fuel does suck, as does the energy density.

                • Patrick Chester

                  So no 200 year old car wrecks that explode from stray fire like in Fallout 4?

                  • Actually, stopping neutrons produces hydrogen gas, so it’s not impossible.

                    • Patrick Chester

                      I’ll not take cover behind the wrecks. I’ll remember to scrap all the car wrecks from a settlement area, especially after I’ve activated the Automatron questline which spawns a LOT of Rust Devil random encounters.

                      (Was working around the Red Rocket station and I noticed a group headed towards me. Got blown up next to a car I hadn’t scrapped yet. Most annoying.) O_o;;

                  • and i went to bed and didn’t get to make this comment.

          • Nuclear’s power-to-weight ratio sucks, but it’s got a pretty amazing mean time between refuelings. That’s why you see nuclear powered warships – though I think gas turbines are probably a better bet for anything smaller than a cruiser – but not nuclear powered tanks.

              • Sorry, but where I come from, continuously spewing fission products and activated materials into the environment is pretty much the Platonic ideal of “doing it wrong.”

                • Bah, misplaced priorities and scaremongering over the danger of fission products. It’s not like you’re taking a nuclear reactor that has been accumulating waste in it for years and then sprinkling THAT around. If you do some calculations on the rate at which such a ‘car’ would produce fission products (remember, it doesn’t take a lot of mass reacted to produce a LOT of energy) and then consider the speed it would attain, the actual density of fission products distributed per unit volume of the environment it passed through would be so small that the vastly more lethal direct radiation from the exhaust would have killed anyone behind you long before they had time to worry about radiation from the fission products and activated materials that might have escaped.

      • Terry Sanders

        Stanleys were quite well thought of, in their time. And they used flash-tube boilers, which were far less lethal when overloaded.

        The thing that killed steam cars (and caused steam aeroplanes to be stillborn) was weight and inconvenience. The fastest warmup time I ever heard of for a Stanley was fifteen minutes. And if you didn’t want a water tank bigger than your fuel tank, you had to have a condenser bigger than the boiler.

        Oddly enough, some Brits were playing with a steam airship concept some time back, and it actually looked like it would work better…

    • Christopher M. Chupik

      That’s why my “steampunk” world has tech that runs on actual magic. Because a real steampunk world would be pretty much the real 19th century, with all the limitations thereof.

      • BobtheRegisterredFool

        Well, you could get away with using engines that work per the steam tables, if you cheat using magical materials science and heat sources.

        • “Oh, there’s you’re problem; you have to keep to the mitheral economizer tubes and use the correct welding procedure to where you switch to the AL-6X.*”
          (*At one time the ’70s or ’80s AL6X-N (normalized) was selling for $5,000 a [short] ton. It was chosen for superior corrosion resistance; I have no idea of its mechanical properties or composition.)

      • Yeah. The energy requirement would be too high to work.

    • BobtheRegisterredFool

      There’s a case that nothing will give you a mecha of the sort you describe. Even the O’Neill Island Three depends on unproven materials science advances, at least potentially impossible.

      I think flying with lasers is at least potentially viable with a rankine cycle mecha, with sufficiently bullshit cheating on materials science.

      Haven’t done even cursory research, but I have a sense that there should be a way torun a laser off heat. If that is so, add in cheating on supply, skilled labor, tools,and cost by having demons do the fabrication.

      Have something unspecified and radioactive for the heat, and do not provide the composition and details of working fluid and pressure vessels. Should work, even if the waste heat should be enough to cook any operator.

      My initial thought was ‘say the working fluid is cadmium based, but otherwise go wild and keep your mouth shut’.

      Of course, I have enough suspension of disbelief for ground pressure and bearing strength when dealing with normal mecha.

    • I generally like steampunk, but I would have to agree that there’s no real reason why steam technology can be used in the way it’s presented.

      The stories work, but mostly because of heavy reliance on “Rule of Cool”, and with a bit of coy tongue-in-cheekiness towards the ideas of such things really working as well.

      (Well, I say that the stories work, but it also depends on the story. You could have good, solid steampunk world-building but strain the willing suspension of disbelief in other ways…)

      • Maybe Steampunk works because the process uses Cool Steam?

        Sorta the way some other SF uses Cold Fusion.

  17. OK so let me ask this: what if you have a Georgian character – say wealthy merchant class – country gentleman – who gets pulled out of his time period and finds himself confronting modern culture? The one thing I really liked about the Georgian era is that the more I study it, the more I find that there isnt much difference between them and modern ideas about life (well perhaps with a stronger hold on faith and doctrine). Ive been having a devil of a time trying to guage how my Georgian character would respond to the 21st century millennial I have as another character.

    • Did you go to college or summer camp or another situation where you had roommates (suitmates)? Was one of them from a radically different situation than you–country, religion, one of you did/didn’t drink? Did you get along with all of them, and vice-versa? With each other? (Whenever I was interviewed for a job, I would always say that I got along with people generally. Years later it dawned on me that I had a different roommate for every year of college. I thought I got along with all of them, except my second one.)

      Does that help any?

    • A Georgian gentleman was supposed to be big on calm, composure, classical learning, conversation, and so on. Not necessarily faith, although generally a certain belief in Providence and an ordered universe. Sexual mores were a bit different….

      • Perhaps the origin of a “stiff upper lip?”

        That reminds me (I don’t think I’m going all *Perkins* from Magnum, PI on you). In US military history class, my professor pointed out that the American’s learned the wrong lesson from the Battle of New Orleans. The Americans came away with the idea that amateurs were just as good as professionals in battle without considering that the British troops (some of them at least) withstood American fire for two hours due to a foul-up in getting ladders to the front of the battle. No way amateurs, of the early 19th century, would do that. I don’t recall as to why the officers didn’t have the troops march back 500 yards or so while they were waiting.

        • “I don’t recall as to why the officers didn’t have the troops march back 500 yards or so while they were waiting.”

          Because a retreat under fire is one of the more difficult things for an army, no matter how disciplined, to pull off.

  18. If you can’t build a believable world, don’t be surprised when people don’t believe it. Seriously!
    This is one of the fundamental tasks of storytelling; suspending disbelief. A good writer will have readers ready to step into the next transporter to scramble their atoms on the way to the spaceport, and hop onto the first starliner.
    It’s more than just building a believable world; it’s a matter of trust. A reader plonked down the price of a full meal deal, and expects that his hunger will be assauged. He (or she) is not expecting nouveau cuisine portions barely suitable to whet an appetite.
    It’s the whole business of “The show must go on”. People count on it.
    Disappoint them to your peril.

  19. I read one of these incredibly ignorant Regency romances the other day and did an Irritated Review for it.

    Highlights: attending her own wedding to nobility by herself, a household devoid of any servants, visiting a man in his room at a public inn, blunders like “now that the Regent sat the throne”, and more…

    I blame movies. And playing dress-up.

  20. Oops. I have to re-configure or re-evaluate my backup battery; it lasted less than two minutes; quicker than I could go –uh oh, I need to shutdown this time– and then do it before my system powered off. Well, there is a hurricane going by–the center was 15 miles from Cape Fear at 5:00 pm. So far the water is still going *around* the house. NC State did beat Notre Dame 10-3 in Raleigh, so there is that.

  21. As an egalitarian American, I feel the only use for nobility in space is their bleeding copiously, and squealing like pigs.
    (Not necessarily in that order.)

  22. The “author didn’t bother to research so I will not further bother to read” class of thrown-off-the-train books has been triggered for me by many different areas – basically anything about which I have enough direct knowledge can trigger a ex locomotive projicitur in aerem event for a book. Even SciFi Engineering can do it – if the BS meter pegs, most likely that book is headed out the reading carriage window.

    At base it’s a matter of respect: If the author respects the reader, they will not try to BS too much. If you don’t know enough about guns, don’t write about how the sound of the safety selectors on the character’s Glocks being snicked off echoes across the airlock (For the non-gun-bunnies: Glock pistols do not have safety selectors – the only safety on a Glock is a gizmo inside the trigger that ensures the trigger is less likely to get pulled inadvertently, and other bits hidden inside that make sure nothing goes off when the trigger has not been pulled. And in any case a loud-enough-to-hear safety selector would be a bad thing in anyone’s pistol. Think about it.).

    I think Sarah has written about how she has built up expert technical support resources for gun stuff, and even so, tends to write her characters not caring about the guts of the gizmo, just that said gizmo emits hot lead or cold photons appropriately when the trigger is pulled.

    If you as an author are adding some bit to not look uninformed, but you’re really not sure what it is you are talking about, that shows. To avoid looking like an idiot, go do more research. Which is what Sarah said above.

    • Or screwing a suppressor onto the end of a revolver barrel and having it whisper, “Phut, Phut.”

      • Nagant 1895 with the gas sealed cartridges and cylinder that set forward when firing could be suppressed pretty well, and per the guys I know who have fired them, they’re pretty quiet. Keep the loads sub-sonic, and you’re not too far off that “phut” sound…

        There are also captive-piston cartridges, and I believe that there was an experimental revolver-based model.

        • Yes, I know of Nagant and sealed-cartridge firearms. But these idiots are just slapping a can on a S&W or Colt revolver and calling it good. Unless auteur/director makes a point of having said exotics on-hand, the device won’t fly. With me, at least.

          And while the ‘phut’ sound of a suppressed sub-sonic round is distinctly different from the usual firearm ‘crack’ or ‘bang’, it is still far from a whisper.

          And a way to get around the ‘disengaging the safety on the Glock’ problem is to make it not a Glock but a generic pistol.

          And Judge Posner is still a moron.

    • *snort* Reminds me of how I appealed to another Texas blogger (alas, now late Texas blogger) in 2007 for a contact among his weapons-enthusiast contacts for someone who owned an 1836 Colt Paterson revolver, or a replica thereof. Because I needed information for a scene in the WIP of that time, which involved an early Texas Ranger veteran teaching his intended how to maintain, load and shoot such a weapon. (This had a bearing on the long-term plot, you see!)
      It all worked out, quite well, although there were some comic moments in the actual session … which took place in a corporate conference room. In downtown San Antonio. In a bank building…

    • You know a glock with safety could signal a parallel world… subtly.

      • scott2harrison

        Or a really funny scene when the magazine empties in under a second. (The Glock 18 has something that looks like a safety.)

      • Glock has made pistols with external safety switches for specific contracts in this world, as well. There are also several after-market external safety modifications available, for those so inclined.

        Not knowing how something works doesn’t necessarily mean you can’t write about them–You just have to “be generic” with the whole thing, and write around the details with circumspection. In other words, don’t bother making a plot point where the sound of the safety coming off the weapon is necessarily something you need to write into the story. Having the pistol come into the scene visually would be enough, and that obviates the need for details like the “sound of the safety coming off” being in there, in the first place.

      • While I was still on whatever the KKR e mail group was, that subject came up, pistols and ammunition that someone would recognize as from the future, or from some terrifyingly advanced Earthly state. Polymer pistol frame came up, I suggested 99% copper bullets, which were just coming into use, various alloy bullets used by Western green-inclined militaries, And if you look at ammo on Mid-Way sports, a lot of hollowpoints have plastic plugs in the hollowpoints. At the time, I suggested the pistols that then had absurd lawsuit-inspired phrases carved in, like “read manual before firing.” And the simple Nation-of-Origin inscription is now science fictional to just thirty years ago: Croatia, Czech Republic, Russia.

        • Sights would be a really good indicator of “future tech”. Chemically propelled cartridge weapons aren’t going anywhere for awhile, but there will be advances made in terms of supporting technology like sighting systems. If I wanted to indicate a really advanced pistol, it would likely look a lot like most current designs–But, there would be a holographic sight picture presented as soon as you took up slack on the trigger, and likely, some sort of link to the owner’s VR overlay. Likely use of electronic trigger controls and fully-realized Tracking Point-like technology, as well.

          • Or have a character mention he’s a traditionalist, and he’s using a (1940s design gun) with (cutting edge modern– for now) bullets, because one’s very reliable, and the other he just really likes.

            I’ve got friends who do that joke with their 1911…..

          • Yeah, laser aiming devices, Tritium sights (might occur to someone in 1920 that they are radium sights, but those little sealed tubes the radioactives and harmless glow in the dark materials are in would puzzle them.)

            • Oooh, contacts that both offer basic safety protection and let you see your targeting light, and ONLY your own targeting light!

              • They’ve discovered a way to treat (some) color-blindness by accident, by inventing goggles that surgeons could use to protect their eyes while using lasers. Turns out that punching out one wavelength made their color vision more intense. For some colorblind souls, that’s enough to let them distinguish colors.

          • In a future where people live a lot longer, but don’t necessarily have Retinax-5 or equivalent to treat aging eyesight, those holosight thingees will become required for anyone much past age 40 using a pistol. You already see slides cut from the factory for the existing dot- or triangle-holosights, and I expect those to only get smaller and less obtrusive.

            But anything with a data link to anywhere is hackable, and the best current installation cowitness to iron (usually tall ‘suppressor’) sights as a failsafe targeting mechanism.

            Phasers phui – I expect slugthowers to dominate personal defense for the next 200 years at least. But sights and targeting are perfect applications of advancing technology.

            Oh, and given hydrocarbons are pretty much everywhere, while the stuff you add to iron to make good steel is apparently slightly harder to find, Gaston Glocks designs could be a lot easier to print on the ships 3D printer than John Moses Browning’s 1911 masterpiece. Just sayin.

        • Back in 1948 H. Beam Piper wrote a story called “Police Operation.” It was about a cross-time policeman tracking down an alien animal that criminals had dumped off in rural Pennsylvania.

          The policeman had been outfitted to fit in with the natives; clothing, weapons, speech programs… except they’d made a minor goof on the weapons part, and had equipped him with a 1937 Sharps rifle in .235 Ultraspeed-Express, from a timeline where Sharps didn’t go out of business after the Second War Between the States…

          For some reason I was always fascinated by that. And thirty-odd years later there’s a .235 Ultraspeed-Express chambering reamer in its little plastic tube by my keyboard, and pieces of 4140 steel bar stock out in the shop by the lathe, and other bits in the Discretionary Entertainment Spending Funds queue.

          I cheated a bit on the cartridge. After spending considerable time noodling out an “era-correct” 1937 super-magnum in 6mm, a quick check of “Cartridges of the World” showed I’d reinvented the 6mm-06, .235 being the old-school name for what we’d now call a .243 or 6mm. (different measurement points) So I declared the cartridges equivalent, ordered an off-the-shelf reamer, and moved on.

          Some people build plastic replicas of anime or movie guns. But eventually the Sharps will fire. There are several other projects ahead of it, so it’ll take a while.

          • That’s an… Interesting project. I’ve always loved H. Beam Piper, and his suicide was one of the tragedies of history.

            I got a hell of a laugh, looking at the old cover for one of the Paratime novels–They had the protagonist carrying a Steyr AUG, standing in for that Sharps. I saw that, and I’m thinking “Oh, yeah… That would have gone by with only a limited amount of notice in 1950s Pennsylvania…”.

            I’m curious, though–What action are you going to build that on? Something Mauser-ish? I’m thinking that might be what Christian Sharps might have gotten up to, with Hugo Borchardt, had the tuberculosis not taken him…

            • Terry Sanders

              I wish it were something else. EVERYBODY was doing something Mauser-ish. I would prefer the Sharps to be different.

              But I doubt it. Verkan Vall passed it off as a custom job in a wildcat caliber. Anything but a bolt would have gotten ten percent of the reaction the AUG would’ve…

            • The only things fixed at the moment are:

              caliber: (.235 Ultraspeed-Express / 6mm-06)

              bolt: fat bolt with interrupted threads for locking lugs (like a 1910 Ross or a Newton)

              push feed: (pretty much a given for a fat bolt)

              rotary magazine: (like a Mannlicher or Savage)

              I haven’t sorted all the minor bits out yet. It probably won’t be all that adventurous. Certainly not as off-the-beaten-path as the .500 Nitro bolt gun, which is an entirely different design. The .500 is occupying most of my available time at the moment.

      • Patrick Chester

        Or someone’s showing off…


  23. Rockport Conservative

    I thought it was me. I am old and crotchety, but I am so fed up with newbie authors, (I hope that’s what they are) using an old saying or word in a way you know they have absolutely no idea of the real meaning of the word or phrase and no sense of how to use it. I just closed down a cozy mystery I couldn’t take it past chapter 3 and I skimmed to there. For one thing it was supposed to be about a 74 year old, I’ve been there done that, turning 80 this month, and I know a little bit about what life is at that age. Oh never mind, it isn’t even worth talking about! I get what you’re saying.

  24. I’ve always found it kind of funny how modern people view the old aristocratic system. Seems like we judge it harshly but don’t have any problem comprehending why a blacksmith or artist would have to use an apprentice to master system. The best way to learn is from someone else who can relate lessons so we don’t have to repeat mistakes. Since for most of history, there was no third party educational system of worth for governing, the only logical system had to be aristocratic. It’s only with democratization of learning while still valuing it as an elite tool that self-governance becomes possible.

    • Actually, I don’t think our current education system lends itself to freedom, any more than apprenticeships imply autocracy. I would go so far as to say that apprenticeships can lead to freedom.

      Indeed, our current system is highly socialist, and it’s based on the idea that we can train everyone to be soldiers and/or factory workers, and once everyone is taught to do as they are told, we’ll be able to organize our society.

      Such a system has always been a poor fit for Americans, and I think the strain of the ill fitting has been seen for decades; we can see evidence for it in books like “Why Johnny Can’t Read”.

  25. For the ever loving light of reason, if you put something in to make it “more authentic– RESEARCH THE DANG THING!

    Possibly the best handling of the Amazing Horse Who Is Exactly Like A Car But Pretty problem was when a guy writing scifi but where colonies had regressed culturally had a literal robot horse. I want to say it was Stasheff?

    Tolkien could get away with not doing a lot on the horses/pony/whatever, because he didn’t do a lot of detail work. If you describe setting up the fire, cooking, bedding down, the horse making noise at you– and you didn’t do anything but stop and hop off, grabbing your bag? *twitch* Just skip the three paragraphs about how you set up the fire and say something like “they prepared camp.”

    • Paul (Drak Bibliophile) Howard

      Yep, Christopher Stasheff’s “The Warlock In Spite Of Himself”.

      Fess was an intelligent robot but had to be reset every time something “very strange” happened, like seeing actual witches flying. 😉

    • Terry Sanders

      Yep, Stasheff in the *Warlock* series.

      The hero spent a lot of time on throwback worlds, so he had a robot horse body for his ship’s AI. Apparently FCC class robots were built to have interchangeable bodies. Dozens, if you could afford them…

  26. Your taking about the economy of a Duke (or similar) opening up his own house reminded of something that used to be online dealing with Bill Gates picking up money in the street. Basically it took how much money he made a minute, and said that unless he found ‘X’ dollars lying in street it wasn’t worth him picking it up, because he’d be losing money by stopping to do so. 🙂
    Yes, it was an interesting little thought experiment, but it did clearly make the point that there are things in life that are not worth your doing if you can hire someone else to do it for you, for less.
    The only way out of that is if they’re eccentric, or it’s a hobby.

    • The Bill Gates thought problem is one way of conveying the concept of opportunity cost, something that far too many people seem incapable of grasping when discussing governmental policy.

      To pick but one example, that tax money not claimed and pissed away distributed to cronies wasted spent invested by the government remains available to be invested by taxpayers seems incomprehensible to journalist and Democrats (but I repeat myself.)

    • The other reason (somewhat in the shadows) was that a wealthy person or an aristocratic person had almost an obligation to employ servants and have tenants. That’s why it caused resentment if nobody from the local area was employed on the estates. Not so much a thing in London… but even in London, it was helpful to have local connections and savvy somewhere among your servants. Foreign servants didn’t always have an easy time making those connections.

  27. Excellent analysis!

  28. The one that drives me crazy is nicknames and naming. There are plenty of fluffy ridiculous period names and nicknames, in any period. Just pick one of them.

    OTOH, you’d have to be pretty convincing to get readers to follow you with your Saxon-English guy named Bubba. Even though that was a real name.

  29. As an American reader, one thing which has always intrigued me is how Anglocentric our view of aristocracy is. If you read novels like The Leopard or the works of Balzac, you get a sense of European aristocracy which points out how different it was from the British. Despite — or perhaps because of — a much more rigid class structure on the Continent, there seems to have been much more familiarity between masters and servants. British travelers often noticed this in their accounts of journeys abroad.

    • There was much more familiarity in the medieval times. The modern British were pretending that their social structure wasn’t as porous as it was.

      Chesterton once wrote an essay on a threat by the king to get the House of Lords to pass a bill — if they didn’t, he’d pack the house with new creations — and counter-threat of the lords to scorn these parvenus, which, Chesterton pointed out, was silly, because they would accept them as they had accepted all the others. There were aristocracies that were willing to maintain pride of blood, but not the British one.

      I recommend Life in the English Country House and Life in the French Country House

      • Someone, I can’t remember who at the moment, commented that it was likely that the newly ennobled Lords would be even less interested in voting for with the Hedgers than the most ardent Ditcher.

        • Depends on whether they were picked on the criterion: what would they vote for?

          • The vote was for the Parliament Act of 1911- basically, to restrict the House of Lord’s ability to veto bills passed in Commons.
            In the end, the new Peers were not made, and Lords went along.

  30. OTOH, there’s the equal and opposite problem with not doing the research. Putting the wish-fulfillment fantasies of your enemies in your bad guys’ mouth without the slightest notion of what they would really think. Sexism can be exaggerated beyond the bounds of reality and sanity and sound nothing at all like any actual views of women at the time.

  31. I really enjoyed this post– it did bring to mind research I did on one of my family lines. This particular one fought with William the conqueror– and received a manor and the title “Sir.” A descendant did marry an opera singer. That particular family eventually left the UK and dispersed. But, I think the opera singer was a delicious scandal of the time. We still have the talent in the family.

  32. “The Ton, in Regency England was a small set of people who were landed gentry (Or were related to. Or hoped to be.) It was, numbers wise, the size of a village.”

    Partly because they “the quality” did not include all the gentry. Witness that the word “ton” appears exactly once in the works of Jane Austen, and how few of her characters go to London for society.

    I was reading up on the polite classes, as they would term themselves, and ran across the family that strenuously objected to the son marrying a woman of the quality: their fortune was not up to supporting that lifestyle.

  33. Re: anime and historical accuracy —

    Japanese anime and manga have an obsession with putting stories about the Wright Brothers in a Dayton with mountains. Because obviously Dayton must have mountains to jump gliders off, even though the Wrights realized early on that pioneer glider pilots should avoid takeoffs from cliffs, tall buildings, and other high places.

    To be fair, I think some Japanese tourists like to visit the Wright Memorial, which is set on a high unusable piece of land at one of the borders of Wright-Patterson Air Force Base, and overlooks the Wright’s rented pasture-runway. And there have been some rather interesting US movies and TV episodes shot in California, also featuring a mountainous Dayton.
    But I think it’s also because most rural places in Japan are not very flat, so they just think Dayton should have mountains. (And Indiana, too, in a show that featured their birthplace.)

    I think some of the animators may have started to notice this. There’s a show called Time Bokan 24 (the 24th series of a time travel anime centered around the idea of a Time Patrol). This time, the series centers on producing deliberately wrong portrayals of history, with the comedic idea that the “True History” has been deliberately hidden.

    So in the second episode (“The Wright Brothers Were Really an Only Child!”), Kitty Hawk is a small town in the middle of flat farmland, completely surrounded by high cliffs and snow-covered mountains, some of them looking volcanic. There’s no sign of the Atlantic Ocean.

    Of course, US stuff isn’t always very hep about Japanese history and landscapes, so I just enjoy the intrinsic funniness of it all.

    • Paul (Drak Bibliophile) Howard

      Can’t blame the Japanese too much.

      How much US history do they get from American Movies?

      I remember seeing one US Movie on TV about Andrew Jackson’s War against the Seminole.

      Sure didn’t look like Florida. 👿

      • Anonymous Coward

        I recall a horrible movie from the 70s – The Norseman, which featured vikings landing on a beach on the Gulf Coast of Florida (complete with palmettos and an oil tanker in the background).

      • Hell, we remember that atrocious “historical miniseries” called Texas Rising, which looked nothing at all like the places in Texas where all the action supposedly took place. They did all the location shooting in Durango, Mexico, for the love of all that is holy.

        We took gleeful revenge on the wretched ahistorical nonsense that it turned out to be in The Second Chronicle of Luna City, by skewering a movie production company filming an alleged historical epic in the vicinity .

      • Ah, yes, who can forget the famous Mountains of Illinois- as Mike and the Bots pointed out during “Beginning of the End”.

        There was an episode of “the Unit” purportedly set here in PNG that got an amusing amount of stuff just plain wrong.

        • Patrick Chester

          “Jupiter: America’s Dairyland!” -one of the earlier MST3K movies. King Dinosaur? Can’t remember.

      • I loved the bit in _Bones_ where Bones and Booth are in Roswell New Mexico, climb the back of a hill, and can see El Paso Texas. 500 miles and a mountain range erased in one swoop!

        • One of the great pleasures of National Treasure is “chase sequences” through Washington DC and Philadelphia are accurate down to the intersection … unlike, for instance, Rocky where Stallone jogs down a street on the West Philadelphia, turns a corner, and appears in Center City.

          • My parents went to see Brown’s _Angels and Demons_ in the theater, and laughed so hard they were almost asked to leave. It was the frantic chase through Rome. They’ve been there, and there is NO way anyone short of the Most High could get through traffic that quickly.

        • Well, if it weren’t for the mountain range. . .. We used to joke that West Texas was so flat that you could see to Kansas by standing on tiptoe on a can of tuna fish set on top of an overpass.

      • Well, at times, you get a lot of manga and anime set in US towns, with drawings based exactly on someone’s vacation/research. For example, the excruciatingly detailed use of real places in Houston and Cocoa Beach in Space Brothers, and the meticulous Florida tennis training complex in Baby Steps.

        But Dayton and Kitty Hawk must not be big vacation destinations for mangaka or animators.

        • Patrick Chester

          Huh. I remember one of the original Bubblegum Crisis OVA episodes had a scene set (briefly) in a 2030s Houston. They got the 610 Loop mostly correct, though the exit I-45 doesn’t point to “Galbeston”. 🙂

  34. Julia Blaine

    My son, James Schardt alerted me to your blog on Research. I write mostly Regencies and an occasional something else.
    When I come to an anachronism is pulls me out of a story. Occasionally it is not an anachronism after all, which I discover after I look it up but I lose reading time enjoyment, being outside the story for a moment or bothered enough to hit the internet.
    Because I write Regency I learn from other author’s books. It is annoying to be misled.
    I’m with you about the sex scenes. Too much anatomy can take a person out of a story just like the wrong word. Some sex can be necessary for a plot but I’m more interested the story line. A mystery will carry a story to the end. Too much detail, whether it is clothing, a sex event that continues for several pages, a multi course meal that displays the author’s knowledge of period customs and cuisine w/o furthering the plot — stuff like this can be as much a story-stopper as your duke marrying a seamstress.
    You might enjoy “Adrian’s Pearl” which is available on Kindle. You pay for the pages you read so you can save money if you dislike it. (I don’t think you will.) I really research everything; love turning up trivia to add to a story. LIke a tornado or meteor strike during the Regency.( I haven’t used this yet but maybe…)
    Do look at “Adrian’s Pearl.” It would please me if you enjoy it.

  35. The not marrying a Seamstress thing. PG Wodehouse – writing about Edwardian/interwar Britain (i.e. 100+ years later) – has any number of plots revolving around some rich/noble person marrying (or proposing to, or hoping to marry …) a waitress or similar.

    Everyone disapproves so much that this disapproval is generally what drives the plot.

    And I can say from my own personal family history that PG Wodehouse was absolutely correct – both in plot setting and outcome. A (great (great…)) uncle who was a Lloyd’s name (i.e. stinking rich) fell in love with the waitress of the restaurant where he and his brother had lunch every weekday in the city. They did marry, but I believe it took the second world war for certain relatives to be willing to invite him and his bride/family to their homes.

    • Archduke Johann of Austria in the early 1800s. Civic minded, started a university, encouraged modern farming techniques and education, all of which were considered odd but tolerable, because well, there’s one in every generation. And then he decided to marry a postmaster’s daughter, so their children would be legit. Horror! In the end Francis II held his nose and ordered that it be a morgnatic marriage – legal but no rights of title and inheritance, and Johann said “Fine. And the horse you rode in on.” Franz Josef did his best to ignore Crazy Uncle Johann. Apparently Johann had a wonderful rest of his life with a charming family and is still remembered fondly in Styria.

      • Look, it happened (rarely) but the woman didn’t take in account any of the reasons it didn’t happen more often. I grew up in a for-real class society, much softened in the 20th century, and event here, to fall in love with someone that far apart, you’d need to ignore different dialects, modes of dressing, habits of hygiene, and it goes on and on. It’s like marrying outside the tribe.
        None of this book reflected that, and D8mn it, a duke still wouldn’t be opening his house by himself, tearing his pants and needing a seamstress.

        • It’s not to the same power, but a way folks might be able to get their head around it– know any couples where the way they grew up was just radically different?

          I am a solid ranch kid. My husband was, basically, a rich kid.

          They were smart about it, didn’t spoil the kids, didn’t do anything wrong— but the basic assumptions about what you can DO are radically different, what you of course will do are radically different.

          When we visit his (awesome) grandmother, she’s still annoyed that we can’t “find” a hotel that’s closer to her house, even with her help… the cost for one night in one of those rooms is more than we pay for the almost two weeks we spend visiting. And they’re not going to have five kids in them, y’dig? His parents’ idea of being in financial trouble is that they had to sell their share of the house boat in Arizona. He’s horrified at the idea of buying a car that you know will break down in a few years, even if it pencils out better. (in our case, because we cannot trust any of the repair places, it’s a justified objection– but he’ll readily admit it’s an inherent objection, not a reasoned one.)
          In contrast, my parents had to cash in dad’s life insurance from the Army when they hit hard times. It’s a big splurge when you visit a relative and stay in a hotel at all– although one they try hard to make, since it lets you have some space and sanity.
          We meet in the middle, and thank God we’re both known to be strange and folks were shocked enough that we married anyone at all that there are major concessions made, but there are rough patches.

          Go back a generation– my parents were also folks that were expected to never marry anyone, and then were expected to fall apart any day now because it was so sudden. (Mom’s joke about this is that they married in November, and I was born in January. The joke being that it was 14 months between the two, but folks found that more acceptable than basically bumping into your soul’s other half and marrying 6 months later.)
          Their families are fairly similar backgrounds– agricultural, mother’s family had money but it only touched as far as being taught lovely manners and such– but one’s Catholic and the other is Protestant, and then there was the quasi-country-race stuff on top of it.
          (The idea that “white” is a “race?” Bull patties with sprinkles, it’s like shoving all Asians, Pacific Islanders and probably half the eskimos into the same group. But I digress.)

          Marriage is mixing two families together. Even now, when things are pretty dang easy and a bad marriage probably won’t pull down your entire family– and by pulling down the family, wound the community they’re in, possibly fatally– you can see the stress lines, if you think about it and watch.

          • Funny angle that made me ping on the key difference– my family, on both sides, buys really good gifts. They may be clothes, but they’re good clothes– for example, the kids might chip in to get dad a $300 hat, because he needs a new hat. It’s the things you’d want, but would never buy for yourself. Even my request for “ugly socks” (meaning anything that isn’t standard issue athletic or dress sock) is stuff I love, but never end up buying for myself.

            His, both sides, does basically joke-gifts.
            If there are clothes, it’s…well, what my family would send in hand-me-down boxes. (The Curse of Really Ugly Baby Clothes seems to be universal, though. Seriously, dirty orange? Moldy pea green? Would it kill someone to get a rainbow on something that isn’t white?)

            They are both (properly) focused on the person getting the gift, but one assumes that money is a major limitation, while the other assumes that…joy?… is what’s being fixed.

            • I’ve been putting things I really want but feel guilty buying for myself on my Amazon wish list, in hopes Dan remembers to look. Like that hand carved yarn bowl…
              I COULD buy it, but it would be against something we NEED. So…

          • yeah, we weren’t expected to marry anyone, either, Dan and I. And falling in love over the phone and marrying 8 months later was weird, and my mom was telling EVERYONE at my wedding party not to worry, I’d be back within the year. She still hasn’t forgiven me.

        • Agree completely, sorry if it seemed otherwise. In this case she was charmingly rustic, I believe was Johann’s phrase, and I suspect he did it in part to irk his brother (like Franz Ferdinand did with Countess Chotek, and that was a much, much closer rank difference.) And no, I don’t think a duke of that era would have the first clue as to how to go about opening his house for the season, beyond “everything is uncovered and cleaned and linens are in place and food is ordered and delivered. Which is why I hire people who know how to find staff who know what they are doing.”

          • J. M. Barrie’s The Admirable Crichton somewhat addresses those points about the helplessness of the nobs.

            “Act One is set in Loam Hall, the household of Lord Loam, a British peer, Crichton being his butler. Loam considers the class divisions in British society to be artificial. He promotes his views during tea-parties where servants mingle with his aristocratic guests, to the embarrassment of all. Crichton particularly disapproves, considering the class system to be ‘the natural outcome of a civilised society’.”

    • Yes, of course, but it was somewhat later.

  36. Ok, I apologize everyone, but reading about doing “research” and avoiding “anachronisms” has caused the following scene to be created in my head:

    Setting: Ireland, late 900’s.

    The red-head heroine walked into the grass hut. She looked over to her love interest, sucked on her cigarette, and plopped a plate of mashed potatoes and steak in front of him. “Here”, she said, “You need to eat.”

    “Mashed potatoes? Where did you get those? Isn’t there a famine?” he said.

    “Long story. I don’t want to go into it right now.” She pulled out a piece of parchment. “I intercepted another message from King Charles, sent from the mainland. I need you to run it through the decryption algorithm on the typewriter*. It uses the new public key algorithm, so it’s going to take a while to crack.”

    She then adjusted her tank-top to cover her bra strap. After all, as a proper lady, she didn’t want to appear immodest….

    * Why a typewriter? Because it’s 900’s Ireland. They didn’t have computers back then. Duh!

  37. Bah, I forgot the part where she flicked on the light switch!