So today’s entry might seem a bit like a rant because it sort of is. I am not a huge fan of certain types of historical accuracy in my romantic fiction. I’m already expected to forget that in historical times people were unclean, unshaven, and unruly. People dropped like flies from disease and poor medical knowledge and equipment. Toilets varied from nice little pits dug in the ground to outhouses before indoor plumbing came about. I mean it was some seriously gross stuff that was common for the times.
And yet our hero and heroine have perfect teeth, unblemished skin (unless you count scars from their tortured pasts), minimal body hair, and smell like roses and sandalwood. They bathe on a regular basis (which defies the norm but they are special) and don’t need to wear powdered pest-infested wigs because their hair is all there and magically clean. And I don’t mind it in the least because I honestly do not want to read about a love story between two disease-ridden, gap-toothed, hairy and sweaty people. Sure it’s not accurate, but it is fiction and it’s more enjoyable to read.
Then some of the same people that skimp on those grizzly details go and have to throw in some ‘accuracy’ by marrying some poor teenage girl to a middle-aged man and call it true love. Yes, back in the day it was common but that doesn’t mean it was right and the matches weren’t made for love so much as money and blood lines. The life span back in the day was fairly short and so people made lots of babies from an early age.
Actually the girls made babies from an early age. Guys got to dick around and grow up while their lady loves got a lesson in the way the world works practically overnight (The wedding night, to be specific). There was no dating or even really a choice in the matter. Decisions were made for you until you were old enough or respected enough to start making decisions for the people next in line.
This ‘accuracy’ is therefore kind of a load of crap since somehow the frightened teenage heroine manages to fall in love with a dude old enough to be her dad (and likely related to him!). She is prepped and ready to be lady of the house and the dutiful wife and mother, with just a pinch of rebellion and spunk.
That doesn’t seem very accurate to me. Teenagers are hormonal little drama queens that take EVERYTHING personally and do not like to be told what to do. Trust me on this, I used to be one. Teenage girls are especially trouble and unless they are abused into submission you can damn sure bet they will make hell. Even if it might cause scandal and be considered unladylike. It was no different in the past.
Temperamental little girls still growing into themselves made the same kind of hell for their parents they do now. They would try to escape their weddings, sleep with stable boys, throw epic tantrums… Some went so far as self harm. And while not all of them did thanks to social conditioning you know they wanted to just like the fact they were not happy.
To try to glamorize that kind of convention and call it ‘historically accurate’ is a big lie. It’s not romantic to hitch up a girl who doesn’t know who she is to a guy that got to sew his wild oats, even if girls back then did mature faster. Not cool, not fair, not romantic.
When I was in high school I dated a guy in his twenties and I thought it was the coolest damn thing. He bought me stuff and paid attention to me and made me feel special. But I was a teenager and I was therefore guaranteed to be stupid. I took my appreciation of the things he gave me and interpreted it as love for him. He wasn’t a horrible guy but he wasn’t happy with me and he didn’t always treat me right and I returned the favor because I was a dumb little girl who didn’t have it figured out yet (It didn’t work out between us).
That’s how I see any sort of ‘happy’ historical marriage between a grown man and a teen girl. He spoils her rotten to shut her up and keep her happy while he goes and does his manly business and she gets saddled down with kids. Sure there are exceptions to the rule but I’m fairly certain that what I described is the more accurate standard.
Don’t get me wrong, I don’t have a big problem with an age gap between hero and heroine in general. My parents are twelve years apart and I can respect that. It’s just when a man hooks up with a girl who isn’t even a woman yet… It’s disturbing! Like some kind of freaky legalized and socially acceptable pedophilia. Ew.
If you are going to be accurate then either go all the way or not at all. Don’t half-ass and pretty up something that was unjust simply because it used to be normal. It used to be normal to steal innocent people away from Africa and force them into labor too. Did that make it right? Does anybody have the audacity to make it sound pleasant? I hope not.
If anything, as an author, if you want to sprinkle some believability in your historical novel just be vague about ages. Simply call a heroine ‘young’ instead of specifying her age. That leaves it up to the reader to establish an age. If they like accurate age depictions then they will assume between fifteen and seventeen. If they don’t then they can safely assume older teens or early twenties. Everybody is happy!
I don’t have any problem with individuals that don’t agree with me on this opinion. You are entitled to what you think just like I am and that is awesome. I personally feel that those more unsettling details should be left to non-fiction. I want my romance to be pretty and pleasant. It doesn’t have to be accurate to be enjoyable as long as the right effort is put into the right parts like character development and plot.