I found a nice list of one writer’s top ten pet peeves about historical fiction. Since I’m currently writing a historical fiction, I figured I’d see how cliched I was…
#1: 21st century attitudes in historical characters: GUILTY
The narrator of The Blood Countess, Ilona, is a pretty modern girl. She questions things. She likes to have secret trysts with boys in the hayloft. She likes to prove that she can do anything better than said boys. She can read. However, she knows that being an independent-minded, intelligent girl means that other people think she’s a witch. So I guess Ilona isn’t totally 21st century. After all, Elizabeth of Bathory could read in three different languages and was pretty independent-minded herself.
#2: Trendy historical periods: NOT GUILTY
Hungary in 1606 is not a real popular time era to be writing about – especially when you consider the popularity of, say, Tudor England (Philippa Gregory, anyone?). However, a novel about Elizabeth of Bathory was recently published (The Countess by Rebecca Johns) and there are a couple of other novels out there as well (check the Blood Countess page for those that I’ve read). But I wouldn’t say it’s “trendy.”
#3: Choosing a historical period or country for its accessories: NOT GUILTY
Really, I’m not guilty! Although I do take bellydancing and so have a fascination with gypsy and medieval type clothing. But isn’t this dress gorgeous? It’s exactly what I picture Ilona wearing.
#4 & 5: Sex scenes in the rain / Ecstatic sex scenes in general: NOT GUILTY
Well, I’m not writing a historical romance, so this doesn’t really apply. Let’s just say: so far, so good.
#6: She hates him, but she loves him: GUILTY
Ilona and a boy from the village, Kristophe, don’t seem to like each other. Ilona thinks Kristophe is too cocky, but secretly she likes his confidence. She doesn’t want to admit that she likes him, but there it is.
#7: Humorless historical fiction: GUILTY?
Blood Countess is a pretty grim tale, so there’s not much humor. Although Ilona’s a bit of a spitfire, so she’s not serious all the time.
#8: “She isn’t beautiful, but she is”: NOT GUILTY
Ilona’s got a pretty high opinion of her looks, although she does think the Countess is the most beautiful woman she’s ever seen.
#9: The pregnancy issue (lots of sex, no protection): NOT GUILTY
Ilona hasn’t lost her virtue yet, although many of the villagers (including her father) think she has.
#10: List-making (of heroine’s clothing; of hero’s weapons): NOT GUILTY
Since she’s a peasant, Ilona doesn’t have that many different outfits. Not much really to make lists of, unless you include some listing of herbs and various torture devices.
In conclusion, there are a few cliches but not too many… The biggest offender is #1, but Ilona does go through a change when she goes from wild-spirited peasant girl to servant to the Countess, where any minor infraction leads to severe punishment… but hopefully the spitfire Ilona returns at the end.