Thursday, 19 June 2008

Not entirely a recommendation

I know, what am I doing reading an anthology of Christmas stories in June? More particularly, what am I doing reading an anthology of Christian Romance Christmas stories?

Enjoying myself far too much, that's what I'm doing. I've only read the first so far. Entitled 'Under His Wings' it's a retelling of the Ruth, Naomi and Boaz story set in the Lake District in 1870. Without in the least taking issue with the religious aspects of the story, I have just a few minor problems with the rest of it. I've made a list.
  1. Our hero is apparently the Earl of Beaumontfort. Really.
  2. When first seen, he is slinging his "hunting rifle" over his shoulder, and having had no luck that day, will not be eating venison on the morrow. Given the extreme rarity of deer in the Lakes, I'm not entirely surprised he missed. Very poor staff he employs, too, it being the job of the deer-keeper to ensure that venison is available when commanded, such command coming well in advance, as the stuff needs to hang for a good three weeks. (A friend of my father's was the deer-keeper at Knole, I know whereof I speak).
  3. In 1870 you wouldn't bother to describe an Earl as a Christian. It went without saying. If you felt the need to mention his faith, you might try for "very devout".
  4. In this universe, the Lake District possesses thatched cottages.
  5. With brick chimneys.
  6. Lakes are not tarns. And round there they tend to get referred to by name, there being quite a number of both.
  7. How do you actually articulate "t'tarn"?
  8. People who skate up fast-flowing becks frankly deserve all they get.
  9. Love, whether of God or man, may keep you warm, but a shawl does a better job of preventing hypothermia.
  10. Our heroine is Welsh. Whilst I applaud the (American) author's efforts to make her say "mum" rather than "mom", I can't help feeling that "mam" would be just a little more likely.
  11. If you live in a cottage with your mother-in-law in 1870, so poor that you eat potato peelings, you do not have separate beds. You really do not have separate beds.
  12. Oh, and finally, one of the key points about the staff of a big house in that era is that they live in. They do not live in thatched cottages by the side of a beck with their mother-in-law, who just happens to be a distant relative of the Earl (but takes her time about mentioning it).
Somebody really needs to write a Rough Guide to the British Aristocracy for the sake of minor novelists everywhere.


Helen said...

One of my favourite Transatlantic mistakes was in a biography of Pamela Churchill (Harriman) where the author explained that gin and bitters was gin with a pint of bitter in it.

Vivienne said...

Which would be a crime against good gin (in my view) and good bitter (in Chris's view).

Doubtless if I were to try writing a story set in America I would make as many mistakes. Which is why I firmly believe one should either write about one knows, or do years of research. Fiction, even the non-literary, is based on a suspension of disbelief, and sloppy research is the fastest way to destroying that delicate relationship of trust between author and reader.

jeanfromcornwall said...

I have a transgression to mention, though my tut-tuts are directed towards the artist. That Blouse (or Waist since the artist was probably also American) Will Not Do. White is not the colour one would wear with one's pinny. Translucent enough to allow the shape of one's wholly insubstantial and inadequate underwear was certainly not good enough. Really, one might just as well wear a red hat and no drawers!

Anonymous said...

And the gentleman has No Hat. (Neither, admittedly, does the lady, but what else does one expect of a girl who would wear a blouse like that).