I read a lot of historical fiction; it's always fascinated me. I remember reading Little Women in fifth grade--I hid it inside my desk and read while the rest of the class droned through social studies' read aloud time(I figured out what paragraph would be mine to read aloud since it was round robin style reading, marked it, and was able to get back to Jo and her sisters). I also loved The Witch of Blackbird Pond and probably several others whose names are escaping me right now. But it was really Jean Plaidy and her numerous tomes on British history that pulled me during junior and senior high. She was the mark against which I measured other historical fiction for years. God bless Jean Plaidy.
As an adult, I discovered Sharon Kay Penman when I read When Christ and His Saints Slept. From there, I never looked back as I made my way through just about anything and everything historical. My current favorite author is Elizabeth Chadwick. She's the one who brings history to life in a way that sizzles. I can picture myself in the midst of any story she's written. The woman deserves a much, much wider audience. She's soooo good. Her research and accuracy drive the stories she writes, and it shows.
With all that said, I've gotten increasingly pickier the older I've gotten. It just bugs me to no end when someone is historically inaccurate. Small liberties don't bother me, such as moving an incident in time a bit to make it fit with the author's overall vision. But when things are blatantly wrong, it just floors me that an editor lets it slide. It's one thing to put your interpretation on an event based in fact, and quite another to not have done your research well enough to get names and places correct. A book I've read recently has some glaringly bad anachronisms in it, and I feel as though the author is deceiving her audience, most of whom probably don't know British history as well as I do. I think many will swallow her ideas hook, line, and sinker. Granted, I don't think the author probably knows she's made such glaring mistakes, but isn't that her responsibility? Or does she and the editor believe that it's okay to not fully research the facts just because they want to publish a book?
So, now here comes the hard part--when I do reviews, does it matter enough to point out the historically inaccurate things so that others aren't taken in by ignorance? Or should I just go for the overall feel of the book? I review on Amazon.com, and I know most people reading reviews there aren't as picky as I am about accuracy. But shouldn't they be? Because if the author is sloppy enough to give sons to a well known Duke who obviously didn't have any, or play fast and loose with births and deaths, doesn't that give all historical fiction a poor name if it eventually comes to light? Or am I too maniacal about all this?
I respect authors who have spent time thoroughly researching their subjects because I believe it comes through in their writing. The sad thing is, a good deal of those authors aren't quite as popular as some who either deliberately spin the facts or just don't give a damn about getting it all straight. It bothers me to think that a lot of people take Philippa Gregory's novels as truth, for example. She's a great writer, but her accuracy could be questioned on several points. But is it worth pointing out the inaccuracies? Does anyone even care? Or is it just about the tale?