Dealbreakers: impossible premises

I have been doing a lot of reading while nursing the bebe. (And thank God for ebooks! No way I could wrangle a physical book in this position!) And in whittling down some of my historical romance TBR pile I have found quite a few books that I cannot finish because the premise was too…impossible. (Or, less charitably: Ignorant. Ill-researched. Anachronistic. Stupid.) One drawback of researching historical periods, I suppose, is becoming unable to suspend disbelief when certain fallacies occur because I now know better.

The worst offenders have to do with marriage and paternity.

With marriage, specifically annulments. They were not granted because a marriage hadn’t been consummated; they were granted for (1) fraud, (2) impotence, or (3) lack of consent (aka duress)/parental consent for a minor. Period. A father might ascertain his minor daughter’s marriage had not been consummated before annulling it, but the annulment had nothing to do with whether the couple had had sex. Neither would it bear on any other type of annulment. But I see that trope all the time. One story I was trying to read hinged on a woman believing she wasn’t good enough (class-wise) for her husband and determining to annul the marriage. Um, no. That’s not how that worked. Since there was no other conflict, I just couldn’t. Her feelings of inferiority could have worked as the main conflict if the context had been having to stay married, not him convincing her to stay as if her plan was viable. Nooooope. Sorry.

Another had as a plot device an aristocrat who wasn’t the biological offspring of his titled father. He vacillated between being horrified that someone would find out and whining about how he wasn’t “really” titled. Um, yes, he was. He was the acknowledged child born in wedlock. Legally that made him the next lord of whatever stripe. The social scandal would have been huge, and I suppose the cousins might have sued to have him removed, but I don’t think they would have had a standing; the entire point of patrimony laws protected children born in wedlock, which he had been. So I couldn’t do that one either after about his third declaration that he wasn’t really his lordship. No…to the law you are so STFU, your position is secure.

Another had a matchmaker trying to steer her unassuming charge clear of an aristocrat’s heir because he wasn’t attractive physically. No. No way in hell would a rich and titled-to-be suitor be dismissed like that when the girl wasn’t a prime offering; equally impossible was the matchmaker not knowing he was an heir in that small a neighborhood, yet never once did she bring up “I know he’ll be the earl but you can do better.” I mean I wouldn’t have believed that, but at least it would have addressed the issue!

I begin to see why the crazysauce historicals with kidnappings and false identities and whatnot are still popular with some readers – you know going in that you’ll have to suspend a lot of disbelief so errors to the legalities, morals, or social standards of the time are really the least of your blind eyes to turn.



Filed under Rants and Storms, Reflections on Romance

3 responses to “Dealbreakers: impossible premises

  1. Good for you: standards.

    My rule: the more improbable something is, the more work the author better have done to make it at least possible. My fear: getting something key wrong – and having the whole house of cards collapse.

    A good reason to pay a fortune to a content editor? Hmmm. It’s still your name on the book – and there should be an assumption of responsibility somewhere in the front matter.

    We’ll see how I do.

    Hope all is well with the wee one.

    • Standards are such a double edged sword. They make you appreciate art/entertainment so much more, but make it so much harder to find work that you can appreciate! 😉

      As to whether the risk of getting something wrong justifies paying a content editor: yes, IFF (if and only if) they are knowledgeable of the subject/time/place you require help with. I would think finding a beta reader who knows the topic and having them read only for that topic is a better idea. For ex I beta read for a friend who sets books in my city, specifically to point out inaccuracies or things that a resident would view/phrase/refer to differently than a visitor.

      And the baby’s good! We’re doing very well…i am already heartbroken over going back to work.

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