I read a book before, during, and after RWA Nationals. I’ve met the author, shared a few meals with her. Enjoyed the book. Mostly. It’s the first in a series and represents a shift in genres for her. Really liked her characters, her voice, and overall, the plot.
Here’s the rub. It was a historical. I don’t often read historicals. I’m a historian by education and interest. I’m married to a historian. And we reproduced a historian, who then converted her fiance to the dark side and HE became a historian.
I have a background in British history, American Civil War history, and both Oklahoma and Native American history. I’m decently read in a lot of other areas, too. We have two 4×8 bookcases that’re nothing but historical reference books. There’s a reason I don’t write historicals. I’m a stickler for the history being correct and sometimes, that history plays havoc with a book’s plot. And sometimes, the author just gets it wrong.
Regency England. Not my period but I’ve been known to read romances set in that time. I’ve also been known to stop reading and go research if something in the story seems…off to me. Which brings me back to that book I read. It wasn’t a Regency. It is a western. Yeah. That’s something I know a leetle bit about. *makes itsy-bitsy sign with thumb and index finger* Guns. Horses. Outlaws. Settlers. Ranching. Peace officers. And Indians. Especially Indians in Oklahoma. Did I mention I know about Oklahoma, too?
See? We aren’t…Kansas. The majority of Kansas is flat. If you get up around Kansas City, the topography changes to granite hills. But head west? Flat all the way to the horizon and once you cross over in Colorado, it’s still flat until you can see the Front Range of the Rocky Mountains in the distance.
Oklahoma has hills. And mountains. We have rivers and lakes. Buttes and canyons. Forests, grasslands, and red clay. And most of the Indians who settled here were civilized. Lawyer Guy’s ancestor was a lawyer who argued against Removal in front of the US Supreme Court. He made the Trail of Tears in chains. They didn’t wear breechclouts, go bare-chested (except maybe when working), and the ladies did not wear buckskin dresses. They lived in real houses, in real towns. Hello. Five CIVILIZED Tribes. Ring a bell? I’m part Chickasaw and part Cherokee. LG is Muskogee/Creek. We have three of the five covered.
So back to the book…yeah. Oklahoma, though eventually the author did properly refer to it as Indian Territory, given the dates (we didn’t make statehood and become Oklahoma until 1907), she painted the state as a flat, tornado-ravaged expanse with little water (okay, we have been in a drought and there was that whole Dust Bowl thing in the 30s, but…) and then she made the Cherokees into…something they weren’t. She made them into a common stereotype.
I’m not an advocate of Wikipedia as a serious research tool, but it can be a handy source for quick information. Case in point, the Cherokees. Here’s the WIKIPEDIA LINK just for the capitol. Read it. The book was set in the 1880s. Yeah.
Rant almost over, I promise. If you’re writing a historical, do your research! If I didn’t like the author, her voice, and her characters, the book would have been a DNF for me. Granted, it was only one chapter but that one chapter tossed me out of the story so fast I almost didn’t get back in it. From that point on, all the little niggling things I could have overlooked started to really bug me. And now I wonder if I’ll read her next book. This is not a good thing for an author looking for readers.
So. What about the rest of you? What nit-picky things irk you about a book?