As you bloggers in the United States probably know, the Federal Trade Commission has issued a rule entitled, “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising,” 16 CFR Part 255. In a nutshell, bloggers who receive items free for review are expected to disclose this fact.
I have a couple of books I’ve received for free from the publisher that I’ll be reviewing in due course, and I’ll comply with the new rule. In the meantime, though, I’ll do the FTC one better and disclose some of my chief biases that play into my own reviews of historical fiction. So here goes.
1) I have never enjoyed a novel when a character is described as being “fey.” Or when a character has “the Sight.”
2) I went to Wales several years ago and did not see a single soul there who appeared to have mystical powers. I therefore fail to appreciate novels where a trip over the Welsh border somehow endows everyone present with mystical powers.
3) Most dialect makes my head hurt. I hate it when my head hurts.
4) Gracing a lead character with physical beauty does not relieve an author of the duty to endow him or her with something resembling a personality.
5) Once it has been established that the heroine and hero have a full and rewarding sexual relationship, it is not necessary to graphically remind me of this fact every thirty pages.
6) I can live with it when an English character in 1470 sits down to a meal of turkey and potatoes. When said character is eating this meal in 1470 despite being known to have died in 1460, however, I get very cranky. When said character proceeds to father a child after his meal in 1470 despite having died in 1460, I get even crankier, and only the presence of small animals in the vicinity will prevent the book from going airborne.
7) The idea of a high-born medieval heroine protesting endlessly that she wants to marry for love and not to enter into an arranged marriage was probably an original one at some point. It has long since ceased to be so.
8) I think that not liking a historical figure is not a valid ground for turning him into a murderer, a rapist, or a child molester without any supporting evidence.
9) I appreciate the fact that authors who feel compelled to write ten-page childbirth scenes are faithfully depicting the dangers of childbirth before modern medicine. That still doesn’t mean that said scenes couldn’t be cut down to five pages. Or two pages. Or two paragraphs.
10) I will find it very hard not to like a novel where the writer gets Katherine Woodville’s approximate age right. Ditto for a novel that correctly states that Edward I, and not Edward II, arranged the marriage of Eleanor de Clare to Hugh le Despenser the younger. Just don’t muck things up by giving any of them the Sight, please.