As a fan and writer of Regency fiction, I’m interested in the way historical events are portrayed in works of fiction and how perceptions can be changed and/or influenced, even when they are not the main focus of the story. I’ve unintentionally learned a lot of random bits of history – especially British history – through romance novels. Not a complete education by any means, though I did recently ace the Napoleon category on Jeopardy.
I’ve been thinking about the combination of history and the arts since weekend when I came across a documentary on the musical Hamilton during a bout of random channel-surfing (after I’d met my NaNo word targets, of course).
Though I certainly learned (something) about Alexander Hamilton sometime in my school days, the only thing I really remember about him was that he was on the losing end of a duel with Aaron Burr, a storyline that Lisa Kleypas incorporated in her novel When Strangers Mary. Kleypas’ book was presented against a historically accurate back drop, which provided an interesting perspective on the time period; a perspective quite different from a dry textbook description.
Jo Beverley’s Lord of My Heart provided similar insights into the William the Conqueror’s time in Britain, and Madeline Hunter’s books like By Arrangement, By Possession, and By Design brought the medieval period vividly (and sometimes harshly) to life.
Those who have been fortunate enough to see Hamilton in person (I’m still on a waiting list just to buy tickets for next year when it comes to my area of the country) have undoubtedly also walked away with a different perspective on the events portrayed in the show, not to mention with a score of entertaining songs to make it all memorable.
All of this naturally has me thinking about how to incorporate the reality of history in to my works of fiction. That can be especially challenging with Regency fiction, since many who read it are very well-versed on the period and have definite ideas about it. Right now I’m wrestling with finding the line between “too little” and “too much” – enough to add interest to a story, but not enough to overpower it. I’m also on the lookout for interesting bits of history that would make good stories. Fortunately, I have a whole shelf if historical reference books to help me with that.
So, are you a fan of historical fiction? Any favorites you’d like to share that did a memorable job of incorporating facts along with fiction?