Snarkling Clean

Snarkling Clean- because you don't have to cuss to make fun of stuff. Two dedicated readers discuss romance novels- from what made us weep with joy to what made us want to poke pencils through our eyeballs.

Sunday, March 26, 2006

I've Just Snarked Myself

Okay, so I'm revising my ms. Adding scenes, cleaning up others, and it's going fairly well. Or it was, until I decided, just for fun, to do a snarky review of my own book.

And found the biggest contender for Oh Yeah, That's Believeable I've ever seen.

I really like the heroine's actions and feelings when she finds a body. I like the horror you have to imagine when I don't describe the body, but other people's reactions to it. I like pretty much everything leading up to it and what follows only needs minor tweaking. But how she stumbles across said corpse?

What. Was. I. Smoking.

See, I love suspense in romance. Have for years. Loved it long before it was the "in" genre and will long after the experts in New York declare it dead. But that said, if I'm reading a thriller or a mystery, I want the focus on whodunit. Or at least howgetum. But with a book that has already pigeonholed itself as a romance, I want the focus on the romance.

In a romance, I don't need my protag to trip over a body in the first two sentences. Most RS books I have read take place in roughly two weeks to a month. Plenty of time for a mystery. But part of the romance appeal for me is the HEA. It doesn't have to be a marriage, but I feel cheated if the couple isn't well on their way. Even for a fan of Love At First Sight, a month, especially a month fraught with danger, is not a lot of time to believeably build a relationship. I'm more interested in seeing the foundations laid for the relationship before the Perils of Pauline start. I know that times danger can bring people together, but can they hold together in peacetime? Insta-endless love seems contrived. And I will admit to grrrrring my way through scenes where couples who are on the run from bad guys (and I mean on the run- no safe house, no we-should-be-okay-here hotel room) find time in the chase to stop and have tea and crumpets.

So, my problem? My ms has kind of a duel storyline; the budding relationship and internal conflict with the couple on one side, the suspense plot/external conflict developing on the other. My heroine finding this body is what blends those two storylines together; the whole bloomin' tome hinges on it. And I, in my extraordinary talent, have come up with the most hokey, contrived, Am I Supposed To Swallow That? scenario ever written.

If I can't come up with a salvage operation, and soon, I'll have to scrap the back half of the book and start over. I really, really don't want to do that.


Hold me.

Friday, March 24, 2006

If Music Be The Food Of Love

I've noticed something. I can write while the TV is on. Doesn't bother me a bit. Comedy, drama, reality, news, doesn't matter. I just tune it out.

Unless Sam Elliott is on. I can tune out hunks (for the most part) but Sam? Those dark eyes and that gravelly voice? Bib territory.

I can also tune out chatter. My kids in a tiff, constant interruptions ("Robyn, where is my...insert any item that has been kept in the same place for the past ten years" and "Mom! My shirt's on fire!") don't phase me. I can still keep most of my mind in the present story I'm working on.

But the one thing I can't tune out, or use to my advantage, is music. I've read dozens of authors who talk about the soundtracks to their books. The type of music they love to write to spans the gamut, from country to rock to pop to rap to classical- you name it, they've listened. And written. Romantic music to get in the mood. Driving music to add urgency to an action scene. Story songs to add to characterization. Or simply a playlist of their faves to relax them so they can think.

I can't. I get so caught up in it I start singing. I do sing, actually, which may be the problem. I start performing. I start concentrating on key, pitch, variations, tone, etc. until the story I'm typing goes right out the window and I've closed my eyes and gone into Streisand mode.

Of which, I'm sure, Sam would approve.

What about you? Are there things that distract you so much you can't write?

Tuesday, March 21, 2006

Vapor Plugs and Cute Guy Tuesday

Sinus infections suck. Especially when you live in the South and the first official day of spring is COLDER THAN JANUARY WAS, THANK YOU. Last night I had to stuff towels around my bedroom window; the weatherstripping had been totally adequate all winter but last night?

Cold. Greenland cold. Nanook couldn't take this kind of cold.

But I'd had my Zithromax, my wonderful faithful Zithromax. A one-dose liquid antibiotic that had a nasty aftertaste but I forgave it. My nostrils, they are not plugged. My face, it does not hurt. My head does not feel as if it is full of wet, molding cotton. I love my Zithromax. I might even go so far as to have its baby, that's how much I love it. And furthering the passage clearing joy was these little tablets you put on the floor of your shower. As it melts, it releases soothing vapors as you bask in ecstasy in the menthol-scented steam. (Just don't step on the little sucker- you'll slip and barely catch yourself before tugging the shower curtain off the rod. Not that I did that. I'm just guessing.) And in my bedroom, even though it was cold, I had a little plug in the electrical socket that sent even more mentholatum wafting through the air keep my sinuses doing the happy dance.

Of course my kids were choking and my husband complained that it smelled like we were living inside a cough drop, but I didn't care. I could breathe.

And to celebrate, I'm indulging my Adolescent Crushes On Actors Gene. From Charmed and General Hospital, Ted King.

I'm so glad I can breathe. Now I can sigh myself breathless.

Sunday, March 19, 2006

History Ho Part Four: Westward Ho!

Okay, I know it's been a week. But I can tell you that one-dose Zithromax can kick the unsuspecting butt of any sinus infection who wants to hang on you. It rocks, people! I'm so grateful I'm not sneezing anymore I could literally weep. And those little tablets that release menthol vapors in the shower? WHY DID SOMEBODY WAIT SO LONG TO INVENT THESE, BECAUSE, GOD. I'm buying stock in this company, I swear. Anyway, on to part four.

There is probably no period in history that has captured the collective American imagination like the Wild, Wild West. I'm firmly on that there train, pardner. I LOVE Westerns.

The time period in romances can vary between 1803 (the Louisiana Purchase) to roughly 1900. Most western romances, however, take place from 1865, when the Civil War ended, to 1890, when the modern age started to take over. Funny how that short 25 year span will always be iconic America.

I break western romances into two categories:
Wild West: Bonanza. Gunsmoke. Deadwood.
Pioneer: Little House On the Prairie.

Actual Pioneer stories fascinate me. Fictional Pioneer stories bore me. If you ever get the chance, go to your library and read some of the diaries of pioneer women. The hardships they endured, the sickness, threat of attack and injury, and the rigors of daily life almost paled in comparison to the mind-numbing loneliness and isolation. And many of these women left everything they knew, everyone they knew; their families and friends and all that was familiar and dear because their husbands had a dream. I'll never understand why there aren't more stories of pioneer men who had sudden 'bad accidents' that forced their returns to the civilised East. "Really, dear, I have no idea how that wagon axel broke."

Which is probably why I can't get into fiction about those women. As I've said before, I read to escape; and I don't care what the author's vision is, when I'm giving up my time to read it's all about me. A world where a woman's lot was unending backbreaking labor, with babies coming frequently and dying frequently, where the crop could burn in a drought or be ruined by a storm or be eaten by hordes of ravenous bugs, where a woman was lucky if she saw another human much less another woman for months on end, is not a world I want to visit. Rare is the Pioneer story I have enjoyed- I was always so mad at the man for dragging his family halfway across creation to face all this crap so he could Build Something Enduring I wanted him to get a nasty rash. And since he's never too tired from his own hard work to forego Tea and Crumpets or at least make sure she doesn't get pregnant until there's a darn roof on the soddie, I wanted him to die by the jaws of a rabid raccoon. I just can't root for that hero.

As for the Wild West, there are two kinds of women, and only two- The Decent Lady and the Soiled Dove. Decent Ladies are churchgoing, corseted, buttoned up to their chins, and relentlessly virginal. Even if she's working in a saloon because she must have medicine for her ailing mother or money to send her brother back east, she has never even smelled a crumpet and is therefore still a DL. Soiled Doves are fast; they have not saved themselves for marriage and are therefore beyond notice. They may or may not work in a saloon, but that doesn't matter because you can always tell a brazen hussy when you see one. Occassionally there is a subcategory where a former soiled dove is now a decent lady, but she's usually so old that no one cares what she did back in her 20's. Nevermind that our virginal heroine winds up crumpeting at midnight without benefit of marriage by the end of the book- she's still somehow a DL, not an SD. NOT, I tell you. I guess it's a variant of the old 'it isn't a doll, it's an action figure' argument.

Even DL's have categories. Our heroine is either: The Rancher's Daughter who is trying to keep the ranch going after Pa's death all by herself, possibly even joining the ranch work in men's clothes, prompting the crusty old foreman and the crustier old housekeeper to tell her she needs to act like a woman oncet in awhile if'n she wants to git herself a man. Or, she's The Prissy Easterner who comes out west to write a newspaper or run a store or be a mail order bride, who impresses everyone from the town drunk to the blacksmith to the sheriff to the cattle baron to the Chief of the local native tribe with her grit and spunk. (Hmmm, Grit and Spunk...sounds like a British euphemism for mashed potatoes and gravy.)

Our heroes have categories as well. He is either The Misunderstood Outlaw, The Noble Lawman, or the Lonely Rancher. The first two will fight their attraction to the heroine because their lives are too dangerous to have a woman in it. The Lonely Rancher, and his subcategories Wagonmaster On His Last Trip and Widowed With Children Farmer are always on the lookout for a likely wife prospect. A few things you can take to the bank- they will all have to kill a desperado, they are all very well educated, speaking perfect English even when they were raised by an illiterate frontiersman who peppers his speech with "Wal, I ain't a-gonna git it fer ya" and they all love biscuits. I don't know why light fluffy biscuits are mentioned in every freaking western I've ever read. Guess they need them for the Grit and Spunk. (Okay, my kids are gonna read this now and ask for Grit and Spunk at every opportunity. I've jinxed myself.)

And God above help us all if our hero's a halfbreed. A halfbreed named Wolf. GAH. This is really one plot device that bugs the thunder out of me. It is very difficult to gloss over the way native people have been treated in this country. I consider myself white; and believe me if you saw my legs in the winter you'd agree, but I do have Choctaw and Cherokee ancestors. My grandmother instilled in all of us a pride in our native heritage, and the Trail of Tears was a national disgrace. Though many individual white men kept their word, the government broke every single treaty they made with the tribes, and treated them like trash underfoot while they did it. Still, romance writers love the idea of a man who's not accepted completely by either society, which is strange because most tribes didn't work that way even if the whites did, but in spite of the racism and oppression he faces throughout the book we're supposed to buy the Happily Ever After. No, they will never be shunned by society by virtue of the fact that he killed a bad guy. Yes, she will happily be invited to the town's ladies groups. And yes, of course their quarter Indian children will be fully accepted by the citizenry, playing as equals with the other children and courting their daughters and marrying their sons. Give Me A Break. However, read Catherine Anderson's Cherish for a more realistic treatment. The half-Indian hero is believeable, even if the Quaker heroine is not. Get ready to laugh hysterically when she screams "Oh my protuberances!"

The fact is, women were the single most stabilizing influence on the West. Men blazed the trail, but tent camps became towns when women moved in. They brought churches, schools, businesses, and were a force for change in society when the men married them and settled down. Women did write newspapers, they ran stores, and even became outlaws. Many were elected to public office before they had the right to vote. All this, and good biscuits too.

Sunday, March 12, 2006

History Ho Part Three: Tea and Crumpets A-GoGo!

First, let me thank all the newcomers who have dropped by the site for this discussion. I'm a little humbled that serious history ho's have linked here, for I'm no renowned scholar.

But I do know what I like.

And I like regencies. I know, I know, they're overdone. There was such a glut in that particular genre that a lot of fans tuned out. Don't worry, romantic suspense's day is coming. The thing to remember about regencies- you'll get interesting facts about whist and Weston's and Prinny's palace, but the rest of it is total fantasy. For example, except for the servants of our hero/heroine, there is no lower or middle class.

I have never, ever, ever read a regency about a class lower than Austen's gentry. Occasionally some randy earl might fall for a gentry lass he thought was a milkmaid, but no real class-switching goes on. And the daughter of the manor who ran away with the hunky footman always comes to no good. Several characters might marry beneath them, but not lower than country gentry or *shudder* upper middle class trade.

Regencies always focus on one thing. This must be what all those female readers are dying for, because you'll find three-page descriptions every time it's seen. No, it's not the sumptuous manor. Not the sculpted garden, nor the sights of Vauxhall or Astley's nor even the ballroom at Almack's. I'm talking about the fashions.

These books are the only ones I know that zero in on what our heroine is wearing even if she's just thrown something on to go and stop her lover from duelling with her brother at dawn.

"She could not let one of them be killed! It was nearly dawn; she must hurry. She selected a simple pale yellow muslin with a gathered waist that emphasized her slim figure and creamy skin."

She'll invariably be a countrified dowd who goes to London and becomes the favorite of the French modiste who designs her dresses. After that, plot goes out the window as we are treated to lengthy descriptions of every freaking dress the girl now owns. Fabric, color, cut, frills, lace, furbelows, fabric roses, matching hats, shoes, shawls, pelisses, kid gloves, and- a detailed examination of the decolletage, complete with our blushing girl's anxiety about whether or not she's going to catch pneumonia.

I always wonder why it takes a maid, sometimes two, to get the girls into these incredibly intricate outfits, yet the hero can get her out of it in two seconds flat. They can go have Swooning Tonsil Swabs or go ahead and indulge in Crumpets in the library or the garden or an alcove or darkened spot on the terrace, usually in the middle of a ball that's been pronounced the greatest crush of the season and a thousand people are there. Then, the hero, or just the heroine, can get her back into the gown and back in time for the dance she's promised to the nephew of her neighbour, nary a tear, wrinkle or grass stain in sight.

Another example: I can't help but chuckle at the incredibly trim waists and slim hips of our protags with the ventricle blocking meals they had. Hearty breakfasts with eggs and bacon and grilled kidneys and chocolate. Even cold luncheons were piled high. Afternoon teas featured muffins and teacakes and pastries. And supper? Seven course meals filled with entrees swimming in creamy sauces. How did these people move, let alone dance? Yes, I know wine helps the average European eat rich food without heart disease; but the heroines of these novels only drink lemonade or punch.

And finally, I must ask my friends in England one question. How can the 9,756,876 barons, lords, viscounts, marquis, earls and dukes (and their spacious country estates) that have appeared in Regencies possibly fit in a small island nation? For all these noble gentlemen to have country houses with acres and acres of land, England must have a dimension shifting ability to grow it's actual land mass to that of China. If you can get past all that, enjoy!

Next: Oh, come on, you know I have to say it. Westward Ho!

Thursday, March 09, 2006

History Ho Part Two- Mint Julep, Anyone?

First, I have to correct something I said last time. When I referenced Diana Gabaldon's Outlander, I gave the impression her time period for that book was medieval. I right on fully knew she set it in the 1700's, but had a blond senior moment there. Sorry. *blushing*

Anyway, on to the period that has been immortalized by song and story but never truly existed- The Old South. You know the one I'm talking about. I have read very few Civil War romances I liked, mostly because several pattern themselves after Gone With The Wind. (I liked that book, actually, and I don't consider it a true romance. In the movie, Scarlett is a just a spoiled brat. In the book, she's a b*tch. Rhett's not truly heroic, and they are very dysfunctional. Not usual romance protags.)

The Civil War stories I've read always seem to feature a Rebel heroine and a Yankee hero, in fact I can say I've never read one where they were reversed. You could call it a matter of geography, I suppose. Southern ladies probably didn't have much opportunity to get up north on their own, and the Union officers were conveniently there at hand, taking over their houses and burning their fields and emptying their larders.

See why I have a problem? There seems to be some unwritten code that says a romance hero must always win. So we can't have a Rebel hero because the South didn't win. And Rebel heroines seem to get over their anger and hatred for the blue-bellies pretty quick. "Why, this Yankee used very pretty manners while he burned my house down. And he's so handsome! Come to think of it, why am I so hooked on Georgia? Pennsylvania's probably a perfectly lovely place!"

"Opposite sides" stories are always difficult; for whom do you root? For me, though, the Civil War is the hardest. I am a southerner myself, and the Rebel Yell pride seems to be bred into us. I don't know why. I think there are actually people who still believe that with little effort, the South could still win this thing. But it's insane to immortalize that lifestyle. Most people in the South in 1860 were regular folk, farmers and workers who owned little or no property and had no slaves; fighting for States' rights when they had few rights themselves. Only a minute percentage of Southerners actually lived the Scarlett O'Hara lifestyle, but the stories I've read usually feature the Southern lady, trying to hold on to her family home while Daddy and the boys are off to war/already dead/incapacitated. I really want to understand her terror, and her pain, as her house is overrun with enemy soldiers and her virtue is threatened and her preciously low store of food is gobbled up, etc. (Never mind that she could have run into that same problem with the boys in gray; many did!) I might make that trip with more enthusiasm if she didn't have two people that lurk in almost every Civil War story I've read: Mammy and Big Sam.

Even if you've never read or seen Gone With the Wind, you know who these two are. The devoted slaves of our heroine, who resist the call of freedom and the Underground Railroad to stay with their little missy. Of course, our heroine doesn't treat them badly, loves them like family, and I already want to take a shower. As hard as I've tried, I cannot face that plot point with any sort of equanimity. I know there were a few slaves who did stay with the family after being freed, though they often had little choice. I may be a stickler for details, but for me romance is, more than anything, a fantasy. I cannot fantasize about slavery. And a slave, however beloved, is still a slave. It is impossible for me to root for a heroine who's perfectly okay with owning people.

And one rather nitpicky thing. If I have to read one more phonetic nightmare- "Miz Victoria, yo mamma, God rest her soul, done tol' me and tol' me that you wuz gwine to be a handful, and yo sho' is!" AIIEEEEE. *find pencil, insert in eyeball*

IF, and it looks to be a big if, I was treated to a story where the heroine's loyalty wasn't turned by her falling for a broad shouldered officer who does his duty but treats her with courtesy, but by coming to an understanding of the injustices of the life she's known, I'd go there. I'd sooo go there.

Next: Part three and four, yes! It's gotten longer than I envisioned. Installment 3, well, you knew I'd go there. Regency England for Tea And Crumpets!!

Monday, March 06, 2006

Shameless Plug

Since Robyn came clean and confessed exactly what kind of ho she is (because we were all wondering), I decided the least I could do would be to come out of the closet myself.

Hello, my name is Missie, and I am a body product ho.

If you lined up all the lotions, bath gels, smelly soaps, and bubble bath I have in my home, it could probably circle the Earth twice. Okay, not really. Just my house twice. No, maybe my house once. Okay, okay, maybe it would just make a nice little pile in my living room, but we are digressing, people! What I am trying to say is that I am addicted to body products and consider myself to be a connoisseur of all things lotiony.

When my daughter Alison was about four months old, she developed dry, flaky, red skin on her cheeks. This problem was exacerbated by the NEVER ENDING RIVER OF DROOL that she produced and the wiping, wiping, wiping of the drool by moi. I tried putting different things on her cheeks to make them better, but none of the products in my arsenal improved her condition. I was at a loss about what to do, and was about ready to make Ali an appointment with a dermatologist.
HELP! I have dry, cracked cheeks...and am wearing sweet potatoes.

As a last resort, I contacted our very own lotionbarbunny, whom I found through another mommy blog. She sells Country Bunny Bath and Body products, so I emailed her about Ali’s problem. She recommended I try the CB Satin Shea Body Butter on her cheeks, followed by the Baby Lotion Bar. People…let me tell you. This stuff works. Ali’s facial cheeks are as soft as her…well, other cheeks, and it only took about four days. I have also been putting the butter and lotion bar on Zach’s arms and legs (the kid has skin like a lizard), and I have really seen an improvement. The Powder Fresh scent is so nice and..well, fresh and not overly powdery, so you won’t smell like your grandma.

Look at me! I am soft and smelly in a good way again! Yay for Country Bunny!

The lotion bar is just the coolest thing. It looks like a bar of soap, but it’s..lotion! Hence the name. It comes in this little plastic container so you can drop it in your purse to take with you. I am not kidding when I say that this stuff is the greatest thing in my book since the marriage of chocolate and peanut butter. And because lotionbarbunny is so nice, she included lots of rockin’ samples in my order. She did that just to further hook me on the products, proving she is a body product selling ho, but I forgive her for that. The Daily Moisturizer with Soy is the best moisturizer I have ever tried—and I have used everything from Lancome to Avon. The Salt Scrub is a whole bunch of wonderfulness encased in a little plastic container. It left my skin so soft and the Oatmeal & Honey scent was so yummy that I almost spread the rest of my sample on a slice of bread and had a little snack.

And now…a word from our sponsors...

I am having a Country Bunny Bath and Body Internet Party (say that three times real fast) and you all are invited! I know, you weren’t expecting anything as wonderful as this to happen to you today, but there ya go. You can view the products by going to lotionbarbunny’s website at If you do order anything, be sure to copy down your invoice number, then drop lotionbarbunny an email stating it was for Missie’s Party. Or you could just leave a comment here on the blog and I will make sure she gets the info.

Because, people? I want some free stuff. And I get free and discounted stuff if you order. (You could book an Internet party of your own, too, if you really loved me and were my friend). And I don’t invite you to parties all the time, do I? I mean, when was the last time I showed up at your door right in the middle of dinner, just to invite you to some lame party where there are a lot of over-priced dust catchers that you feel you have to buy or you will hurt my feelings? Huh? You can’t remember, can you? See, I don’t abuse my friends like that. Because I love you. All of you. Well, maybe not Jessica. Especially when she says I am mentally ill because I am always cleaning my house and no one cleans her house that much and shouldn’t I get a real life and why am I always doing dishes when I am talking to her on the phone and can’t I just sit down for a stinkin’ minute and why am I worried about organizing my pantry and there is medication for that! But that’s a whole ‘nother post.

But seriously, if you are looking for some good body products, check out Country Bunny. And do it before March 14th. Cuz that’s when my party ends. And CB is putting out their new spring brochures on the 17th, which may or may not include price increases. Their prices are reasonable compared to the other big body product chains out there, so give them a try. And because lotionbarbunny is a stay-at-home mom, let’s help her out for making the choice to be home for her kidlets. If you don't buy anything, her children will probably starve and be forced to live in the street. But no pressure.

So to recap in case there is blood leaking out of your eyes from reading my rambling post:
Missie’s Party is now til March 14th
Go to to order.
Send email to lotionbarbunny or comment to me with invoice # so she credits me and I get lots of free stuff and love you forever.
Missie excels in body product ho-age and is not above using her blog for personal gain.

Look at the pretty baby. The baby wants you to buy some stuff. Buy some stuff so the pretty baby's face doesn't freeze like this. If you sell your plasma, you can buy more stuff.

(the pretty baby is crying out for help! Help me, says the pretty baby. My mom is soliciting people she doesn't even know to buy stuff and using my image without my express written consent! Someone call the authorities right away! Help the pretty baby.)

Friday, March 03, 2006

History Ho: Is You Is Or Is You Ain't? Part One

I've seen a lot of debate over the research used, or not used, in historical romances. Many readers feel that meticulous research pays off; others really couldn't care as long as the story's good.

I can see both viewpoints. I am a history ho of long standing, and when certain details are wrong it drives me insane. Case in point- one scene I read had the requisite beefy Scottish hero (don't you know ALL highlanders were built like seven foot tall linebackers?) running up a stairwell in a tiny English inn. These stairs, if described like every other I've ever read about, would be a nice fit for the Munchkins. This hero's just heard his lady scream, so he draws his sword as he runs up stairs. Okay, fine. But the author doesn't call it a sword. Not a blade, not singing steel, but identifies it as a claymore.

I'm aware that the average reader may not know what a claymore is. But the author obviously didn't, either. I'm guessing she saw the word in some other research and liked it, thinking it was interchangable with any other kind of sword. For the uninitiated, a claymore is a six foot blade. A weapon with reach to it, and heft. It's called a two-handed sword for a reason. It did not rest lightly in a scabbard attached to a man's belt; it quite obviously had to be slung across the back. When this hero ran up a close, cozy staircase while drawing one of the biggest swords ever made I got sucked right out of the story. I kept waiting for him to get stuck, or at least brain himself.

I shook it off and kept reading. It was a decent story. Later, the poor hero has been tortured, one hand crushed and basically useless. He still uses the called-by-its-name claymore. If he had arms strong enough to use that sword one handed then he moved out of the realm of muscled hunkiness and onto the "we're so bulked we have no necks" cover of Ripped magazine. That was it- I was out of the zone completely and it left a bad aftertaste in an otherwise good book.

Suspension of disbelief is a weird, subjective thing. If you are building a world based loosely on history but plainly your romanticized view of it, I can go there. Julie Garwood is the prime example of this. I absolutely love her 13th century highland romances, but they might as well take place on Venus. In her world, highlanders are all honorable, honest, noble men who would never raise his hand to a woman or be mean to a child. They are all huge supreme warriors (see linebacker comment above) who wear their clan plaid proudly. Being a good history ho, I know that plaids didn't come along until much later- they didn't wear those in the 1200's. And having a certain pattern for a certain clan is a fairly recent construct, too- how much sense would it make for these expert soldiers, who were at war with just about everybody, to ride about in a tartan that proclaims "Hey! I'm a MacLeod! Come get me!" Think of it this way: Braveheart got it wrong. Rob Roy got it right.

But I'm okay with it, because the books scream My World And Welcome To It. It's when all the history is taken seriously that I get kind of nitpicky. And in case any of you think I'm going to talk about Diana Gabaldon's Outlander series, I'll simply say this. I liked the first one until the pervert Randall got his hands on the hero. Sorry, I just don't want to read about that sort of thing. I can look at objectively and say it was a fine piece of writing, but I only have so much time to indulge myself in a good book and I don't want to waste it. Ms. Gabaldon took a lot of grief when she had her highland hero Jamie actually beat his wife for disobedience. I say it was one halfway truthful episode in a whole book where Jamie was more sensitive and loving than any modern man I know. Medieval anywhere was a brutal place, and men, even good men, were more parental to their wives than partners. Her inclusion of that one scene didn't totally impress this history ho.

Next: The Old South and the Old West: Hit weren't nuthin like ya think!