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.

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!!


Blogger Missie said...

As usual, you hit the nail on the head. Very well-written.

I too have a hard time, being from the South, believing the immediate "attraction" that these Southern Belles have for the Union soldiers. I think I would have been more like, "hmm, your side kicked my side's butt...we southerners have are houses are burnt, fields destroyed, and way of life shattered...Not fallin for ya, pal, sorry." Wasn't this called the Civil WAR? As in...WAR? Do these women so easily give up what they believed in and so many fought and died for? I am not advocating one side over the other. I abhor slavery, but also think the states' should be able to set their own laws within limits.

It's kind of like the Scottish clans when one clan totally annihilates (sp?) the other one, but the heroine manages to fall for the rough but gentle leader of the enemy clan. Really? I'd have a hard time falling for the murderer of my family. But that's just me...UGH!

Okay, done with the rambling now. The pretty baby wants me to quit the rambling.

11:34 AM  
Anonymous Michelle said...

I can't read Civil War stories for that very reason. I have to grind my teeth through them. I do, however, love contemporary Southern romances (e.g. Deborah Smith's A PLACE TO CALL HOME). They are an absolute scream. And I really liked Cold Sassy Tree and some of the others. Southern humor is great.

Don't get me started on Regencies. OVERDONE.

2:42 PM  
Anonymous nessili said...

Well, I feel a little better now, knowing I didn't hit all your ickies in my own novel.

So, I'm not a native Virginian--I was born in Vermont (don't shoot!). But I've been adopted here, and here's where home and loyalties are. (Have you ever noticed how there is is Virginia, and then the rest of the South is kinda grouped together?)

And you're right--here in Fredericksburg many of the homegrown folk don't admit that the war ever ended, and believe any day now Gen. Lee will rise from his grave like King Arthur and lead them forth to victory.

Yes, my hero is a Yankee, and the heroine a Virginian (ok, she does have relatives in Boston), but she doesn't give up her loyalties to the South that easily. In fact, despite the fact that she's in love with him, she draws a gun on him (the gun he gave her to protect herself) in order to escape and warn Gen. Stuart of the advancing Yankees. She chooses her home again, instead of getting to see her new husband, because her sense of duty is that strong.

Her family doesn't own slaves, never really has (what few her great, great grandfather inheirited from his Rhode Island father-in-law were freed before the Revolutionary War. Did you know that at one time Rhode Islanders owned more slaves percentagewise than any other colony?)

Granted, most of her family is already dead, so it's not like she's sleeping with their murderers or anything.

Okay, enough of the self-defense. On to other things...heck, this is getting almost as long as your original post!

I have actually read one book (Step to the Music, Phyllis Whitney) where secondary hero is a New Yorker who fights for the South (because he feels they are more like the Jacobites he was raised worshiping and his girl is a transplanted Charlestonian). It's a young adult novel...sorta. But it's still a nice read.

Actually, I hated Gone with the Wind, but I'm in the tiny minority.

BTW, you've done a great job of writing out the "rules" of historical fiction in the long form. would you mind if I put them in a 10-rule type list to add to the accumulating list over at Sarah's Bookarama (links on my site if you don't already link to her)? I'll definitely give you credit and pass the list by you before posting, just to make sure I didn't misinterpret anything.

And Regencies are next! Yahoo! :) I done now? My daughter will be glad to have my attention again.

5:02 PM  
Blogger Robyn said...

Be my guest, nessili. I'll take a look over there, sounds fun.

One of my favorites-forgive me, I can't remember the name just now- had a Southern heroine who worked "undercover" for the underground railroad. She pretended to be Scarlett, much to the dismay of the hero, who was inexplicably attracted to this spoiled snotty little Rebel. She had to work pretty much under his nose even though he was Union; it was a pretty good read.

And as for your story- my "rules" can get thrown out the window with the right execution. Just write em the way you see em, girlfriend.

9:23 PM  
Anonymous nessili said...

Cool Beans! Thanks. I'll get cracking on it in my copious amounts of spare time (hey though, this fun--I can always make room for fun stuff :)

9:50 PM  
Blogger Bernita said...

Make that another one who was under-impressed by "Gone with the Wind."

2:55 AM  
Blogger Anna said...

One of my favorite moments in Angela Elwell Hunt's Civil War romance (CBA) The Velvet Shadow was when the heroine, who had run off to join the army, along with her slave, both masquerading as males, was stunned to hear that her slave was leaving to get married. She'd told slave she was free, slave found someone, so she's going.

5:31 AM  
Blogger Gabriele C. said...

Lol Bernita, I so could not stand Rhett.

Found this blog via Carla. I'm looking forward to more discussions about the historical in Historical Romances. And I agree on having lists for the other subgenres, like Southern or Regency. Though I don't write Scottish romances, I was tempted by Sarah's blog to make some rules. Including the misuse of the claymore. *grin*

Another blog for my roll. Procrastination, thy name is Blog. :)

3:22 PM  

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