In my guest blog at Night Owl Reviews, I wrote an article about 'Romantic License' in historical romance - blending fact and fiction. Achieving a balance between historical accuracy and romance can be a challenge, especially in an age where life was considerably rougher than now. Like one of those who commented on my blog noted, romance readers don't want to know that people never brushed their teeth, or had a bath once a year! Whereas a main-stream historical novel must be truthful about these things - historical romance can't get away with it!
I've always enjoyed love stories with a bit of grit in them. Although we read romance for escapism, I want the setting to have enough realism that it becomes a protagonist itself in the story. Maybe it's because I also read a lot of fantasy, especially epic fantasy, and enjoy the 'romance' of a character interacting with his/her environment in a way that we never could in modern-day society.
In Anglo-Saxon England (the setting of Dark Under the Cover of Night), I like to show pagan beliefs, and how they impacted on everyday life. Even though Christianity was slowly encroaching at this time, the Anglo-Saxons worshiped their own gods: Woden, Thor and Freya, among others. Their celebrations were linked to the passing of the seasons. Such celebrations included: 'Mother Night' at Yule, Beltaine (May Day), Litha (the summer solstice) and Samhain (to celebrate the 'death of summer' - these days we know it as Halloween). There was something sensual about these celebrations, an earthiness that lends itself to romance. In Dark Under the Cover of Night, our heroine, Raedwyn, takes part in the Yule celebrations. She dances around the great bonfire and helps prepare the honey-seed cakes and other sweets that are round and golden like the sun, to help entice warmth back into the world. Details like these really do cement a story in a time and place.
If you'd like to read more details about blending fact and fiction in historical romance, or would like to enter a content to win a copy of Dark Under the Cover of Night, visit Night Owl Reviews (they are running the contest until 8th February).