I really like to read and write historical romance. Especially adventurous stories where the characters often have to rough it out in the pre-modern countryside or wilderness. In fact, I've put not a few characters through this, sending them speeding across the country on horseback with nothing but a crappy little tent and/or a blanket and a saddle for a pillow. Sleeping in the heather beneath the stars, or camped out at the edge of a forest...it sounds cool and adventurous when you read about it. And even thought it's 2011, I figure I should be able to do the same sort of thing I make my characters do. So last night, I put myself in the shoes of an adventure-bound historical heroine.
Kind of. I went camping. I opted to take my car instead of any of my horses, but I did sleep on the ground, which was rock, so I think that might make up for my transportation indulgence. Plus, my horses' knees might have buckled beneath the incredible weight of my camping equipment (which also isn't very historically accurate).
Anyway, I had pretty realistic expectations. I'm a very jaded camper, thanks to a sort of family curse that has turned just about every camping trip of my life in a disaster so ridiculous it's comical. So I sort of just lay back on the God-forsaken rocky ground and indulge in mildly hysterical laughter when everything goes wrong. But between driving my husband crazy by laughing at our bad luck, I realized some stuff.
Historical romance heroes and heroines (and of course the real people who lived back then) were a lot tougher than me, and roughing it isn't very romance inducing. I've read many a historical romance where the hero and heroine have their first sensual encounter in a body of water (like the just happen to be swimming at the same time). This is more of a necessity than a cliche, I think. Because the only time you're going to be clean is in the water. If you're out of it you're going to be hot, dirty sweaty and lying on ground that nearly breaks your spine in half under just your own weight, let alone that of another person. Plus, there's something lurking through the woods near where you're sleeping, and it may or may not be Bigfoot, and you can't stop thinking of how freakin' terrifying it would be if it was.
And as sucky as I thought it all was, I did it with fresh changes of clothes and many little modern conveniences. The thought of being that hot and sweaty and surrounded by bugs all the time is just too much for my modern mind. It would take some serious getting used to! At least during the summer months.
So I wish I could give some of my more outdoorsy historical characters a break, but that's not very easy to do when air conditioning doesn't exist yet. I guess I can avoid writing them in the American South, which is probably not the best part of the world to camp in during July. Although I think there were many cool aspects of the past that've been all but lost, overall I'm glad I live in modern times, so I can enjoy the best of modern technology and escape to the past via my favorite historical novels.
What about you? If you enjoy historical fiction, do you think you'd actually like living back during those times? Or do you prefer the comforts of modern living and a bit of reading to keep things interesting?