Piffle, Part II

My favorite writer of Regency romances who doesn’t do her homework has struck again.

Just because a phrase is British doesn’t mean it’s ok to pop it into a historical novel.

Furthermore, there’s not only no such word as ‘prattleplate’, the word itself is meaningless. What, a talking dish? This may have been a typo and the writer may have meant prattlepate, which makes a bit more sense. Prattlebox is a term I’ve come across numerous times — it means someone who talks a lot, probably a form of chatterbox — though it doesn’t show up in Partridge’s dictionary of historical slang.

It’s great to make up colorful phrases. But try and have them mean something.

Back to the anachronisms in this latest book:

A ‘bugger’ is a sodomite. The word was used as far back as the 1300’s. Over time it came to be used coarsely to mean ‘fellow.’

However, according to Partridge:

Bugger! – a strong expletive – wasn’t used til latish C.19-20

(Another source has ‘Bugger off’ as early C.20)

Bugger you! – 1887

Buggered – C. 20

(And, just for fun, a buggaress was a female beggar, 1450.)

Effing/eff off wasn’t used til C.20, approximately 1943.

Sod – also meaning a sodomite, wasn’t used until mid. C.19-20. Used as a perjorative, late C. 19-20.

‘Sod off’ and ‘sodding’ aren’t even remotely Regency.

This author of these particular errors started out writing charming romances set in a number of different eras. There was sex aplenty, but it wasn’t the main focus of the stories. Her first Regencies were also charming. Then she got caught up in writing steamier stories about various members of a family – rakish, of course – and the quality of the writing started going downhill. The first few books in the series were fun, but the last two have been more steam than story, and the plots have gone stale.

It’s hard to keep a family saga going. Jo Beverly did it wonderfully with her Mallorens, but few people write as well as Jo Beverly.

To add to the challenge of returning characters and continuing story lines, publishers want lots of sex, and they want stories written and rewritten in ridiculously short periods of time, and a writer who wants to please (and thereby keep being published) has no choice but to comply. The result, unfortunately, is all too often a decrease in quality.

What has happened to the quality of this particular writer’s work is probably not even her fault, but I doubt I’ll read any more of her books. When I start caring more about the errors than I do the story, then it’s time to move on.

Which, in this case, is truly a shame.

Where on earth was her editor, out to tea?

Published in: on September 25, 2008 at 10:53 pm  Leave a Comment  
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