Miscellaneous FunResearch and FactsWriting

Accuracy, Verisimilitude, and the Ugly Facts in Romance Novels

Here’s the question, Are you bothered that you have to suspend your disbelief to read some romance novels?

I’m not talking about the fact that characters fall in love too easily or have perfect, simultaneously climaxing sex every time they touch each other. I’m talking about personal hygiene. I’m in a discussion with a group of writers about sex scenes and the conversation turned to historical times and lack of bathing. Naturally, I jumped to the defense of my characters.

True, many characters in historical romances (and in contemporary, for that matter) probably smell like these guys. But let’s ignore that for now.
(Courtesy of Malingering, Flickr Commons)


vintage nude woman in bath
Yes, she can get clean in this amount of water. No, really!!
(U.S. public domain, copyright expired)


Yes, I sometimes give them a bath or dunk them in a river when I know in reality, they probably wouldn’t have immersed in water that week. Does that bother you? Do you prefer to be wrapped in the cocoon of imaging the hero and heroine are clean by our standards before they do the deed. What about their teeth? Do you want to know know that they’re missing a few for the sake of historical accuracy? I think not. At least, I don’t.

Even in contemporary romance, where sex is often hot, hot, hotter, and the men and women are ready at a moment’s notice, do you want the heroine to stop the action and say, “Sorry, I just got my period”? The only time in contemporary or historical romance when menstruating is mentioned is not to stop a sex scene but when a heroine starts counting to determine if she’s pregnant. And then that’s only to discuss the absence of menstruating. I’ve never once read a book where they couldn’t do the deed because it was the wrong time of the month. Same with movies, for that matter.

Are you into accuracy, or can we agree to let that suffer for the sake of romance? I’d love to hear from you.