And by “ax,” I mean Erastes, an author of gay historical romances, who also reviews said romances on her blog, Speak Its Name. I’ve read her novel, Standish, and it was clear from it that Erastes has far more knowledge of the culture and time period than I ever could. She does, in fact, live in the UK, whereas I haven’t yet had the chance to even visit it.
So, it was with much trepidation that I learned The Christmas Wager was in the queue to be reviewed on Speak Its Name. I’d written the novella as a fun little Christmas Romance, in imitation of the numerous Christmas Regencies I’ve read. Many of these were not terribly well written, though the authors may have had the advantage of actually living in England. I could, of course, have set my novella in America, where I’ve lived all my life, but I wanted to use the standard tropes of the genre — the English manor; the wealthy lord, whose excesses have left him a bit jaded; snow on Christmas (even though that’s a rarity in England, it always snows in the Christmas Regencies); etc.
I knew she wouldn’t pull her punches, and she didn’t. She immediately saw through my ignorance of the culture, which simply can’t be remedied by a bunch of reference books. She credited me for doing my research, which I appreciate, because I certainly did, but points out a number of anachronisms and inaccuracies that I missed: balsam not growing in England (who knew? Well, I guess the English…); no scones for breakfast (i.e., I thought they would have them, but apparently they do not); apparently, it’s not called a fifth of scotch? And many others I’m still puzzling over, because I don’t know the culture as well as I should.
But I’m not unhappy with the review. Erastes was not at all mean-spirited and had some very nice things to say about the characters and the story itself. She took a couple jabs at my editors, which might not have been completely fair. One thing, in particular, that annoyed her was my use of epithets, such as “the blond” or “the handsome blond,” and my editor (as well as Erich and my friend Claire) did point out that I overused those. Ultimately, I’m responsible for the lack of historical accuracy.
Punctuation…well, I spent what seems like days going back and forth with my editors over comma usage, so I’m not sure where the fault lies, on that one. But I have to say, I always thought I was good at that, until I started proofing my galleys. Then suddenly, it became clear just how fuzzy my knowledge of correct usage really was.
What stung the most, was the line “So taken aside the things that knocked this from being a really good read to an annoying one –”
Ouch. It went from “really good” all the way to “annoying.” Do not pass Go; do not collect $500. But at least she then goes on to finish the sentence with “I did like this book, and would probably recommend it to those who like big country house stories.”
Overall, I expected to be raked over the coals for dipping my toes into a time period and culture I’m familiar with only through category romances and a few reference books. And I was. But I consider it a big win that she enjoyed the story, despite its flaws.
(NOTE: I’ve been informed by other writers at Dreamspinner that a 3-star rating at Speak Its Name is far from being “raked over the coals,” so maybe I’m exaggerating just a wee bit.)
Now, ask me how panicked I’m going to be if Seidhman gets published and reviewed by somebody living in Iceland….
Read all of Erastes’ review here.