Right now, the Smart Bitches are tearing through a certain author's works. They found pages and pages of 'marked similarity' between the historical fiction of Cassie Edwards and various dusty volumes of non-fiction published between 1902 and 1937.
The Smart Bitches cry plagarism. Signet Books shouts fair use.
I mutter, "Sloppy writing..."
Historical fiction's tough. It's as tough as science fiction or fantasy world-building, but with the added bonus of other people being able to shout 'Anachronism!' at the top of their lungs if you screw up. Research, accurate research, is soooooo vital!
And since the appeal of historical fiction is the chance to be transported back in time, we the reader know, or at least really really HOPE, the wrtier did her research.
The Bitches' issue with Ms Edwards doesn't seem to be the accuracy of her research. It's that her authorial voice changes when she wants to show that research off. Changes so much, they googled those odd bits. Then googled some more... It becomes clear that the writer's awkward info-dumps (if your readers notice the change in voice, that's awkward) were literally scooped up and dumped from source material to novel.
Sloppy, sloppy, sloppy. Lazy.
By contrast, yesterday I started 'Why Mermaids Sing' by CS Harris. It's a murder mystery set in Regency England. September 1811, to be exact.
I'm reading with a sort of sense of wonder right now: beautiful language, flowing dialogue, local dialects that actually work, a deft hand with characterization and a cracking good pace. Seriously, this writer belongs on the bestseller lists.
So it should be no surprise that her research and historical texture are spot-on as well. And restrained.
Marvelously restrained. Her characters move through their world without feeling the need to stop every few pages and 'break the fourth wall' explaining it to us. Yes, it took me a few chapters to figure out what a 'tiger' was, but it was worth it. I'm about a quarter of the way through, and not a single info-dump narrative or 'As you know Bob' in sight!
It's a walk along a knife's edge, giving the reader enough information without giving too much. And it's a bloody magic act pulling it off without the seams showing. Mermaids does it, and damned if I can quite see how...
Doing all this research. Ignoring it while you write. Using facts sparingly. And then doing it in a pleasing and entertaining way: it's a lot of heavy lifting. A lot. And as a guy with a lazy side myself (for two years I hired a lawn service rather than mow my own), I can understand the aversion to heavy lifting.
But here's the thing. We love what we do. Otherwise, we'd do something else. And love means doing the heavy lifting.