I love England. I'm an unabashed Anglophile. Part of this is because my parents are English by birth, if not from eventual citizenship--both were naturalized Americans (or were, in my deceased father's case).
Yes, I know of the numerous crimes of England and the British Empire--they colonized or enslaved most of the world, starting with atrocities in Scotland and Ireland. But look at the good! What would we do without morning tea, the British Museum, and J.R.R. Tolkien?
I've been reading Regencies for pleasure as well as British mystery/suspense for work--I'm partway through writing a romantic suspense set in London, and find that reading in the genre I'm writing helpful for immersion purposes.
I've bumped into an interesting fantasy that some writers have about England.
That it gets hot.
|what Earth used to look like|
I have been to England many times, often for short trips but occasionally for sojourns as long as a couple of months, during all seasons of the year. I can state definitively that England does not get hot. EVER.
Okay, maybe it was hot during the Neoproterozoic geologic period, between 600 and 800 million years ago. Earth at that time supposedly reached a global average higher than 90° fahrenheit toward the end of that era.*
Maybe, just maybe, England got hot during that time.
But in the modern era? Pfft.
Granted, there have been heat waves during which the temperature in the UK exceeded 100 degrees fahrenheit: August 1990, August 2003, and in June and July 1976.* These events did not last long, and were certainly not the norm.
However, Nicci French's book, Beneath the Skin, was published initially in 2000, so a heatwave may have been distantly remembered, and surely not justification for prose like this:
"In the summer, their bodies catch heat. Heat seeps in through the pores on their bare flesh... Heat throbs on the pavement..."
This book is set in London. I assure you, heat has rarely if ever throbbed on a London pavement.
Don't get me wrong. I'm an immense admirer of Nicci French, which is really the husband-and-wife writing team of Nicci Gerrard and Sean French. Their prose is elegant, their plots unusual, their characters beautifully drawn (even if they did not explain in Beneath the Skin why the serial killer started killing--a frequently found fault in serial killer books and films).
The Frenches are not the only author to mistake Britain for Bahrain. At one point in Carla Kelly's The Lady's Companion, a Regency romance, a character described the weather as "hotter than Dutch love" (a great turn of phrase) while another is "sweating from the strange, wet heat." And this is in the Cotswolds. The Cotswolds. Where, according to one online source, the average summer temperature from 19-22 centigrade--about 68-70 fahrenheit. And let's not get into the humidity. It's cool and damp.*
And to my everlasting shame, I also have made this error. Here's a selection from Lord Devere's Ward, published under the Sue Swift name:
She did not wear a tucker for modesty on this warm spring day, and the bodice of her thin, pink muslin dress was cut fashionably low. He could see gentle curves inside the fabric puffed over her chest. Her bosom rose and fell with her breath. Her creamy skin glistened with a slight sheen of moisture.
A spring day in 1820 London, where this scene is set, would have been quite cold. The entire decade from 1810-1820 was unusually cold, with one site indicating that the summer in 1820 was very wet.* The likelihood of my heroine experiencing a warm spring day when her skin would "glisten with a slight sheen of moisture" from her sweat would not have been likely.
That's the joy of fiction writing. I can invent any world, any weather or event I please in order to advance the plot, even if it's merely the hero watching the heroine and thinking about licking off her summer sweat.
As a consumer, however, I find that incongruities can completely destroy my joy in a book or a movie. A lot of people thought that Blue Jasmine was one of Woody Allen's best works. It certainly was a triumph for Cate Blanchett, who won an Oscar for her portrayal of the title character.
However, this book was set in San Francisco, a city I know well. That Jasmine's sister, who works in a grocery, could afford to live in The City is absurd. On top of that, the sister's boyfriend and his pals all sound more like New Jersey dockworkers than they do Californians.
That sort of thing throws me right out of a book or a movie.
*Of course I looked this stuff up. What am I, a geologist?