The Prejudices of Yesteryear and a #Giveaway by Barbara Monajem

I assume many of you have read Outlander by Diana Gabaldon. If you haven’t, be warned, as there’s a sort of spoiler here in this blog–but only sort of.

Product DetailsThere’s a scene in the story where Jamie treats Claire with what was acceptable brutality back in the day—but now it wouldn’t be acceptable AT ALL. It hasn’t turned readers off the series, though. Maybe this is partly because Jamie didn’t know why Claire did what she did, and Claire didn’t realize the potential consequences of her actions. (This is from my recollection of the story, which I read eons ago. If you’ve read the book, you probably know which scene I mean–it’s one of those unforgettable moments in literature.) But despite the characters’ motivations, what was OK then isn’t now. Times change. In my childhood, spanking kids was entirely normal. Now it’s not. Corporal punishment in schools was commonplace then. Now it’s not.

Anyway, I’m working on two different books right now, and both have heroines who struggle with the prejudices of the era in which they live. Such as, for example, class distinctions. The lower classes were taught to consider people of higher classes their ‘betters’ – as if they were more valuable as individuals. Many upper class people never considered the feelings of their servants, because they saw no reason to do so.


Why the cover of Love and the Shameless Lady? Because one of the heroines I’m writing now is an obnoxious secondary character in this book, and redeeming her is proving to be quite a challenge.

I hope a romantic heroine can embody some of the prejudices of the class society in which she lives but still be a sympathetic character to progressive, modern-day readers. She may not even recognize some of her prejudices, just like people today. I think this is better than if she has a 21st century viewpoint, because that just doesn’t ring true. The question is, will readers understand and accept this? Should I make the heroine aware of and struggling against her prejudices, but not always succeeding? Or what?

As usual, I’m doing a giveaway—one of my e-books, winner’s choice. Leave a comment for a chance to win. Tell me what you think about heroines who have prejudices which were acceptable back then but aren’t now. Have you seen a successful example of this in a novel? How do you think this subject should be treated?

Alternatively, answer this question instead (or as well): Do you think I should put a recipe page on my website? 🙂

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Barbara Monajem started writing at eight years old. She has wandered from children’s fantasy through mystery to paranormal and historical romance. She lives near Atlanta, Georgia with an ever-shifting population of relatives, friends, and feline strays.

23 Responses

  1. hillenbrandfamily

    We all know that there were people who struggled against the prejudices of their times as well as now. That scenario does work well. Not always succeeding against their prejudices works well. However, there were also those who had good hearts, but didn’t necessarily understand how the “lower” classes truly lived. They didn’t realize that there was anything wrong with how they treated people, it was just how they were raised. They were nicer and fairer than many. Those characters often evolved as circumstances allowed them to find out more about the “lower classes” in various ways. That scenario works well too.

    Recipe pages on websites are nice, but a lot of authors that I know of that have them, post the recipes they put in their books. Some are regency, contemporary, and cozy mysteries. Some authors mention a dish in a book and then post the recipe. Some will post it in their email newsletter. Some will post one of their favorite recipes in their newsletter. Hope that helps! Meredith

    • Barbara Monajem

      Hi, Meredith. Thanks, this is very helpful. I want to write characters who have good hearts but don’t necessarily understand the plight of others. The learning process is part of the character’s journey. 🙂

  2. beppie2014

    I think having a heroine come to the realization that she is acting in accordance with what she has been taught (i.e. the prejudices of her time) and showing the emotional impact that changes her mind works most successfully. Having her from page 1 being nobly above the attitudes surrounding her is to me simply unlikely enough so that it’s hard to convince me to care very much about her. Given the prejudices we have now and have to painfully unlearn in most cases, having a character who goes through a Regency (or other period) childhood untouched by the attitudes of those teaching her is the mark of a fairy tale. Given some of the learning process, I (a) learn something about the prejudices of that time–whether I think I know it all or not, and b) come to care more for a character who goes through a learning process I can identify with. As for recipes, I discover in common with a lot of women I know who are past the child-raising and homebody stage that cooking has become more and more of a routine process that I’m not tremendously interested in. But there are lots of people who feel their kitchen is the heart of the home, so add recipes wherever you want if you choose to do so for those readers!

    • Barbara Monajem

      Hi, Beppie. I agree completely — if the hero/heroine are too above the attitudes surrounding them, it doesn’t ring true. Re recipes, I don’t enjoy cooking as much as I used to, but I do like taking old-fashioned recipes and making them accessible to modern cooks. So I’m sort of iffy about a recipe page… I know you’re super busy, so thanks so much for taking the time to reply. 😉

  3. Tory Ferrera

    I think you have posed a very interesting question, Barbara. As a reader and writer of historical romance I see mostly (almost entirely) idealized heros/heroines in the genre, characters whose prejudices of the time have been smoothed out for a more “enlightened” Regency/Victorian hero/heroine. But the truth is that most people are bound by the value systems of their time. I can think of one story, Flowers in the Storm, where the hero is a complete aristocratic snob who shuns the heroine, a Quaker woman of another class. But of course even there, by the end of the story, he’s seen her true worth. (Great journey though!!).

    • Barbara Monajem

      Hi, Tory. I loved Flowers in the Storm. 🙂 Lately I read The Street Sparrows by Rose Ayers, which portrays the lives of some of the poor — a lovely story.

  4. nmayer2015

    Some like period recipes. It is sometimes difficult to translate 1800 ,measurements into 2017 terms especially as USA uses F and most of the rest of the world uses C.
    It seems that most authors now have their heroines and heroes hold more modern ideas. They would be opposed to slavery, for the right to vote for every one and for the equality of all. Nice sounding but that puts the good people of the past who didn’t all believe that way in the wrong and some what evil. It is wrong to make all 18th and 19th century people hold liberal 21st century views.
    I have never liked and do not now like to read a book where the husband or lover thinks it OK to beat, rape or otherwise use violence against the female. That has never been acceptable, though marital rape was an unknown term. It was never acceptable for a man to beat up his wife. Chastisement was allowed, regrettably , but not beatings or bruises. Snobbish is a fact of life and still exists even among those who think themselves most liberal.How many liberals would take a homeless person home with them to bathe, and have clothes laundered and be given a decent meal or meals? Sorry I shouldn’t get on my soap box.
    I find it best just not to get into deep questions unless there is a reason in the story. Snobbishness and unkindness are two behaviours that can be corrected by a character.
    A character has to be likeable or sympathetic or arousing sympathy. It is sometimes hard to redeem a character previously presented in an unfavorable light unless one can arouse sympathy for the character.
    Though the women of Jane Austen’s day wanted a change , the change they wanted wasn’t to go to university or to war, or to hold office, or even to vote. The main concern of many was to have a decent education and for a married woman to own property. Wollenstonecraft wanted women to be treated as rational people and to have a decent education . Hannah More wanted that as well. Many women opposed both ideas.

    • Barbara Monajem

      Hi, Nancy. I imagine that if a woman was taught from childhood that she was less capable than a man, and had the good fortune to marry a responsible, caring man, she might easily oppose both education and ownership of property for married women. It would make sense to her to maintain the status quo.

  5. ingleewomen

    Most of my characters live in a time long before my grandparents were around. Some of them live in strict communities and must conform to the ideals of the society or be kicked out. Punishments for crimes were more brutal than now. If I have a murderer, and that person is caught, that person will be put to death regardless of any other circumstances. I, myself, do not believe in capital punishment. Once I had the murderer run away, once I had him find justice in the afterlife, which I also don’t believe in. Writing this stuff really hurts, but even in fiction you have to have a sense of reality.

    • Barbara Monajem

      Hi, ingleewomen. I like reading about characters who stretch the boundaries of the strict society they live in — but not necessarily too much, as if they are attempting to make strides forward, but don’t expect to bring about vast changes in a short period of time.

    • Barbara Monajem

      Hi, mlaird. I agree — it’s good to see the heroes and heroines learning the flaws of society and understanding the need for change, even if they can’t bring it about except in small ways.

    • Barbara Monajem

      Hi, Linda. I haven’t seen the TV series yet — I keep meaning to but never get to it — but in the book it was a really intense scene, so intense that I remember it often.

  6. Josie

    Hi Barbara, I’ll answer your second question…yes, you should definitely put a recipe on your blog. I share many recipes on my blog–mostly because I love cooking and I love to eat! Best wishes on your release and I LOVE the cover, BTW.

    • Barbara Monajem

      Hi, Josie. Thanks for the vote for recipes. I love reading the recipes that you share, although I have to control myself to not make the sweet stuff!! 🙂

  7. marymarvella

    Barbara, I don’t care about the recipes, but a lot of women do, I do prefer to see historical novels that are at least close to accurate. If I read and think “could not have happened” I lose confidence in the author. I grew up in a time long ago and in the South. The PC thing can go too far when people want to change history to sound modern and have people show modern beliefs.

  8. eileendandashi

    ـJust dropping in to say hi. Hope your new year is moving along smoothly. I haven’t read Outlander; I even have the audiobook of it. So I didn’t read your blog.

    • Barbara Monajem (@BarbaraMonajem)

      Hi, Eileen. LOL. The blog isn’t about Outlander; I was just using it as an example. I do recommend that you listen to your audiobook of Outlander. It’s a fabulous story. Be prepared for a few shockers and a great story. 🙂

  9. tvsweeney

    If a reader is truly “into” a story, she’ll accept attitudes different from contemporary ones. I suspect most historical romance fans, simply because they are fans, come to expect those characteristics as part of the era they love to read about. The upper classes’ attitude to the lower was kind of like Marie Antoinette’s fabled “Let them eat cake,” meaning if they didn’t have bread to eat, they should eat cake instead, not understanding in the least that if you didn’t have one, there probably wasn’t a chance you’d have the other.”

    I’ve always loved your romances, Barbara, because of the characters’ attitudes, whether snippity, boorish, kind, or defiant. Keep up the good work!

  10. Barbara Monajem

    And the winner is… M. Laird! I’ll contact you via email re claiming your prize. And thanks so much to everyone for the comments, which were most helpful and encouraging. 🙂