Reaction to my last post seems to indicate that, for readers of historical fiction, authenticity of both voice and detail is as important as plot; a view which I heartily agree with.
So, can I move the debate on a notch?
If the authentic historical details box is ticked and the decent plot box is ticked, how important is it that the people in the novel are as representative of their era as the novelist can make them?
In other words, how important is it to the reader of historical fiction that the characters they are reading about are not simply twenty-first century people transplanted into a well-drawn historical setting?
When I started reading historical fiction in my teens, I think I automatically accepted that historical characters would think and feel like me – I mean, how else was I going to identify with them?
It wasn't until I started doing the research for Testament that I began to understand how very differently the people of the medieval period thought and felt about the world they lived in. This realisation didn't stop me enjoying hist fic which failed to acknowledge this – I remain a huge fan of Ellis Peters' Brother Cadfael books, for instance - but, in general, my criteria for judging historical novels became far more exacting.
Historical fiction with a crime/murder theme is suddenly big in publishing terms – it's a genre on the up – and I read a fair amount of it but, I have to confess, a lot of it doesn't ring true because the way the protagonists think – particularly those who are investigating the crimes – doesn't stack up in terms of authentic world view.
So, what does everybody else think? Does coming across recognisably modern people with twenty-first century views about justice, social politics or religion put you off certain kinds of fiction, or will a good plot and external period detail get you through? Are there excellent examples you've come across (I was recently massively impressed by Shona MacLean's The Redemption of Alexander Seaton and here's somebody who agrees with me) or real howlers (I'll let you fill those in)?