Thursday, August 11, 2011


I was drawn to the book Wrapped by Jennifer Bradbury like a moth to a flame.  (And I mean that simile to its fullest extent). 
This book has:
Napoleonic Spies
Regency London
Any of those things would be hard for me to resist on their own.  Together? Impossible.  I'm sorry to say though that I almost tossed the book at the wall in several places.
While attending a garden party where a mummy is unwrapped, Agnes Wilkins ends up possessing a small Egyptian artifact someone seems to want back desperately.  In order to unravel the mystery of the small figure Agnes begins to investigate and finds herself embroiled in a web of Napoleonic spies and intrigue.  She must work with her new friend Caedmon to save to unravel the secrets and save her nation.

The book has adventure, peril, a mystery to solve.  It has romance.  I'm sure there are many  people out there who would enjoy it for those things.  I couldn't.  For one, Agnes annoyed me to no end.  She too often allows her petulance and will lead her down roads she ought not go down.  Despite knowing that she ought not go down them.  She is selfish and, once the mystery is under way, can not stand for any part of it to be conducted without her.  For example, when a person she and her partner (Caedmon) have consulted is attacked she convinces Caedmon (who is said person's godson and was requested by him) to wait to visit the hospital until she can go with him.  Yes, a person has been attacked and is bleeding in a hospital, possibly dying, asking for the person in the world he's closest to and you make him wait hours because what is important is that you be there.  Nice.  I really couldn't figure out what Caedmon saw in her (other than she was also smart and liked Egyptology).  It was rather hard for me to have any respect for him because of it.

But all of that is nothing compared to how annoyed I was by the evident  lack of historical research.  Or what I perceived to be a lack.  Maybe the research was there, only disregarded because it was inconvenient?  All I know is that the historical inaccuracies kept throwing me out of the story.  One of them ruined it completely. 
Historical Liberties Taken (the first I could have shrugged off if it weren't for all the ones that piled on top of it):
  • Agnes asks her seamstress if she has read Pride and Prejudice and the seamstress says she has.  The chances of a seamstress being able to read in 1815 are slim.  If she could read, the chances of her being able to procure a copy of and then read Price and Prejudice are slimmer than slim.
  • This a book that takes place in high society and the author has not a clue how members of the peerage are to be addressed.  She has characters referring to landed aristocrats as  "Mr." and "Mrs." Agnes's father is referred to as Sir Hugh at one point, and then Lord Wilkins at another.  It has to be one or the other, it can't be both.  The former implies he is no more than a baronet, actually a commoner and not a peer.  We know that can't be the case because it is mentioned he is a member of the House of Lords.  If he is Lord Wilkins then no one would have been calling Agnes Miss Wilkins (which everyone does), she would be Lady Agnes.  This knowledge can be acquired in less than five minutes by performing a Google search. 
  • Agnes gallivants around London all by herself to a remarkable degree.  She sneaks off to go to the British Museum by herself several times. Her mother allows her to go shopping for ribbon with nothing but a coachman.  Which might be turned plausible if she were only shopping in Bond Street.  Except the modiste her mother orders her clothes from is actually in the City, near the Tower.
  • At one point there is a conversation in Agnes's home.  Her entire family is there, as is Lord Showalter.  During the conversation one of the brother's says "bloody" and the other one uses the phrase "smooth as a virgin's throat".  In  mixed company.  In front of non-family member.  Who happens to be their sister's suitor.
  • This one is technically a spoiler (although one really shouldn't be shocked by it), but this is the one that caused me to do violence to the book by slamming it down hard (I was in the car, I couldn't throw it).  Lord Showalter is a French spy  but not, as Agnes assumes, a traitor.  No, he is a French agent and not a British Lord at all, "Lord Showalter is a fiction, my past invented prior to my arrival here."  Yes, because the British aristocracy is so stupid they simply accepted someone into their midst who claims a title that, prior to his introduction to them, had not existed.
  • The British government alters the Rosetta Stone in the attempt to erase any trace of the adventure.
Why does any of that matter?  Understanding of the time and place of a historical fiction novel you are writing is critical to making it genuine.  Just like shoddy world building will ruin a fantasy novel, lack of a genuine setting will ruin a historical fiction novel.  Some might argue that this is a YA novel and that most of its targeted audience won't know the difference.  I think that makes it all the more important to get it right.

1 comment:

  1. AGREE 100%! I read, or tried to read, this one when it came out and I just wanted to cry and/or throw it across a room. SO bad--and I wasn't even fond enough of the characters to excuse the terrible inaccuracies.