It seems that Lynne Connolly shares my frustrations with the inaccuracy of many historical romances. At any rate, she writes about titles, inheritances, entails, the peerage, etc… here.
Cultural assumptions are a funny thing. For example, it would never have occurred to me that Americans might have problems grasping the principle of the first born son inherits everything, title, estate, money, because I grew up in a rural area where farms are still bequeathed very much in this manner (the eldest son gets the farm and the land), for much the same reason, to prevent estates being divided up into ever smaller parcels. It’s not a rule I particularly agree with – I know several women from farming families who got next to nothing, while their brothers lived it up with the proceeds from selling off the family farm – but it’s such a common rule that it never even occurred to me that people from different cultural backgrounds might have problems grasping this.
By the way, I fully agree with Lynne Connolly regarding the need for a line of historical fantasy. Because while many of what passes for historical romance these days drives me crazy with blatant inaccuracies and ahistorical attitudes, I would probably enjoy some of those novels, if they were published as fantasy or alternate history rather than historical fiction. It’s the same reason why I can enjoy Steampunk, but have problems with Victorian set historical fiction.
On a different note, Jeff Vandermeer has a very interesting post about the life cycle of short stories.