History and historical fiction appear to go hand-in-hand; without the former, certainly there couldn't be the latter. Yet in some cases, these two apparent inseparable allies make for uneasy bedfellows. The truth is, not everyone who loves history is going to love historical fiction and vice versa. Some people are best disposed to the history itself, such as original documents, erudite biographies etc. This is the arena where scholars most often dwell; it's a hallowed place yet not one necessarily conducive to reading historical fiction, which, in the final say, remains a form of entertainment.
While historical fiction can inform and inspire an interest in history, and should of course refrain from blatant disrespect, it was never intended to substitute or even augument history itself. Historical fiction is a form of creative interpretation; it utilizes historical framework to relate a fictionalized story based on the past. The most informed readers will often find anacronisms in a novel that others might never notice and find this disillusioning, even off-putting; but we should remember that to be a working historical fiction writer in today's publishing climate, by and large it's often required to steamline characterizations, simplify complex political, social, and religious situations, modernize dialogue, keep the cast small and the pacing crisp. In sum, most commercial editors at major houses want writers whose books can be enjoyed by all potential readers, regardless of their particular background.
History is not an easy subject; historical fiction, when done well, can help to relieve the most intimidating aspects of history and make it accessible to those who believe the past can't be exciting or fun, with all those pesky dates and titles to remember. A scholar approaches history from an extremely detailed perspective; while such knowledge can inform the reading of historical fiction and even make it enjoyable, it can also by contrast curtail the ability to suspend disbelief, which is an essential requirement for fiction, regardless of the genre.
We read novels because we want to be entertained; we read nonfiction because we want to learn. And while the two may cross and, in the best of cases, even blend, the distinction still exists.