Laurie's News & Views

May 4, 1997 - Issue #25

Conversion Kits

I received in general a good deal of mail about Celia Rivenbark in particular and about the idea of conversion kits in general. I have set up a page at The Archives with all the comments and suggestions received on these kits which can be accessed by clicking here.

I've enjoyed reading what has been sent in so far, hope you will as well, and look forward to additional suggestions and comments. Author Jo Beverley and a Teri Dave, a long-time reader of this column, both disagreed with my selection of Julie Garwood, but I, along with several other readers, have found her books, while perhaps not historically accurate, are good choices nonetheless. Reader Corynne is contemplating loaning It Had to be You by Susan Elizabeth Phillips to her boyfriend, thinking the football and the humor might work in introducing her love for the genre to him. My husband had a similar idea; when I interviewed SEP recently and read the article to him, he was intrigued enough to ask that I pick up Nobody's Baby But Mine - so far he hasn't read it, but if any one has some good selections for the men in our lives, please let me know.

You can e-mail me here with your comments about what others have written, your conversion kit, and/or titles/authors that might work for spouses and/or significant others.

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Reader Juno Toppled Off Her TBR Mountain -
When we last checked, the highest tbr mountain among readers was 3,300. Since then, reader Cathy has checked her mountain, only to discover her tbr's stand roughly at 4,000. This, of course, begs a couple of questions. How much money do you suppose was invested in that mountain, and, do they sell book insurance?

Set Asides

How many times have you set a book aside for another because it's just not working for you? If you are like me, while not an every-day occurrence, this does happen once in a while. How many of you actually go back and read the book? If you do go back, is the book better than you expected or were your instincts in setting it aside correct? How many of you keep looking at the book, decide never to finish it, and trade it in? When I set aside a book, it has never turned out better than I expected. Usually my instincts have been correct and I should have listened to them. Only recently have I started trading them in unfinished; I used to grit my teeth and force myself to finish.

I've heard from a couple of readers on set asides who have had very different experiences than I. Maudeen, for example, wrote that she started Outlander twice before actually finishing it. She counts it among her favorite books. She added, "When a book doesn't work for me that I think should, I chalk it up to my mood, outside influences, etc. and give it another chance. Usually, I'm glad I did.

Are your experiences more like mine or Maudeen's? Let me hear from you on set asides. Please e-mail me here.

Three Strikes & They're Out?

I was reading some reader mail the other day about Authors Others Love That You Don't, and was surprised to discover that there are many readers out there who are far more generous with authors than am I. When I read a book by an author I've not yet read before, if they don't capture me the first time out, they've probably lost me. Occasionally I will be convinced to try that author again. When I have done so, for example, with Bertrice Small and Jude Deveraux, I tried another book. With Small, that was enough. With Deveraux, I gave her a third shot and traded the book in half-finished. Currently I am giving Laura Kinsale a third shot - I found a copy of Flowers From the Storm and hope to finish it one day.

With authors I've read and enjoyed before, I'm more generous. Catherine Coulter nearly lost me, but The Wild Baron brought me back into the fold. Authors like Rexanne Becnel, Katherine Sutcliffe, and Lisa Kleypas, who have written great books and clinkers alike, will continue to get chances because they have shown they are capable of more than one great book.

Reader Margie will give a never-before-tried author at least two books. She wrote:

"If I just could not like either of the two books, then the author goes on my if I really need to find something to read list, which, at the rate that my to-buy and to-try scroll has grown, may be in another twenty years.

"Now what about if I liked the first book, but just could not enjoy the second one? That author then goes on the back burner; that is, I won't wait twenty years to try his or her books again, but may wait one or two.

"For authors that have long been on my all-time favorites list, I buy their paperbacks automatically when they come out. I buy all of Jayne Ann Krentz/Amanda Quick's paperbacks; likewise for Judith McNaught, Nora Roberts and Julie Garwood. Some of their books may not be as compelling as the others, but none so far have been out and out clinkers for me.

"Books by authors that are my secondary favorites are approached with a little more caution; for the most part I will still buy their books, but not as quickly as my all-times. If they've disappointed me a few times in a row, then I won't be as frantic to catch their books as soon as they're issued, but will rather pick up the books if I happen to run across them and I happen to have the extra money to spend on them at that time. This could also mean that I'll buy them at a ubs (used book store) a few months down the road."

Reader Falcon has a different approach than I've heard, not putting any author on automatic buy. If a book is by a favorite author and the storyline appeals, she will buy it, but her decision is based more on storyline than authorship. (Perhaps her criterion are not so different than mine - I buy certain authors automatically, but only if they are historicals.) Falcon also wrote, "If it's a newbie, again the major factor will be the story line and the author next. So, if the story is right, I will also give it a try. Since my reading habit is highly based on medieval/historical theme story lines, this is pretty easy to figure out. I can pretty much tell from the synopsis if this will be a sale or not. The number of chances I will give for both established and new authors is 3 max. They don't crank up medieval stories like other historicals, so I have to give it this many chances before giving up."

Darlene wrote, "If it's a new author and I found the book okay but not a keeper, I'll try their next one if it sounds good or was reviewed well, but that's it. If that one is not great I either won't buy their books or I might pick one up at the used book store. There are too many authors out there to keep trying an author indefinitely."

Karen says she's pretty generous and will give most authors a second chance. She, like me, will skip an author's books set in a period she's not crazy about. I agree strongly with Karen's comments about authors who write characters she dislikes. She wrote, "If an author writes about characters I disliked, I'm more cautious. Some authors change drastically from book to book. Others have favorite types - the super-alpha hero, the innocent heroine, etc. If I give up on a book because the characters grate on me, I'll be extremely cautious before picking that author up again. Finally, there are a few authors whose style just doesn't click with me. I'll keep making excuses not to finish the book. I'm not sure why; I guess it's just chemistry. Sometimes I'll give the author a second chance (especially if she's a new writer), but only with high recommendations."

Karen also shared with me her experience with Mary Balogh. She "absolutely loathed" the first book she read by this author and didn't pick up another by her for years. Now she is a major Balogh fan."

So, where do you stand? How many chances do you give a new (to you) author? Are you a one-shot reader who believes there are too many authors and books out there to spend your time and money on one who disappointed you? Are you a two-shot reader or a three strikes and you're out reader? If you have allotted more than one strike for new authors in the past, what's your batting average? Has an author whose first book you tried was horrible ever redeemed herself in your eyes with a keeper, as was the case with Karen? And, what about authors you've enjoyed in the past. Do you remain loyal until the end of time or do you eventually decide enough is enough and stop buying their books? Please e-mail me here.

Wait Till You Read This

Unfortunately, you can't! My publisher has deemed inappropriate the next segment of my column and demanded that I set up a link outside The Romance Reader. So, intrepid readers, if you want to see what set off the censorious sensor, click here. After you link to and fro, be sure to let my publisher know if there's a mountain or a molehill here by e-mailing her.

A Sorry New Trend?

In my last column, we discussed not pet peeves, but I indicated I had noticed a disturbing new trend in some romances I've read lately. I reviewed Emily French's The Bogus Bride for The Romance Reader awhile back and gave it a one-heart rating. Part of that low rating came from a scene early in the book (page 25), which was set in the mid-1800's. In this scene, a sixteen year old virgin and a neighbor sneak outside. As I wrote in my review, ". . . she put his hands on her breasts, pulled down his pants and began giving him head."

In another historical I recently read, and enjoyed in the main, the young, virginal, medieval heroine, whose virginity must be unquestioned, engages in oral sex with her true love. This, in itself, did not bother me in the least. I was, however, taken aback by her swallowing and acting as though she was a kitten who had gotten into a sweet bowl of cream.

I am not at all adverse to the description of most sexual activities in a romance. I was bothered by the first instance because it was so shocking, and because it did not seem to be historically plausible. In the second instance, I was reminded of the couple of X-rated movies I've seen. Swallowing and loving it seems to me a male fantasy.

We've talked a great deal about silly sex, sexuality in romance, authors who write wonderful love scenes, those that don't go far enough as well as though that go too far. While thinking about all this again, I received a galley in the mail from an author whose work I great admire. I snuck a peek at the end and was confronted by another swallowing scene. I'll have to reserve judgment on that until I read the whole book, but I wonder whether these two talented authors might have crossed the line.

I'd love to hear from you on this. Have you read books in the past where swallowing is involved? Either way, is this appealing to you? Is this a logical progression to the increased sexuality in some author's romances? Is swallowing a female fantasy or a male one? Also, have you noticed that certain authors seem to have toned down their love scenes? I noticed that Catherine Coulter's The Wild Baron was less sexual than some of her other books, and that For the Roses by Julie Garwood was less sexual as well. Could this be a sign that authors are writing for wider audiences? Please e-mail me here with your responses.

Casting Director

Author Lisa Kleypas, who recently discovered The Archives, "couldn't agree more with your suggestion of Janine Turner as Lily in Then Came You. For her male counterpart, I would suggest the ice-blond Val Kilmer (as he appeared in Top Gun)."

Lisa was not the only author to play casting director with me. Author Julie Moffett was in touch after reading the 4-heart review I gave to her delightful new release, The Thorn & the Thistle. Her inspirational casting choices for Rolf St. James would be Aidan Quinn (with long hair) and for Megan, Julia Ormond.

Author Mary Jo Putney, who cast The Rake & the Reformer and Silk & Secrets in Issue #15, wrote in to say that:

"Timothy Dalton could do just fine for a number of my dark & dangerous heroes, such as Peregrine in Silk & Shadows, and maybe even Michael in Shattered Rainbows. Jeremy Northam, who has played both heroes and villains, would also be very good, especially for Gervase in Dearly Beloved.

"On the distaff side, Julia Ormond could do a number of my heroines, especially Catherine Melbourne in Shattered Rainbows. I fell in love with Julia Ormond in First Knight -- she has kind eyes, and a wonderful combination of compassion, intelligence, and toughness. Not to mention beautiful. Sandra Bullock, lovely, likeable, intelligent and vulnerable, is another actress I like. Maybe she can play Kit in Dancing on the Wind.

"A reader told me Brad Pitt is perfect for Robin in Angel Rogue. I've never seen any of his movies so I can't swear to that, but I once met Maxie, the heroine in that book, in meeting Kathleen Eagle's gorgeous daughter, who is half Native American and half Anglo, with exactly the kind of exotic beauty I envisioned for Maxie. (Much too tall, though!)"

Reader Lori enjoyed casting two of her favorite historicals by Judith McNaught. Without a doubt, her choice for Royce would be Adrian Paul; for Jennifer, she sees the red-haired actress who plays Cybill's daughter on Cybill. She sees, for the leads in Whitney, My Love, Oscar-nominated actress Emily Watson playing Whitney and, as Clayton, "no doubt, Liam Neeson! I think I could cast him as the romantic lead in almost every book I have read! It's that darned accent and those gorgeous eyes!"

Reader Karen wrote, "Kevin Sorbo of Hercules: The Legendary Journeys is Revas MacDuff in Arnette Lamb's Maiden of Inverness. And a reader identified as St. Clair Blue wrote, "How about a younger Sean Connery for Roarke and Sigourny Weaver for Eve" in the J.D. Robb In Death series?

After having thoroughly enjoyed Linda Madl's new release, A Whisper of Violets (even the name is beautiful!), I'm wondering how to cast five of the book's characters. I'm trying to get in touch with Linda through her publisher, so stay tuned. And, let me know if you enjoy the book as well!.

Until We Meet Again

I may be experiencing my first case of writer's block, because this column was ridiculously difficult to write. So I'm going to keep it short, and may very well put together my next column in less than the usual two weeks.

I'm still working on:

  • More on Fox Paws and Other Pet Peeves
  • More on Not Pet Peeves
  • More on Silly Sex
  • More on Covers
  • Secondary Characters
  • Conflict

and have just posted a Special Title Listing of Scots Romances. I am in the process of finalizing the Family Series Romances listing that was requested by several readers, and have several books to read and review.

I haven't received much response to my request for your favorite alpha, beta, and gamma males. If I don't receive your favorites soon, I'll have to assume there is little interest and won't try to compile a listing for it. Also, I've been requested to consider a listing of great romance villains. If you are interested in either an Alpha/Beta/Gamma male and/or Villain Special Title Listing, please e-mail me here.

Many of you who have written me in the past know that I try to respond to all reader mail. Until fairly recently, that wasn't difficult, but now I am regularly 3 or 4 weeks late in responding. I do read all the mail I receive, and I apologize for such late responses. If you are responding to a query in my column and want to give me information and don't need/expect a response, I would be grateful if you could indicate that in your email.

TTFN, Laurie Likes Books

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