More Than I Bargained For – When Books Come With a Message

messages There are a few published authors who have a reputation for being passionate about a particular political or social topic. Most readers know this up front and share these authors’ views. But what about those individuals who unsuspectingly buy a book and find themselves getting a dissertation on our corrupt politicians, or how the lack of progress in going green is hurting the country. When does the author’s belief system interfere with your enjoyment of a book?

Frankly, I can tolerate social commentary over political. For the most part, I don’t run into it in most of the books I read and when I do, it’s usually not a problem, but politics can be more problematic. I recently read a book for review that had our politicians sabotaging a military mission in order to stir up sympathy support for the war. Talk about an unexpected and unwanted political surprise. Things like this stick in my mind and overshadow the romance portion of the book. When I asked my fellow reviewers what romance books they have read with political or social views within the pages, I received numerous examples within minutes. Maggie remembers Lady Liberty by Vicki Hinze being controversial for its inclusion of political talk about a former president whose sexual exploits brought disgrace to the office and a new one whose ritual of daily prayer was returning that respect. Kristan Higgins’ book All I Ever Wanted has Michelle Obama giving sage advice to the heroine. Continuing on the political front in the realm of historicals, Dabney mentions Sherry Thomas’ discussion about the lack of foresight used by the British in the 1800’s invasion of what is now Pakistan in her book, Not Quite a Husband.

On social issues, Lee and Jane both remember Catherine Anderson’s book, Here to Stay because of her very passionate thoughts on using mini horses as guide animals. Dabney mentioned Jill Shalvis’ discussion of abandoned animals in Animal Magnetism. Jane recalls that a review of Twist of Fate by Mary Jo Putney makes a point of mentioning the author’s views on the death penalty which were referenced in the book, and Emilie Richards tackles immigration in Endless Chain.

I doubt that any of us would want to read a book completely void of any social commentary.  Done right it adds nuances to the plot and characterization.  A heroine volunteering to help the homeless or feed the hungry shows me rather than tells me about her personality. What makes some books work with a social or political message?  What makes it fail?  It all depends on the author’s handling of the subject.  For me even with non-controversial topics, an author can cross the line when the book loses balance and the message overwhelms the plot, no matter how much how much I agree with the message. Some very controversial subjects are more problematic for authors to handle even with a light touch, not that it can’t be done.

I believe that an author should write about subjects that are close to her heart.  As a reader, I for the most part don’t mind the message, but I don’t want to be drawn into an information dump about how the present system is wrong and what is needed to fix it.  I am in the medical field, and believe that prevention is a better solution than treatment.  That doesn’t mean I want to be drawn into the pros and cons of our current insurance woes.

Are there subjects that draw me to books rather than discourage me? I find myself drawn to characters who care about animals. While I can’t say that I have actively searched the Internet for books with this theme, when I come across a book blurb that mentions animals, animal’s shelters, animal rescue I am more apt to read it.  My love of a recent book by Lucy Dillon Lost Dogs and Lonely Hearts and books by David Rosenfelt are definitely enhanced by our common love and concern for animals.

As a romance reader, where do you believe that social and political message belong in this genre? Do you actively seek these out these types of books or avoid them? What are the books that you remember more for message than the plot? Are you drawn to a particular author’s works because of their handling of subject or have you quit reading an author because of this reason?

- Leigh Davis

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39 Responses to “More Than I Bargained For – When Books Come With a Message”

  1. Ellen AAR says:

    If the message is glaring and overt, I don’t like it, nor can I stand insults. I can think of two books that made me so angry I have dropped the authors. One is Stuart Woods’ s book Two Dollar Bill and the other is Stephen King’s The Duma Key. I’m conservative. No, I am not a hateful, evil person but you wouldn’t have known that from reading these books. Both authors halted the stories in mid stride so that the characters could rail against the evilness of all people who are conservative.
    King and Woods have lost me entirely as a reader.

  2. Ell says:

    The thing that bothers me the most is when an author works in his/her political opinions in a sneak attack. If I know going into the story that that is included it gives me the opportunity to choose or not choose to read it, and honestly, I like my opinions fine. I’m not interested in theirs. I’m reading to be entertained, not to be instructed.

    I have run across this most often in the science fiction/fantasy genre, and almost exclusively men authors are the ones who do it. Good grief, I hate to get part way into a book, only to find out that the author is using it as a soapbox to promote his political opinions. This has happened so often, I have become very cautious about buying books written by men. Probably unfair, but it really has happened a lot.

  3. Vic says:

    The first author who came to mind while reading your article is Susan Brockmann. She is very pro-gay rights and that has become a main story thread in many of her Troubleshooter books. I haven’t minded that and Jules is one of my favorite characters but I know some people were put off in my most recent release with the “soap-boxing”.

    I think the subject matter the author is advocating is an important factor that determines if it’ll interfere with my enjoyment. If it’s something I don’t agree with, I can handle some of it. If I feel like it’s being shoved down my throat, I have a harder time. Also, if I’m reading the book, I don’t have a problem skimming. But if it’s part of a character’s personality, skimming could be hard to do. Constant skimming is harder/more annoying when I’m listening to an audiobook.

    Another factor if it will annoy me is how the message is delivered. As Willow from Buffy the Vampire Slayer would say, “This isn’t about attacking Buffy. Remember, “I” statements only – “I feel angry.” “I feel worried.” If a character in a book has a passion for a cause and expresses the reasons for that passion using “I” and “We” statements it doesn’t come across as aggressive or make people feel like they are being attacked by the message. (“Narrow minded people (i.e., people who don’t agree with me) are stupid” = bad phrasing; “I feel frustrated that some people can’t see how not recycling is harming our environment.” = better phrasing) Of course, sometimes an author WANTS a character to be an a$$.

  4. BethP says:

    I hope I don’t start a flame war, but I have to say, Suzanne Brockmann’s latest book was a DNF for me in part because of her constantly pounding the message about gay people being people too.

    Let me say at the outset, I work with gay people. My housesitter when I leave on vacation is gay and he and his partner sleep in our bed when we’re gone. I have neighbors that are gay. To me, gay just is. It’s like someone who is blond. Or someone who is brown eyed. It just is. But she kept pounding the message over and over and over and I frankly got extremely tired of it.

    For those who don’t get it by now, they won’t be convinced by what a single author says within a book. For those that do, it becomes incredibly tiresome to have someone continually and repeatedly preaching to the choir.

    An author can state their convictions – they just can’t pound them into our heads. If they do, the book becomes a pulpit rather than a story.

    • Vic says:

      BethP:…To me, gay just is.It’s like someone who is blond.Or someone who is brown eyed.It just is.But she kept pounding the message over and over and over and I frankly got extremely tired of it.For those who don’t get it by now, they won’t be convinced by what a single author says within a book.For those that do, it becomes incredibly tiresome to have someone continually and repeatedly preaching to the choir.
      An author can state their convictions – they just can’t pound them into our heads.If they do, the book becomes a pulpit rather than a story.

      I agree totally. I did finish it and was able to enjoy it (not as much as most of them) but would have really enjoyed it more without all that “extra”. Glad she’s taking a break from this series after last installment.

    • maggie b. says:

      An author can state their convictions – they just can’t pound them into our heads.If they do, the book becomes a pulpit rather than a story.

      This is where books become difficult for me. When it is worked quietly into the story – the gay best friend who is just the best etc. it works ok for me. When I am preached at – about anything- the book becomes really tough to finish.

      I also dislike -intensely- political discourse. Tell me about your issue (in the plot, not through dialogue) if you must but PLEASE, don’t then link that to a political party (like I’m not smart enough to do it myself) and then proceed to tell me how the other group is eeevvviiilllll!

      maggie b.

  5. Clothdragon says:

    I have to admit that I have more patience when the opinion is one I agree with. If it isn’t they need to show more than “this is what I think” to convince me and a real rational argument is hard to have in a story about something else. Then without that argument I’m likely to decide that either the character espousing the views is an idiot or the author is. Neither of those options make it likely that I’ll continue following a series. –I haven’t read Brockman though or anything that states the point as bluntly as she seems to, but I’d probably get tired of being beat over the head with even something I agree with too.

  6. MB says:

    You can lead a horse to water but you can’t make him drink.

    If authors can convince me, rather than bludgeon me–then it works. If not, they’ve just made their position a little less likely for me to support.

    And I’m very, Very, VERY tired of cookie cutter villains. Written to have no character other than espousing whatever the author hates. Use some creativity please!

    A message in a book? It comes down to finesse. And basic politeness. And treating others (including readers) with respect.

  7. Jane AAR says:

    I agree with Clothdragon — I definitely have more patience when it is an opinion I agree with. I had mentioned Twist of Fate by Mary Jo Putney to Leigh, and as death penalty abolition is a cause to which I am very dedicated, I thoroughly enjoyed it. Of course, if you don’t agree with that, what I see as “stating the facts” you might see as “proselytizing.”

    When I read this blog, I was reminded of seeing a comment — I forget if it was in the review itself, or on the message boards — complaining about J. D. Robb’s books advocating for gun prohibition and legalizing prostitution, both of which are fairly controversial topics. Since it’s a futuristic story, the changes one would assume the author advocates had already happened, which adds a different dimension to the arguments.

  8. elaine mueller says:

    I’m not sure what the difference is between ‘social’ issues and ‘political’ issues. Aren’t they really one and the same ultimately? Don’t we base our political stances on our social and ethical values?

    And I could be wrong but it seems to me that romance fiction contains its own political message – that the One True Happiness (especially for Woman) is to be found in the one man, one woman exclusive relationship and its happily ever after promise. There are other, slightly lesser happinesses to be found, but they just aren’t quite as good as the One True one.

    That movie “You’ve Got Mail” seemed to embody that notion. Oh, how romantic! The bookstore owner struggles and struggles to hang onto her dream against the powerful Tom Hanks but ultimately she falls in love with the man who destroys everything she worked for. Falling in love makes everything okay, covers up for all the rotten things he did to her. Love Conquers All and excuses the guy’s horrible behavior.

    We have romance novels that are beloved by readers yet that contain some pretty brutal treatment of women by the men they ultimately “fall in love with.” Is that a political/social message? Or is it just entertainment? If it’s okay, if we as readers excuse that kind of behavior on the part of heroes because we can distinguish between fact and fiction, why should we get all bent out of shape because authors inject other political views into other books? Can’t we distinguish between real life and fiction there?

    I’ve long believed that popular fiction – originally books and stories but eventually movies and TV too – has amazing power to influence people’s attitudes on social issues. From Charles Dickens and the Victorian workhouses to Harriet Beecher Stowe and slavery to Upton Sinclair and the Chicago packing houses – novels have carried their authors’ viewpoints and ultimately changed public opinion.

    Everyone seems to be opposed to reading about opinions they don’t agree with and to criticize those authors who have attempted to persuade their readers to their way of thinking. Most people don’t like having their comfort zone invaded, that’s true. But many people also don’t recognize when they’re the choir that’s being preached to.

    elaine

    • renee says:

      elaine mueller: I’ve long believed that popular fiction – originally books and stories but eventually movies and TV too – has amazing power to influence people’s attitudes on social issues. From Charles Dickens and the Victorian workhouses to Harriet Beecher Stowe and slavery to Upton Sinclair and the Chicago packing houses – novels have carried their authors’ viewpoints and ultimately changed public opinion.

      I agree with you wholeheartedly, Elaine. When included appropriately in the story I have learned a great deal about certain issues and in some cases have changed my viewpoint accordingly. I just find it difficult when I feel like the author is on a soapbox and is determined to fit in their viewpoint whether it flows with the storyline of the book or not. I have heard some authors talk about the importance of let the words “show” instead of “tell” the story and I think that applies here. When through the story I am shown the impact of certain issues or feel its impact through the characters, the author’s viewpoint whether its political or social is more likely to positively impact me.

  9. Anne says:

    Oh, my! How coincidental that this subject should arise. Last week, frustrated to the breaking point, I sat down and made a list of the topics that take me out of a story and many of what I listed are those social and political issues mentioned here. For example, the heroine (and it’s usually the heroine) who states that she’s a vegan and restates it, and restates it, and makes everyone uncomfortable including me… the reader. I’m really not interested in what any character eats or doesn’t eat and I refuse to feel guilty because I enjoy a good steak (medium rare, please.) And then there’s the author’s feeling about the global warming issue that’s so easy to discern and the political affiliation of the author that becomes apparent one-fourth into the book. I have a lot of pet peeves…. heroines who seem to be in love with their shoes, historical heroines with modern day morals… but nothing takes me out of a book faster than the author trying to persuade me to her way of thinking by retpitious preaching. I get so weary of skimming a book, reading half but paying full price. ;-)

    • Katie (kat) says:

      Anne: Oh, my! For example, the heroine (and it’s usually the heroine) who states that she’s a vegan and restates it, and restates it, and makes everyone uncomfortable including me… the reader. I’m really not interested in what any character eats or doesn’t eat and I refuse to feel guilty because I enjoy a good steak (medium rare, please.) .

      Sorry, you touched on one of my pet peeves. As a vegan I’m sick to death of hearing about how much people like steak when they find out I don’t eat animals/animal products. I love the animals that I’m fortunate to share my life with and I sponsor a pig & a cow at a farm sanctuary. I really don’t appreciate people who feel the need to share how great it is to eat these animals.

      I’m sure there are not a run on stories featuring vegans, especially vegans shown in a good light. I get to read about people eating flesh all the time. I’m sure the odd vegan or two won’t hurt anyone.

  10. DJ says:

    I’m of the “say it, don’t spray it” clan. I don’t need to be hit over the head again and again with an author’s political or social views to understand them. I am far more likely to consider them if they are worked simply into a story, and it doesn’t feel as if I’m reading a lecture that got shoehorned in for no particular plot purpose. Show. Don’t tell.

  11. L A Wheeler says:

    It’s not difficult to discern from the foregoing comments that virtually all the reader distress is generated by social issues usually associated with liberal politics.

  12. amers says:

    I won’t read Catherine Anderson. She was a hit-or-miss author for a while, then I read one of her books pushing her religious views more strongly than ever and I decided “no more”. Can’t say I’ve missed her.

    As for sexual orientation… I’m getting incredibly tired of the obligatory gay character/best friend in books (and movies). Mainly because it’s so contrived. Enough already! It’s not my preference, I believe it’s as much a choice as biology (sorry if that only makes me half-enlightened), and nothing written in a romance novel on this topic is going to change my thought — except perhaps to alienate me. A few authors have added gay storylines — for instance, I love Warren and Kyle in Patricia Briggs’ Mercy Thompson series — but all too often it becomes an unwelcome distraction to a story that would have stood up fine/better without that aspect.

    Politics in fantasy/sci fi is to be expected. If the world-building is good, then the political message fits and adds to the story.

  13. [...] AAR contributor Leigh Davis has written a post called More Than I Bargained For — When Books Come with a Message. Davis’ take-home message is sensible: For me even with non-controversial topics, an author [...]

  14. Carrie says:

    This may be slightly different, but I like being educated about a topic or situation. No Such Thing as a Free Ride by Shelly Fredman, the mystery involves homeless/runaway teens. The culture of homeless teens, along with reasons they’re where they are and how some people reach out to them is seamlessly worked into the plot. I’ve learned about other issues in other books. I very much enjoy being enlightened this way, as long as it’s woven into the story and well done. I don’t want to be told what to think, though. I want to be educated, not indoctrinated. I’m much less patient with political agendas, even ones I might be sympathetic towards. I don’t want to read about abortion rights/pro-life battles. I don’t want to read books that vilify large cities or small town. Neither do I want to see criticism of women who work or women who give up careers to stay home.

    One political/social plot device I refuse to read anymore is the hateful “conservative Christian.” This is especially popular in contemporary and romantic suspense, and often involves “televangelist” types who lie, cheat, are sex-perverts, have delusions of grandeur, etc, etc. I’ve yet to read an author who can make such a villain anything but a 2-dimensional cardboard cutout. Nora Roberts did a decent job with her secondary villain in Carlina Moon, but few others have managed it. Unfortunately, the next candidate for the cookie-cutter evil villain seems to be either Islamic extremists or white supremacist militia groups. I think authors meed to make a little more effort and come up with more original antagonists.

  15. Leigh says:

    Ellen and Ell
    I have had the same experience. I used to read quite a few male authors in the political intrigue genre. Of course I should expect some politics but after a while it just got too much. So I am taking a break from those authors for a while.

  16. Leigh says:

    L A Wheeler,

    For me it is not the liberal aspect, it when I start feeling that the message is distracting from the romance.

    Carrie, you bring up an excellent point. I like the same type information. It is when the characters start talking about how there isn’t enough money with the budget cuts from the President, or Congress that it starts to bother me. Also I quit reading romantic suspense because all the villians were mentally ill serial killers (oxymoron isn’t it- since you have to be mentally ill to be a serial killer). What happen to greed, protecting a secret, and just killing or trying to kill one person?

  17. Liz says:

    I think it’s wrong to set the issue up as ‘political’ books versus ‘apolitical’ books. If the personal is political :-p then all novels forward a worldview. As elaine mueller notes above, the structure of many (though not all) romance novels forwards a set of social and political tropes.

    What I’m noticing in the comments is that books fail for readers when 1) The subtext is made explicit ie ‘banging me over the head.’ 2) The reader and the author have substantially different social/political values

    It really seems to be the combination of 1 and 2 that gets people going. For example, while a conservative reader may be fine reading a gay secondary romance plot, she may feel uncomfortable if the characters assert a political position (like frustration that marriage is illegal). On the flip side, while I tend to do just fine with romance novels where the female protagonist’s desires are submerged for One True Love (did just fine with You’ve Got Mail), nothing pisses me off faster than having to read the hero verbally assert his dominance/superiority over the heroine.

  18. Diana says:

    Politics and religion are hot buttons that have turned me off to quite a few otherwise good books. Brockmann has managed to lose me with her preaching and I agree with her cause. And I hate the stealth attack when an author hits me with her issues when it’s completely unneeded in the context of the novel. Don’t get me started on Barbara Freethy’s naked anti-abortion screeching in Daniel’s Gift which was innocently disguised as a romance.

    It’s a rare gift when an author can simply write a book with strong-minded characters passionate about their religion and/or politics without beating the reader over the head. I’ve been reading Moriah Jovan’s books and marveling at the fact that I’m fascinated and an unabashed fan of her conservative, republican, Mormon cast of characters. Here’s the thing. She doesn’t preach, she doesn’t apologize, she doesn’t vilify the other side and I know she’s not trying to convert anyone. She just writes a rocking good romance novel. It matters not at all to me that my politics and religious views are at the opposite pole. She respects her readers enough that we’ll “get it” and that we can read about other’s life choices without swooning.

  19. JMM says:

    I read romance/mystery to be entertained, not lectured. Of course an author’s personal views will come through at times. But it’s a long way from that to “This is how Good People behave and believe.”

    Take “Twist of Fate” by MJP. Please. It wasn’t a romance or mystery; it was a rant against the death penalty. Every person who was pro death penalty was Evil, corrupt, or mistaken and easily converted to the hero and heroine’s point of view.

  20. RobinB says:

    I agree that reading romances, fantasy, mysteries, etc. is a form of escape from life’s daily issues, and the never-ending drone of the 24/7 news cycle. At the same time, I can understand why an author might insert her/his views in a story. And, if you don’t happen to agree with the author’s political/social viewpoint–well, we have a forum discussion like this one!

    I happen to be of a liberal/progressive viewpoint, and to those who are conservative who have commented here, I would like to say that back in the 20th century, the conservative view was represented by people like William F. Buckley, Jr., and Barry Goldwater. I certainly didn’t agree with much of what they said, but I respected them, and I used to watch Buckley’s program “Firing Line” on PBS. Why? Two reasons: First, Buckley, Goldwater, et. al. presented their viewpoints clearly, reasonably, and without resorting to name-calling. Second, I never heard any type of implication by these conservatives that those who disagreed with them were not as patriotic as they (the conservatives) were.

    Now contrast that with the type of discourse heard on media outlets like Fox News, and most talk radio, all of which appeal to the lowest common denominator among the audience. It’s no wonder that there is such a political divide in this country, and it’s also why many authors feel a need to “opine” in their fiction. Well, it’s the author’s right to do that, and it’s also the reader’s right to choose to read (or not) that author’s works!

    • Mari says:

      RobinB: Now contrast that with the type of discourse heard on media outlets like Fox News, and most talk radio, all of which appeal to the lowest common denominator among the audience.

      Contrasted of course with the way conservatives are portrayed by the mainstreams media, as “rascist” and “teabaggers”….Don’t want to get into a flame war here,but this is a provactive topic. Where I have a problem is when it is done anachronistically. In Tessa Dare’s last book, (forget the title, Thrice something or other) a heterosexul male character of the nineteenth centruy actually says of a homosexual character: “not that there’s anything wrong with that”, like they did in Seinfeld. And then everyone is ver accepting and open of that character’s homosexuality!!!! Uhm, no. This was a hanging offense back then. I don’t demand my historical romances be crazy accuarate with history but this is as bad as writing about ” happy darkies” in the Ante-Bellum South and extrememly insulting to the deadly repression homosaexuals faced back then. And no, no man would be happy with a known homosexual being godfather to his children. Seriously, Tessa Dare is a very fine writier, but this was insulting to my intelligence as a reader. As well as her characters, who, up till then, I had been liking. The whole book just “jumped the shark” at this point for me.

      And another thing (now that I am on a rant!) In contemporaries, (and in the culture at large) you used to see alot more “black best friends” or blacks as secondary characters in white plots. There is less and less of this and more and more of “the gay best friend.” Seriously, do these people only exist to help white people out???!! Gays seem to have won the war to demomstrate as characters how liberal and wonderful and open minded white people can be. They don’t seem to exist for any other reason in main stream culture.

      I hope no one is taking offense, but I feel strongly that if a writer wants to show how open minded their usually white character is, they can do it without resorting to stereotyping or crude propagnadizing. And I hate it when Christian writers do it in inspirationals too.

  21. Sandy C. says:

    I could do without the “hit me over the head repeatedly” messages of some books, but then again, we all view the world through the filter of our own experiences and beliefs. It’s possible that some political or social messages don’t feel that way to me, because I agree with the author’s position. As an example, any book that features domestic abuse and then details the woman getting out of that situation doesn’t feel preachy to me, no matter how it’s presented.

    I’ve also done the “eye roll” with Suzanne Brockmann’s Troubleshooters series, simply because it’s the author’s voice we’re hearing when Robin is thinking how terrible it would be if Jules wasn’t in a New York hospital, because then Robin couldn’t visit him, etc. Scenes like that just don’t ring true. I can also say that when we first got to know Jules we weren’t hit over the head by how gay he was, and that’s why so many readers love him. He was just cute, funny, somewhat sarcastic, etc. The author was letting the character speak for himself, and it worked on all levels.

    I also appreciate the few authors who can give the bad guy(s) some depth of character. Even bigoted morons love their families, want what they think is best for America, etc. Very few people are 100% good OR evil, after all. I liked Victoria Lustbader’s “Stone Creek”, because she could have made the heroine’s husband nothing more than an SOB, but she didn’t. He was kind of clueless, but he really loved his wife.

    Subtlety is key, that’s all!

  22. Beth says:

    I like something that is contraversial and make you consider both sides be it immigration, political, criminal etc… I gets a bit harder with religion. I like to when the author does not steer you one way or the other but presents both sides and lets you draw your own opinion.

    On the other hand I love Suzanne Brockmann’s troubleshooters series. I feel in love with Jules and I wanted him to be my friend. My husband began reading the series and he was not put off by Jules at all. He is a mental health counselor and he said it gave him some insight when talking with alpha male clients who can’t come out and suffer terribly.

    I don’t think she hits us over the head with gay rights. She is simply showing what can happen.

  23. Peggyo says:

    Well, I have started self-censorship because I peek at the publishers imprint. Anything from a religious group (Bethany, Steeple Hill) I avoid and some mainstream authors I avoid because I do not want to be preached religion or so-called tolerance. That said, yeah, the previous poster talking about the ethnic characters being some kind of helpers really honks me off. I won’t buy any ethnic imprint any more than the religious ones.

    A good story should stand on it’s own.

  24. Kaetrin says:

    I liked the most recent Brockmann quite a bit – Personally, I thought the soapboxing was more obvious in Infamous actually and Breaking The Rules was quite tame by comparison to that and earlier TS books. I don’t mind when a character has a cause or makes a statement in a book but I want it to be “in character”. In Infamous, there were some scenes where it felt like the author was talking to me and not the character and those were the bits I didn’t like – it’s not at all that I disagree with the sentiment expressed, but I read a novel for entertainment – if I wanted ot read a non fiction book about gay rights or anti-smoking or anti-alcoholism, I would. As long as it’s an organic part of the book, I’m okay but when it falls outside that, it does lessen my enjoyment – it’s not a deal breaker necessarily but I do grade down if it becomes irksome.

  25. Ellen AAR says:

    I think the romance novel that ticked me off the most was one by Bobby Hutchinson (I think it was Man, Woman and Child). The heroine was a chef, a vegan chef and a more humorless, self-righteous bitchy character I have seldom encountered. She battered the poor hero about his diet until I wanted him to tie her to a chair and eat a huge platter of steak tartare right in front of her. I ended up throwing the book in the garbage and that’s something I seldom do.

  26. necklace says:

    I have to say, I also don’t like it when the author sneaks in their political opinion. It is such cheap shot. Some times its best to stick to skillful writing and an interesting plot. No need to resort to gimmicks.

  27. Vol Fan says:

    I absolutely hate it when an author does this too. I read to escape, not to be lectured or subliminally tried to influence to their politics. I also hate it when the author hits you over the head with how “evil” a group of people are because of their beliefs. (I’m looking at you Stephen King and “Under the Dome” which told us all that Christians, military, conservatives & Republicans were the only horrible people and he was very in your face about it).

    I refuse to read SK anymore and I’m very wary of others who do this. In fact, I’ve been known to have thrown a book out without even reading it after I read reviews that said this was hammered over the head of the reader. “Dome” taught me a lesson in that I will never waste my time being lectured like I’m 6 again. I would have quit that book early on, but after spending that much time on it (gigantic book) I didn’t want it all to have been for naught. Though it was in the end. Total waste of my time.

  28. emma says:

    Let me get this straight.
    1) It’s bad when a writer hits you over the head with it.
    2) It’s bad when they sneak it in.
    3) We just want an entertaining escape from the world.
    4) It’s a turn off if the book simplifies character or historical period.
    5) We dislike narrow mindedness…
    6) Which is why we refuse to read anything that comes out of certain publishing houses, or is written by men.
    I know these aren’t exact contradictions, but they’re close enough to contradictions that maybe we should cut authors some slack and just read whatever appeals to you.

  29. Leigh says:

    Thank you to all the posters. You made this a very interesting thread to read over this long rainy weekend.

    I think Sandy C summarized all of our posts with her last comment:

    “Subtlety is key, that’s all”.

  30. Melissa says:

    Like alot, the first (and pretty much only) author that came to mind was Suzanne Brockmann.

    Jules was one of my most favorite characters. Then came the over and over and over again. Not just in her book but it’s like that’s all she talked about in her newsletters too. It just got to be too much. On her soap box constantly. It just got old. She was just crammin it down your throat. Not just stating her views, but pretty much insinuating if you didn’t agree you were a narrow minded and horrible person.

    She has every right to write about it, scream it from the roof tops, and put it in her newsletters. Her prerogative. Just like I have the right to roll my eyes and say enough already!

  31. hapax says:

    “Jules was one of my most favorite characters. Then came the over and over and over again.”

    Not picking on you specifically, Melissa, but this is a criticism I hear of Brockmann over and over, and it really makes me want to bang my head against the wall.

    The subtext I always hear in this complaint is “Oh, I love Jules, he was so fabulous and funny — see, I don’t mind gay people at all! But then Brockmann had to go and RUIN his character by making him actually think about and care about the way that our laws and prejudice affect his life. Why couldn’t he just stay in my fantasy closet so I could pretend that the world was more fair than it actually is?”

    I personally *like* it when an author makes me a little uncomfortable with my unthinking assumptions and privileges. *Show* me the homeless starving Peninsular veterans on the streets, while all those Marquesses and Viscounts waltz at their glittering balls. *Show* me that recovery from alcoholism is a long, painful process that requires strength, patience, and a lot of grace, not just “the love of a good woman.” And yes, *show* me that persons of particular races, races, and orientations still have to deal with a thousand daily injuries and insults that are not magically erased by the Power of Love.

    It’s not like I can’t find a million other books that will feed me fantasies and fairytales when that’s what I’m in the mood for.

  32. Melissa says:

    Not picking on YOU either hapax……..BUT

    In the “reality” closet If you want to be *SHOWN* all that pick up any newspaper in any city. Turn on any news program. That’s why I’m in the FICTION section. MY POINT is I CAN THINK for myself….don’t need anyone else to tell me HOW to think or WHAT I HAVE to think about or that I SHOULD be thinking like the author. There are tons of people that think you have a right to your opinion as long as it agrees with them. We shouldn’t judge BUT when you don’t agree with them they become the MOST JUDGEMENTAL people on the planet. Freedom of speech is a TWO WAY street. Like I said, definitely her option to cram it down my throat (my opinion DOES NOT change on that) so definitely MY OPTION to stop reading it. I admire her for sticking to her guns and keeping that at the FOREFRONT of her books if that’s where her convictions lead her. Mine lead me elsewhere. I never criticized Jules thinking or concerns about laws….but I think Jules lost his voice and became SUZANNE. If you noticed it was CONSTANT in her newsletters as well. Plus, honestly…I think that series had run its course.
    I totally don’t mind authors mentioning groups/charities/foundations they support and asking you to donate or whatever. And most authors do have something near and dear to their heart. But most of them mention it and leave it at that.
    There and oodles and oodles of authors that have themes in their books, that don’t magically erase issues and injustice. They thread it through very nicely. I prefer those. Doesn’t mean I’m in a “fantasy closet”.

    Just sayin’

  33. Kaetrin says:

    @ Melissa @ Hapax It’s just my opinion obviously, but I don’t think Jules lost his voice at all. He was always Jules. It makes total sense, in my view, for a gay character to have concerns about gay rights. There have been times when I have thought Ms. Brockmann was talking rather than the character but I usually notice it from other, not-gay characters – frex, the male lead in Infamous. I doesn’t bother me in the least when a character gets on a soapbox, if that’s organic for the particular character and in Jules’ case, given he was the one directly affected by the lack of gay equality, well, why wouldn’t he be concerned about these things?
    Ultimately, if, for whatever reason, one doesn’t like a book, one doesn’t have to read it of course, but FWIW, I thought that Jules has always been consistently Jules. I read a post elsewhere about this issue which correctly pointed out that all of this is entirely subjective – one person’s “soapbox” is another person’s “soapbox? what soapbox?”.

    @ Katie(kat) – here’s hoping you get to read a few vegan romances one of these days! :)

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