This past week, I returned a new release unread to the library. While that is not especially unusual, that fact that I am saying goodbye to the works of an author that I have read for over twenty years is. Over this period of time, this author’s book changed from highly anticipated, to enjoyed, and then to comfort.
The journey from highly anticipated and purchased to library begins with me recognizing a pattern in the books. I am not talking about the author’s contract limitations such as writing a romantic comedy vs. romantic suspense. I am talking about recognizing that the plot or the characters are too similar from book to book. The first couple of times this happened, it was like a light bulb turned on in my head. When I attempted to read additional books written by the same author, an internal voice kept whispering to me, “This is just like all her other books.” In a few cases if the dialogue is amusing or the books make me laugh then I can continue to enjoy the book. Sometime I do read comfort authors for years because they are, well, comfortable. However, recognizing an author’s archetype can impact my buying decisions. If the author is published first in hardback, then I change from purchasing to requesting the book from my library. I can justify buying paperback for a much longer time.
Having an author write similar books is not limited to just romance books. It is something that happens across all genres. It is a chicken or egg scenario. Do authors write the same type of books over and over, because that is what sells or is it because they only have one book in them? Have they tried to change things and then encountered readers’ dissatisfaction? A different love interest, time travel, death of a character are all plot devices that have generated controversy among romance readers. I have to admit that I have voiced my own displeasure on one occasion, when an author tried to change things up by switching the love interest in a series.
Some readers enjoy the similarities between books, and enjoy reading about the same characters from book to book. Every time they pick a new book in a series, it is like revisiting friends. There are over thirty books in the J.D. Robb’s “In Death” series and this series is still going strong.
While I am a traditional reader in the sense that I want heroic characters and happy endings, I love authors that I cannot pigeonhole. While I do think that there are more authors that write the same types of stories over and over, I know that there are many that love to mix things up from book to book. Eloisa James, Sharon Shinn, and Connie Brockway are just a few that come to mind as authors that change the type of story they write from book to book. Susan Elizabeth Phillips has had similar characters, but her scenarios are so different that I am constantly surprised.
Do you continue to read an author once you recognize that the books are similar or do you seek out the new and different? What authors have the ability to amaze you from book to book? What keeps you reading authors that you classify as comfort reads? What makes you quit an author?