You Never Get a Second Chance to Make a First Impression

There is more than a grain of truth to the axiom, but what if that first impression was not entirely accurate? We’ve all done something like this. You pick up a book by a new-to-you author on a trusted friend’s recommendation or on a whim. But then you find that it really is not your cup of tea. Perhaps the pacing is off, or the plot is thin, or you feel like you are reading about a group of caricatures instead of characters. Chances are, you decided to avoid that author’s other works altogether.

Of course, this is a practical approach since the majority of us do not have an unlimited budget for book buying. It makes little sense to buy another book by an author whose work you have not loved in the past. I’ve found though that occasionally it benefits me greatly not to completely disregard an author based on my initial reading.

I have a confession to make now. A few years ago I read LaVyrle Spencer’s Morning Glory…and I didn’t love it. Not even a little bit. How could I possibly have disliked this universally loved classic? I groaned every time I picked it up to read a few more pages, but I pressed on determined to finish it. I’m not sure if it was the book or if I had been on a diet that left me starving and cranky that week, but for whatever reason I swore off all things LaVyrle Spencer, including the television movies that Lifetime always seems to butcher.

I may have cheated myself out of some good reading, though. Several months ago I was browsing in our local UBS and noticed a large collection of Ms. Spencer’s books. I hesitantly picked up Small Town Girl, made a quick decision, and added it to my collection. What a surprise it was when I read and enjoyed every page! I decided that perhaps I was too hasty in my initial assessment and I am looking forward to trying other novels she has written. It’s such a shame for us that she is no longer writing, but I do hope she is enjoying her retirement.

That experience brought home to me that maybe I should not be so quick to dismiss authors whose first work I read I didn’t enjoy. Up until last year, the only Lisa Kleypas title I had read was Suddenly You. And while I didn’t hate it, I found it dull and couldn’t imagine wanting to read other books like it. But once again I had a change of heart and checked Devil in Winter out of the library. I’m pleased to say that I found it delightful and have read many, many of her books since then. Sometimes, I really love it when I’m wrong.

How about you? Have you had any similar experiences? Is there an author you dismissed initially that went on to become a favorite? What makes you give (or not give) an author a second try?

I’d love to hear from you!

- Heather S. AAR

30 thoughts on “You Never Get a Second Chance to Make a First Impression

  1. Yes…and I always finish a book whether it leaves me scratching my head and wondering what the hell that was. I do have favorite authors that have the clinker from time to time…but to judge an author on one book is sometimes a BIG mistake…I have found the 2nd or 3rd book is often the best of a particular author. Its only a book and its not earth shattering so giving that author another chance is a good thing.

  2. I usually give an author two chances. If I don’t like either of the first two books by a new to me author I won’t read others, irrespective of how glowing are the reviews. Sometimes it’s clear from the beginning that an author’s style does not appeal to me at all, or that her sensibilities are very different from mine.

    The first Elizabeth Hoyt novel that I read was To Seduce A Sinner. I didn’t hate it. but I didn’t love it either. Nevertheless, I read the next book in the Four Horsemen series, To Beguile A Beast, and from then on I was hooked. I have now read all her books, and I like them all more than I do To Seduce A Sinner.

    On the other hand, on occasion I love a book and rush out to buy others by the same author, only to be greatly disappointed. There are no guarantees – but that unpredictability is part of the charm of reading.

  3. Rarely! On dislike is achieved, usually due to style, I don’t buy a second book. I don’t care how good a story is; if the author sends it out in shabby clothes, I’m gone.

  4. Eloisa James was this way for me. I read one book by her — I forget which one; it had Christmas and Duchess in the title, I think — and really disliked it. But then when there was such positive buzz for her more recent book, How Beauty Tamed the Beast (I think), I decided to give it a go, and really really liked it. I’ve since read much more of her backlist, and everything I’ve read was better than that first one.

  5. That happened to me with Susan Elizabeth Phillips. I read “Nobody’s Baby But Mine” and didn’t like it very much, mostly because the premise bothered me though I did like her writing style. But then I was at the library and they were having a paperback sale and they had “Match Me If You Can”, which I adored. So now I’m going to go look for more books by her and see if I like more.

  6. Mary Balogh. Loved the mistress books, but disliked the next one. I tried another, and found it so depressing. Thankfully, I tried again 5+ years later, and I really enjoyed it. Have loved most of her work ever since. I believe this is an exception to the rule, but I also think I’d matured in my romance reading to expand my horiz

  7. Mary Balogh. Loved the mistress books, but disliked the next one. I tried another, and found it so depressing. Thankfully, I tried again 5+ years later, and I really enjoyed it. Have loved most of her work ever since. I believe this is an exception to the rule, but I also think I’d matured in my romance reading to expand my horizons a bit. I am always happy, I tried again.

  8. Delete first comment if you can. My laptop is so touchy. Zipped down to submit button. *sorry*

  9. I do this regularly, mostly because of how many authors I did not fall in love with at first sight (read). Mary Balogh is one – did not love “A Precious Jewel”. Have loved many, many others by her including the connected book “A Christmas Bride”. Sandra Brown I was not impressed by on first read but then read “Breath of Scandal” and have been mostly hooked ever since. Tess Gerritsen, Lisa Kleypas. Anne Stuart. This past month it was Julie James – did not like “Practice Makes Perfect” but I was so, so glad “Just the Sexiest Man Alive” and “Something About You” were part of my reading challenge. If they hadn’t been, I might not have read her again and these books were fantastic!

    I should add that the author must be well recommended for me to give them multiple chances. Otherwise, I quit at one.

  10. Thanks everyone for your comments! Maybe a good part of this has to do with initial expectations from an author or book. If you hear fabulous things about a particular book or author and expect to be wowed by them, when you’re not it can be an even bigger disappointment. At least that’s true for me.

    Also, the execution of the story has to at least be competent for me to entertain the idea of trying another novel by that author. If I feel the writing is sloppy or amateurish I will probably not go back for seconds. I’m definitely more open to trying again if I see a glimmer of talent in the writing or if it’s just a particular plot device or character that made me have a negative reaction to the book. I also tend to look at what point in the writer’s career the book was published. For my personal reading, I tend to cut a little more slack to debut authors and am more willing to grant that second chance if later novels are highly recommended.

  11. I have a confession to make. The first time I read Slightly dangerous by Mary Balogh, I was bored by it. I’m not sure what it was–maybe I was just tired, or in the mood for something more exciting, but whatever it was, the book that so many people loved just didn’t thrill me.

    Then I was in the library and decided to try another Mary Balogh book. I loved it! Since then, I have revisited Slightly Dangerous, and it has become my favorite of her books. I laugh every time I think about when I first tried to read it. I can’t imagine falling asleep to it today!

  12. I’ll almost always give an author a second or even third try. Sometimes I’ll even give a particular book a second try. My tastes change without warning.

    If the writing seems egregiously bad or the style is a major turn off, I may write the author off completely. There have probably been exceptions though.

  13. Both Susan Elizabeth Phillips and Linda Howard were “love at the 2nd book” cases for me. I read SEP’s “It Had to Be You”, did not love it, but decided to try her again years later with “Heaven, Texas”. Loved it, and bought most of SEP’s books since then. Same for Linda Howard: read “MacKenzie’s Mountain”, did not like it, tried again with “Mr. Perfect”, loved it.
    After reading the posts here, I realized I should probably give Mary Balogh a 2nd chance too. I have read “Lord Carew’s Bride” many years ago and did not like it at all, but it seems I am missing very good reads in her other books.

    Heather, since you are going to read other books from LaVyrle Spencer, I suggest you try “Hummingbird”. It is one of my favorite romance novels!

  14. I read Elizabeth Hoyt’s “Prince” books and hated them. I even went back and re-read” The Raven Prince”, ’cause I thought, with all the great reviews these books were getting, “it’s gotta be me”. Nope, still don’t get the attraction of the “Prince Books”. But I have thoroughly enjoyed both the “Four Soldiers” series and am completely in love with “Maiden Lane”.

    I am almost scared to admit this out loud (or in print as the case may be) but I don’t get Gorgette Heyer either. I have just downloaded another one of her books to my Kindle, ’cause once again I’m thinking “I’ts gotta be me”. I agree with many of the other posters; it may be I’m tired, or bored, or looking for something else each time I pick up a Heyer book, and don’t finish it. I am determined to keep trying. I mentioned her work to my sister and she loves her!!

  15. I am soooooo glad that I’m not the only one that didnt fall in love with Elizabeth Hoyt’s Prince books. Got me thinking that maybe I should give her another try.

  16. Karat, thanks for the “Hummingbird” rec! I will definitely add that one to my TBR pile, er mountain.

    Interesting that Elizabeth Hoyt’s books have had this effect on so many of you. I have 2 of her novels for future reading, one a “Prince” book and one a “Maiden Lane.” I will definitely give both a chance thanks to you all.

    I find it interesting that Mary Balogh is mentioned frequently here as well. I’ve never disliked any of her books, but my reactions vary from really liking a few to being just lukewarm on others. I think I was lucky to pick up “More Than a Mistress” first.

    The mention of Susan Elizabeth Phillips does not surprise me as humor is so subjective. I’ve found that I enjoyed her Chicago Stars series far more than her older novels and more than some of her newer ones as well. I’ll still read her, but with a diminished sense of anticipation. For me, the bloom is off of that rose.

    Thanks again for commenting!

  17. The first Stephanie Laurens I tried I couldn’t finish. Years later I read a short of hers in an anthology. I liked it enough to give Devil’s Bride a try. It is a DIK of mine and the first ebook I paid for.

  18. I have to agree with the Susan Elizabeth Phillips examples above. I found her to be a very good writer with potential for me to really like her work, but the first three books of hers that I read did not click with me. But I found myself going back to her works and read _Heaven, Texas_ and loved it. Most of her books since then have been among my favorites. She is an auto buy for me now and so this is a rare case for me of sticking with an author despite initial misgivings.

    I haven’t made a breakthrough yet with Mary Balogh though.

  19. I took two books to decide I don’t want to read another by LaVyrle Spencer, one of which WAS Morning Glory.

    My worst mistake with first impressions had to do with judging a book by the title and back cover blurb. I had Julia London’s ‘Book of Scandal’ from a UBS, and thought it sounded incredibly silly, but bought it as a light read, to roll my eyes at after reading something heavy. It took me over a year to pick it up, but when I did, I couldn’t figure out how such a great book could have such a bad blurb.

  20. Best Spencer books – Gamble (heroine with a limp against alcohol/hero bar owner), Hummingbird (conman hero shot/heroine takes care of him), Separate Beds (pregnant with hero’s baby heroine), Morning Glory, Endearment (virgin hero/not so virgin heroine), Vows (heroine engaged to another man at start), and Years (may/december relationship). My mother loves Hellion (slub hero exercises like crazy to regain youthful appearance to woo ex-sweetheart), but I’m kinda eh on it.

  21. PS – Avoid Forgiving by Spencer – too dark/weird and involves child abuse of the heroine’s sister by father.

    Twiced Love – you’ll hate it or love it – no telling until you start.

    My mother said to avoid reading ever the book by Spencer with the hero taking his brother’s wife to bed to help impregnate her. I think it’s Fulfillment based on blurb.

  22. The Fulfillment was my first Spencer book, and I hated it. I wanted the husband to be the hero. I think it could have been a great story that way.

  23. I tried Karen Marie Moning three times (the highlander series) & intensely disliked them. I have this thing about reading series in order so I was always starting with the first (debut) novel which was almost old school–I loathed it. Then I kept hearing more raves on her so I tried again (with the second book), still didn’t like it–I don’t think I even finished it. Then, my bookstore clerk recommended Darkfever to me (said bookstore is now closed urgh!). At first, I was really reluctant because I hadn’t like the highlander one, but the clerk was really enthusiastic & it was a different series so I tried it. And LOVED it. Wow, I was really blown away. I then went back & read all the highlander ones (except for the 1st two) & enjoyed them greatly. Not as much as the fever series, but I finally got why everyone liked this author. Since then, I have been trying to give authors a 2nd chance.

  24. This is going to sound blasphemous, but Georgette Heyer. The first Heyer I read was a Lady of Quality and I remember finding it only mildly interesting, but for the most part, boring, annoying, and pointless. Years passed and I got into Georgette Heyer on the recommendations of the online community- don’t remember which book. Almost a year after I started reading Heyer, I had picked up Lady of Quality again and didn’t realize that I had already read it until halfway through. Only this time, I was looking at everything with new eyes and am able to appreciate Ms.Heyer’s style and wit.

    I gave Elizabeth Hoyt several tries because everyone kept on saying how good she was while I thought she was pretty much run-of-the-mill-totally-unspecial. She didn’t make a good impression on me until her Legend of the Four Soldiers series (though the last book was disappointing).

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