The Other Type of Series

bridgerton_series Lynn started the week out by talking about one type of series books in Series Serendipity – the category romance books that we see coming out every month in a variety of lines. However, sometimes when readers are talking series, we’re just talking about interrelated sets of books from an author. And, love them or hate them, there seem to be a lot of interconnected series out there these days!

Now don’t hold me to academic research standards because I’ll say up front that I just looked at one month and two sources. But these two sources do indicate how prevalent series books are in today’s fiction. Fictfact’s calendar for August shows 299 books being released that are part of a series while FictionDB is on the record with 653 new releases total for the month. That means that of these books over forty five percent are interconnected in some way to another book. Of the seventy five recently reviewed books here, fifty books (or 67%) are interconnected.

Series can be a win win for both the author and the reader. I don’t need to spend a lot of time speaking about the pro and cons for you as a reader because by now you have experienced them: the pleasure of revisiting favorite characters and worlds, the feeling of waiting for an highly anticipated book and then the joy when it is finally released, the delight as the you slowly grow to know the characters, and then the wonder as the puzzle pieces of a larger story fall into place. Contrast that with large emotional and time investment series book demand of readers only to find that the author’s vision is unexpected, or the characterization is inconsistent from book to book, or even that a character dies. And don’t forget that you can become hooked on a series and then find out that the publisher feels they are not selling well enough or the author moves to another publishing house, ending the series prematurely without closure. Then there is the feeling of being strung along as one character’s story is delayed for years or the whole thing just ends with a cliffhanger. An additional downside I suspect for authors of successful series would be that of being pigeonholed into writing one type of book, and readers’ outcries as they try to break free of previous books’ restraints.

I didn’t always have ambivalent feelings about series books; sometimes I can’t help loving them. I still remember my joy in discovering that Devil’s Cub by Georgette Heyer was a spinoff of These Old Shades. From that point on, I had an almost unconditional love affair with these interconnecting books. My only nugget of dislike was related to having to wait for the next book to be released.

With so many books in a series, and the increased cost of books, I’ve finally had to address my compulsion to finish a series. In the past, no matter how much I disliked the last book, I was psychologically unable to resist continuing with the next book because of my great need for closure. Luckily this has changed in part due to some of the disadvantages mentioned above. Now, I don’t hooked as easily, and can now quit when a series no longer works for me . And let’s face it – I’ve read a lot of romance. Now it takes more than introducing multiple good-looking family members or friends for me to be captivated.

So, are you surprised at the number of books that are part of a series? Are you still convinced that you need closure on every series book that you start or do you quit when they no longer work for you? What motivates you to quit in the middle? Is it because you become bored, and the author’s changing direction? How many series books are you working on reading now?

– Leigh Davis

27 thoughts on “The Other Type of Series

  1. Re: Elswyth Thane. I didn’t know there were still any fans out there. My parents belonged to The Peoples Book Club after my dad came home from WWII. I happened upon “Ever After” when I was a teenager and I thought (and still do) that it was the best book ever. It was several years later that I realized it was part of a series. I have picked some of the books up at antique stores and I am filling in the rest from Amazon. Wonderful books!

  2. The thing about a series is: 1) when you see a book you want to read based on a review and you realize that it is part of a series most of the time you don’t know how many books are before that one. 2)…Will you be able to read it w/o reading the others? 3) Where can you find a listing of the series and its order.

    I read all of Ms Gabaldon’s Outlander series books, including the last one. Her books are so long that it takes her 3-4 yrs to finish one. Her last one “An Echo In The Bone” was much anticipated but angered many readers by having startling events at the very end leaving her fans hanging. I know that is a ploy of writers to have teasers at the end to encourage people to buy the next one but a wait of 3-4 years is beyond the pale for me. Not knowing the author I don’t know her motives but at my age I realize I may not be alive when the next one comes out. That makes me mad and sad….

  3. Lynn M

    Oh, I try not to read any books where favorite characters die. I afraid I would have to check out spoilers. It is nice to beat an addiction (even if it is a small one evolving books).

  4. cc, It took me a while to figure out that An Infamous Army was the grandchildren of the Duke. . . Mainly because of the difference in tone. The book just seemed more serious. . . and I finally made the connect with Regency Buck but again, it was years later.

  5. Leigh:

    Those two Georgette Heyer books both connect to two others:
    An Infamous Army (last one) and Regency Buck (after Devil’s Cub)

  6. When a series is going well, there is nothing I like better. I get more of what I love – characters, writing style, storylines that let me revisit old characters. I’m the person waiting for the bookstore doors to open on release day to get the latest installment. Suzanne Brockmann’s Troubleshooters books are my epitome of a series that I love and continue to enjoy.

    But it’s only recently that I finally broke my need to finish a series that has jumped the shark for me. Specifically, I think I’ve finally defeated my addiction to the Black Dagger Brotherhood series – I finally had enough of the little quirks that annoyed me in earlier books without the payoff that made it worth putting up with them.

    I just stared the “Game of Thrones” series and have been working my way through the first book. What is hardest for me, knowing that the next 4 volumes are already out there, is keeping myself from hunting down spoilers. I just have to know which characters survive or die or whatever!

  7. When a series is going well, there is nothing I like better. I get more of what I love – characters, writing style, storylines that let me revisit old characters. I’m the person waiting for the bookstore doors to open on release day to get the latest installment.

    But it’s only recently that I finally broke my need to finish a series that has jumped the shark for me. Specifically, I think I’ve finally defeated my addiction to the Black Dagger Brotherhood series – I finally had enough of the little quirks that annoyed me in earlier books without the payoff that made it worth putting up with them.

    I just stared the “Game of Thrones” series and have been working my way through the first book. What is hardest for me, knowing that the next 4 volumes are already out there, is keeping myself from hunting down spoilers. I just have to know which characters survive or die or whatever!

  8. Tee, you stated “I read Debbie Macomber (simultaneous series going at one time), Jodi Thomas, Mariah Stewart, Robyn Carr, JoAnn Ross, Kristan Higgins (and a few others, I’m sure). ” I reading Mariah Stewart, Robyn Carr, JoAnn Ross and Kristan Higgans too. Luckily each book has closure so I don’t mind.

    Michelle, if I had gone with my norm, I wouldn’t have read Dark Moon Defender by Sharon Shinn because I disliked book two so much but I did and it is one of my favorite book .

    RobinB ditto on the Gabaldon’s books. Really liked the first two, but after that each book demanded more work to complete. I haven’t tried to read her in years.

    Lois M, I think I am so programed now, that I expect a book to be part of a series. Like you I enjoy books that have complete closure in one book. But like you if there is a character I like then I want his/her story too.

    LeeAnn, I never heard of Yankee Stranger. . I checked Maisie Dobb (the first book) out of the library but I just had too much going on at that time, and didn’t feel like getting hooked on another series. I will have to check them out later. Sometimes starting a book in a series is like looking at a 1000 page book. . You know that the first book is not all of the story, but you are not ready for the committment for so many others.

    Fay, I have read some of the books you have listed and enjoyed them.

    Susan, and Anne W, I am with you. Three books are perfect.

    Farmwifetwo, I tend to make it to book ten. And then I just lose interest.

    Carrie, I hold off starting books that feature the same characters over and over. For me, it just take too long for their HEA . . if they get one. I like the interconnecting books more. More closure with each book.

    MaryC I hesitate to read some books too, because I feel like I don’t have the time.

    Xina, I am the same way. A year is too long to remember on the details from the previous story. I don’t want a information dump in every book either.

    Cindy, I agree that each book should be it own story. I hate cliffhangers.

    SON, I am not a fan of most open ended series, but I am hooked on the Virgin River series. I think it is the only opened ending series that I am reading right now.

    Cora, You have the right idea.

    Thanks everyone for your comments. . .

  9. My first love was the fantasy and SF genre, which is full of series, so I’m used to reading series.

    Nowadays, I read a lot of urban fantasy, where series mostly means following the adventures of one character or couple. Series mysteries usually take this form as well, same investigator, different cases. I like series focused on a single character or couple, because the characters become like old friends and the joy of watching the characters interact can even lift up a not so hot book.

    However, the form of series that is most common in the romance genre are series, where every book features a different couple, but there is some link between the different books, e.g. the characters are all members of the same family/classmates/sports team/Napoleonic spy ring/Navy SEAL team/vampire brotherhood, etc… With this type of series, I’m not as eager to buy every book. Often, I only tend to buy those books starring characters I like and ignoring those starring characters I don’t like. I may make an exception, if there is some kind of overarching plot linking the individual book, as can be found in many paranormal romance series. However, something like the usual Regency family with too many children can only compell me to read the entire series, if all books and characters appeal to me equally.

  10. You really can’t say that series books are good or evil – they’re just as likely to vary in quality as any other books.

    The key is often to knowing when it’s going to end.

    Take Lisa Kleypas’ Wallflowers, for example – we knew how many people were going to find their HEA, and the books weren’t going to keep going and going as the 19th century lasses bred and bred and bred. (I’m not much of a historical romance fan, largely because the thought of HEAs involving twelve dozen babies frighten me.)

    If you look at romantic suspense series, I loved and enjoyed Cindy Gerard’s Bodyguards. There were a certain number of characters who were going to get their books, and the series ran for the perfect length of time.

    On the other hand we have Maya Banks’ KGI series, which she admits is open-ended. There’re six brothers, and another half a dozen men already introduced, the sheriff, and a female member of the team who need their own stories too. There’s no way the quality can stay any good – in fact, the series already jumped the shark for me at book three, and book four sounds like it’s going to be terrible – the author has decided to introduce a supernatural element to things.
    Once a series starts changing genres in order to stay fresh you know it’s not a series that is going to maintain any standards.

    But then we have the In Death books that are still going strong.

  11. I share the same compulsion some have mentioned above to read every book in a series. The worst is if I read a book and can tell it is a sequel. I am required by a force outside of myself to find a read all preceding books asap. Why? It’s crazy and I’m trying to break myself of this foolishness.
    Pet peeves about series:
    #1 Series that aren’t readily labeled as such. I like the cover (or at the least the author’s website) to give us all info we need about the “connectedness” of books.
    #2 Each book, even in a series, should be it’s own story!!!!! I hate to come to the end of a significant time investment and end up with a cliffhanger rather than a resolution. This is why I gave up on Debbie Macomber’s Cedar Cove series and have almost decided I’m done with Outlander. I will admit, though, that Sara Donati’s Wilderness series had this problem, but I stuck with it and I’m so glad I did!

  12. I mostly enjoy series books, but I don’t like waiting. Oh, the waiting..is the hardest part (thanks Tom Petty). I hate a 9-12 month wait because I tend to forget characters and their antics, and I don’t like to reread right before a book is released. I think I was spoiled when I first started reading romance where many series were already completed, or well on their way, and I could just breeze through book after book. I can’t even list all the series I am following because there are so many, but Yes…I do enjoy looking forward to the next book and reading it. Lots of fun.

  13. In most cases, my preference in “series” books is the three-book trilogy. That gives me just enough of the characters and secondaries and their storyline, along with the always must-have HEAs.

    I have several long-running romantic suspense series that I follow faithfully, along with the same in historicals. I am still captivated by them and find myself fully satisfied when I come to the end of the books. As long as that’s the case, I’ll continue following along. If and when my feelings change, I won’t have a problem walking away. There are too many new authors with new books for me to ever have a problem finding something to entertain me. Basically, that’s my criteria.

    I do, however, wish there were more “stand alones” offered. Once in awhile I get a yearning for a story that begins and ends between the covers of one book . . . and I know there are some out there if only I go looking.

  14. I read so many series in different genres that I hesitate to add another. I also have a need to read them in order.

    I enjoy connected stories and read alot of trilogies.

    I’ve dropped a series when it no longer works for me – will read two or three additional books before I do. The only other way I’ve stopped is if the author has passed, eg Tony Hillerman.

  15. There are series that follow the same person/people, like many UF series (Dresden files, Kate Daniels, Mercy Thompson, Night Huntress) and suspense/mystery series (In Death for example). The joy of these books is based on the author maintaining the characters and world at a level of interest that brings readers back. Robb obviously has done a good job with that, as has Jim Butcher, and the husband/wife team of Ilona Andrews. I can tolerate a less than perfect book in one of these series as long as the author can recover in the next book. (Wasn’t as crazy about Night Huntress #4, but enjoyed #5 and looking forward to #6.)

    Then there are series that have a new character for each book.
    Sometimes there is an overarching storyline or mystery to solve, but usually other than knowing some background info an secondary characters, you can read many as stand-alone books. These can be very uneven, with some books in a series being wonderful, and others being cliched and boring. Since you change protagonists with every book, you need to change the tone (or they all sound the same). Series following one character can avoid this by developing that character more deeply over the series, and by having the story lines be foremost (like fighting lots of demons or solving a murder). Series with different characters for each book have to work hard to keep the characters interesting. So these books have a lot in common with stand-alone books.

    I feel less invested in series that follow different protagonists, although i read and enjoy many such series. However, if I run into a dud or two, or if I simply get distracted by other books, I don’t have much problem dropping the series. Series that involve the same characters (like the In Death books) become “family” to me and I will tolerate a ragged book or two in hopes to continue the relationship.

    Since I’m fairly new to romances (3 years), I know I can’t read every great series of the past and present. Therefore I have no problems jumping in and just reading the highest rated books from any one series and skipping the rest. Since I read fewer historicals that other genres of romance, I’m especially prone to picking-and-choosing from those series. And I readily admit I hesitate starting series that require you to read every book in order to know the story lines because I have so much to read already. Also, if the first book in a series doesn’t grab me, I rarely move on to the next.

    Fictfact says I have 54 series listed there, but many are finished, or I’m not going to continue. I probably am active in about 20 series.

  16. I have yet to find an author that can continue a series after about 5 books without it starting to sputter. Some I’m simply addicted to – JD Robb is the only one left of those. Some I still get from the library – JoAnn Ross, JAK, Laurie R King, SJ Rozan, Robyn Carr. Some I should give up – Julie Miller, Merline Lovelace – but they’re hqn’s and at 25% off aren’t that expensive :)

    But I have learned to finally quit a series when I’ve had enough.

  17. I love series books, especially in urban fantasy and paranormal romance. However, I will stop reading if the series goes downhill. My current favorites are Dark Hunter, Black Dagger Brotherhood, and Psy/Changeling.

    I do kind of miss the old fashioned (these days it seems old fashioned) trilogy. I like story arcs with a beginning, middle, and end. I got hooked on those during my fantasy reading days in the 70s and 80s.

    In contemporary and historical romance I like the series of interrelated characters, but I also prefer them to be a bit smaller than the 8 books shown above. Again, 3 to 4 books seems a reasonable number.

  18. For me, a series is only as strong as its weakest link. If I can’t get through one of the books, then that’s where i stop in the series. Series I’ve completed (those with no weak links, in my opinion) are:
    Mary Balogh – Simply series, Slightly series, Mistress series, Dark Angel series
    Julia Quinn – Bridgerton series
    Susan Carroll – Bride Finder series
    Lisa Kleypas – Wallflower series, Hathaway series, Then Came You series
    Lorraine Heath – St. James Scoundrels series
    Elizabeth Hoyt – Prince series
    Gaelen Foley – Knight Miscellany (The Duke, Lord of Ice, etc), Spice Trilogy
    Mary Jo Putney – Fallen Angels series, Silk series
    Karen Marie Moning – Fever series
    Hunger Games trilogy
    Harry Potter series
    There are several other very good series that I’ve started, but they dropped off my radar during the wait between books.

  19. I was in high school when I found Yankee Stranger by Elswyth Thane. I can’t tell you how thrilled I was to realize there were other books by the same author and about the same family! It was also that series that made me realize if I liked one book by an author I’d probably like more and it also inspired me to try my hand at writing.

    So what fun to discover a series that already has 7-15 books written (Maisie Dobbs comes to mind) making it possible to happily join the author’s world and live there for days and weeks!

    Nowadays both my sister and I share an appreciation for many of the series currently written especially fantasy and vampire… – Just the other day I found a new one and she rolled her eyes and said, “great. Just what I need! ANOTHER series to follow!” She was not pleased. *L*

    • LeeAnn: I was in high school when I found Yankee Stranger by Elswyth Thane. I can’t tell you how thrilled I was to realize there were other books by the same author and about the same family! It was also that series that made me realize if I liked one book by an author I’d probably like more and it also inspired me to try my hand at writing. So what fun to discover a series that already has 7-15 books written (Maisie Dobbs comes to mind) making it possible to happily join the author’s world and live there for days and weeks! Nowadays both my sister and I share an appreciation for many of the series currently written especially fantasy and vampire… – Just the other day I found a new one and she rolled her eyes and said, “great. Just what I need! ANOTHER series to follow!” She was not pleased. *L*

      Discovered Elswyth Thane at the same age. Mom found her first. With a little help of an online friend I now have all the books in the series.

    • LeeAnn: I was in high school when I found Yankee Stranger by Elswyth Thane.I can’t tell you how thrilled I was to realize there were other books by the same author and about the same family!

      I love Elswyth Thane’s series. It was actually my great grandmother who picked up the first book (one further out in the series), and then my grandmother picked up one, and as a student my Dad picked up the first one. All in time for me to read them in order.

      It wasn’t until ten years ago that we discovered Amazon was selling the rest of the series, and completed it.

      And I really think that finding out that books you love are in a series is fantastic. The only downer is that if the rest of the books aren’t as good.

  20. You know, it’s funny… I have noticed that it at least seems like the books I pick up are more and more from series… and I think once in a while, how it would be nice to just pick up one single book and it’s a stand alone in every sense of the phrase. But… it sure better not have any other characters in it because I’m going to immediately think, oh, I hope they get a book too! LOL But in the end, I really do not follow any author or series that it’s critical to read each book in order or one before the other. Basically everyone that I read have series books that are families, friends or whatnot, and the individual books are standalone. So that helps.

    Lois

  21. I’m at the point also where if a series is no longer “working” for me (i.e. it’s a chore to read a book rather than a great experience) I will stop reading it. I have too many items in the TBR pile (both “real” books and e-books) to try and finish a series that is no longer enjoyable.

    I’ve mentioned this several times on other threads, but I was so drained by the slog through “The Fiery Cross” (book 5 in the Outlander series) that I have yet to start “A Breath of Snow and Ashes” (book 6). Once upon a time, I ticked off the days on a calendar when the next book in the series would be released; now I wonder if I will ever have the patience to start ABOSAA!!

    On the other hand, I thoroughly enjoyed Mary Jo Putney’s Fallen Angels, Silk, and Bride series. I think one of the differences is that there was an end to each series. There’s an old show business motto–always leave them wanting more. If authors would remember that, perhaps readers wouldn’t quit series part of the way through them!

  22. I agree that I get obsessed with a series and have to read it all even if some books are weak. For instance I recently blew through Mary Balogh’s Slightly, Simply, and Huxtable series. In the Simply series the third book didn’t grab me at all, in fact I closed it one fourth through and never returned. But I still went on to the next book-I just had to! I’m happy I did because I really enjoyed it. I figure if out of all those books there was only one I didn’t like…well, that’s pretty good. I loved the world Marl Balough created, and the interconnected characters. After awhile it was like hanging out with friends and I was sad to leave. I have a friend who is rereading the Diana Gabaldon series again for the third time in a row for the same reasons-she just can’t let go of the characters!

  23. Yeah, Leigh, I am rather surprised at how many books released each month are parts of series. As with you, that can be both good and bad, depending on the author and the series. No, if the series is not moving along well as each book is issued, I don’t have the need to keep following it (thank goodness). If it’s becoming ridiculous, or the characters are becoming boring along with their antics, I can quite coldstream.

    I’m surprised that I’m reading as many series these days. Most are in the contemporary and suspense categories; a few in the historical. Karin Slaughter, Chelsea Cain, Jilliane Hoffman, Tess Gerrisen, Mary Burton, Cody McFadyen, Karen Rose, Linda Castillo, Lisa Gardner, Tami Hoag, Laura Griffin (and probably a couple others) write suspense and I follow them rather religiously. In contemporary, I read Debbie Macomber (simultaneous series going at one time), Jodi Thomas, Mariah Stewart, Robyn Carr, JoAnn Ross, Kristan Higgins (and a few others, I’m sure). Historically, not that many these days. I love Candace Camp and Courtney Milan (Lisa Kleypas and Mary Balogh are much too inconsistent for me to pant for their next books). So that’s more series than I’d like to be into, but most of these authors (not all) write their follow-up stories usually as stand alones. A few totally build on one another and you really need to read each one.

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