Romance Rant (Volume XXXVI)

womanToday is the 16th of December and the biggest holiday of the year is growing ever closer.

In between decorating, shopping, and being busier than I should be work-wise, I’ve had little time to read lately.  Well, let me put it this way:  Time I used to spend reading, I’m now spending more and more of it in other ways.

I wonder what’s up with that?  Is it me?

Well, to a certain extent, I think so. But to a certain extent, not.

I just can’t get excited about yet another Regency featuring yet another Miss and yet another wallpaper duke.

Ditto paranormal  and those fated mates.

And spare me from all those small towns are the bestest places in the whole wide world brand of contemporaries.

And, for anyone who might suggest that category romances might fit the bill, as someone posted on an AAR message board a few months ago, when did millionaires get replaced by billionaires?  Greek (b)millionaires, Spanish and Italian aristos, it’s all just the same old.

Lynn wrote here a few weeks ago about how she is looking less and less to the Harlequin Historical line for differing settings and characters and it came up in the comments that it wasn’t her imagination – the line itself was becoming more and more homogenized.

I’ve heard the same from authors here in the U.S. – that they are being instructed by their publishers to deliver what they know will sell.  If you want to take chances, then you can get yourself another publisher.

Okay, so you have publishers who, apparently, are getting stricter and stricter in what they’ll publish.  You have writers who deliver the same old, same old – or else.

And then you have the brave new world of ePublishing.  But,  honestly, I’d have a hard time trying a writer who hadn’t earned herself a name in New York – those are the writers who, I think, really have the option of successfully going rogue, as my friend Connie Brockway puts it.

Lisa Kleypas continues to hold my attention, ditto Connie Brockway, Meredith Duran, and Sherry Thomas.  But how many books can they publish?  Not enough for me.

So, consider this my lament.  I’m tired of what’s out there right now and I’m sick of same old, same old.   There are a few highlights for me, but a lot of cold, dark months in between.

Perhaps it’s partially a product of the economy.  Publishers are less willing to take chances on the unknown.  But if you don’t try, then how will you know?  (So you tried once, why not try again, hmmm?) My guess is that there’s a vastly underestimated group of readers who will welcome new with open arms.

Publishers have always been sluggish to respond to trends –  with editorial timetables the way they stand now, it makes it next to impossible to do so.  Frankly, I’m not hopeful.

Which leaves ePublishing.  This brave new world really has the chance to take the reins now.  I hope they do.  I really, really hope they do.

In the meantime, I wait.  And watch TV.

– Sandy AAR

28 Responses to “Romance Rant (Volume XXXVI)”

  1. Jane G says:

    Have you considered trying other genres?

    No matter how much you vary the settings, time periods and character make-ups, there’s bound to come a point where you’ve had your fill of romance.

    A long timeout might help of course.

  2. Judy says:

    Boy am I feeling your pain on romance reading. I too have been going through a lack of interest in romance sales, no matter the setting in historical or contemporary. Actually my reaction to my new feelings was at first alarm, then resignation. I have just had my fill.
    Guess that means I’ll have to clean the house more now, bummer!

  3. [...] (typeof(addthis_share) == "undefined"){ addthis_share = [];}1. Over at All About Romance, Sandy is bored bored bored: I just can’t get excited about yet another Regency featuring yet another Miss and yet another [...]

  4. library addict says:

    Despite having an out of control TBR pile (both one in print and digital), I’ve found myself rereading this month.

    You could try rereading some old favorites. Or maybe try a bunch of new-to-you authors. I second the recomendation to try reading outside the genre for a bit.

    Unless you’re just going through a tired-of-reading phase in which case nothing but time will cure it. Been there, done that and hope it never happens to me again.

  5. Glad you said that about epublishing. They took a chance with my Richard and Rose series, historicals set in the (gasp) mid Georgian era, the 1750′s. Before that, only Jo Beverley had a significant presence in that era, and that was after publishing a few Regencies first.
    Richard and Rose was also first person. Several publishers asked me to recast it in the third person, because “readers don’t like historicals in the first person” and I tried, I really did, but the stories died on me.
    But the reception of the series and its sales have convinced me that the books weren’t that bad, after all, although, like most writers, I had my doubts, and the books nearly ended up in the proverbial box under the bed.
    The truth is, the big houses have to look for the largest number of sales, and that means a measure of homogenising (if that’s a word!) Things have to be blanded out somewhat. That’s not to denigrate the wonderful writers out there, but they have to cater to the largest common denominator. Richard and Rose would have required someone going out on a limb, and I never found that person in mainstream publishing.
    Sales of the wallpaper Regency are declining, or so I’ve heard from colleagues, but not an awful lot. That happens, and the market moves on to something else, and milks it to death.
    You will definitely find more variation in the paranormal in epublishing, too. Fewer fated mates, for a start, although there are some of those. It is there already, but you have to go out with an open mind and find it. it does its best to get to you, but budgets aren’t the same as the ones in the big New York houses. We do our best!

  6. farmwifetwo says:

    I’ve done nothing but swat books lately on goodreads. Even the latest Xmas Robyn Carr is so unrealistic I wanted to throw it at the wall. It was the libraries book so I couldn’t plus it’s only saving grace was the rest of the town.

    Add it to your list of complaints… if you are going to write about injury, autism, health of any kind, weather…. get it right… research, research, research….

    And what’s with this “slam bam thank you ma’am” sex lately in books??

  7. What Lynne said about paranormal in epublishing. To that I would add science fiction romance, which offers loads of diversity as well.

    Want superhero romance a la the X-Men? Try the new Phoenix Rising by Corrina Lawson (Samhain).

    Like geeky cyberpunk adventure? Jeanette Grey’s Unacceptable Risk just came out this week from Samhain.

    If space pirates are more your thing, Karalynn Lee delivers a story with a reunited lovers-in-space tale in Slip Point (Carina Press).

    Then there’s the m/m erotic steampunk romance Far Too Human by Anitra Lynn McLeod.

    I could go on, but then I’d be here all day. :) I hope your reading slump ends soon!

  8. DabneyAAR says:

    I’ve been rereading old faves. I have folders on my Kindle arranged by genre (within romance) of books I loved when I read them. When I hate all on my TBR list, I go back and pick a book I loved several years ago.

  9. Ell says:

    Oh Sandy, I feel just the same way you do, and I have been doing a lot of rereading as a result.

    You didn’t mention Patricia Briggs. Have you tried her work? Her Mercy Thompson series is one of my favorites. I love too her Hob’s Bargain. And of course, LM Bujold’s Sharing Knife series. It’s not a romance the same way Outlander is not a romance. It’s more a story about life and living, with the relationship between the h/h the central element of the books. Good stuff.

    We are all crazy busy this time of year…so hopefully we will be able to coast along until the next batch of power books comes out……speaking of which, where in the world has Cheryl Reavis gone?

  10. Karen HC says:

    With too many retreads in all of Romance, I frequently go back to other genres like Science Fiction and Fantasy and some interesting new finds thanks to free ebooks from Amazon and Barnes & Noble. Try Wake from the WWW series by Robert J. Sawyer, His Majesty’s Dragon (Temeraire Series) by Naomi Novik or Ravenwood or any of the Solar Clipper Trader Tales by Nathan Lowell, my personal favorites when I want a change of pace in excapist reading. Nothing heavy, no overwheliming gore, vampires or fairies, nor robots, just imagination and an new poiint of view. Oh, and there is no soft porn or even many kisses or heated glances to be found in these, in case you are still looking for that in everything you read.

  11. Virginia DeMarce says:

    Try something different. What about James Luceno, Millenium Falcon (one of the Star Wars continuations). This one is Han Solo and Leia; not a sappy HEA in the epilogue sense since two of their children are tragically dead. But for enduring love, they are grandparents, still together and in love, bringing up their granddaughters.

  12. xina says:

    I’ve been reading other genres (Girl With The Dragon Tatoo..just started) and for months now, most of my romance reading has been downloading my old favorites and enjoying them. Up until now, I haven’t been much of a rereader, so these rereads are seeming almost new to me.
    I enjoyed the new Brockway as well…will always read a Kleypas, Susan Elizabeth Phillips along with a handful of other authors, I will always try.
    No paranormal though, seems stale at this point in my reading life, but I’m not ruling it for future reading.

  13. dick says:

    Anything based on a formula is going to wear on one’s patience eventually. Romance fiction is deliberately set up meet expectations, and to continuously meet the expectations of a wide variety of readers can’t be easy. Probably, the great majority of readers of romance fiction don’t mind the sameness; in fact, the sameness is probably what they are seeking and the reason for reading it. If variety is the desideratum, I think readers would have to allow a different formula, including ditching the HEA.

  14. AAR Sandy says:

    With regards to everyone’s suggestions to try something different, I just did with great success. Death Comes to Pemberly by P.D. James is a mystery, albeit one peopled with characters from a beloved book. I liked it very much. Review forthcoming.

  15. SandyH says:

    I suggest Deanna Raybourn if you haven’t read her Lady Julia Grey series. Also C. S. Harris Sebastian St. Cyr series. These are mysteries with some romance. I am also finally getting around to reading Kelley Armstrong – love the books and I was ready to throw all paranormals out the door.

  16. Cindy says:

    No one has mentioned Courtney Milan’s Turner Brother Series. I found it unusual and very enjoyable. For me Joanna Bourne, Elizabeth Hoyt, Grace Burrowes, Carrie Lofty, Tessa Dare – as well as those you listed, Sandy, still excite me! And I can’t give up Julie Anne Long, Loretta Chase, or Eloisa James. There ARE others I have given up on though.

  17. willaful says:

    It sounds like you’re saying you’re frustrated with what you get from the big publishing houses but not willing to trust anything that doesn’t come from a big publishing house. Why not look around a bit and see what’s getting reader’s attention from small publishers? Since you can read samples before you buy, it’s not that huge a risk.

  18. elainec says:

    Cindy ,

    What you wrote said it all for me. Thanks.

  19. JoAnn says:

    If you haven’t already….check out some of the old romance novels by Candice Proctor (who writes the Sebastian St. Cyr series as CS Harris). These books are really well done and not your typical historical romance novels (especially the settings: Australia, New Orleans, Colorado). While they are no longer in print most are available on Kindle or try your interloan library service.

  20. lori says:

    I tried m/m romance, and am loving the difference in the dynamics of the relationships. I tend to prefer the stories that involve a mystery as well, so authors like Josh Lanyon or Tamara Allen, or paranormal by Jordan Castillo Price, or just romance by Tere Michaels or Marie Sexton, historical by Charlie Cochrane.
    Love the ebooks!

  21. Renee says:

    Sandy, I don’t know how you feel about audiobooks but when I hit a reading slump, I listen to an old “print” fave in audio and that seems to get me over the hump. :)

  22. PatH AAR says:

    After bottoming out on Regencies (another Miss excited about the upcoming Season and I wanted to hit myself over the head!), I switched to Western America (both contemporary and historical) and Amish / Inspirational romances. Both subgenres were new to me, so I’m not expecting anything. So perhaps a change in subgenre (with some really good reading choices above) might help.

    Good luck! May the force be with you, Sandy!

  23. Carrie says:

    I know you’re inundated with suggestions, but I also want to add my voice to the ‘swap genres” group. Try some sci-fi rom, such as anything by Linnea Sinclair, “Contact” by Susan Grant, or Jayne Ann Krentz’ early sci-fi books: “Sweet Starfire,” “Crystal Flame” and “Shield’s Lady.”

    I also recommend anything by Bujold, especially the “Sharing Knife” series and “Curse of Chalion.” I loved “Shards of Honor” as well. All these books are made even better by great narrators if you chose to go the audio route.

    “Song of Scarabaeus” By Sara Creasy is a really excellent sci-fi with some romance. As are “The Outback Stars” by Sandra McDonald and “Endless Blue” by Wen Spencer. All of these have superior writing.

  24. Michele says:

    I hear your pain and I think the answer is to branch out to the smaller e publishers like, for example, Samhain. I’m delighted with the terrific stories I’m finding. Thats where you find the good books with stories the NY publishers won’t take a chance on.

  25. Carla Kelly says:

    I like to write stuff besides Regencies. It does get tiresome, after all, not only for readers, but for writers, too. I have high hopes for an idea of mine set in the Royal Colony of New Mexico in 1780. We’ll see if a publisher agrees.

    For fun reading, I just discovered Steve Havill, who writes crime fiction set in far-south New Mexico of today. He’s a talented writer. I do enjoy crime fiction; it’s my escape reading.

    And for great history, Erik Larson hit it outof the park with The Devil in the White City, and In the Garden of the Beasts.

  26. Anne says:

    When I reach a reading slump (which I’m in now) and nothing romance seems to satisfy, I turn to my first before discovering romance love, mystery. Over the years through recommendations from friends online and in person, I’ve found some marvelous stories from authors such a Chris Grabenstein, Marshall Karp, R.D. Wingfield, Kate Ellis, David Rosenfelt, Alison Bruce, KJ Erickson and Archer Mayor to mention just a few. In fact, I’ve enjoyed the Grabenstein and Karp characters so much that even though I know how the mystery ends, the entire series of both authors are on my list of books to reread when the dreaded slump beckons. ;-) If mystery appeals, I’d suggest heading the the stopyourkillingme.com site and check out the What we’re reading now section. It gives a short summary of books they’ve read going back several years.

  27. Denise says:

    I like Regencies–the problem for me, I think, is the “young miss” trope that seems to have a stranglehold on the genre. I would bet that not many readers of Regencies are “young misses” themselves and want to see someone more like them to identify with. I remember my surprise when I found Judith Lansdowne’s books; several of them featured an older woman as the heroine. And I also enjoyed Elizabeth Mansfield’s books because she often broke with the “young miss” formula (I see that Nook and Kindle are now carrying “Miscalculations” and “Mother’s Choice”). Sheri Cobb South–ditto. One of her heroes was a mill owner.

    And then there was Carola Dunn’s series featuring Jewish heroes and heroines. Oh, and there was that wonderful Nina Abrams series, too (at least one featuring an older hero based on one of the Rothschilds).

    I break away to mysteries now and then–I’ve been enjoying Imogene Robertson’s books.

  28. [...] 2011 was the year of slow reading. I read 47 novels last year, down from 152 last year. Only 19 were romance, and the vast majority of those were published by Harlequin. I read 5 romances published by the so-called Big Six New York publishers. One reason I read so few books is down to a lack of time. 2011 was crazy busy, and I invested most of my spare time on my writing, or writing. Another reason is my lack of satisfaction with the variety of settings and tropes on offer from the traditional publishers. Either I’m bang out of luck in that what’s popular at the moment doesn’t appeal to me, or publishers are playing it safe and not publishing the sort of envelope-pushing romances I miss from the Nineties and early 2000s. For more on this topic, Sandy at All About Romance has a great blog post entitled Romance Rant (Volume XXXVI). [...]

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