It’s no secret that I like historicals. No, change that. I love historicals. Yeah, I complain about the proliferation of Regencies. But when all’s said and done, I look at my list of treasured books, and the vast majority are historicals.
My second preference would be for paranormals and fantasy. Contemporaries, I’m afraid, are a very, very distant third. I used to think this was due to several reasons, like the fact that historicals are my first love and that I love the escape into a separate world. And those are still true. But the other day, I had an epiphany, which, frankly, I should have had a long time ago: One of the main reasons I don’t read as many contemporaries as I do historicals is that 99.9% of contemporary characters are white and Christian.
My issue isn’t that I don’t qualify as either white or Christian. After all, human emotions are the same all around the world. And heck, I’m 100% Chinese, and I identify more with Eve Dallas than characters in The Joy Luck Club. (Not an exaggeration.)
I know that many of you are in a pre-holiday frenzy right now, and the last thing you need is more pressure. Then again, it’s better to have lots of warning. If you’re a longtime visitor to AAR, you know what’s coming in January. But if you’re new to AAR, let us give you a heads-up now. Yes, even though 2011 isn’t over, we at AAR are getting ready for the AAR Annual Reader Poll for 2011 romances!
Voting in the 16th AAR Annual Reader Poll will begin on Monday, January 16, 2012 and will end two weeks later at midnight on Sunday, January 29th. The Annual Reader Poll has a long tradition at AAR, and is one of the highlights of the year here.
The categories we used last year worked quite well. By changing the previous category of Erotica to Romantica/Erotica and the category of Worst Romance to Most Disappointing Romance, we were able to announce winners quite easily in all of the categories. So we’re sticking with a good thing and will be going with the same categories this year (see the bottom of this post for a listing of all of the categories that will be on the ballot this year).
Even a casual visitor to the AAR message boards quickly learns one thing: We are an opinionated bunch.
And in just about every thread somebody posts about a plot device they loathe. Be it a couple who jumps into bed right off the bat or an arranged marriage, the list of plot devices that we loathe seems to number in the thousands. Maybe millions.
Okay, maybe I’m exaggerating a bit here, but not by much. We’re a bunch of cranky pants.
And, when you think about it, we’re leaving authors with little to nothing to work with. Because constructing a plot that doesn’t feature any of the devices that someone loathes would be nearly impossible.
Here’s what I think: We’ve gotten so narrow in our list of what we’re looking for when we read, that we’re denying ourselves a whole lot of good stuff.
One of my children asked me recently if I’d ever given a book I’d reviewed an A+. I said I hadn’t. He then asked if I thought I ever would. I said yes, that in fact, there was a book I’d reviewed this past year and had given an A- to that I now see as an A+ novel (Julie Anne Long’s What I Did for a Duke.) “So what’s an A+ book?” he asked. “Let me think about it,” I said.
Not only did I think about it, I did some research. First, I checked how many A+’s AAR has given over the years. (21, and none since 2007.) I then asked my colleagues at AAR what they would consider an A+ book and if they’d ever read one. The responses were varied, yet many had similar qualities.
Sandy said, “An A+ book is a book that satisfies on every level. It is, in fact, a perfect book. I’ve given just one A+ and that was for Devil’s Cub by Georgette Heyer, a book first published in 1932 that I loved as a teenager and still love today. In my case, it was a book that stood the test of time. I wish now that I’d given an A+ to Untie My Heartby Judith Ivory. I gave it the typical A- back then and I regret it now.”
Wendy L agreed with Sandy and added, “Yes, and it has to provoke an emotional response, either crying, laughter, or anger to make it an A+ for me.” She listed The Truelove Bride by Shana Abe, Games of Command by Linnea Sinclair, possibly Charming Grace by Deborah Smith, and oddly enough Dooly and the SnortSnoot by Jack Kent as books that would rate an A+ for her.
Today at Speaking of Audiobooks, we are hosting our first live Narrators Forum. It’s an event structured for narrators to come together and discuss pertinent issues in their industry as well as provide listeners with a glimpse into their world of bringing multiple characters to life. Once the live portion of the forum is over, those involved want to hear from you. Your feedback is important to them.
When I first started writing about audiobooks, I envisioned those reading to me in a studio surrounded by a director, producer, and recording technician. My mind saw the director instructing a narrator to stop occasionally and try a line again or explain a needed change. I guess I imagined something similar to a movie set with only one actor sitting in a sound booth performing all of the characters. However, after visiting with a number of narrators this past year, I understand just how inaccurate that vision was. Now that home studios are becoming more commonplace, narrators often operate alone and in somewhat of a vacuum. There just aren’t that many opportunities to get together and talk about what they do day in and day out.
I recently attended an event featuring three historical mystery writers at Aunt Agatha’s bookstore. Two of the authors – Jeanne M. Dams and D.E. Johnson – set their mystery series in the United States during the early 1900s. The third, Carrie Bebris, writes mysteries set in Regency England. And for AAR readers who like mysteries with a bit of romance, I can definitely recommend the books by Ms. Dams and Ms. Bebris.
Jeanne M. Dams, Murder in Burnt Orange, is the 7th in her Hilda Johansson series, set in early 1900s South Bend, Indiana. When the series began, Hilda was a maid to the Studebakers, the wealthy South Bend family who owned the Studebaker car company. Hilda quickly became involved with mysteries. A lot has changed for Hilda over the course of the series, and by the seventh book, she’s married and pregnant with her first child. Ms. Dams also writes the Dorothy Martin series featuring an ex-pat American widow in her sixties who lives in England.
Carrie Bebris’ The Deception at Lyme, is the sixth in her Mr. and Mrs. Darcy series; yes, that Mr. and Mrs. Darcy. Each book in the series is based loosely on the characters from a Jane Austen books. Ms. Bebris refers to them as the Nick and Nora Charles of Regency England, but they drink tea instead of alcohol. In her latest, Elizabeth and Darcy go to Lyme (setting for the seawall scene in Austen’s Persuasion).
D. E. Johnson’s latest book, his second, Motor City Shakedown is set in 1911 Detroit. His protagonist, Will Anderson, is the fictional son of a real Detroit car company owner. In his second book, Will walks into the first mob war in Detroit history.
So apparently, winter is the time when we especially want a nice snuggly romantic comedy. To me, this makes heaps of sense (warm fuzzy feeling = warmth period), but being generally attracted to romance in general, I watch my rom coms in all kinds of weather. After all, they work when it’s sunny. They work when it’s rainy. Whether it’s cloudy and dry, or blistery and cold, I love romantic comedies.
I’m pretty stringent, though, in my requirements, and I stick very closely to the words “romantic” and “comedy.” Mate, if it’s not funny, it’s not a comedy. And romantic is not synonymous with sappy. I have to simultaneously not gag and be able to see this couple together ten years in the future. And as with romance novels, I find it pretty hard to enjoy a romantic comedy if I don’t sympathize with the protagonist, especially if we’re talking about a heroine.
The best romantic comedies are 90 minutes of zinger and fun, and just like the best romance novels, they leave me happy and feeling good about life and love. With that in mind, here is a list of my favourite romantic comedies, in no particular order:
Roku finally has Mad Men and I have been racing through seasons one and two at the clip of several episodes per day. My husband, who finds the show extremely boring, can’t understand my attraction. In many ways, I can’t understand my attraction. One thing I know does appeal to me is the fast paced, formal dress office atmosphere. The sheer glamour of the show – with the elegant restaurants, tailored suits and endless smoking and drinking (something that would have gotten you quickly terminated in any of my working environs) – lures me in.
Which reminded me; I can still remember the first time I seriously thought about romance characters and what they did for a living. It was in 2004 when Robin Uncapher mentioned why she loved the book Do-Over by Dorien Kelly. Up to that point I had never paid any attention to how an actual work environment looked compared to a romance work environment. Which led to another thought. While we see many professional careers or self-made business people in romance, how often do we see the typical working stiff? Where are the waitresses, the shop workers, the baristas? Continue reading →
I really like food, but I think I’ve become a bit inured to most food scenes in romance novels. All the dessert-cum-sex scenes have melded together, to the point where all I can think about is the mess. I’m not really into strawberries and champagne, so if the hero starts waving them around, my mind starts wandering. And then you’ve got the chefs – I like them, but I think the proliferation of TV chefs, and the sheer accessibility of gourmet gastronomy, have taken away some of the luster of the professional kitchen.
The most memorable scenes, I find, occur outside the gourmet and professional arenas. I remember very clearly the beginning of Lisa Kleypas’ Devil in Winter, when St. Vincent provides a hamper of food for the starving Evie, who proceeds to devour the thinly sliced meats and cheeses sandwiched between buttermilk bread. There’s something equally delicate and decadent about the thin, savory layers (and geez, buttermilk bread) that conveys the indulgence of St. Vincent’s life, which contrasts heavily with Evie’s prior existence. Plus, it just sounds good.
While I am in no way an expert on the male psyche, I do have brothers and I worked in a male dominated profession for over ten years so I have had plenty of exposure to their logic, conversation, and ways of interacting with each other. After reading a book with very authentic male dialogue, I then read a passage in another book, where a male character tells a friend that his wife is his life. Now don’t get me wrong, because honestly that is a lovely sentiment. But none of the men that I have been around would say that about their wife to me or any of their other friends in normal day to day conversation. That statement just seems like a crying in my beer, she left me country song. Continue reading →