Series, Series, and More Series

We have all seen the trend that is happening in Romance novels these days.  The Series.  I can’t even remember the last time that I read a book that wasn’t a part of a series.  Paranormals, fantasy, Regencies – it doesn’t matter the genre, all the books seem to be a part of a series.  For me, that isn’t really a problem.  I like that.  I like that I don’t have to say goodbye to characters that I love and have come to care about after I finish a book.  I like that a younger sibling or a best friend that we like in one book finds their own HEA in the next book.  So this trend hasn’t bothered me all that much.  That is until very recently.

While I have no problem with the trend that all books are a part of a series, I have started to see something that I don’t like.  Usually, I enjoy a good epilogue.  It used to be that the epilogue was a small chapter at the end of the book where we get a chance to peek at the future.   This used to be a place that transcended the “series” chronology and jumped forward a few years and let us know that despite what may be happening is the great story arc of the series, this is what is happening with the couple currently.  A good example of this would be Lover Awakened by J.R. Ward.  At the end of this book, we get an epilogue that takes place 18 months after the book ended and the epilogue is a scene with the main couple, Z and Bella, and it steps out of the chronology of the series and gives a glimpse of the future.  I love these scenes.  They reassure us that all is well with the couple in the future, they reaffirm the HEA, and they satisfy any curiosity of children that may have been born or events that might have played out off page.

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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.

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Deal Breakers: Have We All Gotten a Bit Too Cranky?

stock-vector-policeman-yelling-stop-retro-clip-art-58890815Even 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.

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The Elusive A+

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 Heart by 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.

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Romance Author’s Web Sites: An Update of Essentials and Fun Extras

Screen shot 2011-11-14 at 2.28.18 PMThree years ago I posted here about romance authors’ Web sites and listed four essentials: (1) a complete listing of the author’s books, and connections for those in a series; (2) news of upcoming books; (3) a brief bio; and (4) a method to contact the author (email link or form). These are all still essentials for me. They can be fairly brief and hopefully require little time for updating. I’ve visited a lot of author Web sites in the intervening three years and have some other essentials I’d like to add. I’ve also discovered some fun new extras at other authors’ Web sites.

First, it’s vital that the Web site be current. I immediately leave an author’s site if I discover that their homepage features as “new” a book that was published one or more books ago while failing to mention their latest release. I expect that a News tab will actually have recent (not necessarily daily or even monthly) news. Even something as simple as news about an upcoming – or recently published – book works here. What doesn’t work is “news” of books published or awards won years earlier.  Many authors have extra sections including one for Appearances or Upcoming Appearances. These are of particular interest to me when I prepare AAR’s monthly booksigning post. However, events that occurred months, or years earlier, don’t really qualify as “upcoming,” and call into question the content of the entire site.

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Speaking of Audiobooks: Narrators Forum

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.

Meet the Narrators

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Romance Novel Wish List

pride-and-prejudice-graphic-novelI recently began re-listening to Jayne Ann Krentz’s Eclipse Bay, the first in her Eclipse Bay trilogy, originally published over 10 years ago. After being very frustrated by her recent Arcane series books, this re-listen has been refreshing. I’ve found myself wishing that Ms. Krentz would write another series like her Eclipse Bay series, with no paranormal elements (well, except in the mind of one of the secondary characters). Or if not a series, I would love to read a straight contemporary by her such as Trust Me or Family Man.

This re-listen has also reminded me of some of my other romance novel wishes. Now these aren’t about my desires for specific settings (Egypt, Malta, and Santorini head that list) or time periods (post-World War I is a particular favorite). These are wishes I have for books I want specific authors to write.

First up is a wish for Colby Hodge. One of the first books I reviewed here at AAR was her paranormal time travel Twist. Abbey, the heroine, is smart and tough, but has her girly moments. I would love to see this turn into a series, or at least have a sequel where Abbey and the real Shane get to spend some time together.

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The Other Guy’s Bride: Exclusive Excerpt from Connie Brockway

brockwayI am really excited about this one, so fair warning.

On November 22nd, The Other Guy’s Bride, the long, long, long(!) awaited sequel to As You Desire will finally hit your Kindle, with the print version following one month later.  I’ve read the book and it’s fair to say that’s one of the reasons I’m so excited.  I’ll have more to say later, but this new book is a worthy successor to a book so fondly remembered by so very many of us.

You know, there was so much controversy over how this book is being published and now we’re down to what really matters.

We’ll be back in a few weeks with a giveaway, but, in the meantime, Connie offered us an exclusive excerpt from the book to whet your appetite.  So, read it, enjoy – and leave a question or your reaction for Connie in the comments.

- Sandy AAR

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Buy These Books…Even If They’re Awful

One message I kept hearing during this summer’s RWA conference was that publishers were finally ready to look at books that are different. Not every publisher was saying it, mind you, but I heard it a lot more than I had the year before – when the message seemed to be: “Take a look at what we are already publishing…and write something just like that.” But at the same time, I had an author tell me that her slightly different historicals (I mean really, they were still set in England) weren’t selling as well as she – or her publisher – had hoped. Consequently, she will probably have to switch back to Regency or Victorian set historicals. Which really made me think that those of us who are informed, internet-savvy readers need to vote with our pocket books.

Now, don’t get me wrong. I love Regencies as much as the next person, and probably more than the next person. I hope that the people who love writing them continue to write them. There will always be room in my heart for spies, spinsters, poor relations, and Almacks. But I don’t just want to read about that. People have been successfully falling in lust and in love and populating the planet for some time now, all over the world – not just in nineteenth century England. And those of us who have been reading and reviewing romance novels for years start craving variety like we crave air.

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It Was a Dark and Stormy Night…

eblWith the relentless bad news lately, what better time for a little pick me up in the form of the Edward Bulwer-Lytton contest winners announced just this week?

For the last 29 years, San Jose State University has held the annual contest that asks contestants to submit opening lines for imaginary novels with the goal that they be as bad as possible. The contest was inspired by the great Edward Bulwer-Lytton, who penned the immortal “It was a dark and stormy night.”

So, without further ado, let’s enjoy the grand prize winner:

Cheryl’s mind turned like the vanes of a wind-powered turbine, chopping her sparrow-like thoughts into bloody pieces that fell onto a growing pile of forgotten memories.

Sue Fondrie

And the runner-up:

As I stood among the ransacked ruin that had been my home, surveying the aftermath of the senseless horrors and atrocities that had been perpetrated on my family and everything I hold dear, I swore to myself that no matter where I had to go, no matter what I had to do or endure, I would find the man who did this . . . and when I did, when I did, oh, there would be words.

Rodney Reed

The Bulwer-Lytton contests also chooses winners in genre categories.

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