First of all, I’ve always loved contemporary romance. And there are many – many – writers of contemporary romance I love. Really love. Welcome to Temptationis my touchstone for all that is perfect in contemporary storytelling.
Still, I’ve been burned a bit lately and I could use a little help in identifying the books I want to read.
In historical romance, we’ve got handy code words to help readers know what they’re going to get when they open a book: Wallpaper or Not Wallpaper. Though some may define what constitutes a true Wallpaper a bit differently, I think most of us would agree that we know one when we see it. (Clue: If a 19th century heroine uses “whatever” as a snotty response, you’re looking at a Class A Wallpaper.)
In contempories, however, we’re swinging out there in the breeze. There’s no way to tell between a …say, a Rachel Gibson-smart small town book or a “contemporary” romance featuring a setting straight from the turn of the century. And I’m talking the 20th century.
The audiobook standard of excellence in my opinion is undoubtedly the unabridged version of Diana Gabaldon’s Outlanderseries as told by narrator Davina Porter. Specifically, I am talking about the first four in the series: Outlander, Dragonfly in Amber, Voyager, and Drums of Autumn. Rarely have I been entertained to this degree for such a sustained period of time and that’s quite a statement given that these four books represent 159 hours of listening enjoyment with barely a boring moment.
Although I own all of these books in print, I have never actually read any one of the four. My immense satisfaction with this series comes solely from listening to the unabridged audiobooks. Now, I can’t imagine just settling for the printed word when I choose to revisit Frasers and company. It’s as though there is another whole dimension beyond the mere reading that totally captures my mind’s eye.
It goes without saying that Diana Gabaldon’s writing is the basis of the love herein. Without her exceptional storytelling, where would we be? However, when it comes to audiobooks, there is a second star in the wings who vividly brings these books to life and that is narrator Davina Porter. Much of today’s column is high praise of one sort or another for Ms. Porter’s ability to so completely engage my emotions while providing easily distinguished characterizations. Seldom did I need a “he said” or a “she said” once a character was introduced. Told in first person, the warmth or occasional smile in Porter’s voice further defined Claire’s character and her objective view of the world.
I’ve enjoyed historical fiction for as long as I can remember,but it was only in the early 1990s that I started reading historical romance in earnest. As a broke student, used bookstores were my main source of books and these allowed me to range across all kinds of different time and place settings(though I quickly learned that many of the older “You’re a slut!” “Oh, you were a virgin. Now I love you.” books were definitely not my thing). Though I love visiting many time periods, medieval romances quickly became my favorites.
Does the thought of a bond forged amidst the destruction of war make you think of hope or despair? Seeing a couple fall in love knowing that one will have to go off to war gives a sense of urgency and emotional depth to the relationship for some readers, but others find it anxiety-inducing instead. It’s a debate that springs up from time to time on various romance discussion boards (including ours), and I always find it interesting.
Though I read many different types of romance, historicals remain at the top of my list. At various times, I find myself turning over in my mind a certain question, though. Why is it that I can easily forgive certain anachronisms in a book but cannot move past others? To some extent, a writer with a very good voice draws me into a story so absolutely that I will blow right past such things as title usage errors or flaws in the history. For example, there is a rather glaring historical gaffe found in On the Way to the Wedding that had some readers up in arms soon after the book’s release. However, I found the story so engaging that the anachronistic plot device found near the ending didn’t bother me at all – even though I knew good and well as I read it that it was not historically accurate.