Saturday, April 17, 2010

So Un-PC

The other day I was thinking about what I like in books.

I like a good rescue fantasy.  The woman is in jeopardy, the man is all muscles and brute protection.  She's intelligent, but at her wits end, everywhere she turns is a dead end, everyone she turns to lets her down . . . then the hero swoops in, observes her agony, and finds a way to fix it.

Ahh, fantasy.

Of course, along the way she finds a way to save him too, but it's usually from some emotional trauma.  Sound just like Romantic Suspense, doesn't it?  But then, Romantic Suspense really doesn't do it for me. 

That's because I find RS tends to lean heavily towards the S and less towards the R.  I try to read mysteries to expand my reading vocabulary.  Straight mysteries do it differently.  There's a lot of meandering.  Someone dies, someone cares.  They drop a clue here and there, talk about the weather and the setting of every room.  Secrets are unraveled, red herrings are tossed around like pretzels (Go with it.  In my world, pretzels get tossed.) and in the last ten pages, it all comes together, makes sense, and a bad guy is captured. 

The thing is, RS often tries to follow the same blueprint.  But that blueprint doesn't work for a romance.  Romance needs plot.  Those random red herrings and weather-laden meanderings are an irritant in a romance. They waste my time when my eager eyes could be lapping up some sexual tension or my brain could be soaking in some character development.

Instead we get odd motivations from distracting side characters, or the murder's POV.  This is a romance people.  I don't wanna get the icks.  I don't wanna learn how the bad guy got so twisted, I want to see the hero and heroine work out their personal issues on the page, not chase idiotically after a sociopath.  Call the damn police!

But you know, if those authors changed the focus of that same scene from catching the bad guy to the couple protecting each other, or from ever more implausible plot twists to the couple building a team together, I'd be SO all over it. 

Is it too much to ask for a romantic suspense author who isn't afraid of the mushy stuff?

Just Finished: Servant: The Awakening  
Currently Reading: Six 
Currently Reading: Twice Loved 
Currently Reading: G is For Gumshoe  
Just About To Start: Judgment In Death

Wednesday, April 7, 2010

The sweet rewards of failure

I mentioned before that I was reading some books for a contest.  I was given six books in one category and five books in another.  I started with the category I thought I'd enjoy less, and saved the others for a treat when the required reading was done.

What a mistake.

The category I read was awful.  Just mind-numbingly, eye-gougingly awful.  If these books were what anyone picked up as their first exposure to romance, no wonder we have such a bad reputation.  Four of the six books were almost bad enough as to be unreadable.  One was great, one was all right. 

But with the new work schedule and all, I wasn't able to finish reading those books until the day the judging sheets were due.  (The fact that 80% of the category was sooooo bad didn't help my reading speed either.)  As a result of taking so long to read the first category, the second category was removed from my grimy little fingers post-haste and given to someone who'd be able to read and judge those suckers in mere days instead of the month I anticipated it would take me to finish them.

So the books I had set aside as my reward were no longer available to read. 


The moment those books were taken from me I was irritated.  I felt under-appreciated for the work I'd done.  I mean, I sacrificed 6 weeks of my reading time to get through those awful books, and now that I finally have a chance to read the good stuff, they whip it out of my hands. 

Then, a really cool thing happened.  Freedom. 

I looked around at the books I had in my home to read.  I was down to one library book because I'd cut way back on my borrowing in order to accommodate both the work schedule and the contest books.  I looked in the corner of my bedroom ... even the anticipated "good" books were gone.  All that was left was my own TBR.  Books purchased by me for me.  Books that I WANTED to read that had been pushed aside for many months because I was bowing to the library's schedule or forcing my way through the contest reading.

Oh, sweet freedom.  In the week since I've been allowed to read what I like, I've gone through 3 and a half books.  Well-written books.  Interesting books.  Books that help teach me what to do instead of showing me so vividly what not to do. 

Sure there are lessons to be learned from bad books, but at this point in my writing, bad books are not what I need.  Thank heavens for that lovely silver lining provided to me by those horribly written books.  They freed up my schedule to allow me to read my own TBR.  They showed me (without a doubt) the importance of plot, not relying on crutch words, interesting characters, a compelling story, and side-characters who mean something.  And, as an added bonus, if I don't enjoy these books, I can sell or trade them for other, better books.  It's a win-win!

Just Finished: Her Best Bet 
Just Finished: Jude's Law 
Just Finished: Veil of Midnight 
Just Finished: The Cinderella Deal 
Just Finished: The Scorsolini Marriage Bargain 
Currently Reading: G is For Gumshoe 
Currently Reading: Six