Tuesday, May 29, 2012

Breaking all the Rules :: Not Always a Good Thing

I'm feeling kind of zombie-like after I finally finished reading a certain romance novel. It has taken me days to slog my way through a book less than 190 pages long, which is very unusual for me. But the last few chapters of this novel were the definition of tedious.

I won't go into fine details about the book, nor will I reveal who wrote the book or what the title is, but I will share what I learned from reading it. First, let me say I've been reading one line of books to get a feel for what the publisher is looking for, and while I can now comfortably pick out what's what on the page, I am not an expert. On the other hand, I am a reader, and I know what I like and what I don't. This is what didn't work for me with this book:

  1. The hero and heroine spent most of the book away from each other. Just when the situation would get interesting between the hero and heroine, one of the characters would walk out of the scene. The first time it happened, it was understandable. Every time after that (and there were many instances of this), I did not like it. The characters didn't start spending any quality time with one another until after the first half of the book. By then, I was struggling to slog my way through the story. For the love of Pete, give the characters a reason to maintain close proximity, even if it's as simple as locking them in a broom closet together. 
  2. Most of the important scenes happened between the heroine and her friends. This killed the tension in the book, and made the heroine look like she was begging attention from everyone but the main person she should have been wanting attention from - the hero. 
  3. The heroine talks to everyone but the hero. If she wasn't at a friend's house, she was on the phone with some other unimportant character. I can recall one meaningful conversation the heroine had with the hero. That's it. One. Everything important she had to say, she said it to a secondary character, so by the time the book built to the dark moment, I didn't feel any sparks. How could the heroine be upset about not having a strong relationship with the hero when she spent 90% of the book across town yakking it up with someone else?
  4. The hero walked away from the heroine in almost every scene. Yes. I do mean that. In almost every scene the hero took part in, he walked out. Whenever he appeared on the page, I began to anticipate when he was going to walk out of the room. Why the heroine put up with it beyond the first time, I have no idea, but this goes back to reason #1 this book didn't work for me. 
  5. The heroine's best friend had more scene time than the hero. I understand the sounding board role, but it shouldn't dominate the book. A romance is about the relationship between the hero and the heroine. 
  6. The story conclusion didn't reinforce the romantic commitment. The story started out focused on the hero and heroine's inability to commit. The couple is linked together by an unexpected pregnancy. Sure babies are cute and heartwarming in fiction, but you would think the ending of this particular story would reinforce the new found commitment between the hero and heroine, and not necessarily focus on the infant. The story ends with the focus on the infant...and the hero and heroine are in separate rooms. 

The book had some strong emotional scenes, but it was difficult to appreciate them when the characters kept avoiding each other. About midway through this book, I put it down and started reading something else. I forced myself to pick this book up again and finish it so I could mark it off my list and get it off my desk. Honestly, though, as tedious as this book was to read, I learned a lot from it.

When I finally looked back over my list of what wasn't working in this story, I realized almost all of the no-no's listed above are covered in the publisher's guidelines, and are reiterated in their podcasts. I guess this goes to show the importance of reading many books in a line to get a feel for what the publisher wants, because you're bound to come across a story like this that really stands out as "against the grain". If you were to read only this book, and then you submitted a similarly structured novel to the publisher, I'm pretty sure it would be rejected, especially if you're a first time author. I think the author's name had a lot to do with why they published this book, because compared to the rest of the line, this one breaks all the rules.

Anyway, that's just my two bits. I have to make a dash to the store and the post office. When I get home, I'm going to curl up on the couch with Mini, a cup of tea, and maybe start reading a new book. I have a stack of books on the corner of my desk to weed through, so I'm going to try my best to resist buying any new books while I'm in town. Easier said than done, heh. I'll post again when I have something interesting to say. I'm off for now. Happy Tuesday, everyone!

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