Be sure to check out Miss Kassia's column over at Romancing The Blog today. I was planning on discussing the very topic of series and sequels for my next column (set for May 2), but Kassia really conveys everything quite nicely. And she even brought up one of the points I was planning to address - manipulation.
I hate heavy-handed series set-ups. They're intrusive and detract from the primary romance, which is why I'm reading the book in the first place. If the hero's best friend doesn't do anything to further that cause, and his sole purpose is to act as a "hook" to manipulate me into buying his story in April 2006 - well get him off the damn page! He's mucking up the works.
I do like series, but they have to be done well. A prime example of a well done romance series is Lorraine Heath's Texas Trilogy. Sigh, I miss that woman writing westerns. An example of a romance series I could not tolerate? Christine Feehan's GhostWalker books - and I read only the first book. She introduced so many bloody male characters that I lost track. And frankly, they were all interchangable Ken doll wannabes who did absolutely nothing to aid the romance. They just stood around and emoted. It made my eyes cross.
Now, I'm not above series. I love mystery series, mainly because they tend to follow the same character over the course of many books. Romances on the other hand cannot do that and remain romances. Following the same couple over several books makes it a saga. So the author must come up with new couples to write about. And really, it begins to get silly with some of these neverending series.
The hero in book 17 is the hero's fencing instructor's cousin's former chef's roommate from book 5. And the heroine is the illegimate daughter of the butler's childhood nanny from book 8. Geez. Just give me something fresh already.
Now I know why authors write series. They like creating a fictional world and revisiting it. It's kind of like being a dictator in your own imaginary world. And I know why publishers love them - there's gold in them thar hills if a series hits. And I know why readers love them. Really, I love them too.
Just don't try to manipulate and market me into loving them.