I'm also starting Lover Eternal by J.R. Ward, which I just received for review.
Can I just say I'm scared?
Besides the fact that my last batch of review books were dreadful (D, C-, D and B respectively), Lover Eternal is long. OK, so I think any book over 400 pages is long - but this one has a damn glossary of terms in the front. Which says three things to this reader:
- Lots O' World Building
- Danger, Danger - series ahead!
- Potential fangirl hazard!
All I can say is it better stand alone or it doesn't have a prayer.
Lots of grumblings online recently about the proliferation of series in Romance Novel Land. I like to think I have a unique perspective on this, as I haven't been reading romance "all my reading life," and I love series - just not in the romance genre.
In the romance genre I have two series in my keeper stash. Lorraine Heath's excellent Texas trilogy (she needs to leave England - seriously y'all) and The Rock Creek Six series by Lori Handeland and Linda Devlin. Notice anything? Both of these series had defined endings. Heath's was a trilogy and the Rock Creek Six were about six men - hence six books. Finished. Done.
Now I love mystery series. Cannot get enough. In fact, there are a couple of series I read that I should probably stop reading. Instead, I stop buying and borrow a library copy. I enjoy watching the same protagonist over the course of many books change and grow. You can't do that in romance. For one thing you need a happily ever after. No HEA? It ain't romance. And following the same couple over several books? That's a saga. Two totally different genres. For instance, JD Robb would be writing a saga if she dropped the mystery from her books.
So where do romance series lose me? Here we go:
They Try To Hard - Sooner or later you run out of characters, and then the author/publisher tries to milk every dollar. No more siblings? OK, write about their children, grandchildren, former school chum, the butler downstairs, the bitchy next door neighbor.....
It gets more than a bit absurd after a while.
Series-itis - You do not need to have every previous couple show up in the latest book. If they don't do a darn thing to further the current story, they're just annoying and taking up space. Besides, I'm not reading Book 21 to find out about the couple from Book 6. I'm reading Book 21 to read about the Book 21 couple!
Give Me A Damn Ending - Mystery authors have known for years that you can tie up loose ends and still have readers coming back for the next installment. Why romance authors fail at this so miserably I'll never know. Don't leave huge chunks of the plot unanswered! You're essentially manipulating the reader. "Ha ha ha! Want to know if the pyscho killer gets caught? You have to read my next book that will be out in April 2007!" Seriously, nothing yanks my chain faster or harder. I will harp on this to my dying day. And authors - if you do something like this? Pray that I don't get assigned your book for review. I'll call you to the mat. I'm not talking piddly shit. If the protagonist still has an estranged relationship with her mother - that's fine. But the pyscho killer should have been caught. Hey, he can escape from prison in the next book - but his identity should be revealed at the end of book one thankyouverymuch.
Honestly it all comes down to character-driven stories. Series that are character driven (which I think most mystery series are!), keep the reader engaged. If they like the character, they come back for more. Romance series cannot be about the same character because then it wouldn't be a romance (ah, that pesky HEA). So the author relies on plot devices, external conflict, and has to introduce other characters that will keep the series going. Ultimately, these other characters tend to take up too much space, and the romance you want to read about suffers considerably.
But that's just the way I see it. In the meantime, I read the books that sound good to me - series or not. They just better stand alone.