Monday, November 27, 2006

The Emotional Key

So I haven't done a blog post in almost a week (I spent the holiday weekend brain-dead), so I figured it was time for me to pop up and spew forth something insightful and discussion worthy.

Well, I'll give it the old college try anyway.

I was looking over my reading records this weekend and the past couple of months have been dismal. I mean, really bad. The only truly memorable book that leaps to mind is Darkfever by Karen Marie Moning, and I still wouldn't classify that as a keeper. Entertaining, yes - a series I will be following, yes - a book I thought about days after I finished it? Not really.

My whole year has pretty much been like this. Although I have read more "keepers" this year than in the past (you'll just have to wait for my end of the year review), everything in between those gems has been blah, or worse - so annoying that I wanted to ram an ice pick through my frontal lobe.

I suspect I'm not alone.

I tend to have little patience for romance readers who whine about "the good old days." Back when historical romance was all the rage, books were at least 500 pages long, and bodices were flying fast and furious from all the ripping. Honestly now, not all of those books were good, but to hear some readers talk you'd think everything on the bookstore shelves was a modern day classic.

But here I am, whining - not so much about the glory days, but about the lack of emotional intensity I'm finding in the vast majority of new romances. What drew me to romance in the first place was that it's a genre that plays heavily on the reader's emotions. Naturally, other works of fiction can do this too, but nobody has cornered the market like romance. I've read romances where by page 50 I'm thinking of the characters as "real people," and the story feels authentic to the point that I begin to think "Hey! Did this really happen?"

No, I'm not mentally ill and yes, I do know the difference between fact and fiction - but for me, a good romance novel is all about blurring that line to the point of obliterating it.

And I've had a hard time finding that escape valve in many of the books I've read this year. That's not to say I haven't read entertaining books - because I have - but I'm finding a glut of popcorn reads. Good books while I'm reading them, but with no staying power. When an author can turn my emotional key, I'm thinking about that book for days and weeks after I finish it. I sigh contentedly thinking about the story. I have to hold myself back from rereading it immediately because Lord knows my TBR pile is getting ready to crush me under it's weight.

So where are those books? Am I just reading the wrong ones? Possibly. More likely I'm getting greedy, because with my "keeper" numbers up, I'm anxious for more and not really getting them....


Kerry said...

It's not just you, and it's not just the romance genre. I'm having the same issues with about everything I read. I've even taken to switching from mystery reading to other genres--romance, classics, science fiction--in hopes of getting a good emotional link to a story.

Rosie said...

After reading this I stopped to think about books this year I've enjoyed that stand out in my memory. I've read close to a hundred books since June and the only two I could come up with are ANGEL FALLS by Nora Roberts and CROSSROADS CAFE by Deborah Smith. They were just superior and I was thinking about them long afterward.

Wendy said...

I just (and I mean JUST!) finished Crossroads Cafe and in one word: Awesome! What a great book! I plan on doing a blog post about it tomorrow (hopefully).

Amie Stuart said...

I keep meaning to pick up CC. I have to recommend Marsha Moyer who is one of hte most amazing writers! Ok I won't gush....

I do wonder if part of the problem is the number of books any author puts out in a year? Less time to devote to developing the story? I've been thinking about this one....*sigh*

Susan K said...

I have to admit that only one of the keepers I've read so far this year was a romance. Part of the problem is that some of my favorite romance authors (e.g., Diane Farr, Carla Kelly, Tracy Grant) don't have publishing contracts at all. On the other hand, I think people see the past through rose colored glasses -- they look back and see the peaks of the ten keepers they read a decade ago but overlook the 100 mediocre novels interspersed with the DIK precisely because they were so forgettable.