One of my online foibles is that I very rarely post on message boards. The only time I crop up is to ask, "Anyone know if Author X is still writing?"
This has been a very good policy for me. Because while I like to spout off on occasion, message boards tend to irritate me. Maybe I have a little tyrant in me. I can't tell people to f*ck off on message boards (even if they are morons), but I can on my own personal blog. Message boards are "communities" more so than blogs, which I view more as individual homes. I can put up ugly wallpaper in my "home" and it wouldn't directly effect the community at large. Hey, you don't like my wallpaper? Don't visit my "home." Now if I threw that same wallpaper up on a message board - well a lot more people have to look at my bad taste then, which tends to be annoying for everyone involved.
Not posting to message boards keeps me from looking like an asshole - a good thing. Posting on my own blog just makes me look self-important. OK, that might not be a good thing either - but a girl has to have healthy outlets.
The reason for this rambling is that I just came across a bad review for a book that I rather liked (and incidentally, wrote reviews for). This is fine, opinions are like butts (everybody has one!). But I think this dissenting opinion sort of missed the point, and worse still, it got me thinking.
I know, I'm treading on dangerous ground here - let me explain.
One of the reasons romance appeals to me is that it's fun. Sure I'm looking for in-depth characterizations and emotional intensity, but frankly other times I just want brain candy. I just want something silly and fun and completely readable. It might have all the nutritional value of cotton candy, but it goes down easy and entertains me for a few hours. Sometimes after watching the evening news this is about all my little overworked brain can handle.
So my question is - do we as romance reviewers, authors and fans sometimes take the genre too seriously? OK, authors get a free pass here since it's their livelihood - so yeah, they probably should take their job "seriously." But do we as fans and critics of the genre sometimes blow it out of proportion? Should we have the same hard standards for every single book or should there be wiggle room?
Personally, I don't think you can have a list of set "standards" when it comes to judging a good book. Books are different, even in a genre like romance. To explain, let's look at tone. Let's take two books that I gave "A" grades to - All U Can Eat by Emma Holly and The Crossroads Cafe by Deborah Smith. Both very enjoyable books, very deserving of the "A" grades (in my ever so humble opinion) but for totally different reasons. In the Holly, I liked the sassy heroine, the steamy sex, and the delish hero. In the Smith, I liked the haunted characters, the emotional intensity, the tearjerker moments, and the poetic writing style. Does this make the "fun" Holly inferior from the "emotionally intense" Smith? No - they're just different books, but good in their own ways. But what would happen if a rigid "light" reviewer read the Smith or a rigid "intense" reviewer read the Holly? Could they "judge" the books on their own merits? Would the Holly be considered "inferior" because it didn't have angst? Would the Smith get slammed because it wasn't "light?"
Is this making any sense to anyone or am I stuck in my own ramblings again? In a nutshell, if you're going to "review" at least on a semi-professional level you shouldn't immediately dismiss anything. To be good at it, you need to keep an open mind.
Is it a valid opinion to dismiss books that don't fit your own personal "tone" requirements (here's a hint, the answer is no)? Or is a good book is a good book is a good book? Personally, I fall into the second camp (hey, I don't really care - just entertain me and write a good story), but I'm wondering if everybody else does? I don't think they do, and frankly that rubs me the wrong way.