Tuesday, May 15, 2007

Philistine

I'm not above seeing romance as a "sisterhood" - flame wars and all. Romance readers all share one thing in common - an "us vs. them" mentality. We're used to being made fun of. We're used to having our intelligence questioned. We're used to people who can't seem to keep their mouths shut making sweeping generalizations.

It's been this way for years, and I'll eat my shoe if it ever changes. In other words - we're used to it.

One thing I like about romance is that there is something for everybody. Case in point, authors/books I like annoy other readers, and there are authors out there that other readers rave about that just leave me flummoxed. I've mentioned more than once that I just don't understand the J.R. Ward love-fest. I'm sure she's a lovely person, and I'm happy that she's enjoying so much success. Bully for her. But I just don't "get" the appeal of her books. (OK, I do get it on a certain level - you have a bunch of emotionally tortured Alpha heroes running amok - but beyond that I don't get it).

Hey, I do my part though. I buy Ward for work. So never let it be said that my personal prejudice gets in the way of my job.

But I never feel like a philistine until Laura Kinsale's name pops up. I think it's just expected in some circles that all romance readers should lurve her books. I slogged through the first 150 pages of Flowers From The Storm before giving up and declaring it a lost cause. While I was cataloging the TBR, I came across two more of her books, flipped through the first couple of chapters, then tossed them in the UBS bag with a resounding thud. Why? Her writing. I just cannot get into her writing.
"I've yet to fathom it. No doubt I never will. How canst thou expect any real consideration from a person of his -- " Archimedea Timms paused, searching for a suitable word. " -- his ilk, Papa?"

"Wilt thou pour me a cup of tea, Maddy?" her father asked, in just the sort of amiable voice that left one with no room to start an effective argument.

"He is a duke, for one thing," she said over her shoulder, a parting shot as she marched through the back dining room to locate Geraldine, since the parlor bell was in disorder. The time it took to find the maidservant, see water drawn and set to boil, and return to the parlor was not enough to make her forget the sequence of her thoughts. "A duke can scarcely be supposed to care seriously for such matters -- the square is above thy left hand -- as must be perfectly clear when his integration has not been prepared for the past week."

::Snore:: ::Thud:: What? What was that you say?

I read strictly for pleasure, which means I don't want to work to hard to enjoy a story. No, I'm really not stupid. My family tree doesn't consist of one branch (no, really), and I don't spend Friday nights writing love letters to Larry The Cable Guy. But I was in school for a long time, and I think it just burnt me out on books I had to decipher line by line, word for word. I want a good story, good characters, and enough of a plot to keep me flipping the pages. I don't want a brain cramp. I don't want to ram my head through a wall. And I don't want to fall asleep. At least not while I'm reading...

I hate flowery. I hate dialogue that I can't "get" with the first read through. I don't require See Spot Run - but somewhere in the middle is good. I like clean. Straight lines, clean prose, and not a lot of "stuff" mucking it all up along the margins. Clear as mud right?

Right now I'm in the middle of The Preacher's Daughter by Cheryl St. John. I think St. John is a very good writer. She writes strong and clean - and that style tends to really appeal to me. I don't want to call it sparse, because she evokes plenty of images and emotions - and she does it in few words, without boring me to tears.
"Her mother had died of boredom. Tedium. Monotony. Lorabeth Holdridge looked up from the worn Bible on her lap to her father, sitting with his eyes closed in prayer. She was convinced that no one could spend every night of their life in this manner without a little piece of their dreams drying up and dying week by week, month by month, until finally there was nothing left alive and their spirit simply left their body."
Now that works for me. I see a young woman slowly drifting away, desperate for a life - heck, desperate for something different to happen outside of the monotony. And St. John gives that to me in one paragraph. Now structure wise? I'm not sure. Maybe My Sister The English Major will pop in and educate me. I've never been one to dissect structure because frankly, I just don't care enough. I mean, hello? Have you read my blog for any stretch of time? I'm horrible with punctuation, grammar, sentence structure etc. I want enough of that stuff to make the book readable, but while some readers will become annoyed when a semicolon is used incorrectly, I just can't get my panties in a wad over it. Sorry. I know I'm part of the problem.

Maybe I sat through just enough English classes in college to quickly become bored with what others think of as "good" or "great" writing. I know bad writing when I read it - but I think there are many different shades of "good." No two authors write the same (well unless one of them is a plagiarist), and while authors can certainly share similar "tones," there is always a little something that makes everyone different. Sometimes it's hard to find when you are confronted with the sea of "sameness" that tends to permeate the bookstore, but it's there. Sure all paranormals and Regency historicals look the same? But are they really?

Thanks to Isabel over at Book Binge for inspiring this post. Although if a flame war erupts I'm sure she'll fling rotten tomatoes my way.

3 comments:

Rosie said...

You know this made me think about reader blogs too. My favorites are people whose writing is accessible and real for lack of a better word.

First Tara Marie with the DEMON MOON review which won't be out until June and now you with the PREACHER'S DAUGHTER reference and it won't be out until July.

C'mon people you're killing me here. Of course I'm looking at my towering TBR and wondering what to read next. I'm pathetic really.

Wendy said...

Rosie:
Good news! TPD is due out in June, but you can actually order it now from eHarlequin.com

Oh happy day! Now if I only had time to finish reading it. Stupid job...

Amie Stuart said...

Wendy no, I don't think they are the same. I'm not a huge vamp fan but one thing I like about Lynn Viehl's Darkyn books is that all the characters have so many shades of grey--so they're very human IMO. I like both but prefer Lynn's version FWIW. Different strokes and all that....

Or was that a rhetorical question?

*ducking and running*