Tuesday, April 10, 2012
Comforting Vs. Tired
One thing though that I think does make the romance genre unique is this concept that many readers have of a Comfort Author. Those authors we turn to when we want and/or need "comforting." It's the genre reading equivalent of drinking hot chocolate by the fire place on a cold winter's day; Or having a crappy day at work, and coming home to have macaroni and cheese for dinner.
What makes an author a Comfort Author for me is that I know exactly what I'm going to get even before I read the first sentence. I know this concept is enough to turn up the noses of every stuffed literary shirt on the planet, with English professors falling into a swoon and tutting, tutting an awful lot. I know, it sounds absurd.
Which begs the question - what is exactly the deciding factor on what makes a Comfort Author....well....comforting?
Ask any reader on the planet if they stopped reading an author because "all their books were the exact same thing over and over again," and every single one of us has at least one. Besides the sloppiness of the final product - it's why I ultimately quit Patricia Cornwell. I've heard other readers say it's why they've quit Janet Evanovich, Sherrilyn Kenyon, Lora Leigh and Danielle Steel (just to name a few).
But then there are other authors who employ similar themes and tropes consistently throughout their body of work, and we continue to lap it up - begging for more. Or in my case with Maggie Osborne, bemoan the fact that they retired. Because as much as I love Maggie? Yeah, she had a tendency to beat the ol' "rough around the edges, tomboy heroine" drum pretty dang hard. Then there's Pamela Morsi - whose historicals tended to all be set in a similar backwoods settings, all with "salt of the Earth" style characters.
My latest Comfort Author? Just might be Jessica Hart, who has such a major category romance backlist that I'll probably get through it all by the time I'm 85. I'm currently reading her latest release, We'll Always Have Paris (review eventually will land over at TGTBTU), and I was struck by the fact that she definitely has her favorite pet themes. This story features a stuffed-shirt hero and a bubbly, extroverted heroine who will undoubtedly breathe some life into his gray, drab world.
It's a familiar trope for me, and for Hart. She's used it before in Oh-So-Sensible Secretary (stuffed shirt heroine, free-spirit hero) and Juggling Briefcase and Baby (stuffed shirt hero, free-spirit heroine). She's also fond of the heroine who is the polar opposite of the rest of her family members (see We'll Always Have Paris and Under the Boss's Mistletoe). And yet? I'm sucked in. To the point where I'm kicking myself from here to eternity for starting the book when I darn well knew I was going to have to put it down and go to my job.
Stupid job. Stupid boss for expecting me to do stupid work while I'm at my stupid job. I knew I should have called in dead when I had the chance.
So what is it about Maggie Osborne, Pamela Morsi and Jessica Hart that keeps me reading, even when the book has striking similarities to other books written by those very same authors? What has turned them into Comfort Authors as opposed to Old Tired Authors I've Broken Up With?
Honestly? I'm not entirely sure. It might be that they're working with tropes and themes that I've grown so particularly fond of over the years that they don't feel "tired" to me (yet, at any rate). It could also come down to the elusive magical element we call Voice. Some authors just have that little bit of magic, that element to their writing that sucks you in to the point where you'd read their grocery list. I'm not sure how to define it, and I'm not even sure what those elements are in an author's "voice" that end up striking a chord with me.
Whatever it is, I probably shouldn't try to over-analyze it or question it too much. I should just be happy that I have such a relationship with more than one writer. Enjoy the ride Wendy, enjoy the ride.