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REVIEW: Eyes of Silver, Eyes of Gold by Ellen O’Connell

Dear Ms. O’Connell:

When I saw that Kristie J. highly recommended your self-published Western, Eyes of Silver, Eyes of Gold, I admit I was excited but also trepidatious. I’m always a bit wary of Romance novels featuring Native American protagonists, because the stereotypes seem so entrenched in the genre. The opening scene of the book was so suspenseful and compelling, however, that I knew early on that this was not the book I was expecting, which turned out to be a good thing. Despite the fact that I think the book would benefit substantially from additional editing and less telling, I found the voice fresh, the characters engaging, and the storyline emotionally satisfying.

Eyes of Silver, Eyes of Gold by Ellen O'ConnellAnne Wells does not want to marry any of the men her father wants; in fact, she has proven so resistant that her father has locked her in her room and is starving her, hoping he can weaken her will enough to wed her to his latest pick. Anne is already more desperate than her father could ever guess, but her desperation drives her to escape her home and run to the one place she hopes she can hide in safety. And when Cord Bennett finds a wet, cold, sleeping woman in his barn, it seems Anne is correct, because Cord merely sends her into his house for a warm meal and a frank conversation.

Anne knows it’s not Cord Bennett she has to fear, despite his reputation for being a “half-breed bastard,” Cord is merely a man tired of living under everyone else’s prejudices, and who now keeps to himself and to the horses he trains to support himself on his family’s Colorado ranch. Cord and Anne met as children, and they developed a mutual affection and respectful trust early on, even though it never really went anywhere. Still, Cord is willing to help Anne escape her father’s tyrannical marriage plans, which gives her great relief. Until, that is, some men her father hired manage to track her to Cord’s place, where they proceed to force Cord and Anne to marry on the spot, celebrating the event by beating both of them brutally, believing they have killed Cord and almost raping Anne (she saves herself by accidently vomiting on her attacker).

Anne’s father, Edward, who has been present for the whole disgusting event, merely admonishes his daughter, who is lying on the ground near her would-be savior:

 

“You brought this on yourself, daughter. Honoring thy father as commanded would have spared us all this disgrace. . . You are filthy in every way and I won’t have you on a horse with me. You get yourself cleaned up and consider how you’re going to convince me to allow you back under my roof.”

 

Not surprisingly, Edward’s stubbornness is matched by Anne’s own, and thanks to her tenacity and nothing short of a miracle, both Cord and Anne manage to survive. For days following the attack, Anne is solely responsible for Cord’s animals and for Cord’s care. She has no idea if he will survive, or even what is wrong with him internally. And she doesn’t know when the men who tried to kill them will return, or what will happen when they do. Still, the experience emboldens her:

 

Anne had lived her whole life following the dictates of others. Now all the decisions were hers. What to do, when to do it. How to do it, so much depended on her, but instead of feeling weighed down, minute by minute, hour by hour, this new life wove a spell around her, leaving her feeling lighter and freer than she had ever dreamed possible.

 

So when it becomes clear that Cord will ultimately heal from his injuries, Anne is determined to protect him and Bennett Ranch from any and every predator, including Cord’s mistrustful brothers, her own brother and father, and myriad townspeople who think that Cord’s Indian blood and proud, defensive personality make him a virtual savage. In fact, Cord’s sister (his father married twice, and his second marriage, to an Indian woman, yielded Cord and his sister), Marie, married a white man and moved away from the family at her first opportunity, leaving Cord to fend for himself against the town’s ambivalent attitudes. Cord had spent some years in Texas, but homesickness brought him back to Colorado, where he has become a talented horse breeder and trainer, work that brings him enough income to live somewhat isolated from the townspeople.

Some of those people, like Sheriff Noah Reynolds Cord’s older sister, Hannah, and his sister-in-law, Martha, respected Cord and wanted to protect him. Others, like his brothers, Ephraim and Frank, kept their distance from Cord, and were not sure what to think of his violent reputation. No one really knew what to make of the purported marriage between Anne and Cord, including Anne and Cord themselves:

 

He could smell the slightly spicy scent of her. “Mm.” He wondered what would happen if he just put an arm around her here and now and tried holding her. If she made a face in the darkness, he’d never know.

What happened was she nestled in the curve of his arm, head on his shoulder, and whispered, “This is the nicest Christmas I’ve ever had.”

It sure as hell was.

 

I have always been a fan of the arranged marriage device, because I think it forces an emotional intimacy between characters who might otherwise have only a physical attraction or who would likely walk away from each other because of a difficult relationship. In Eyes of Silver, Eyes of Gold, however, the device serves a dual purpose. It forges the natural alliance the characters have with each other, and with the reader, who immediately sympathizes with their persecution. But it has a deeper narrative purpose and effect. Because Cord’s racial identity is so much a part of the town’s distrust and dislike of him, it would be easy for the reader to identify Anne and Cord’s relationship purely in terms of that prejudice – to root for the success of their marriage merely because of the unfair discrimination against Cord. While that might be emotionally satisfying, it would not necessarily challenge a lot of the racial stereotypes leveled against Cord (or the stereotypes the reader might bring to the book from other Romance novels featuring Native American characters, namely the “noble savage” hero-type).

Here, though, the arranged marriage between Cord and Anne places their own relationship – one that exists within an awareness of the racial hatred aimed at Cord – above the stereotypes. In other words, it draws the reader into a position where they must confront Anne and Cord, as well as the difficulties in their relationship, within the context of the individual characters. Cord, for example, has certainly been affected by the negative views of his Indian heritage, but some aspects of his personality are intrinsic. He is independent, quiet, assessing, and scarred by personal loss in a previous relationship. Like Anne, he is hardworking and straightforward, inexperienced with love and expectations that go beyond physical intimacy and the daily responsibilities of a shared life. That Anne has to stand up for both herself and Cord both builds her confidence and increases her sensitivity to the attitudes Cord has encountered his whole life.

Watching them struggle with the uncertainties and discoveries of a strong emotional and physical connection is made more poignant by the misconceptions people have about Cord, but for me the novel struck a nice balance between focusing on racism and developing a romantic relationship between two complicated, multi-layered individuals. The sub-plot around Anne’s father’s revenge (and her brother’s racism and her mother’s weak betrayal) was nicely executed, with several unexpected turns away from easy melodrama to something more interesting.

The way the book handles the relationship between the town’s prejudice and Cord and Anne’s relationship is one of its greatest strengths. There were moments in the book where I felt that given the book’s setting, Mason, Colorado, the late date, 1885, that the profoundly negative views of both Anne and Cord were not nuanced enough for the changes the second half of the 19th century had wrought on American multiculturalism and intermarriage. There was also the use of the word “haters,” which threw me out of the book every time I read it and belittled the serious issues the book was contemplating. Further, the overall language was relatively plain, sometimes downright flat, which sometimes weighed the narrative down but, at the same time, fit well with the Western setting and ethos of the novel.

The book’s real weakness, however, is that it is overwritten. In fact, it reminded me a lot of the first Judith James book I read, which was fresh and compelling but way too long. Eyes of Silver, Eyes of Gold shares that problem to the point where the telling sometimes threatens to overwhelm the emotional impact of the story:

 

Edward Wells had been angry when he’d realized his daughter would not come home. When he realized she was not in Chicago as everyone supposed, his fury knew no bounds. In Edward’s opinion Anne needed to spend the rest of her life living like a recluse in Chicago to mitigate the disgrace she had brought on the family . . .

Having for years been obsessed with seeing his daughter married, Edward was now obsessed with seeing her marriage ended. He would have like to just ride out to the ranch with another mod and take her, but Edward knew that when the Double M men left town two of them had gunshot wounds. He had heard rumors about how they got those wounds.

 

There are a total of seven in a row detailing Edward’s obviously villainous perspective on Cord and Anne, and the mix of omniscient third person narration and interior monologue can sound pedantic and even rambling. With some good content editing, though, I think Eyes of Silver, Eyes of Gold could have been an A read for me. I enjoyed the protagonists, was engaged with the large cast of characters and the negotiation of so many different relationships, and appreciated that the issues around Cord’s race were not, for the most part, simplistic and heavy-handed. And while the somewhat undisciplined narration served as a periodic distraction, it wasn’t enough to ruin my interest and make me put the book down. B-

~ Janet

Book Link | Kindle | nook

isn't sure if she's an average Romance reader, or even an average reader, but a reader she is, enjoying everything from literary fiction to philosophy to history to poetry. Historical Romance was her first love within the genre, but she's fickle and easily seduced by the promise of a good read. She approaches every book with the same hope: that she will be filled from the inside out with something awesome that she didnʼt know, didnʼt think about, or didnʼt feel until that moment. And she's always looking for the next mind-blowing read, so feel free to share any suggestions!

49 Comments

  1. Jayne
    Jun 09, 2011 @ 08:02:57

    I’m always a bit wary of Romance novels featuring Native American protagonists, because the stereotypes seem so entrenched in the genre.

    This. I’ve found few authors who do justice to NA characters – especially in the setting of a historical book.

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  2. Gwyneth Bolton
    Jun 09, 2011 @ 09:07:58

    Great review. I read this a while back and I agree with your observations. I think it was a very compelling read and with a better editor and little less “telling” the story would have been told perfectly. Although, the fact that the hero called her “baby” a lot in the novel felt too contemporary to me for some reason, that was the only other major issue I had with the book. She is certainly a gifted story teller and pulled me in from the beginning, even though like you I often stay away from historical with Native American heroes because of the stereotyping in the genre. But she did a wonderful job with the half-Native American hero Cord. Loved. Him. :-)

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  3. Lisa J
    Jun 09, 2011 @ 10:31:33

    After reading this review, I knew I had to try this one. I also picked up another book by Ms. O’Connell called Sing My Name. The Smashwords reviews said people it is even better than Eyes of Silver, Eyes of Gold, which they loved.

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  4. Sunita
    Jun 09, 2011 @ 10:46:55

    Thanks for reviewing this, Robin. I just couldn’t get past the writing. So much tell, tell, tell, and if it was worth saying once, it was worth saying three times.

    Clearly O’Connell is a great storyteller, because so many people love this book. I’m willing to believe there is a great story buried in here and if you edited it down it would be a lot easier to see. For me this is Exhibit #1 for why everyone needs a content editor.

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  5. hrwriter
    Jun 09, 2011 @ 11:39:05

    I downloaded a sample of this book weeks ago simply because I was curious. This book, or rather the author and her followers, stirred up no end of controversy on the Amazon forums, so I wanted to see what all the hoopla was about. I read the beginning pages and went no farther. It was evident the book had been written by someone who was in the beginning stages of learning craft. But this book does have tons of glowing reviews and not all of them are from Ms. O’Connell’s so-called shills. Which begs the question, are readers (who aren’t writers) more tolerant of bad writing?

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  6. Janine
    Jun 09, 2011 @ 12:15:58

    Which begs the question, are readers (who aren’t writers) more tolerant of bad writing?

    I haven’t read this particular book but I tried one of O’Connell’s others and didn’t get far either. To answer your question, based on anecdotal evidence, I would say that at least some readers are more tolerant of issues with the prose style than some writers. Working with language every day can sensitize a person to problems with it. With that said, I’m sure there are also some non-writing readers who are sensitive to these kinds of problems.

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  7. Ellen
    Jun 09, 2011 @ 12:32:12

    @hrwriter, I do think readers who aren’t writers are more tolerant of bad writing. And my guess as to why is that we can’t name what’s wrong. We aren’t thinking “That’s the 3rd time she did “x”.” Since we can’t pin down what’s wrong, our fault finding is more vague and so, I think, easier to gloss over.

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  8. hrwriter
    Jun 09, 2011 @ 13:31:40

    Despite the issues with the writing, this book has sold lots. That’s just a fact. So my hat is off (grudgingly) to Ms. O’Connell for her promotional strategy. She and her followers annoyed the hell out of the Amazon forum regulars for more than a year and made quite a few enemies, but her strategy worked. Readers were drawn in, by the dozens of glowing “this is the bestest book ever” reviews and the sales ranking. I’m certain there are many who are unhappy that you’ve given this book even more legitimacy with this review. I, for one, wonder how far this book would have gotten on its own merits without all the shilling.

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  9. Mary Beth
    Jun 09, 2011 @ 13:32:39

    I read this book a long time ago and I liked it a lot. I am not a writer, so maybe things that would bug writers worked for me. Basically, when I read, I am looking for a good story that will pull me in and make me think about and care for the characters. This book did that for me. I thought about these characters long after I had finished reading the book! I also loved Sing My Name.

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  10. Ridley
    Jun 09, 2011 @ 14:02:31

    Maybe it makes me a small person, but I admit to being really sad to see this book getting good press. It was shamelessly shilled and dishonestly reviewed so many times that every genuine fan makes me die a bit inside.

    As for whether non-writer readers are more tolerant of bad writing, I don’t think that’s necessarily the case. I’m not a writer, unless short internet comments count, and I found this book a chore to read because of the writing. I did manage to finish it so I could review it with a clear conscience, but the telling and the info dumping was off-putting enough that I put it down to level fishing and archaeology in WoW.

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  11. L.K. Rigel (likari)
    Jun 09, 2011 @ 14:40:48

    The readers/participants on the Amazon boards are notoriously vicious toward authors, and I think Ellen O’Connell got caught up in something not of her own making.

    It’s true that negative attention for a book is better than no attention, and especially for indie-published books. No one can try the book if they don’t know it’s there.

    As for the old good writing/bad writing discussion, I’m learning that readers care more about a good story than writing technique. One negative comment one of my books got was that the reader was used to skimming and didn’t like it that she had to go back and actually read all the words to know what had just happened. Some readers apparently want you to say something several times.

    Anyway, the point is that good storytelling trumps technically correct writing always.

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  12. Robin/Janet
    Jun 09, 2011 @ 14:46:25

    @Jayne: I think Susan Johnson does a good job in a number of her old books, as well. Pure Sin and Forbidden come to mind right away as books that I think do justice to her Native American characters.

    In Pure Sin, for example, there’s a delicious moment where Adam blames his sexual appetite on his French blood. While there’s definitely a cultural stereotype at work there, the norm would be to blame anything “bad” on the NA blood, so in that context, I thought it was a wonderful, clever, disruption of expectations.

    @Gwyneth Bolton: I dislike “baby” as an endearment generally, and agree that it was doubly annoying in EOSEOG.

    @hrwriter: I guess it depends on what you mean by “bad writing.” If you are referring to sentence level competency (grammatical construction, word use, spelling and punctuation, etc.), then I don’t think there’s much of a case to be made against O’Connell. If you are referring to storytelling and prose style, which IMO are components of voice, then the standards are much more subjective, aren’t they?

    Stieg Larsson is relentlessly hammered for being a “bad writer,” for example. And while his style could easily be described as pedantic, I find something hypnotically compelling about his voice and would argue vigorously that he is not at all a bad writer. Some think Dan Brown is a fantastic writer; I do not.

    I can’t count the times I have engaged in debates with people who would accuse the likes of Judith Ivory or Jo Goodman of “bad writing.” Similarly, I find many authors others adore to be boring or downright annoying in their prose style and storytelling.

    As for reader tolerance to “bad writing,” well, I’ve certainly witnessed myriad authors pimping books I would argue are badly written, so I definitely don’t think it breaks down along those lines. In general, though, given the elements of subjectivity in the judgment itself, I’d argue that different readers (whether or not they write) respond differentially to different types of prose. I have greatly enjoyed books that suffered from sentence level construction issues and been bored to death by virtually pristine prose. I have been hooked by storytelling in far from perfect books and detached from stories that are competently rendered but not emotionally engaging to me for some reason. Sometimes these are books that many others are praising to the heavens.

    Erstwhile Romance reader Sherryfair once said she thought reading Romance was like going on a blind date. Sometimes there is undeniable chemistry that makes a book irresistible, and sometimes the chemistry is lacking, even though the book might be perfectly respectable and attractive. I’ve yet to see a better analogy.

    @Ridley: I had no idea of the Amazon controversy when I picked up this book, and frankly, I’m happy I did not. It’s already gotten difficult enough for me to separate the noise around a book from the book itself, and I see “my job,” as a reviewer as one in which I approach the book with as much neutrality as possible about the author, the marketing, etc. I totally understand your reaction to the author’s alleged strategy (alleged, as it’s not been shown to be dishonest as far as I know, correct?), and if anything I think she did her book an injustice if all the accusations against her are true. OTOH, there’s a lot of stuff around book marketing that doesn’t thrill me, and I’m afraid if I knew too much, my neutrality would be greatly compromised, and probably my reading choices, too. ;D

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  13. Ridley
    Jun 09, 2011 @ 14:49:17

    We’re not vicious towards authors. We’re vicious towards spammers.

    You’ll note that there are quite a few authors who are regular commenters there and that a couple even came with us when we moved to Goodreads. Shoot, we even made an author a moderator there.

    Spam your book or send an army of shills, and it’s the banhammer. Talk about books like a normal human, and you’re more than welcome to pull up a chair and stay a while.

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  14. Ridley
    Jun 09, 2011 @ 14:56:33

    @Robin/Janet:

    See, here’s the thing: it’s not a terrible book.

    I have no problem seeing that it has genuine fans, so don’t think I’m calling you out (though we talked about this before, I just want to stress that again.) It’s just, well, frustrating that her irritating shills, whether they were working for her or just misguided self-pub cheerleaders, have been so successful at getting attention for this book. I really don’t want other self-pub authors to see O’Connell’s success and figure that’s the way to market a book effectively.

    As much as I didn’t like it, I think the book would’ve done just fine on its own without a bunch of ham-fisted shilling. It’s a shame, really, in more ways than one.

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  15. L.K. Rigel (likari)
    Jun 09, 2011 @ 15:03:25

    What is a shill, anyway, in this context? If you chat up a book you like, does that make you a shill?

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  16. Ridley
    Jun 09, 2011 @ 15:10:38

    @L.K. Rigel (likari):

    Honestly, lots of people on the Amazon forum chat up books they love, sometimes even those by “indie” authors, every day without being accused of shilling. This is the only book that’s triggered a backlash there.

    Here is the thread that started it all.

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  17. L.K. Rigel (likari)
    Jun 09, 2011 @ 15:13:58

    Well, as you said, it worked out nicely for the author. Letting people even know you have a book out – without being a nitwit about it – is a real challenge!

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  18. Robin/Janet
    Jun 09, 2011 @ 15:51:28

    @Ridley: I get where you’re coming from, Ridley, and totally agree with you in not wanting to see more spamming/shilling for books, self-pubbed or otherwise. Some of it is more subtle or hidden; some is not. I get daily emails from one marketing firm that I consider spam. I haven’t really made a big deal out of it, because I just don’t have the energy, but I’ll bet it annoys the hell out of some and results in a refusal to touch any book pimped by this firm on behalf of authors.

    I think as the publishing climate continues to be unsettled, we’re going to see more aggressive marketing, and I suspect there will be a substantial amount of reader backlash to some of it. Which, as you suggest, should be aired, because the whole point of marketing is to sell books, and if readers feel conned, they’re going to turn away, no matter how good the book might be.

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  19. Paige
    Jun 09, 2011 @ 17:17:04

    I’m not a writer just someone who likes to read.
    I discovered Eyes of Silver Eyes of Gold hanging out in the forums at AAR. I went to Smashwords and read a 50% preview of Eyes and loved it. I bought the ebook and loved it so much I bought it in paperback.
    When Sing My Name came out I bought it in ebook. I loved it so much (not as much as Eyes) that I bought it in paperback too.
    I’m not a writer just a reader and now a fan of Ellen O’Connell.
    After reading Eyes I emailed Ellen O’Connell several times and she ALWAYS emailed me back quickly and was very nice.
    I stopped by her website about a month ago and Ellen also has a short story that goes with Eyes titled Rachel’s Eyes. She lets her fans read this short story for free in PDF on her website.

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  20. Carolyn
    Jun 09, 2011 @ 18:42:36

    I too purchased this book based on Kristy J’s review. It was awhile before I read it, but when I did I enjoyed it very much.

    As I recall there were a couple of things that bothered me, but not enough to stop reading. I was not aware of any backstage wars going on, I don’t hang in the Amazon forums, but even if I were, I don’t think it would have made a difference. I pretty much trust Kristy J.

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  21. Lynn S.
    Jun 09, 2011 @ 21:50:12

    I keep vacillating on this book due to the violence and, with the additional points you’ve raised in this review, I’m still not sure. I suppose I could just shut up and download the sample.

    I do find the discussion of showing versus telling and bad writing/ overwriting of interest. Some writers are highly individual in their style. That doesn’t make the writing bad, merely different than the norm and therefore sometimes less comfortable to read. It’s a personal decision on the part of every reader as to whether they want to work past the initial discomfort. As to telling, I don’t have a problem with it in the right setting but would probably find it somewhat jarring in the context of a western romance. Overwriting is a harder dilemma. For me, it comes across as intrusive and can sink a book.

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  22. hrwriter
    Jun 09, 2011 @ 22:43:00

    @Ridley
    I just read that entire thread from the link you posted. Hilarious! Thanks for the laugh. Now I’m wondering how many threads total those people started about this book. Any idea?

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  23. Ridley
    Jun 09, 2011 @ 23:09:21

    @hrwriter: It had been one a month for a while, almost always with the same thread title – Eyes of Silver, Eyes of Gold by Ellen O’Connell – which was pretty unusual. At one point, Ellen herself waded in and washed her hands of it all, and we haven’t seen it since. We’ll never know what really went on, but it sure felt real squicky.

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  24. kiahzoe
    Jun 10, 2011 @ 12:27:53

    Like Paige I discovered this book through the discussion boards at AAR and loved it. I found it to be a deeply emotional book and really liked the hero and heroine. They come across as good, intelligent, realistic portrayals of people dealing with the issues in their lives both big and small. I too appreciated how O’Connell handled the racial elements inherent in Cord’s life. He is not a noble savage, he is a man who’d like to work his small ranch and train horses who falls in love with a woman who matches his honorable nature and brings true strength to the relationship.

    I agree with Janet/Robin about some of the problems with the book, but I’d rate it a B+. I liked it well enough to include it as a notable book within the genre for a panel I participated on at a recent library conference. Notable for the depth of emotion, the way in which the author handled Cord’s Native American background, and it’s western setting.

    @ridley – when I went back and read that Amazon thread you linked to what I saw was what looked like fans raving about the book and you coming in and accusing them of being shills. I don’t visit Amazon forums so I don’t have the history with them that you do, but if I had run across this discussion I might easily have joined in and talked about how much I liked the book.

    You lost me with a couple of things. One, you kept mentioning how frustrated you were that the “shills” were keeping the discussion going and thus it was staying on the front page of forum listings – but you were just as responsible for keeping it there every time you replied. Second, and the thing that made me actually angry was when you finally read half the book and said this:

    “It wasn’t terrible, the plot is admittedly compelling, but it was drowning in poor writing. I read the entire excerpt at Smashwords – 50% of the book – and it read like a 170 page summary. It was blandly and plainly told, not shown. There was confusing head hopping as well as an obvious build up to an external conflict and separation.

    Either the ravers are shills, or they wouldn’t know good writing if it sat on their face and farted.”

    So because you’ve deemed it bad writing anyone who likes the book is a shill? Not only that, we’re incapable of being as discerning as you and see that it’s bad writing?

    I guess I’ll be off to collect my earnings as a shill.

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  25. Courtney Milan
    Jun 10, 2011 @ 12:40:07

    I really enjoyed this book.

    I’m a writer. I guess I can see what you mean by some of the craft issues, but honestly, I enjoyed the story enough that it turned off the critical part of my brain and I just flat didn’t pay attention.

    I can’t say that about everything I read, not by any stretch.

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  26. Keishon
    Jun 10, 2011 @ 13:29:39

    Anyway, the point is that good storytelling trumps technically correct writing always.

    Yep.

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  27. Westernfan
    Jun 10, 2011 @ 14:20:49

    I love western romance and have read most of the works from the long-standing queens in this genre such as Linda Lael Miller so when I saw recommendations for new western author Ms.OConnell and her books on amazon I decided to give her and her novels a try.

    While I didn’t think they were the “bestest” books ever written I enjoyed them wholeheartedly and gave them four out of five stars on amazon. I think Ms.OConnell is a talented author who does a great job in telling a story to the extent that I look forward to reading more of her work.

    I never did engage in any of the controversial threads regarding this book on amazon but I did wonder why her book was met with such hostility from the same five or six posters. It seemed as if they had some sort of personal vendetta.I read several times that Ms.Oconnell had offended these posters on another thread regarding some comments she had made about another controversial book, (Stormfire, I think but I could be mistaken on the title) At first I thought that this was rather unlikely, but as time went on I began to see that anytime anyone recommended Eyes of Silver Eyes of Gold in any way, they would be immediately attacked by this same group of posters and accused of being a shill or part of a spam marketing campaign by Ms. OConnell. If anyone even recommended this book in a list of other books they would be attacked and accused of being part of some marketing ploy by the author using pretty much the same arguments I have now seen rephrased on this site by some of the same posters.

    I think most readers tend to write a review when they either love a book or can’t stand it. If you will take the time to read some of the reader reviews of Eyes of Silver Eyes of Gold on not only amazon but also All About Romance and Goodreads you will find that most people who have taken the time to write a review have enjoyed it.If I remember correctly I also saw this book recieved positive attention more than once by the site reviwers on All About Romance with one reviewer naming Ellen OConnell as one of her favorite new emerging western writers. I guess they must also be part of some intricate marketing technique by Ms. OConnell.

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  28. Elle
    Jun 10, 2011 @ 22:52:35

    I picked the e-book up today after I read this review. I don’t read a lot of Westerns but I liked the summary so I wanted to give it a go. I really enjoyed it! Thank you for the heads up on an author I’ve never heard before, I’ll definitely check out her other books.

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  29. Ridley
    Jun 10, 2011 @ 23:07:30

    I made my argument in an entirely public place. If you want to understand why we were uncomfortable with that book’s pimping, it’s all on the super open Amazon site.

    Brand new posters generally don’t start new threads raving about a single book. It felt really disingenuous.

    You’re not gonna change my mind. I get that people like it. Lots of people like books I think are written like shit. But, flawed books like that get B reviews and 4-star ratings and are recommended in theme request threads. They don’t get more dedicated threads than the latest In Death book does. Nor do they get solid 5-star ratings.

    When you’re a regular member of a community for a couple years, you notice patterns after a while. This book’s enthusiasts didn’t follow those patterns, and that arched our eyebrows.

    Like I said, no other book has caused this sort of backlash there. We don’t make a habit of screaming “shill!” and burning posters at the stake. I can’t think of any other time it’s happened. Ruth Ann Nordin is another self-published author who I believe does historical westerns who comes up a lot in a natural sort of way. No one’s ever raised an eyebrow at her books’ mentions.

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  30. Loreen
    Jun 11, 2011 @ 03:48:26

    I don’t understand the controversy here. A bunch of enthusiastic readers promoted this book? Are you suggesting that these readers are all actually the writer?
    What is a “shill?”

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  31. kiahzoe
    Jun 11, 2011 @ 11:33:27

    Ridley said “When you’re a regular member of a community for a couple years, you notice patterns after a while. This book’s enthusiasts didn’t follow those patterns, and that arched our eyebrows.”

    And my thought is so? I guess I still don’t get why you cared so much that you had to go into those threads and scream “shill”. Even if every single person on there posting about O’Connell’s book was a shill – so what? I don’t believe that they all are, because I’ve read enough reviews and posts about the book elsewhere to know that there are many like me who really enjoyed the book. But for the sake of argument let’s say every person raving about the book was doing so to help the author promo it. Then what? The forums crash and burn? No one can post about any other book?

    I’m on lots of email lists and forums and sometimes turn a side eye at posts that seem too coincidental and uniformly wonderful, but that’s it. Those posts don’t affect my participation in any way. So I guess I just don’t understand the apparent very personal beef you have with this book.

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  32. Ridley
    Jun 11, 2011 @ 11:37:37

    @kiahzoe:

    Well, I don’t like dishonest shitheads abusing a forum as free advertising. We’re hostile to spammers and the like in that forum because experience has shown us that giving them leniency gets us overrun with pushy sales people. YMMV.

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  33. Mary Beth
    Jun 11, 2011 @ 13:34:04

    @kiahzoe:

    I have read the amazon forums for a few years now. I used to love the historical fiction forum, however in the last couple of years it had become overwhelmed with authors plugging their books to the complete detriment to the posters. It really killed the forum because there became no place for discussion – it was a sales forum! Since amazon cracked down on author self promotion, this forum appears to be slowly coming back to life which makes me so happy.

    The romance forum has many loyal, well informed posters who, as a group, represent a huge font of knowledge and experience. It is a great forum to read. I think that the regular posters are very sensitive about maintaining the integrity of the forum.

    It does take time and patience to build up an online community where people feel free to discuss feelings and opinions about their reading. Frankly, I did feel that there was some over reaction about Eyes of Silver, Eyes of Gold. As I already stated, I liked this book a lot. It did make me uncomfortable to read that I was considered a possible shill, however I also understood where this seeming over protectiveness was coming from, so it did not effect my participation on the romance forum.

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  34. Jackie
    Jun 11, 2011 @ 18:51:44

    1) Janet, great review. And I’m so glad you new nothing of its controversy when you reviewed Eyes of Silver, Eyes of Gold.

    2) As an observer of the great Amazon Romance Forum meltdown of 2010 over Eyes of Silver, Eyes of Gold, the so-called shills’ behavior was kindergarten standard compared to the no holds barred, streetfighter tactics of the anti-shills.

    3) Ellen O’Connell’s first book, a cozy mystery, Rottweiler Rescue was released in February 2010, months before EoS,EoG. To date it has 42 5-star reviews and 13 4-star reviews at Amazon. She was never accused of promoting that book inappropriately on the Mystery Forum. The only accusations of shilling came from the Twilight Zone aka the Romance Forum.

    4) With reviews from respected sites like Dear Author, All About Romance and Red Adept, Ellen O’Connell’s books, have been rated highly enough to recognize she is a talented author. Perhaps it’s about time for the personal attacks against her to stop.

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  35. Ridley
    Jun 11, 2011 @ 19:12:18

    @Jackie:

    “Perhaps it’s about time for the personal attacks against her to stop.”

    Doubtful, since the existence of genuine fans does not preclude the existence of shills. And heaps of 5-star reviews on Amazon hardly count for anything. Stop by the Meet Our Authors forum sometime. It’s all about indie authors trading reviews and tags for each other. There’s a lot of shady stuff going one in self-pub land.

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  36. Sirius
    Jun 11, 2011 @ 19:46:15

    Okay, I caved in, I saw the controversy on amazon romance forum and was resisting for a long time, but now it is time to see for myself me thinks, am going to buy lol.

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  37. mirole
    Jun 11, 2011 @ 22:50:12

    @Ridley
    I think your post at 2:02 pm on June 9th is just irrational. Why would you begrudge an author good reviews? You know full well that Janet at least is not a “shill” (I had to look up the term at dictionary.com). Your premise is so illogical: even if you are right and lots of posters on amazon forums are shills (I don’t go there ever and didn’t even know such forums existed until your post), these posts can generate some buzz, they can make people READ the book but they cannot make people LIKE the book.

    YOSYOG was my first American historical (I started reading romance a year ago) and I am very far removed from the story culturally (I am Russian living in Canada). Yet I LOVED the book, gave it genuine 5 stars. I thought the style was quite simple but efficient, the story was great and it never dragged for me, I loved everything including all the horses’ stories (and I am not an outdoorsy person by any means and neither am I fond of animals, don’t own any pets even).

    I think the fact that one likes a book or or not is far more complicated to explain than just a matter of style or good story.

    If we take, for example, debut authors whose books got great buzz and that’s why I bought their books, I looooooved Passion by Lisa Valdez and loved Money Honey by Susan Sey but did not care a bit for much acclaimed (although not a debut novel) Libertine’s Kiss by Judith James, did not care at all for much acclaimed In for a Penny by Rose Lerner and hated Here Comes the Groom by Karina Bliss which was given an A review on this site I believe (it’s in my bottom 3 romance I’ve ever read).

    Books are like wine, every reader has a different palate – some like one taste and others like something altogether different. This doesn’t mean either group is at fault. Tastes differ, you know.
    And I think you are being very condescending accusing EO’C of bad writing and LOTS of readers of indiscriminate taste. My favourite authors are John Fowles and Iris Murdoch, Bill Bryson and Robert Massie for non-fiction.

    Also I wanted to add that although I don’t believe Ms. O’Connell employed any shillers, if she did, I am happy for the romance readers. Because after I read it, my first reaction was ‘It’s a great book, too bad it was self-published, I wish it could reach a bigger audience’.
    At least now I am happy to know that it did.

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  38. Taylor
    Jun 12, 2011 @ 07:09:56

    @Ridley
    Are you a published author or just someone who hangs out in the forums and the blogs? Do you have your own blog or website?

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  39. Robin/Janet
    Jun 12, 2011 @ 10:34:59

    @mirole: Although I did not mention it in the review, I really enjoyed the detail around the horses. It was obvious to me while reading the book that O’Connell had some knowledge/experience with horses, and when I later went to her website I saw that she is a long-time Morgan breeder.

    While Cord’s horse affinity might be a cultural stereotype, for me it worked in EOS,EOG, in large part because of the rich detail in the story and the love and respect both he and Anne obviously have for the horses.

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  40. KristieJ
    Jun 12, 2011 @ 12:09:51

    I find it very interesting that you compare this book to Broken Wing since I had the same reaction to both books. The subjective reader in me agrees that both could do with some tightening up and crisper editing, the objective reader in me is just feeling giddy at reading a book that touches me on such an emotional level.

    As for the discussions about this book at Amazon, I was totally unaware of them since I don’t read the boards there. Like Paige I heard about it at AAR and being known to be a fan of Westerns, combined with the price, it was a no brained for me :-)

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  41. Kimberly
    Jun 12, 2011 @ 13:29:04

    This is a very well-written review. I had seen this novel mentioned and reviewed several times on other sites. Based on the mostly positive comments I decided to read it and found it highly enjoyable. While I don’t feel it’s a perfect book and did have some flaws, it had a good story to tell and it kept me hooked until the conclusion. I liked the author’s writing style and bought her other western Sing My Name which I actually enjoyed more than Eyes of Silver Eyes of Gold.

    I don’t do a ton of posting on Amazon but I do like to check the boards for recommendations or discussions with some occasional posting on my part.

    More than once I saw people try to have a discussion or recommend this novel only to be met with instant hostility to the point where It was nothing short of cyberbulling by a small group of “regulars.” There are many books who have a thread started about them. The group of regulars never scream schill. It’s pretty obvious that this small group of regulars have got a personal grudge against Ellen O’Connell herself.

    Another poster on this site mentioned that O’Connell had offended some of these regulars which would give them a reason for the hostility. The regulars always defend their actions by insisting that any positive post or thread regarding Eyes of Silver Eyes of Gold has been written by a shill. Unless the regulars have ESP and omnipotent powers this is just plain ludicrous.

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  42. Has
    Jun 12, 2011 @ 20:29:24

    I picked this book up due to a thread at the All About Romance boards (was it due to the shillerettes?) Who knows and frankly I don’t think they came across as shillers, because that thread had an honest discussion about the book – most was favorable about the book. There was a few people who didn’t like it but isn’t that the case with most books that draw out a strong emotion?

    I enjoyed it – was a cute read. It wasn’t the best book, I ever read but I didn’t get the sense of the shilling that the amazon thread suggested. And if it was – I think a few people would be aware if it felt forced or not. And I have seen much much worse.

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  43. Jill Sorenson
    Jun 13, 2011 @ 09:06:31

    When everyone in blogland seems to love a book I thought had serious flaws, I just have to shrug and move on. Accusing other readers of shilling–unless you have more compelling evidence–is not the way to go. It suggests that you think everyone who disagrees with you is stupid or insincere.

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  44. Georgiana
    Jun 13, 2011 @ 15:06:09

    Just to put my point of view in context, I am a Kindle user who started reading the Amazon romance forum after the Eyes of Silver controversy had begun. I liked the book…didn’t love it…but I spoke up on one of the threads because I found the strident reaction of some of the forum participants interesting/amusing/offensive. Like many of the posters here, coming in to the situation “cold,” I thought the treatment of the author and the innocent posters like myself was unfair. During the course of the discussion, however, I came to see the matter in a slightly different way.

    First, as a new user of the forum, I was not tuned-in to the ways in which false information/recommendations could be presented. I read the discussions for honest recommendations and information. Accordingly, I don’t understand how posters here can argue that ‘shill’ posts don’t matter. They matter to me because I’m spending my money and my time and I don’t want to be tricked into buying a book. Perhaps the regulars at Amazon could have gone about it better but the warning about false praise for a book is a valuable one in any situation.

    More disturbing to me, however, was something about the author that came to light as a result of the thread. As someone above alluded to, Ellen O’Connell has shared some very offensive opinions about readers who enjoy “rape romance.” She stooped to rather ugly name calling. When she was called out for it on the thread I was participating in, she admitted that she had become involved in heated exchanges and written very harsh things. She continued that she stood behind her name calling but she was no longer naive enough to be honest about her opinions in the future. To me that was a very strange owning of her offensive judgmental opinions as well as her intention to be false about her views in future. I’m well aware that Ms. O’Connell is entitled to her opinion. I just wish I had known about it, and her criticism and condemnation of a large swath of romance readers, before I had purchased her books.

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  45. Ridley
    Jun 13, 2011 @ 18:50:26

    @Jill Sorenson:

    Oh good lord. Really? That’s just frigging insulting, Jill. Have you read a single thing I wrote?

    We didn’t think “shill” because we disagreed on the quality of the novel. Christ alive, there are whole swaths of books I think blow that everyone else raves about, and I’ve never thought much of it.

    We thought something was off when people were acting strangely with this book. A bunch brand-new posters came in and posted dedicated threads and raved specifically about this book in marketingese. That’s really unusual. Threads about a single title are rare and generally limited to old classics and huge blockbuster new releases, not rinky-dink self-published debuts in a niche market. Then there was how these threads were reliably bumped with some throwaway positive statement about the book after it drifted to page 2. Everything about that smelled funny. O’Connell’s shots at “the kind of woman” who reads Stormfire or other rape romance didn’t help her any, but it wasn’t a big factor in the pushback.

    Did genuine fans get swept up in the fury? Sure did. But, that doesn’t mean there weren’t sockpuppets/shills/self-pub cheerleaders at some point. It was dishonest and unnecessary. The book would’ve done fine on its own.

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  46. Shill Lil
    Jun 14, 2011 @ 03:44:48

    I looked at those patterns in them forums, and boy I can tell you there’s more to it than you think. Those patterns show that that Ellen O’Connell is one mean dude. She pulls the tails on puppies and kittens, and she’s mean to old ladies and babies. I can tell she’s mean to birds, snakes, and lizards too, but I don’t care about them. Oh, and them books of hers? There’s little kids starving in countries all over the world because of them books. I can tell she burned that Stormfire book too. The patterns say so. Isn’t that a crime or something? Didn’t some dude in Florida get in trouble for that kind of thing? That’s all I got to say, but it’s true because I said so.

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  47. Abbey
    Jun 14, 2011 @ 22:30:03

    I saw this book reviewed on All About Romance. When it was later nominated by one of the site reviewers as her personal picks in their annual Reader’s Poll for romance awards I went ahead and ordered a copy. I thought this was a wonderful story and I have recommended it to others who have told me that they also enjoyed .

    I read Ellen OConnell’s other western Sing My Name and found it just as enjoyable. I’m looking forward to reading more from her in the future.

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  48. Tilly
    Jun 15, 2011 @ 18:53:37

    It’s almost like there are certain people that are against successful independent writers/publishers who write a decent story and do it at an affordable price.

    The term shill comes to mind.

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  49. Daily Deals: Mysteries and western romances
    Jun 06, 2013 @ 14:01:34

    [...] reviewed Ellen O’Connell’s “Eyes of Silver, Eyes of Gold” and said that despite problems O’Connell was a [...]

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