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Our enduring love/hate relationship with linked books

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Some conversations in romancelandia never go away: accuracy and authenticity in historical romance, whether Jamie Fraser of Outlander is a great hero or the greatest, and whether series books are wonderful or maddening or both. Coincidentally, I was about to finish the last book of an eight-book series when I saw a column lamenting the lack of stand-alone books in romance. I was nodding my head in agreement when I suddenly stopped and thought, wait a minute. I’ve been reading series and linked books in the romance genre as long as I’ve been reading romance, and these include some that were written before I was born. Are there really more series books and less stand-alone novels? Is it that we notice series more because we talk about them as a community? Are they publicized more, by authors and publishers? Or is it just something we have mixed feelings about so the conversation never really goes away?

There are a number of ways books can be linked to each other in a series.

(1) They can feature the same characters over a number of novels, like Eve and Roarke in J.D. Robb’s In Death series, and the relationship develops over the installments. Among non-genre books, the development of Lord Peter Wimsey and Harriet Vane’s romance by Dorothy Sayers is one of my favorites.

(2) They can feature a shared world, with different main characters in each books; previous characters make quick or more extended appearances, the way strangers and friends do in real life. Meljean Brooks’ Guardian and Iron Seas series are contemporary examples of these; Mary Burchell’s Warrender Saga books and Angela Thirkell’s Barsetshire novels are blasts from the past.

(3) They can revolve around a family or set of friends, with each member of the group starring in his or her own book. They can be single-authored or multiple-authored. The Bridgertons, the Cynsters, the Mallorens, the Bedwyns and the Black Dagger Brotherhood come to mind immediately when I think family/friends series, and I don’t even read Laurens or Ward.

When I stop and think about it, romance is the only genre among the ones I read regularly where readers complain about too many series. The SFF and mystery genres are dominated by series, and the debate usually rages around issues of quality (Wheel of Time) or time between books (I know, George RR Martin is not my bitch), rather than whether they should exist at all. Characters can grow and change (Rebus, Dalziel, Spenser), or they can remain almost cartoonishly static (James Bond, Mickey Spillane, Nancy Drew, the Hardy Boys).

As a young and voracious reader, I absolutely loved series, even when they petered out in the later volumes (I’ve read the first five Anne of Green Gables books more than a dozen times, the last few rarely or never). I especially enjoyed following characters across books. And I like shared worlds most of all. The Warrender Saga is one of the best shared world series I’ve read, in any genre. I think that’s in large part because Mary Burchell was extremely knowledgeable about the classical music world, and her love for it shines through. Every book in the series isn’t outstanding, but they’re all worth reading and they don’t copy each other in plot and characterization (or at least no more than category romances do in general).

My other favorite shared world series is Angela Thirkell’s Barsetshire oeuvre. You might almost call it fan fiction. Thirkell took the English county that Anthony Trollope invented, created descendants of his Barsetshire and Parliamentary series characters, and made them entirely her own. She wrote a book a year from the early 1930s on, mixing in new characters with the old families, and she took them through the pre-World War II period, the postwar era, and into the early 1960s. Each book has at least one romantic storyline, and some have two or even three. Not all the books are great, and the later ones get both less interesting and more mean-spirited about changes in English society. But it’s a thoroughly immersive world as well as a valuable snapshot of a certain type of English County life. The 1930s and 1940s novels, in particular, are top-notch in both characterization and evocation of setting.

The family/friends category of linked books are not as appealing to me, and I don’t seem to be alone. These are the ones readers tend to complain about the most these days (Spies! No More Spies! Please!), but they aren’t a new phenomenon. Marion Chesney wrote The Six Sisters back in the 1980s. The patriarch is a hunting-made Squire rather than a Ducal Head of Family, but they’re structurally similar to the Bedwyns and the Mallorens.

While I have fond memories of the Chesney series, this type of series seems to be the most uneven in terms of individual installments. Balogh’s Slightly series had a couple of books that were keepers for me, but it also had the Disney Whores. All of Chesney’s Sisters weren’t equally interesting. And, of course, there’s the suspension of disbelief. Not only is the whole family or group of friends hero/heroine material, but they all find equally fabulous mates. It’s asking a lot of authors. And what about the times when the supporting character of one book takes a turn as a hero in the next, and in the process seems to undergo a personality transplant?

Finally, there are the dreaded open-ended series, which we find in all of the above categories. They can grow and grow, especially if  the early ones sell well. A previously well-defined family series can beget a second set of linked books (Balogh’s Slightly series was succeeded by the Simple quartet, with Bedwyns showing up yet again). Sometimes they have a fully developed and consistent world across the installments, like Jo Beverley’s Rogues, but at other times, no so much. The plots, characterizations, and themes all get recycled, and characters seem to exist primarily as sequel bait.

At this point a reader will throw up her hands, wish a pox on all series books, and read stand-alones to get the bad taste out of her mouth. But inevitably, she comes back when a new series with rave reviews comes along. I doubt series are going anywhere any time soon. They are catnip to publishers, because if readers like one book, they’re likely to buy the rest, and who is going to pass up the chance to sell to a captive audience?

But we can vote with our feet by telling publishers which types we prefer. For me, it’s shared worlds. How about you, readers? Which types do you gravitate towards, and which examples of linked books stand out for you as especially strong or weak?

Sunita has been reading romances since she ran out of Cherry Ames, Student Nurse and Chalet School books and graduated to Mary Stewart and Georgette Heyer. Other old favorites include Mary Burchell, Betty Neels, Elsie Lee, and Edith Layton. Among current writers, she reads and rereads Anne Stuart, Tamara Allen, Sarah Morgan, Marion Lennox, Josh Lanyon, and Susanna Kearsley. She blogs as VacuousMinx and tweets as @sunita_p.

123 Comments

  1. Jayne
    Jan 31, 2012 @ 04:33:26

    I like what Jo Beverley has been doing lately with the world of the Mallorens. I think she does it with the Rogues as well. The same time period is utilized and a teensy few of the previous characters make minor appearances or are mentioned briefly – as one would expect in the relatively closed world of the ton – but the latest Malloren books haven’t been stairstep sequels.

  2. ShellBell
    Jan 31, 2012 @ 04:38:29

    I thoroughly enjoyed the first seven books in Stephanie Laurens’ Cynster series, enjoyed books 8, 9 and 10 and was mildly indifferent to the remaining books in the series. Whilst books 10 onwards were still an OK read, I found them to be repetitive and would have been just as happy for the series to finish after On A Wicked Dawn.

    I’ve always considered Fantasy Lover to be the first book of Sherrilyn Kenyon’s Dark Hunter series. I enjoyed reading it and it was enough to get me hooked on the series but it is the one book in the series that I have never reread.

    I love Nalini Singh’s Psy/Changling books as well as her Guild Hunter stories and I can’t imagine not enjoying any new release.

    Another series I love is Christine Feehan’s Carpathian books. While there have been some hit and miss stories I have never given up on new releases. Unlike the Dark Hunters and the Cynsters I still eagerly await each new Carpathian release. Similarly, I love CF’s Ghostwalker series, but am less keen on her Drake Sisters/Sisters of the Heart books. Murder Game is my absolute favourite Ghostwalker story, while Dark Fire, Dark Magic, Dark Demon and Dark Possession are my favourite Carpathian stories – a mix of old and recent releases.

    I enjoy all kinds of series/linked books. Sometimes it is a favourite author that keeps me going even if they start writing a different genre. I definitely stop when I’ve had enough such as JR Ward’s BDB series, while I could never get into her Fallen Angel books.

  3. SAO
    Jan 31, 2012 @ 04:42:17

    I dislike series with a plotline that doesn’t get resolved at the end of the book, like many of Nora’s trilogies. Either the overarching plotline is too trivial to care about and an intrusion or it’s significant and I’m annoyed that it isn’t resolved.

    I’ve noticed formerly stand-alone novels with a few shared characters get labelled series. Hide by Lisa Gardner is now part of the DD Warren series, although DD Warren is a not a major character in the book. She has a book as part of another series, where the series stars again have walk-on roles. I have no complaints, since I like Gardner’s writing, but am less than keen on her series stars and like the other characters better. So maybe some of it is more marketing as series.

    While detective series where the personal life of the detective isn’t a major part of the story can go on forever. (I’m still happily reading Grafton), where the protag has a bigger part of the story, I find the author usually runs out of twists to add to the private life of the character. By now, we know Stephanie’s not going to ditch Morelli for Ranger, marry Morelli, or grow up, so hinting at it is tedious. Every time Eve and Roarke have some big marital crisis, I roll my eyes and think, yeah, right.

    I don’t like series because I think often when they are pitched, book #1 has a great plot, but often some of the other books are weaker. Some of it maybe that as you write, you may decide to strengthen the book, to add a twist or some history to a char, and if they’ve already appeared in another book, license to play is limited.

  4. Kaetrin
    Jan 31, 2012 @ 04:45:16

    I like series books, generally speaking, but, the ones I find a little problematic are where there are 3 sisters/friends and 3 brothers/friends identified right at the start and they’re all paired up over 3 books. It doesn’t bother me all the time. I really liked Jill Shalvis’ Lucky Harbor trilogy for example, but I noticed tn NR’s Bride Quartet a certain jadedness to my reading because there was no surprise about getting to know the characters and who would end up with who etc by the third book.

    I don’t think I’m articulating this very well. It’s something about it being so unrealistic that 3 guys who are friends/relatives each finding their perfect someone in another group of 3 girls/relatives. It’s just too neat. I can totally accept their all being friends after they hook up, but before? Maybe it’s a throw back to my teen years where I’d somehow end up being paired with my best friend’s boyfriend’s best friend – and that NEVER ended well!! Maybe I worry that the last boy and girl get together out of some kind of weird peer pressure and not any real chemistry?

  5. Mikaela
    Jan 31, 2012 @ 04:50:52

    This. All of it.
    My limit for a series is 7-9 books. If a series is longer my interest wanes. A lot. Mainly since I tell myself: Re-read the other books first. Which in turn leads to a delayed sale.

  6. Jane Lovering
    Jan 31, 2012 @ 05:22:58

    I have issues with (particularly occurring in NR’s books) those series where one of the featured ‘heroes to be’ is portrayed as different, a bad boy, a bit antisocial (I’m thinking of the vampire in the Morrigan’s Cross books, the younger brother in the Flower trilogy (apologies if I’ve got the names of the series wrong, at work and don’t have the books to hand)) and then he turns into just another clone of the perfect men that went before. In the Flower books, IIRC the youngest boy was a bit awkward, almost autistic in his aloneness and fixation on his plants, but when his book came around he was just another cookie-cutter party boy.
    If an author is going to write series, then I feel they should at least try to make all the characters have unique personalities. Otherwise it’s just one book in different covers, isn’t it?

  7. Sami Lee
    Jan 31, 2012 @ 05:29:59

    Other than the Grafton books, which SAO mentioned, I rarely read series books at all. I have commitment issues.

  8. Rosie
    Jan 31, 2012 @ 06:03:26

    I much prefer series where the individual books can be read as standalones. I do not want to feel pressured to read every sister, brother, cousin, best friend’s book if I don’t want to. When there’s a recurring thread through the series — where the mystery begins in book 1 and you have to read til book 8 to find out who dun it — UGH. I see those kinds of series as commitments … like the author is saying, you can’t buy just one of my books, you must read them all or risk being super confused!!! And I’m really not a fan of series where we have to read multiple books before the hero and heroine finally get a HEA.
    Not that I never read those types of series, but I consider it refreshing when there’s a series where I can pick and choose which books to read. Because what if book 3 has the dreaded Secret Baby trope? I’m gonna avoid that sucker like the plague, I can promise you that! lol
    And on the subject of linked books … My pet peeve in RomanceLand is when I see authors asked if a very minor character who was present in one scene of one book is ever gonna get his/her own book. I feel like I’m rolling my eyes along with the author. Not every character mentioned within a series needs to be a future hero or heroine! I just needed to say that. :)

  9. Marianne McA
    Jan 31, 2012 @ 06:15:59

    I’ve always liked series. The longest I have followed would be in the shared world category, but outside of romance – Terry Pratchett with 40ish Discworld books – though the Chalet School books I read as a child may have been more numerous than even the Discworld series. (She said in her silvery voice.) And I agree with you about the ‘Anne’ books, but I did reread Rilla of Ingleside too many times to count. That poor dog…
    I did, however, give up J. D. Robb after the first dozen, and Stephanie Plum about 11 books in, so I’ve somewhat limited patience with series that follow the same characters. I think it’s for the same reason that I don’t really watch soaps – I like to eventually reach a permanent resolution for the characters, rather than forever follow their ongoing adventures.

    I’d be really grateful for an Angela Thirkell rec. – I googled her a bit, and liked the sound of Pomfret Towers, but the cheapest copy is £12 and I’d rather try her at a more affordable price. Are there any of her books you would recommend as a good place to start?

  10. Brie
    Jan 31, 2012 @ 07:10:48

    “When I stop and think about it, romance is the only genre among the ones I read regularly where readers complain about too many series.”

    I think one of the reasons for that is because romance means a beginning, a middle and, most importantly, an end. As readers we want to know that the couple will get their happily ever after and that’s why I personally prefer series where there’s a shared world but each book has a different couple. When I read books with a recurrent couple I always get nervous about their future or just plain annoyed. If that couple takes forever to be together then the unresolved sexual tension gets on my nerves (I used to be a fan of The X-Files so I’ve had enough unresolved tension to last me a lifetime). However, when there’s just a shared universe I may get anxious to read a particular character’s book (*cough* Kaleb Krychek *cough*), but if the overall plot remains solid I don’t mind about the neverending series.

  11. DS
    Jan 31, 2012 @ 07:23:23

    I have read and reread the Lymond/Niccolo series by Dorothy Dunnett and the Barsetshire books and however many Thieves World anthologies there were. I have the newest C. J. Cherryh Foreigner book on preorder. But I knew what they were going into the books. Cynthia Harrod-Eagles’ police procedural books are up to 14 or 15 and sometimes I find the angst of the private lives of her police characters to be tiring, but the mystery makes up for it. The main focus in these books is almost always on something else.

    If I’m reading a romance and I start having sequel bait shoved in my face I immediately go and read A Regency Romance in 2 Minutes as a palet cleanser. I hate characters who appear only to pimp their own story even if they perform some minor function in the current story.

  12. Cris
    Jan 31, 2012 @ 07:36:12

    I love series/linked books. From Jude Devereaux’s Montgomery saga when I was a teenager to Barry Eisler’s Rain series. But I agree that I prefer for them to stand alone and just be loosely linked instead of having to wait for the 5th book to find out what is happening (*cough* Fever *cough*).

  13. jmc
    Jan 31, 2012 @ 07:40:28

    Generally speaking, I lose interest in a series after book five or six. Robb’s In Death series and Brockmann’s Troubleshooters series are the only exceptions I can think of. Even so, I gave up on Brockmann a few books ago for a variety of reasons; Eve & Roarke are seeming a little stale as well. I chalk it up to a limited attention span and free time, along with a vast number of new/different books to be read.

    Marion Chesney wrote The Six Sisters back in the 1980s. The patriarch is a hunting-made Squire rather than a Ducal Head of Family, but they’re structurally similar to the Bedwyns and the Mallorens.

    I loved that series when I was a teenager! Found it at the library by accident, glommed it, and it was the benchmark for my Regency-type reading for years. (Until I re-read the series and found that it did not live up to my memory of it.)

  14. Merrian
    Jan 31, 2012 @ 07:42:27

    I think sub-genre matters e.g. in UF there has to be a strong story arc over the several books of the series to follow. This arc matters as much as the prime couple and sequel couples’ stories because it is the arc that holds the series together.

    For me, this is where the romance series that depend on the sequel bait characters don’t work so well. The primary couple has the focus taken off them to introduce the new couple and because the fan base was engaged by the first couple’s story each that follows is aimed to be similar and so I wonder why I am reading.

  15. Joy
    Jan 31, 2012 @ 07:42:32

    I don’t mind series if they’re done well or seamlessly. I confess I’m not overly fond of waiting a year or, say, 10, to resolve a cliffhanger ending, though.

    One of the worst things to find in a linked books series is what I call Series-Related Infodump Syndrome (SRIS), in which characters/plotlines from previous books are (awkwardly) introduced for no other reason than they were in previous books along with a huge chunk of info completely unrelated to the current plot. (like, while the heroine is making cookies, a neighbor child drops by, you spend several pages reading all about how she was kidnapped by her mother’s psychostalker until her current stepfather tracked him down…and then you never see that child again in the story!).

  16. Las
    Jan 31, 2012 @ 07:51:59

    My problem with series in Romance is that most of them are not really what I think of as series. Nalini Singh’s Psy/Changeling is what I consider a real series…there’s an actual overarching plot throughout, and while each book has it’s own story, you can tell there’s an actual plan for the series as a whole. Most other series are of the, “Hey, this family/group of friends is really popular. Let me slap the label on every book as an easy way to generate interest!” variety. If there’s no real point to link books, why do it? It’s just lazy. Jo Beverley has become unreadable for me for this very reason…I won’t read anything she writes anymore until she kills off Rothgar.

    What I especially hate is the group of friends that give themselves a name, like one I came across recently about a group calling themselves The Younger Sons Club or something. I won’t touch those no matter how great the buzz.

    It’s ev

  17. jayhjay
    Jan 31, 2012 @ 07:58:10

    I actually enjoy series up to a point. I like the shared world and not needing to learn new things each time you start (especially for sci fi, fantasy etc where there tends to be a lot of world building). And I love revisiting old characters and seeing them again happy and in love.

    My two problems are 1) waiting for the next book in the series, and 2) when the series goes on into too many books. I tend to wait until at least a few books in a series out before I jump in b/c I know I am always anxious for the next book. In fact, I sometimes wait for all of them before starting. Sometimes I will read a book that starts a series before the rest are written, but I am not a patient waiter!

    I also go a bit crazy when the series never ends, b/c I know I will want to read them all once I start (whether they are good or not!). I recently got recommended a book that is part of a series of 20! I don’t care how good they are, I can’t commit to a series that is that long.

  18. Jennifer Leeland
    Jan 31, 2012 @ 08:00:30

    I love series books.
    I think the person who brilliantly added people in the same set and yet, allowed characters to evolve and grow is Ngiao Marsh. She introduces characters that I see many times throughout her many many books. And she manages to show how her main characters change and grow over the course of time. That takes talent.
    One series I think does this less successfully is Elizabeth Peter’s “Amelia Peabody” series. I was on book 19 (Yes, yes I was) and realized Amelia hadn’t changed much. The series depicted decades of time, yet Amelia seemed the same and the plot seemed too similar to the other books. Yet, she held my attention and my earned my hard earned money for 19 books so…..
    And then there’s Dune.
    Three books depicting the rise and collapse of a messianic figure followed by a fourth book that opens thousands of years later. Thousands! And Herbert managed to convey the same mood, the same rich descriptive world and yet hammer home the massive changes and upheavals that led to new worlds and new stories.
    I loved Herbert’s world so much I took a chance on his son’s version of that world.
    Series books I read and reread? Joey W. Hill’s “Vampire Queen” and “Nature of Desires” series. Morgan Hawke’s “Interstellar Service And Discipline”, Kate Pearce’s “Simply” series and Terry Brook’s “Shannara” series.
    For me, it’s the characters that keep me reading.

  19. Shiloh Walker
    Jan 31, 2012 @ 08:04:52

    With the exception of Nora Roberts/JD Robb, Nalini Singh, and Lynn Viehl, not too many romance writers can keep me reading a long-running series. I do like the IAD books by Kresley Cole, though-they change up enough to stay interesting. I guess that’s what I need. Oh, and Jeaniene Frost…I love her Night Huntress books, but I think she has an end in mind with hers.

    I love series books, but too many of them get stale after a while. That’s the problem for me.

  20. Christine
    Jan 31, 2012 @ 08:34:38

    I like series in general and enjoy books where the protagonists have some connection to the previous ones unless it is just so far fetched to be unbelievable. I do want a resolution or some sort of a happy ending for the main couple at some point or I just feel like I’m being used and abused by the author. Despite having read Outlander when it was first published (and before the build up) I could not make it past the first few books. After that it just felt masochistic- how much abuse and suffering can Jamie and Claire take? What hasn’t happened to them and their family yet? I find it exhausting and depressing and yet so many people still love it, so to each his own. I gave up on the Stephanie Plum books after a few because nothing ever changes in them. Stephanie never grows or matures and it seems like there will never be a choice made between the male leads only because it will end the revenue stream. Compare it with the “In Death” series where there is no doubt who Eve ends (ended) up with yet Robb/Roberts has kept it vital for how many books now?

  21. Ashirah
    Jan 31, 2012 @ 08:49:42

    Can’t believe no one has mentioned the Vorkosigan saga yet! I always bring that up as an example of a series that is executed masterfully. Each book is engaging, an four or five books in, she completely changes the context for the main character. And again, in the most recent book, major changes. But Miles always remains true to himself, and so what is enjoyable about te books is repeated without it getting stale. Add a few very sweet romance sub (or in some books main) plots, and it’s perfect!

  22. Sunita
    Jan 31, 2012 @ 08:59:58

    What great points about the arc of a series. That really does make or break them a lot of times. It’s not exactly the shared world aspect, but more the plot within the world. And in mysteries, character development for the main character or pair (I’m thinking Dalziel and Pascoe here) is almost a subsidiary plot in itself.

    @Marianne McA: I also read the Chalet School books voraciously as a child, so nice to find a fellow fan! As for Thirkell, Pomfret Towers is wonderful but that is way too much money. Keep an eye out in charity shops, though, there are a couple of different mass market runs over the years. Come to think of it, though, that one doesn’t come up often.

    Almost all of the books written before about 1953 are worth reading; there are three or four groupings of main characters and you can read blurbs and see which sound the most appealing. After that she is into the 2nd generation and the novels get more uneven. Some are pretty good, some are pretty tedious.

  23. Shannon
    Jan 31, 2012 @ 09:01:16

    If you’ve never read Te last book in the Anne series, I highly recommend it. It’s one of my favorites of LMM. Anne’s youngest daughter Rilla is a great heroine an the WWI stuff from a Canadian POV is fascinating. LMM was really into thinking of it as the Great War to make the world safe once and for all. The first time I read it, I remember paging feverishly to the author bio to see if she’d lived to see WWII start. She did.

  24. courtship
    Jan 31, 2012 @ 09:02:26

    I think six books is my limit on a series. I loved the Slightly series, and the Wallflowers that ended at four. Someone told me Sherrilyn Kenyon has a series that’s up to 20 or 21 books. Never. Can’t fathom it. Don’t people get bored?

    I am surprised to learn that series irritate romance readers because both publishers I worked for encouraged their authors to write series, touting better sales. Standalone books are definitely not the ideal to publishers…maybe that’s why people don’t write more of them?

    I too prefer the “shared world” type where each book stands on its own as a complete story, but we also get to catch a glimpse of characters and locales we might have seen before. I actually find that very fun.

  25. Shannon
    Jan 31, 2012 @ 09:02:31

    If you’ve never read the last book in the Anne series, I highly recommend it. It’s one of my favorites of LMM. Anne’s youngest daughter Rilla is a great heroine and the WWI stuff from a Canadian POV is fascinating. LMM was really into thinking of it as the Great War to make the world safe once and for all. The first time I read it, I remember paging feverishly to the author bio to see if she’d lived to see WWII start. She did.

  26. sula
    Jan 31, 2012 @ 09:05:10

    I think I generally prefer series that are set within the same world but aren’t necessarily focused on the same family or couple. I think Kresley Cole’s IAD series is an example of how to do a series right. I’m always entertained and never feel that if I missed one of the previous books or read out of order, that I’m completely confused.

    That said, I adore Jeaniene Frost’s Night Huntress novels and they definitely revolve around the same couple. I think the relationship between Cat and Bones has developed and grown organically and in a way that seems natural. Which makes spending time with them all the more satisfying, imo.

  27. Sunita
    Jan 31, 2012 @ 09:08:17

    @jmc: That was exactly my experience. When I reread recently, I still liked Minerva and Diana, but the rest were kind of meh. What a shock.

    Also, the historical errors were more numerous than I remembered. But I still like Chesney; her Regencies were so different than later trads and historicals. Moldering castles in Scotland! Non-virgins!

    @Ashirah: *headdesk* Yes, Miles should be at the top of any list I make. Thanks!

  28. Julia Broadbooks
    Jan 31, 2012 @ 09:10:12

    @Joy: SRIS is the worst! I skim the sequel baiting without feeling disgruntled, but if I want to know about the psychotic kidnapper, I’ll go back read earlier in the series. If all that info is spewed onto the page and doesn’t further the plot in the book I’m actually reading, I end up confused.

  29. Sunita
    Jan 31, 2012 @ 09:11:11

    Thanks for all the recommendations for Rilla of Ingleside. I am ashamed to say I haven’t read it. For whatever reason, Anne of Ingleside didn’t work that well for me and I skimmed after that and never went to the end. But I have a feeling I’d have a different reaction this time.

    Am I the only Anne reader who uses the term “kindred spirit” in normal conversation? I can’t be, right?

  30. Jen
    Jan 31, 2012 @ 09:20:46

    I love series, and love discovering them later when I can burn through a bunch of books at once without waiting on resolutions to pesky cliffhangers….

    But when authors run out of ideas, and they’re still pumping out books just for the money, that’s annoying (especially when the fonts get bigger–– that 14-pt font isn’t fooling anyone…

  31. Dabney Grinnan
    Jan 31, 2012 @ 09:32:00

    I have remained engrossed in Julie Anne Long’s Pennyroyal Green series. I think she’s done a great job, with the exception of her most recent book, in propelling along the plot lines around the two families, the Everseas and the Redmonds.

    My favorite series of all time would be His Dark Materials by Philip Pullman. I still long to know more about Will and Lyra.

  32. Nicole
    Jan 31, 2012 @ 09:36:33

    I recall first reading the Anne series in chronological order and I was very disappointed with Anne of Windy Poplars and Anne of Ingleside. The first did not have enough Gilbert and the second focused on her kids too much and when it did focus on Anne, she was a self-doubting adult that did not seem like the same person as the earlier books (even Anne’s House of Dreams, where she was married). I soon learned that these last two novels were written a good 15 years after Rilla of Ingleside and were mostly done to please LMM’s publisher. This gap explains the different Anne, especially in Anne of Ingleside and knowing that LMM was suffering from depression toward the end of her life, I can’t help but think some of that seeped into that last view of Anne. It was almost as if once Anne because a middle aged mother, she was not as interesting any more, and frankly I found that to be a little scary as a teenager reading and seeing how Anne’s children were now more interesting to focus on than grown up Anne.

    Anyway, I think Rilla of Ingleside, written in 1921, is one of the best novels regarding WW1 in Canada and those who did not go to war. It does not get the credit it should because of its association to the Anne series, which itself is viewed as a “children’s series”.

  33. JacquiC
    Jan 31, 2012 @ 09:37:40

    I like both series and standalones. One thing about series, though, is that I can’t read them all at once with no break in between books. After about two books, I start to get ansty and need something else to read to switch gears. So I’ve read the first (or the first few) books of lots of series. When I come back to the next book, I do need some way to find my way back into the world since I’ve usually been away long enough and read enough other stuff in between that I can’t quite remember what’s been happening. So I don’t actually mind the chunks of ‘infodump’ stuff that recaps stuff in previous books. Alternatively, I will just go back to the prior book and skim briefly to remind myself of what is going on.

    Also, I find sometimes that I need something simpler. A plot and a world that spans many books can be hard work. Which is why I also love category romances, or other simple, stand-alone books that I can read as a kind of palate-cleanser when I’m getting in the mood for the next book in a complicated series.

  34. RLJ
    Jan 31, 2012 @ 09:38:53

    I don’t mind series, at least some of them, but I will walk away if there isn’t progression. I walked away from the Plum books because I couldn’t take the lack of resolution.

    I heard someone once complain about the J.D. Robb books on the slowness of the arc of Eve, but I think that can be a bit of a time scale problem. The time span of the books is less than 5 years so far, but the books have been coming out for over 15 years. I know I only started reading them a couple years ago and did a big time glom and liked Eve’s arc. But I didn’t think she had matured 15 years, less than 5 makes sense from where she has come from to where she is now. (Roarke smokes a lot less now than at the beginning of the series as society’s views of smoking have changed.)

    What I do love is characters from previous books popping up – especially unexpectedly and in a way that makes sense. One of my favourite moments in one of the early Plum books is when Grandma Mazur got a gun and it was a “gift from her book Elise.” I thought that was fantastic since Elise had been a recurring character in the early category romance books and made for a nice Easter Eggs for the fans that had crossed over with the author. For those who didn’t know who Elise was it shouldn’t have been too distracting.

    Another time I enjoyed a character(s) showing up from a previous book is in Jennifer Crusies’ What the Lady Wants – Nick and Tess (from Perfect Bedpersons) show up. They have a reason to being there, there is a back story and they provide information that helps solve the mystery. Also the characters were still themselves. The author could have had a new lawyer character provide some of the same information, but why not use a lawyer that faithful readers already know lives in the same town.

  35. Nikki
    Jan 31, 2012 @ 09:42:12

    I read a lot of science fiction and fantasy where there are often multi-book epics. ex. Michelle West with the Hunter Duology, Sun Sword cycle, House War series, several short stories, and I am still waiting on the End of Days (I pray for her good health daily). The trick I think for a good series is that the author needs to have it planned from the beginning. It cannot just be, I am writing this book and if it gets popular I will write about everyone who gets a mention (looking at you Stephanie Laurens). You definitely get the feeling along the way that the authors themselves are getting bored.

    The difference with Nalini Singh and Meljean Brook is that it seems like they have a beginning, middle and end. The plot points inserted at the beginning come together later on. And each book adds. The writing admittedly varies and my interest in certain characters is not consistent, but having even a basic sketched out idea of what happens along the way definitely improves the story as a whole.

    The true problem with a series is when you get involved and the author does not write a sequel. And then I get mad but since I am easy, I hold out hope for the possibility of an end as long as the author is still alive. Sometimes I get what I want. This year Wen Spencer has another Tinker series book (after 6 years) and David Weber has a Bazhell book after much longer.

  36. Karenmc
    Jan 31, 2012 @ 09:48:05

    I agree with Jayne about Jo Beverley’s Malloren books, and most of the Rogues books as well. And Julia Anne Long’s Pennyroyal Green books have been mostly hits with me. Just yesterday she was asking on FB for opinions on characters for a Pennyroyal novella, and several of us were all over a follow-up for Colin and Madeline from the first book.

    Someone earlier mentioned Sue Grafton’s books. I LOVED the first 6-8 books, but eventually Kinsey’s lack of growth made me lose interest.

  37. Gwen Hayes
    Jan 31, 2012 @ 09:51:18

    I can deal with standalone series books, but have a hard time staying with one character. I’ve been know to hunt for spoilers so I know how the story continues, but I don’t want to read more than one or two.

    I also do not enjoy writing the same characters in more than one book. And there is a certain pressure from publishing to write that way, especially in YA, because that is what sells.

  38. Rebecca (Another One)
    Jan 31, 2012 @ 09:52:14

    I think I prefer my series in mystery novels with romantic elements. Each book has an arc of who-done-it, but the relationship arcs over a series of books, and can therefore spend more time exploring it. Like the Dorothy Sayer’s books, also Charlotte MacLeod’s Kellings-Bittersohn series, and Donna Andrews’ “Meg” books.

  39. Asia M
    Jan 31, 2012 @ 09:52:16

    Yes, it does seem to me like there’s been more series around lately… I mean, I never hear of an upcoming romance novel that’s not part of a series anymore. Sure, series have always existed, but they didn’t seem to take up the whole space as much as they now do.

    I regularly check a website that has a list of most romance authors and their backlist, and I have also noticed a pattern: only (or very nearly so) writers who’ve been publishing for a long time have stand-alone novels in their list, and they’re all part of their early career. In other words, they don’t write them anymore. If this post was inspired by Roxanne St-Claire’s blog, then you may also note that she speaks from her own experience (she *used to* write stand-alone romances, doesn’t anymore), and knows that she is not alone in that situation.

    Romance series usually don’t bother me (as opposed to fantasy series, for example) because each novel is its own story, and I don’t feel forced to read all the books in a series. Now, Jane Lovering and Joy brought up very good points about why some series don’t work or end up disappointing!

  40. Laura
    Jan 31, 2012 @ 09:53:08

    I have to echo the praise for Dorothy Sayers. Busman’s Honeymoon is one of my favorite non-romance romances. I’ve reread it more times than I care to count, and I always find it satisfying.

    I also agree wholeheartedly with the comment above about romance being about having that beginning, middle, and end. If the HEA doesn’t come until 8 books (or never–I’m looking at you, Janet Evanovich), I tend to lose interest. Dorothy Sayers is one of my (very few) exceptions to this rule for me. This is probably because the books have conflict (a mystery) that is compelling in its own right. When the conflict is only “I love you but you don’t love me oh wait you do I just didn’t know because communication is silly,” I have very little patience for dragging things out.

    Therefore, I generally prefer the shared world kind of series best because I still get my satisfying beginning, middle, and end, but I also get to spend some time with a group of people or in a setting I like. However, this is no guarantee of quality–these books can all too often turn into cookie cutter plots, just as the Incredibly Lucky Family/Friends series can. “We’ve been spinsters forever! But all 12 of us were happily married in the span of one year. Yippee!” *snort* If it’s in the water, then I want some.

    Exception: I adore Kleypas’ Wallflowers and Hathaways, and they even overlap. I think the key to this is creating really fun characters that you look forward to reading about, and building some kind of frame/explanation for why all these people are suddenly getting hitched. I loved Beatrix Hathaway and couldn’t wait to read her story. In the Wallflowers, the ladies banded together to try to get married out of desperation, so the series makes sense in itself. In the Hathaways, they’re new to society (Surprise inheritance! Where can I get one?), so I can more easily believe that they’re all looking for spouses in a short period of time.

  41. Keishon
    Jan 31, 2012 @ 09:54:18

    I have a love/hate relationship with series/linked books. I don’t mind them but I have issues when they become mainstream and when they go on for so long. Case in point of a series that went mainstream and lost direction: Janet Evanovich Stephanie Plum series. Started off great as mysteries with some LOL humor (realize not everybody likes her humor). Laurell K. Hamilton Anita Blake series, the first eight were great but then she decided she wanted to write pron.

    Examples of consistency for me in writing and character development: I’d say Julia Spencer Flemings series featuring an Episcopal priest/army veteran or Patricia Briggs Mercy Thompson series. Even Colin Cotterill’s Dr. Siri series set in 1970′s Laos. I’ve read all seven of his books and all were well written stories. It’s not easy writing series books while trying to avoid predictability and stagnancy but there are some who seem to do just fine avoiding those weaknesses to some degree while still striving to be entertaining. Also a series going past six books is really pushing it to me unless the author is super talented and knows what he/she is doing.

  42. Maggie
    Jan 31, 2012 @ 10:00:53

    I took a long break from reading romance in between my teens (when I read them voraciously) and just recently, in my early thirties, when I came back to them. It seems to me that series romances were not that popular when I was growing up (early 90s) as they are now. So, on the one hand, I have found a number of series that are “done” for all intents and purposes, written over the last 10 years or so and completed, and those newer ones that I am still in the midst of. And both have been a wonderful re-introduction to the genre.

    I agree with Sunita, and prefer the “shared worlds” series, but I guess I define “shared worlds” a little broader. For example, though not normally a paranormal fan, Kresley Cole’s IAD installments are auto-buys for me – not even Lothaire, which I did not like, dampened my enthusiasm. On the other hand, Lorelei James Rough Riders are also auto-buys, and I guess I would stretch the definition of “shared worlds” to a prolific Wyoming ranching family. Heck, I’ve never been to Wyoming, it could be a ‘nother world, for all I know…they do speak a slightly different version of the English language where “g”s following “i-n”s have become extinct :)

    My only complaint, if you can call it that, is that the series romance can result in authors “calling it in” so to speak, because if you have a world that people that have fallen in love sometimes the author is assured continued sales even one when one installment just plain sucks.

  43. Tina
    Jan 31, 2012 @ 10:13:51

    Here’s what I think works well for me:

    1) Mystery series. Mysteries are tailor made for series because each book has to have a beginning, middle and end. Something happens and our hero/heroine/ensemble cast solve it by the end. So you have a nicely contained story. The author has the luxury of expanding his or her characters over time so that while the individual books each have closure, you get to live with and enjoy a familiar cast of characters over time. This is why I am not yet tired of the JD Robb books, or why I was able to enjoy Ed McBain’s 87th precinct series, any number of cozy mystery series, or the Sam Vimes books in Pratchett’s Discworld.. They only stop working when the the reader gets the feeling that the author has run out of ideas or is simply phoning it in to get a paycheck.

    2) SFF or Fantasy multi-book arcs. In reality these are just one long narrative told over multi books. You have to read all the books to get the full beginning, middle, end of the story. This only stops working when the story goes on for eleventy-twelve books and you get tired an wonder where the end it already? In my opinion, the best length for a multi-arc is a trilogy. Raymond Feist and Janny Wirt’s Empire series is a great trilogy. Elizabeth Moon’s (I know her name is probably mud on this blog, LOL) Deed of Paksennarion trilogy.

    3) Romance/PNR novels that fit somewhere in one, both or the middle of the two descriptions above. Nalini Sigh’s Psy/Changeling series. Karen Marie Moning’s Fever series, Illona Andrews’ Kate Daniel’s series. etc.

  44. Sirius
    Jan 31, 2012 @ 10:20:25

    Hmm, interesting essay Sunita. It got me thinking. I was never a huge fan of series with the same characters – no patience, hate cliffhangers, etc, etc, etc, but of course I had been reading some now and read some in the past. I like how you classified them and as I said as a rule the series with the same characters are my least favorites, always had been, but there are exceptions to everything – Harry Dresden series have me hooked. Ilona Andrews’ Kate Daniels series are amazing, as far as I am concerned, wierdly I like her On the edge series less, even though those are of the type I would prefer as a rule. Oh my god I love Kate Daniels and it has romance which I would have eaten with the spoon if I had seen more of that kind.
    Of course when I was younger I had read classical series which were complete (I mean, do Three musketeers and sequels count as series for example?) and which I still love and reread pretty regularly.

    Now, as to romance series, do they bother me? Well, as somebody in the thread remarks it feels like nobody writes stand alones anymore and yes, sometimes it annoys me especially when it is not announced when I am reading the first book, that it is the first book. I absolutely hate when author wraps up everything that could have been wrapped up in book one and then comes up with artificial conflict for the couple in the next book. Sometimes I also think that sequel baiting is poorly done. I mean, it is one thing when the book is literally first part of the story, if I signed up for it, I will read, review, and with all my dislike of cliffhangers will dutifully wait for the next part. But when I am reading the book for review thinking it would be a nice stand alone and oops, almost at the end of the book some wierd issue pops up out of nowhere and causes major trouble, it makes me cringe, a lot. Although sometimes one book becomes three books because of the publisher’s request, as it happened with Carole Cummings “Aisling” series, so I am not sure if we can really call those series as much as three parts of lovely long story.

    I am almost done with Rifter and I think it works as series, but that was originally also written as huge long one book, I believe?

    I am rambling and I guess I am not even sure what my point is except to say that I dont care how long the story is (the longer the better if I love it actually), but as a rule I am not a big fan of incomplete series.

    Oh, oh back when I used to read more het romance, I guess there was one romance series with shared characters which I used to like – Mallory series by Joanna Lindsey, but I think last books deteriorated a lot.

  45. Sirius
    Jan 31, 2012 @ 10:21:10

    @Tina: Oh god yes, mystery series. I LOVE Nero Wolfe and Archie Goodwin so very much.

  46. Tabs
    Jan 31, 2012 @ 10:30:27

    The one thing I hate as much as the “previous book infodump” and the “obvious sequel bait infodump” in romance series are the “smug marrieds” from previous books who pop up just to harass their single buddies. Hate.

  47. Kelly S. Bishop
    Jan 31, 2012 @ 10:37:12

    I prefer series books that are stand alone/linked rather than cliffhanger. My pet peeve with cliffhangers is when you end up with 1 book’s worth of plot padded and stretched out over 3.

  48. Ridley
    Jan 31, 2012 @ 10:41:25

    I would say that I don’t dislike series as a concept. However, a bad series book is 10 times worse than a bad standalone book.

    As I said the other day, the mark of a good series is when you could read books at random just fine, but reading them in order makes them bonus good. Pratchett’s Discworld is the gold standard for me in this. It’s a shared world with a number of different story arcs. Characters from the different arcs visit the other arcs, but they do so without being gratuitous Easter eggs. Everyone’s place in a story is earned and purposeful.

    The closest I’ve seen to this in romance would be Liz Carlyle’s books. They’re a number of different arcs set in a shared regency/Victorian England with visiting characters. I read a number of them out of order and loved them, but once I found the reading order, I loved them even more (oh, Bentley!). They do a good job of sharing characters between unconnected books without devolving into WINK! cameo WINK! territory, although Kemble’s personality wasn’t always consistent.

    Unfortunately, more romance series are more like Lorelei James’ Rough Riders, where the cameos are as shameless as they are gratuitous. If you grabbed one of the later books without reading the earlier ones, you’d be scratching your head, wondering why you’re supposed to give a shit about all the visiting C’s and K’s and their ankle-biters when they have nothing to do with the story at hand.

    Romance series books rarely can stand alone, and they’re weaker books because of it. When a story element relies on the reader having read another book first, it makes the current story an incomplete one. The element is either superfluous wink wink, or it’s a plot hole. Neither endear a book to me, even if I’ve been following the series.

  49. Heather Greye
    Jan 31, 2012 @ 10:44:06

    Ever since I was a kid, I always wanted to know what happened *next* when the book ended, so I’ve always loved series.

    In romance, I think I prefer the shared world — Nalini Singh’s Psy-Changeling series books are some of the few that I re-read (and re-read and re-read). I really like that there’s an overarching arc for the world.

    That said, I like revisiting Eve and Roarke and enjoy following 2-3 besties or sisters or whatever through their trilogies.

    What tends to throw me out of series is either the introduction of completely different characters halfway through to sell more books (hello, Sherrilyn Kenyon and Robert Jordan).

    Or characters that suddenly become more powerful and you wonder how the h*ll the writer is going to deal with someone who can kill gods or whatnot. Which is more in the UF and SFF range. I was just thinking that I hoped Marjorie Liu had an end in sight for the Hunter Kiss books. The last book hit a point for me that could either lead to a 3 book resolution (yay!) or an overpowered, neverending series (boo).

    Or series that go on too long and the author starts making the characters act out of character. The Kris Longknife series (SF) did that recently. Blech. I’ll give the author another book (or maybe two) to save himself, but I’m not sure he can.

    Sorry for the long post.

  50. Darlynne
    Jan 31, 2012 @ 10:49:16

    As I think about my reading choices, I realize that I am all over–as in surrounded by and consciously searching for–series in UF, scifi, mystery and romance. I wonder if that means I have abandonment or attachment issues.

    That loud squeeeeee when news came of Wen Spencer’s third book in her Tinker world, why, yes, that was me. The new Cal and Niko book from Rob Thurman? Already pre-ordered. I am so eager for series and shared worlds that I seldom look at stand-alone fiction, although I do read quite a bit there, too. It seems I am always looking for another place to call home.

  51. Author on Vacation
    Jan 31, 2012 @ 11:04:18

    To my mind the “golden number” for a series ranges between 3 and 8 books.

    Trilogies are usually good for telling a long, involved, plot-driven story in well-rounded installments. They are relatively low-committment for readers compared to lengthier series.

    Longer series can present several problems, especially if/when it becomes obvious the author has compromised his own story in order to keep the series open. The most serious example I can think of is LKH’s Anita Blake series. The original 8 or so books revolved around the Richard/Anita/Jean-Claude love triangle, only to jump the shark with Anita’s involvement with Micah, J.C.’s involvement with Asher, and Richard’s “character meltdown.”

    Obviously, an author’s work in a long-term project evolves over time, but I think authors owe readers credible consistency. That’s a huge responsibility to take on, especially when an author grows bored with a series because s/he wants to try something different that might not be the best “fit” for the characters, world, etc..

  52. cbackson
    Jan 31, 2012 @ 11:08:35

    I’m okay with series, but I generally hate the band-of-sequelbait-brothers linked books. I get a sinking sensation the moment I learn that a hero or heroine has six charming siblings, or is a member of a fraternity of paranormal warriors, or has a standing appointment for tea with her quirkily named local literary society (which happens to be full of anachronistically spunky on-the-shelf bluestockings). This is generally because characterization is thin.

    One story or one character developed over multiple books is okay with me, particularly because it lets a relationship develop in a more normal way – and lets you avoid worldbuilding infodump. Admittedly, I love (like many others here) Dunnett and Sayers, so I tend to prefer delayed romantic gratification in any case.

  53. Author on Vacation
    Jan 31, 2012 @ 11:10:14

    @Ridley:

    Romance series books rarely can stand alone, and they’re weaker books because of it. When a story element relies on the reader having read another book first, it makes the current story an incomplete one. The element is either superfluous wink wink, or it’s a plot hole. Neither endear a book to me, even if I’ve been following the series.

    I agree and I think it’s because romance is so much more character-driven than other genres.

  54. P. Kirby
    Jan 31, 2012 @ 11:17:03

    A-yup. I like shared worlds, with a smidgen of overlap in characters, but not so much that I’m left feeling like someone who’s just walked into an ongoing conversation if I attempt to read the 3rd or 4th book in the “series.”

    I’ve grown particularly leery of the never-ending series as exemplified by a lot of urban fantasy and some mystery series. I find that those series have an expiration date somewhere around 5 to 6 books, at which point whatever gimmick or relationship made the books great starts to turn sour. A lot of authors will try to freshen the series up by adding more and more new characters. The problem, however, is that in doing so, they often end up diluting whatever made the series fun in the first place and ignoring characters who are fan favorites.

    What I really love about the Harry Potter series is that J.K. Rowling wrote them with a definite end in mind, which kept a strong sense of cohesion and purpose throughout the books.

    I’m also not fond of romance series centered around one family or a group of friends. Everyone is beautiful in their own way, and they all are destined to get a HEA, blah-blah-blah, screamingly obvious. Most annoyingly are authors who devote chunks of narrative to the couple from the next book, right in the middle of the current love story. Oy. Like my attention span isn’t short enough. Stick to with the heroine and hero, please.

  55. EGS
    Jan 31, 2012 @ 11:17:58

    Random, but one of the best books in the Anne of Green Gable series is the last one, Rilla of Ingleside. It’s not really about Anne obviously, but her daughter, but it’s probably one of her most poignant stories with its backdrop of WWI. I’d recommend picking that one up for a reread.

  56. Tina
    Jan 31, 2012 @ 11:28:42

    Oh, now that y’all are mentioning characters trudging in from other parts of a series, I have to mention a major pet peeve of mine. When an author is writing a series and you’re following along and suddenly a new character appears and everyone knows them and their backstory or a major character has changed in a major way and yet you have no idea when or how that happened. Come to find out, a major plot or character development occurred ‘off-screen’ either in a novella that was part of an anthology or in a separate but shared world series.

    This happened in a couple of cases with me with the most egregious, imo, being The Night Huntress series. Book #4 ended with a couple of major recurring characters in one way and as I was reading Book #5 both had situations that had changed drastically. I thought I had missed a book. Turns out I had. Missed two books in fact. Only problem is, they were in a spin-off series. It is one thing to miss continuity if you skip a book in the series you are reading, it is something else to be expected to keep track of what is going on in other series as well.

  57. Lynz
    Jan 31, 2012 @ 11:29:21

    Whether I can handle a series or not really depends on the author’s execution, though I’m more inclined to like short series than I am to like ones that get above five or six books. For me, the ultimate example of how to do a series right comes from Courtney Milan’s first two books. The heroine and hero of the second book appear in the first book because they’re relevant to the plot; the heroine and hero of the first book appear in the second book and we get to see how happy they are in a way that’s relevant to the plot. As long as any recurring characters who show up do more than just pop in and talk about how happy they are and how many babies they’ve had, I don’t mind as much.

    …And reading what I’ve just written, it strikes me that it’s not series I dislike, so much as characters showing up to sequelbait me or to prove that they’re still totally in love. Interesting.

  58. JL
    Jan 31, 2012 @ 11:42:46

    For me, a lot of it depends on the ‘type’ of romance book it is. I fear I may be about to make myself rather unpopular here, but I’m going to attempt to get my point across anyway. Some romance books are much more about the romance than others, in the sense that the interactions between the two leads propels everything. Other times, the romance is still key, but takes up a smaller place in the plot. For the latter, I would say Meljean Brook’s steampunk books (haven’t read the demon ones) and Nalini Singh’s Psy-Changeling books are good examples. The over-arching mystery or action/adventure plot propels much of the story while the characters happen to fall in love along the way. Both kinds are great, but I prefer a series for the latter because it’s not the romance that needs to stretch across different sub-plots, but rather a different kind of meta-story arch.

    I often love series, especially in paranormal, because I don’t have to re-learn the world. World-building is absolutely the number 1 factor in my enjoyment of these kinds of books, but I hate info dumps and tend to be very hard on the first book in a series. In subsequent books, info dumping isn’t necessary (assuming the writer isn’t trying to make series books stand-alone). I love UF, but I tend to dislike paranormal romances that straddle the UF/PNR divide like Nalini’s Angel series and Jeanienne Frost books (they aren’t bad books, just don’t work for me) because I get bored with the romances after a book or two. I gave up on the Sookie Stackhouse books because the romantic entanglements took up too much of the aimless plots in the latter books.

    I find the world building less important to my reading experience in contemporaries and RS, so I tend to treat those kinds of books as stand-alones anyway. I’ll only go back for second helpings if the author’s voice draws me in but rarely do I feel the need to.

  59. Kate Pearce
    Jan 31, 2012 @ 12:24:00

    I like a good series, especially one that is big and complex and very re-readable such as anything Dorothy Dunnett wrote. I also loved to read series when I was a kid, including The Chalet School and Mallory Towers LOL.
    As a writer, I’m just writing book #9 in my Simply series and I think I need to write something different. I’m so comfortable in that world that I worry that as a writer I might get complacent or stale and I don’t want to do that to myself or my readers.
    Having been cut off in the middle of a proposed 6 book series at book #3 by a publisher, I’m also wary of proposing a series of more than two connected books anymore. :)

  60. Janet W
    Jan 31, 2012 @ 12:41:32

    Series are so individual — I can keep all the characters in Jo Beverley’s connected Rogue world straight but in Carlyle’s world, even tho I like her writing, everything blurs. I wish Beverley would write another Rogue book but I guess if the muse ain’t rocking, don’t bother knocking. I do think that smuggler to earl would capture some continuing to this present-day themes that I for one would find interesting.

    Ditto on Chesney altho she’s a definite recommendation. Good writer. I’ve given up on Brockmann, couldn’t follow Ward into ghostly heroines … Laurens is still, I’ll admit, somewhat crack for me but I don’t bother keeping her latest books. I read them when I find them at the UBS. I almost hesitate to call what Miranda Neville does a series — whatever it is, I enjoy her inter-connected world and I think when characters pop up from other books, it feels real and right (much like the Rogue world.). I still read the Malloren books but the last couple seemed almost too far from the original premise. Either that or the characters didn’t resonate for me. But Beverley is automatic read, as is Joanna Bourne (another great example of connected but somewhat separate). Balogh has always done series and some I like better than others. I have high hopes for her latest, the Survivors series.

    Still reading J.D. Robb but I didn’t like her foray into Dallas — I missed all the series regulars. Read Roberts but the perfect triads do seem a little dusty and predictable. Virgin River keeps me hanging on but not by my fingertips … it’s a pleasant comfort read. I’m sure I’m forgetting so many series but that’s what comes to mind.

  61. joanne
    Jan 31, 2012 @ 12:44:57

    I like and buy series books but agree that they generally work best in the mysery and fantasy genre. Once I’m burnt by an author not really having a new plot and/or some character growth then I’m done with a series.

    @Joy: I confess I’m not overly fond of waiting a year or, say, 10, to resolve a cliffhanger ending, though.
    Yes! An author is certainly ‘not my bitch’ but then I’m not his/her’s either. There are simply too many good stories out there waiting to be read for me to wait for the muse to strike one writer.

  62. joanne
    Jan 31, 2012 @ 12:51:37

    @Janet W: Yeah, I thought when I was reading the NY to Dallas book that it would be the perfect place for a reader new to the series to try the Robb books. It’s a summary of all that’s happened to that point and was the first book in that series that I felt wasn’t written so much for the series follower but rather for the newbie. Dunno.

    My previous comment is in moderation because I used b*tch? I’m telling Sarah @ SBTB.

  63. Ros
    Jan 31, 2012 @ 12:58:46

    I… don’t really read romance series. Sometimes I’ll read historicals which are part of a series, but I don’t want to have to read the whole lot to make sense of each one. They do tend to be of the ‘group of friends/sisters/brothers’ kind. I rarely (can’t think of an example) read a whole series from beginning to end.

    I have enjoyed a couple of Harlequin continuities which are series but written by different authors. The Bad Blood series was excellent, and the Balfour series more mixed. I liked them because you could buy the whole series in one go and glom them as fast as you liked. I’m not good with cliffhangers and waiting for the next instalment. I get bored and start reading something else and forget why I liked the series.

    I do read mystery series, but again I’m not obsessive about reading a whole series or in order. It’s more about enjoying the same kind of mystery and liking the detective. Dorothy L Sayers is in a different category for me. There are continuing characters but each book is so rich and full with a satisfying conclusion that it hardly feels like a series. And also, obviously, they were all published before I started reading them so I could do the glomming thing.

  64. Sunita
    Jan 31, 2012 @ 13:11:03

    @joanne: Sorry about that, you’ve been liberated! The spam filter is particularly hard on b*tch for some reason. It catches it every time.

    @Kate Pearce: Ouch, the worst reason for a series to end. I’m still waiting for Diane Farr’s last book in her Star trilogy, so I totally feel your pain.

  65. Sunita
    Jan 31, 2012 @ 13:15:05

    What a fantastic comment thread, thanks everyone! And please keep the recommendations coming. This is turning into a great source for readers who are looking for new series.

    Also, I just went to buy Rilla of Ingleside and discovered it is in the public domain. The Kindle version is free at Amazon and manybooks.net seems to have every format known to e, all without DRM. What a treat!

  66. Robin/Janet
    Jan 31, 2012 @ 13:19:28

    In theory, linked books are a great idea; however, too often I feel they’re used as a gimmick or to extend reader loyalty beyond where it otherwise might lie. I got sucked into that vortex with the In Death books, which started to get spotty for me once they went hardcover, but I was still buying them regularly because I kept hoping they’d go back to the series I knew and loved. Ditto the Stephanie Plum books. I read the Amelia Peabody series all the way through, and it’s probably the only one that didn’t roundly disappoint me, although who knows if it went beyond where it ended.

    One of the pleasures of linked books that feature overlapping characters is that you get to revisit characters you couldn’t get enough of in their own book. The dark side is that before you know it you’ve got a book for every damn relative, their neighbors, and their butchers — and I frankly start to feel scammed. Then I get pissed and other series I might start to read suffer for it, because I don’t want to feel scammed again.

    I think if I had to create a general guideline for linked books, it would be that I most enjoy casually linked books — the shared world, as Sunita put it — that create the opportunity for natural overlap but don’t feel like they’re trying to exploit my reading loyalty. Or a short series, like Kleypas’s Travis family series. A pair of siblings, perhaps. Or a small group of friends, like Miranda Neville’s book collector series.

  67. Sunita
    Jan 31, 2012 @ 13:29:41

    I agree that long and open-ended series can really lose steam. I think the reason Thirkell’s series works for so many books (20 or more before they really go downhill) is that she has several small groups within the larger county. There are the aristocratic Pomfrets & Leslies, the gentry Beltons, the Birketts at the school, the newcomer Brandons; each has its own close circle, and then these circles overlap and become connected through marriages, workplaces, and/or war experience. Each village has its own core group as well. So it’s a big shared world, but not everyone is in everyone book.

    Heyer’s world is a shared world setup to me even though most of the books are standalone, because the supporting characters recur across books.

  68. Moriah Jovan
    Jan 31, 2012 @ 13:52:17

    I must be escaping these series somehow or else they don’t register much. I loved Elizabeth Hoyt’s Serpent series, but I’ll admit I’m hesitant to start the four soldiers one because, well, four books.

    That said, as a writer, I just feel there’s a time to let your imaginary friends go wander along the rest of their lives without examination. I stopped at three books (related only by sharing a world) (as they can all stand alone) (did that on purpose) because I simply had nowhere else for them to go. Two characters will show up in a later book for a few pages, and then…that’s it.

    Quite frankly, I’m tired of them. They’re tired of me.

    I can tell when a writer’s tired of her characters. SEP’s past characters drop in to subsequent books just to say “hi” so often it ruined my fond memories of them, and I’ve broken up with her. (One reason I love Kiss an Angel so much is that it’s totally independent of her series. No, I don’t want to see the alpha-hole domesticated. Also, Hot Shot.)

  69. library addict
    Jan 31, 2012 @ 14:19:06

    Some of my favorites are:
    Single Characters: In Death series by JD Robb. I still love reading about Eve & Roarke. To me they got their HEA at the end of Naked in Death and we’re just along for the ride. This is by far the series I reread the most. I used to reread every entry before a new book came out, but that practice ended somewhere around book 13. It’s been a few years since I’ve done a complete series reread, but I reread a few books at random every year.

    Family/Set of Friends: This type of series is one I enjoy, but usually books within a particular series vary in quality. I really enjoyed the first 5 books in Christine Feehan’s Drake Sisters series. I was disappointed in book 6 as I didn’t feel we got to know the hero much at all. And I couldn’t have cared less about the heroine’s band members. Book 7 was a huge letdown. Her new spin-off series is okay so far, but I wouldn’t have minded if she had truly wrapped up the Sea Haven setting after the originally planned 7 Drake books. Julia Quinn’s Bridgerton series also had it’s ups and downs.

    I think part of the problem with family series is the wait between books and the level of anticipation one has waiting for their favorite brother or sister to have their story told. I also feel the poor couple in the first book takes a backseat to set up the characters of the next books. This is a problem with trilogies as well, though for the record I don’t really consider trilogies to be series books. I think this type of series works well because you know going in it is a limited number of books.

    Shared World: This is probably my favorite type of series. Some recent series I enjoy are Meg Benjamin’s Konigsburg, Kylie Brant’s Mindhunters, Marcia Evanick’s Misty Harbor, Christine Feehan’s GhostWalkers, Cindy Gerard’s Black Ops Inc, JAK’s Arcane Society, Shannon Stacey’s Devlin Group. All have books I loved as well as books I considered only so-so. I do wish Feehan had stuck with teams 1 and 2 and not introduced so many new characters in her more recent GW books. There just isn’t time for them all to have their stories told and it can be disappointing when personal favorites are set aside to tell the story of characters I am not as interested in.

    The two things I dislike the most about series books is when you think the series will be a certain number of books and suddenly a long lost branch of the family is found. Harlequin is particularly guilty of this (just how many branches of the Fortune family can there really be?). So while I will still read books by my favorite authors, I usually jump off the need-to-read-them-all wagon.

    The other thing is when an author takes a series is a totally different direction. As Kathleen Korbel did when she took the last book in the totally-grounded-in-reality Kendall family series and had the hero off in magical faerie land. And I have yet to read the fourth book in Maya Banks’ KGI series as I’ve read she introduces a paranormal element in that one. (Though to be fair, I haven’t read book 3 either. I have them both in my tbr pile and will read them eventually, but now I find I will have to be in a particular sort of mood to do so).

    I also really dislike it when authors pull a bait-and-switch on a long-awaited couple and pair them up with other people. But that’s a topic for another post.

  70. Dabney Grinnan
    Jan 31, 2012 @ 14:36:01

    @Lynz: I completely agree. I liked the books as a group more than I liked the two as stand alones. As a series, the three novels complimented each other in ways that made reading them as a unit quite rewarding.

  71. Marianne McA
    Jan 31, 2012 @ 15:13:21

    @Sunita

    Thanks – I’m off to trawl Amazon for Thirkell’s earlier works. I hope you enjoy Rilla. (Though the dog may make you cry: it gets me every time).

  72. Lynnd
    Jan 31, 2012 @ 15:29:48

    @Sunita: Thanks for the information on manybooks.net. I had never heard of them before. Rilla of Ingleside is one of my very favourite books. As someone said above, it is, IMO, one of the best depictions of the “home front” in Canada during WW1. You might want to read Rainbow Valley as well, which tells of the Blyhe and Meredith children when they are young. I thought that it added a great deal more poignancy to the events that happen in Rilla and the effects of the war.I

  73. Emily A.
    Jan 31, 2012 @ 15:48:13

    @ Sunita and everyone else
    You’ll get a lot more out of Rilla if you read Rainbow Valley first. I love both these but Rainbow Valley introduces a whole new group of people and includes a very sweet very beautiful romance. As well as a humorous equally lovable secondary romance. It also introduces all of the major characters in Rilla (particulalry the children who grow up.) I actually wish Maud had written a sequel after Rilla. I want to know what happens. Agree with everyone else Rilla is really good war novel; even if written from the women’s perspective with most of the action happening off stage. Just the contrast of the current home front and the home front then is worth looking at.

  74. Emily A.
    Jan 31, 2012 @ 16:09:15

    As to the series question, series would be better endured if two things. One why can’t romance pulishers better mark series like childrens’ books? Considering the titles off don’t help. Are adults supposed to be psychic and guess the order? If at random you picked up a Harry book it would be clearly marked which number it was. I am not always sure what number by picking up the book. I looking for.
    I love Hercule Poirot and I love that his series is very subtle. He doesn’t change as much but that’s the point. Note even the first and last books featuring a Poirot are clearly marked.
    I like short cohesive series. I dislike the never ending series the most. Julia Quinn is becoming a good example. Her Smythe-Smith books are continuations of her bridgetons. At least this is well marked. But in JLH she made a mistake saying Colin and Penelope were married before chronologically they were. What is the point of mentioning them at all if she messes up like that? Also I find Miss Butterworth as funny as the next girl but its now a plot point in three series (Bridgertons, Bevelstokes and Smythe-Smiths.)
    I also wish that series tended to be more organic. If a short series seems to be doing well and there’s that one guy without an HEA then I can understand expanding the series. Or a stand alone novel, and the author decides to write a book with one character. I would like more two book series please.

  75. Miranda Neville
    Jan 31, 2012 @ 16:09:59

    Great post, Sunita. Just wanted to wave in recognition of our shared love for Mary Burchell and Angela Thirkell.

  76. Emily A.
    Jan 31, 2012 @ 16:24:59

    Sorry that was badly edited. I meant to say the titles often don’t help. Beyond that I am frustrated by the fact that authors and publishers often say “I think it works as a stand alone book.” They tend to say this regardless of whether or not its true. They also say it regardless of the book or about all the books in the series or of the author or by their company. This may explain why there is a lack of closure at the end of the series. (The epilogue thing doesn’t help either. If we saw everyone with kids at the end of the series for the first time, it might do more for a series. )
    Back to the point I actually somewhat want series books to be connected. What the heck is the point of making a series if they aren’t a few unanswered questions needing to be resolved? The idea that every book from a series can or should stand alone seems ludicrious to me. Why not just write a book about someone else?
    I don’t know love/hate sums it up pretty well.

  77. Sunita
    Jan 31, 2012 @ 16:42:19

    @Lynnd: manybooks.net is a great resource. The formatting isn’t always the best, but it’s where I go first for public domain works.

    @Miranda Neville: Yay for Mary Burchell! DA Jayne did some lovely reviews of a couple of my favorites here some time back. I keep threatening to write a long post on Thirkell’s Barsetshire world. Some day I will even deliver.

  78. Ros
    Jan 31, 2012 @ 17:07:13

    @Emily A.: The last book featuring a Poirot is pretty clearly marked by his death.

  79. Ros
    Jan 31, 2012 @ 17:08:25

    @Ros: Huh. Can’t edit for some reason. Anyway, the title ‘Curtain: Poirot’s Last Case’ does also mark that as the end of a series quite well.

  80. RobinC
    Jan 31, 2012 @ 17:20:26

    Does anyone remember Patricia Veryan’s books? It’s been years since I pulled them out, but I believe almost all of her books were linked in some way. Even the standalones included supporting characters from her series. Her series tended to stop after 5-7 (I think) books though, so I don’t remember getting tired of a series or specific characters. Loved those books and have enjoyed series romance ever since.

  81. evie
    Jan 31, 2012 @ 17:27:46

    Love all the recs I’m finding here–gotta go investigate. Some random thoughts:

    1) I second the Vorkosigan love! It’s one of my favorite series (I’m re-reading it right now, as a matter of fact), and I’m not even a big SF fan. LMB rocks.

    2) What about the Swordspoint books by Ellen Kushner? Three novels and sundry short stories set in the same world. I’m not sure if the novels even form a series, by strict definition. Huh. What defines a series, really ? But anyway, what beautiful books. Wish she’d write more.

    3) While I love historical romance, I’ve learned to be wary of friends-and family-type series not only because of the random cameos and sequel baiting already mentioned, but also because they often feel a little thin and rushed. My favorite romances are those big, unforgettable stand-alone novels, e.g. Judith Ivory’s work.

    3) @Emily A. Yes! I can’t stand poking around trying to figure out where a book fits in the series. I’ve walked away from purchases because of this. (Are you listening, publishers?) Numbering should be standard practice.

  82. Merrian
    Jan 31, 2012 @ 17:55:06

    It is important to me that the lead characters in a series grow and change as people and in their relationship; that the story isn’t just about them getting together that we see them grow together. To me that is one of the few justifications to spread a story over several books because a series provides more opportunities for this to happen. Yet often we don’t see it at all.

    I love Eileen Wilks ‘world of the Lupi’ series for this reason Lily and Rule while saving the world have to work on their relationship and not in the sense of trumped up conflict but in terms of stuff happens and they have to work out how to be together and deal together now.

  83. Lisa J
    Jan 31, 2012 @ 18:12:59

    The Psy/Changeling books are definitely great examples of linked books. They come out close enough together to keep my interest. I like the stories from this series in the anthologies which come out between the stand alone books as they move the arc along and let minor characters have some fun.

    I just can’t get into multiple books featuring the same characters. Everyone raves about Nalini Singh’s Angel series, but I can’t make myself read them. I want a HEA in each book. HFN just doesn’t work for me. I like visiting the characters from one book in the next or future books, but as far as I am concerned, they have had their story and it’s time to move aside.

    Just my two sents worth.

  84. Lisa J
    Jan 31, 2012 @ 18:18:09

    @Lisa J: Cents….Cents. Sorry, I need to spell check these things!

  85. cleo
    Jan 31, 2012 @ 18:21:06

    What a fun thread. I’ve been re-reading the Anne books, in the order that they were published, not their chronological order, and it’s fascinating. I’m on Anne of Windy Poplars right now, and it’s not holding my attention after reading Rilla of Ingleside. I second all of the love for it. The romance in it is mostly off stage and not developed (because all the young men are off at war) but it’s a lovely book. Someone mentioned that Anne is not as interesting as an adult. I read somewhere that the author didn’t want Anne to grow up, and you can see that in the books about her as an adult. Very different from say Jo March – who was interesting as a girl in Little Women and still interesting as an adult in Little Men and Jo’s Boys.

  86. etv13
    Jan 31, 2012 @ 18:22:13

    81 comments, and nobody’s mentioned Patrick O’Brian’s Aubrey-Maturin series? This has to be my all-time favorite series. They’re like the 12 dancing princesses — each one is more beautiful than the last, no matter which way you look. (okay, the last three or four are not as good as the others, but they still contain some gems)

  87. cleo
    Jan 31, 2012 @ 18:32:09

    I like shared world series. I’m surprised no one’s mentioned Charles DeLint’s Newford books. That’s one of my favorite shared world series – especially the short story collections. Most of the books are stand alone, with overlapping supporting characters.

    I loved the Madeline L’Engle world that starts with A Wrinkle in Time. Haven’t read those in a long time.

    I’ve read all of JAK’s Arcane books – which is a series that’s a little hard for me to categorize. This is one series that I’m getting bored with, but I keep reading them, because I like JAK, and even kind of boring JAK is a good read.

    And another I’m surprised hasn’t been mentioned – Sharon Shinn’s Samaria books. There’s a definite story arc in the original trilogy, but they are also pretty stand alone. And I like that they take place in the same world during different time periods.

  88. cleo
    Jan 31, 2012 @ 18:50:32

    Now I’m thinking about the bigger question – why do romance readers complain about series? For me it partly has to do with why I read romance – which is for immediate gratification and for the happy ending. And I guess you can get both of those in a series, but sometimes it’s easier to get that in a good stand alone.

    I used to read a lot more mystery and SF/F than romance, but once I started teaching full time, I found I just couldn’t remember complicated plot details from sitting to sitting or from book to book (sad but true), and I had less patience with ambiguous endings (because I deal with enough ambiguity in my work life, thank you). So I started reading more romance – because they’re emotionally satisfying, they have a hea, and because I can (usually) remember the major plot points. I was annoyed when I started sliding into paranormal romance series with more complicated plots and multi-books story arcs (I’m looking at you Nalini Singh and Marjorie Liu). Not enough to stop reading them, just enough to kind of growl at the authors for requiring a higher level of commitment from me.

  89. MarieC
    Jan 31, 2012 @ 19:09:10

    Mary Burchell…whoa! I totally forgot about this series!

    I love reading series, predominately in SF/Fantasy/UF, but I will admit to getting exasperated sometimes. However, some that I will buy/have bought without delay:

    Nalini Singh – Psy/Changeling series; Guildhunter Series
    Moira Moore – Source and Shield series
    Molly Harper – Jane Jameson Series
    Julia Quinn – Briderton series
    Jacqueline Carey – Kushiel series
    Chloe Neill – Chicagoland Vampires
    Jennifer Estep – Elemental Assassin
    Patricia Briggs – Mercy Thompson/alpha Omega
    Ilona Andrews – Edge series; Kate Daniels
    Laurie King – Mary Russell series

    For some reason, I find it easier to stay with a series when it is has some supernatural element. Strange….

  90. MarieC
    Jan 31, 2012 @ 19:11:29

    For some reason, I can’t edit.

    I can’t believe I left off MelJean Brook’s Guardian series and Iron Seas series!

  91. dri
    Jan 31, 2012 @ 19:43:12

    I am completely OVER linked books or series, in any damned genre. I will actually put down and walk away from a book in a shop if I discover it’s the first in a series, and it completely makes me see red at the abundance of this in the YA genre. I keep wanting to shake the author and scream “There’s nothing wrong with writing a fabulous long standalone. Show me you know how to end a book and say goodbye to characters! Show me you know how to write, damn you!”

    I know, a bit overreacty. I think with me it comes down to the quality of writing.

    Like Ridley, I am a Pratchett devotee. I will buy a Pratchett hardcover the very day it comes out and spend the whole day reading it. But then Pratchett is the closest thing to a god for me. Everything I know about life and the world I learnt from Pratchett. (and Buffy.) Pratchett’s writing is almost always flawless to me — I can count the exceptions on two fingers, pretty much.

    And I too thoroughly adored Liz Carlyle’s cleverly intertwined series — although I cannot even bring myself to finish the latest book, it just won’t hold my interest, all that stoopid magic society rot — but best of all I love when the links, if they have to be there at all, are very subtly done. Like Sherry Thomas linking Delicious and Not Quite A Husband. There the link wasn’t mentioned at all until the very end or at least made clear then and I was utterly overjoyed by the discovery. And the cleverness of Meredith Duran’s Written On Your Skin as a companion to Bound By Your Touch. That was fascinating and innovative to me.

    But even with Liz Carlyle, I found as I read more of her books I noticed the phrases she loves to repeat … breaths ratcheting up, hair scrubbing across pillows. This too with Lisa Kleypas … vaulted ribs, urgh. That’s the fatal flaw of a series for me, when the writing skill begins to pall and I start to see the rigging behind the pretty curtains.

    Diana Gabaldon and the Outlander series sort of illustrate the third aspect of my dissatisfaction. I love the way Gabaldon writes, I freaking adore Jamie and Claire and Lord John. But I have to admit I’ve gotten to the point where I resent having to wade through all the history and politics just so I can find out what happens to them. I’m in mortal fear of the eventual book when one of them dies. I don’t think I could take it.

    But yes, Pratchett and Gabaldon = the only series I will countenance. Everything else eventually degrades and maddens me. Not like I have high standards at all … :p

  92. dri
    Jan 31, 2012 @ 19:45:01

    Okay, and the Georgia Nicolson series. Those were addictive because of the writing skill and the sheer hilarity of Louise Rennison’s voice. But you see my point, hopefully. :)

  93. Emily
    Jan 31, 2012 @ 20:07:03

    I’m going to read the rest of the comments later, but I wanted to chime in with my two cents. I like some series, if J.R. Ward finished with the Brothers I’d be devastated. However, Suzanne Brockamann just put her Troubleshooters/SEALs on hiatus and I was grateful. The last couple weren’t that good and the last one was terrible. I stopped reading Stephanie Plum because she got on my nerves and I just wanted her to sleep with Ranger already. I get to Eve and Roarke in my own sweet time, I never rush to get the books anymore but I enjoy reading about the development of all their friends and associates. Series is entirely dependent on the author. If the stories are good and I get a sufficient amount of time with the characters I’ve grown to love, I’m fine with reading in perpetuity. I don’t get annoyed with an author for continuing a series, if they’re still moved to write characters and they’re still selling, go for it. I just started Martin’s Song of Ice and Fire and I’m hoping I don’t have to wait 10 years to get to a conclusion but with 3,4,5 comprising about 1900 pages of reading I may be ready for a break by the time I’m done.

  94. Sirius
    Jan 31, 2012 @ 20:23:06

    @etv13: Oh god I love Jack and Stephen sooo much. So I guess I am perfectly okay with shared characters series as long as they are not romance (yes usually want my happy ending now) and as long as they are complete? Have to think some more.

  95. jmc
    Jan 31, 2012 @ 20:27:47

    @Emily A.: LMM didn’t write a sequel to Rilla, but if you check out some of the anthologies of short stories, Rilla and her children make a few very small cameo appearances.

  96. Maria F
    Jan 31, 2012 @ 20:29:19

    How about Sharon Lee and Steve Miller’s space opera series set in the Liaden Universe? That’s one of my favorites, and still going strong, IMO.
    I feel stranded by abandoned series (whether because of publisher or author)…I really regret that Jan Freed never wrote any sequel to The Last Man in Texas and Talk to Me (so the last brother never got his story) and that J R Ward stopped writing Silhouettes as Jessica Bird (so Sean’s brothers from The Billionaire Next Door never got their books). Sequels were set up (in my opinion) but readers left hanging.
    I guess I think a series can certainly get too long, go stale, etc….but it can also be too short!

  97. Emily
    Jan 31, 2012 @ 20:39:03

    I made a mistake. I have 2900 pages to read of A Song of Ice and Fire!

    Reading the comments reminded me of the series I dropped of from. Christine Feehan’s Ghostwalkers, I stopped with Lora Leigh after Navarro’s Promise and the missing pages. I’m about to give up on Sookie after the last book in the series reminded me of Stephanie Plum. No growth, lots of stupidity. I stopped with Anita Blake. The porn didn’t bother me as I read them backwards, I just got tired of the same tired plotlines and she was sleeping with too many people. I stopped with the Merry Gentry because I felt like the series was one long excuse for this girl to have sex with everything and anyone. I stopped with Roxanne St. Clair’s Bullet Catchers. I think its easier to read a series if you’re getting one a year. When I sit down and read a whole series in a couple of weeks like I did with the Bullet Catchers, I just get tired of the style of writing and the author. I may go back one of these days. Big fan of Moriah Jovan’s series and am waiting for the last two with bated breath. I prefer a Lauren Dane who has multiple series going on at a time which ensures you don’t get bored with a cast of characters. Megan Hart has hers interconnected but its not a series. They occupy the same world and that makes it enjoyable.

  98. Kate Newburg
    Jan 31, 2012 @ 21:14:04

    Great, thought-provoking post! While I read some stand-alones, I’m always keeping tabs on series I love or want to read. At the same time, if I read the first book and it doesn’t hook me, I don’t feel obligated to continue reading (unless I have friends who insist the series gets better). I think for me, the hook is the world-building and the characters. I also prefer finite series.

  99. Meoskop
    Jan 31, 2012 @ 21:36:32

    I am not a series fan. 70% of my reading used to be SF and when the Great Series Trend of the 1990′s started I stopped reading it completely. I will make an exception only for Sharon Shinn because her series books also stand alone. Romance series have driven me away from some authors, but not (yet) the genre.

    That said, I have to go read the new Darynda Jones. Make your series engaging enough and I will embrace hypocrisy.

  100. SonomaLass
    Jan 31, 2012 @ 21:42:26

    Count me in as another who grew up reading series. The Oz books, the Black Stallion books, and Nancy Drew — I just kept going to the library and there would be more books! It was a real shock to my system that the Sue Barton nurse series actually ended after the fifth or sixth book.

    Pratchett’s Discworld, MZB’s Darkover, and other fantasy worlds sucked me in the same way. Complex world-building and a huge vision work for me, whether it’s the same characters or not. Some authors can write characters who never seem to get old (Lord Peter and Harriet) and I don’t tire of them, but I think that’s very much a YMMV issue. I know people who got sick of Bridgertons while others just loved ‘em all, and the same with Bedwyns and others in romance. Nothing works for every reader, but for me, I’ll accept some diminishing return when I feel like the world and the people are places I like to revisit. If the books start to feel like retreads, though, I stop reading and resort to re-reading the earlier ones. Nice to know I’m not the only one.

    I agree that in general, paranormal and fantasy worlds lend themselves more to series, because there is so much you can develop in subsequent books. Historical and contemporary settings not so much, and I think that’s where some series fatigue sets in. Mostly, though, I think it’s the mesh of author skill and reader taste — one reader’s “sequel bait” is another reader’s “interesting secondary character who I really hope gets his own story.”

    I consider myself burned on two series, and I totally own that experience as a reader and don’t blame the authors at all. One was Elizabeth George’s mystery series with detective Lynley; one book took a plot twist that killed a character, and I just couldn’t read beyond that. The other was Melanie Rawn’s Ambrai books, which were planned as a trilogy, but the third book was never written, so the “end” is a horrible cliff-hanger with the characters at a very low point, typical of second book endings in a trilogy. But that hasn’t stopped me from reading series; whenever you finish, GRRM, I will be there to read the last Westeros book.

  101. Naomi
    Jan 31, 2012 @ 21:48:53

    So, in Rilla of Ingleside, am I the only one disturbed by the creepy little kid and what he does to his cat? Yeah, the dog is heartrending, but the scene with the cat had me thinking ‘future serial killer.’

    Just me? OK.

  102. AllyJS
    Jan 31, 2012 @ 22:35:41

    If there’s a series of sorts I prefer it to be a story with a definitive end like a trilogy. Everything is working to be ended in that third book. If books are “related” but a character you learned about in one book takes up too much time in another, I get slightly miffed. I want to be told if I should have read another book before I read the one I picked up.

  103. Merrian
    Feb 01, 2012 @ 01:02:52

    @SonomaLass: I adored the Darkover books back in the day. Is it a series though when books are set in the same world using the same/related characters but stories are (usually) concluded in each book although subsequent books will reference events as canon? Give me some more of those sorts of series I think! Even without an overarching story arc they had a coherency and richness that made sense and invited the reader in.

  104. nasanta
    Feb 01, 2012 @ 01:16:02

    I would have said that I love series. I’m a series-loyal reader. I’m also a completist so I will have intentions of reading a series to the end.

    But I’m currently torturing myself trying to complete Stephanie Laurens’ In Pursuit of Eliza Cynster (right on the heels of Viscount Breckenridge to the Rescue), and going why? Why? WHY? Then I think about a few other series I’m following and the other authors who I feel are just milking those series for all they are worth (namely, Kenyon and Feehan), and these are seriously making me reconsider my love for series.

    But I have no problems with WoT, and Nalini Singh’ series are still good with me. :) [Granted, I did groan when I heard that Kristen Britain got contracted for four more Green Rider books. I was hoping to see the end soonish so I guess in a way, I am getting tired of long, long series.]

  105. Marguerite Kaye
    Feb 01, 2012 @ 01:22:02

    @Kate Pearce: I was just thinking about Mallory Towers and The Naughtiest Girl in the School books when I was reading this thread. I LOVED those, they made me want to go to boarding school (no chance) mostly because of the tuck boxes, I think – certainly not the lacrosse, which I imagined as something vicious like shinty.

  106. Marguerite Kaye
    Feb 01, 2012 @ 01:38:53

    As a reader I like series of all kinds provided they show progression. My first ‘romance’ series was the Sue Barton nurse one, and right now I’m working my way through the Lady Julia Grey books (and I’m worried that I might lose interest now that they’re married, but not yet). I loved the early Stephanie Plum books but because there doesn’t seem to be an end in sight I’ve given up (plus, how could she do that to Joe!!!).

    As a writer I’m wary of series though I have done some linked books (like two or three) which weren’t planned, but I wrote because I wanted to revisit the world I’d created. But I don’t really think of linked books, which share characters and world but not story, as series.

    I have just finished working on what I’d call a true series with 7 other Harlequin Historical authors, and that was a whole different experience. Castonbury Park has one family, one setting and a story line which runs through the whole 8 books, but it is also designed so that each book can be read as a stand-alone romance. I’d say as a writer this was one of the most testing and satisfying things I’ve worked on, because trying to avoid all the pitfalls mentioned above (inconsistency of character and plot especially) when you’re only one eighth part in control is tough.

    Generally, I think we see way too much open-ended series and not enough series with an overarching structure/plan/story to hold them together, whether it’s the ongoing will they/won’t they of Lady Julia Grey or (my current favourite) Kate Atkinson’s Jackson Brody and Louise, a painful example of an author leaving us suspended at a vital point with no promise of the next book.

  107. Marianne McA
    Feb 01, 2012 @ 04:00:48

    @Naomi

    ‘So, in Rilla of Ingleside, am I the only one disturbed by the creepy little kid and what he does to his cat? Yeah, the dog is heartrending, but the scene with the cat had me thinking ‘future serial killer.’’

    See, I was thinking ‘future Moderator’: there’s a child that listens in Sunday school.

  108. Ros
    Feb 01, 2012 @ 04:17:00

    @Marguerite Kaye: Hah! I went to boarding school, in no small part because of Malory Towers and similar books. It was EXACTLY like that. Sort of. Midnight feasts and girls being mean to each other and an incomprehensible French Mistress. And lacrosse. Oh, how I loathed the lacrosse. Standing in a cold wet field on a winter’s day having people throw hard balls at your head is no fun at all. And yes, I had a tuck box. I still have it, actually, though it does not currently contain any tuck. Might need to rectify that…

  109. Merrian
    Feb 01, 2012 @ 04:36:29

    My school girl series were the Abbey Girl books by Elsie Jeanette Oxenham. She wrote in a sort of forever 1930′s even though the last books were written in the late ’50′s. Her stories were about friendship between girls as much as anything else like treasure hunts and old monks and highwaymen and trouble at school. Music was important and everyone folk danced.

  110. Sunita
    Feb 01, 2012 @ 16:06:10

    The Malory Towers series were more popular than Chalet School when I was a kid, but I never read them because I was not a big Enid Blyton fan (sacrilege I know).

    My husband pointed out that I was remiss in not listing P.B. Ryan’s historical mystery series with Nell Sweeney. And he is quite right! It’s a terrific series with a romantic storyline that develops over the books. It’s set in post Civil War era Boston. Janine reviewed the first one positively some time ago here at Dear Author.

  111. Jorrie Spencer
    Feb 01, 2012 @ 17:15:22

    I will have to check out the Ryan series. One of my favorite historical mystery series was Kate Ross’s Julian Kestrel series, Regency-set. I was very taken by these four books, individually and as a whole.

  112. Sunita
    Feb 01, 2012 @ 17:28:52

    @Jorrie Spencer: That’s one of my favorites as well. How I wish she were still with us.

    Ryan’s series is different, of course, but the historical sensibility is very good and the characters are very well depicted. I think I first read the series when I was teaching American immigration history, and I was struck by how well Ryan had brought issues in Irish immigration to life. Nell is a governess for a lace-curtain Irish family; she is also Irish but more recent and not privileged.

  113. KKJ
    Feb 02, 2012 @ 00:21:20

    I am a complete sucker for series – I blame it on the OCD and the damn one-click Kindle buy.

    Someone above mentioned Deanna Raybourn’s Lady Julia Grey series – love, love, LOVE these! Great historical mysteries, and the fabulous character development keeps evolving. The h/h relationship after they marry is just as compelling as their so-called courtship. Brisbane is one of the more intriguing heroes ever!

    I also enjoy Tasha Alexander’s Lady Emily series, but not as much – same basic premise and good mysteries, but the h/h just don’t have the continuing conflict and growth to sustain many more books.

    Other great historical mystery series are P.B. Ryan’s Nell Sweeney/Gilded Age (six books, very satisfying series ending) and the Captain Lacy series by Ashley Gardner/Jennifer Ashley which just gets better and better.

    For contemporaries, I’m hooked on Marie Force’s Gansett Island series that follows five siblings and their friends living on a New England resort island. Realistic characters and drama, but still funny and swooningly romantic.

    I’m also reading Force’s Fatal suspense series – great characters and relationship, but holy crap she needs to cut back on the death-defying action scenes. Two or three life-threatening gunshots, car chases and kidnappings are more than enough per book, thanks.

    Other contemporaries: Lena Matthew’s Joker’s Wild and Lily Graison’s Wicked – short, sweet, funny and very entertaining.

    I won’t even embarrass myself by mentioning how many historical series I’ve gotten through. All of Julia Quinn, Lisa Kleypas (*love* the Wallflowers!), Tessa Dare, Sarah Maclean, Elizabeth Hoyt, Courtney Milan, Sabrina Jeffries, Carla Kelly’s Channel Fleet, and oh my god I’m such a geek.

    I was enjoying Alexandra Hawkins’ Lords of Vice until the latest book (4th) which was pretty boring. The first three had enough raunchiness and humor to keep me reading, but the 4th was just a run-of-the-mill Regency.

    Eloisa James is really hit-or-miss for me – she threads multiple characters through multiple books, and sometimes it really annoys the hell out of me when I’m enjoying one romance and suddenly get dumped into another I could care less about (e.g. the Duchess Quartet series; Esme and Bonnington were absolutely ridiculous in every damn book). I also hated most of the Desperate Duchess books because the heroines were so god-awful it was almost painful – and yet I bought and read all six books. Luckily, Eleanor in A Duke of Her Own redeemed the whole series.

    Is there a support group for OCD romance readers? My name is Kelly, and I’m a Compulsive Book Buyer.

  114. KKJ
    Feb 02, 2012 @ 00:25:55

    Crap – tried to link to GoodReads, not sure what happened – sorry!

  115. Marguerite Kaye
    Feb 02, 2012 @ 04:38:32

    @Ros: Thank for that, I always assumed that Mallory Towers was way different from the truth. And I never in a million years thought that people really did play lacrosse at school – your description sounds exactly like my experience of hockey. I was totally rubbish at games, always the last picked and always left shivering for the entire game at the back with nothing to do.

  116. Nicole
    Feb 02, 2012 @ 05:40:21

    I don’t feel compelled to read every book in a series. Even when it comes to authors I have enjoyed in the past, if a mid-series novel’s plot synopsis doesn’t sound that interesting or the reviews are so-so, I’ll pass. There is not enough free time in my life to read any book out of a sense of obligation or for the sake of knowing I’ve finished a series. I shamelessly cherry pick the individual books that most appeal to me, and if it’s a requirement to read previous books first, then you can forget about it altogether.

    I can’t stand romances that don’t tell the main couple’s story properly because there are too many other characters or plot strands being dealt with. And authors definitely get stale, and all the heroes start to sound the same.

    Mysteries are different; the mystery is the main point of the story, and often they just feature the same detective (I couldn’t care less if Kinsey Milhone, for instance, doesn’t show character growth, as long as the investigations remain intriguing). But in romance the characters are the whole point of the story, and I feel that if every sibling/friend/enemy/acquaintance, etc has a grand romance, then none of them really feel unique and special. I like some discontent, pragmatism or boredom in other characters’ relationships to contrast with the happiness of the hero and heroine.

    And finally, my mind boggles at the length of some of the series some of you have described! I can’t imagine remaining interested in the same couple for so long (Lord Peter and Harriet Vane, of course, are an exception, because the mysteries are so good and because Sayers wrote in a time when an educated audience was expected. I marvel at the

  117. Nicole
    Feb 02, 2012 @ 05:42:15

    Continued…. (technical error there)
    … fact that there are slabs of French in Sayers’ novels, without translations, because her readers would be expected to understand it.

  118. Nicole
    Feb 02, 2012 @ 05:43:09

    … fact that there are slabs of French in Sayers’ novels, without translations, because her readers would be expected to understand it.

  119. Nicole
    Feb 02, 2012 @ 05:44:36

    Oh, I give up!

  120. cleo
    Feb 03, 2012 @ 12:10:33

    @Naomi: I thought that was disturbing too. I kind of glossed over it after I read it, since I liked the rest of Rilla. Since you mentioned it, I’ve been trying to figure out the deeper meaning – I can see his sacrifice (which as was well meaning but kind of horrifying and based on a misunderstanding) as a commentary on all of the sacrifices made during the war. May have to reread that part.

  121. SonomaLass
    Feb 06, 2012 @ 17:32:04

    @Merrian Yes, the Darkover books were mostly stand-alone novels, although some are linked more closely than others because they feature the same characters and continue their story. She even went back and retold the same events later in a couple of cases, because her vision of what happened got more complex. Say what you will about MZB, and there’s plenty to say, she was a helliva story teller.

  122. SonomaLass
    Feb 06, 2012 @ 20:19:43

    Testing comments for Jane.

  123. Cathy Brockman
    Mar 03, 2012 @ 22:15:48

    wow I do like series too more in the paranormal than romance,though i dont mind a connected romance at times.very interested article!

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