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Reader Expectation Poll – Suzanne Brockmann Edition

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The controversy of the week appears to be the upcoming Suzanne Brockmann book. I believe the book is due out the end of January but early readers have leaked that the coupling of the two main protagonists is not what was expected. This has lead to a firestorm of posts at All About Romance and around the web with readers feeling misled and betrayed and the author herself saying that expectations were wrong by the readers (I think this is the wrong way to address readers’ concerns). So, the poll question is what were your expectations of this next book but the discussion can be about expectations and readers and authors. Clearly there is a big divide here. I’m in the camp with blogger from romancenovels

:

I do believe it is important that there not be any confusion over who the hero and heroine of the story actually are. To me, the hero/heroine relationship is the cornerstone of the romance novel.

I think that there is some increasing desire by some authors to keep the next book couple a secret. I guess that would be a poll for another day but I do wonder what it adds.

Jane Litte is the founder of Dear Author, a lawyer, and a lover of pencil skirts. She spends her downtime reading romances and writing about them. Her TBR pile is much larger than the one shown in the picture and not as pretty. You can reach Jane by email at jane @ dearauthor dot com

121 Comments

  1. Throwmearope
    Dec 19, 2008 @ 09:01:06

    I expected it to be Decker because Brockmann is so into angst. But Dave the nerd is ok as a hero. Brockmann may be trying a stretch to write a nominally beta hero. I’m ok with authors trying something new (occasionally, only, of course). But Dave carried Deck out of danger on his back in the snow and started his own IV, so he’s not really a beta kind of guy. I’ll be buying the book.

  2. Jane
    Dec 19, 2008 @ 09:03:20

    @Throwmearope: I kind of like the nerd hero. I thought Kenny was a nerd, wasn’t he? What I’m afraid of is that I can’t read the book because will I know the entire backstory when it took place in so many previous books?

  3. Kerry
    Dec 19, 2008 @ 09:18:16

    I only read the last novel without reading previous ones. Apparently the backstory between Sophia and Decker was misleading (?) anyway, so…I’m going to go into the next one with no preconceived notions. Although I admit the last book made it look like Sophia and Decker would be together, yes.

  4. Jia
    Dec 19, 2008 @ 09:22:05

    I haven’t read any of Brockmann’s books but I admit this controversy has made me interested in checking them out.

  5. Randi
    Dec 19, 2008 @ 09:36:50

    Hey! you need another option there. Some of us would be happy either way. At least I would be. I didn’t necessarily think Sophie and Decker would get an HEA, and I don’t necessarily think Sophie and Dave will. Though I would be happy either way, I think there’s still enough room for there to be a third option.

    So I didn’t vote… ;)

  6. Sarah Frantz
    Dec 19, 2008 @ 09:37:24

    Brockmann has had major problems with spoilers getting out before (who Jules’ hero was going to be) and gets as much outrage from her readers when the spoilers ARE revealed as when the spoilers aren’t revealed. So she really can’t win.

    Part of the problem with the extremely vague cover blurb on Dark of Night is that it was written before previous book came out, and if it had been more specific, it would have revealed too much information about the book that was about to come out.

    I have never found her to be anything less than completely gracious and wonderful to her readers, whether in person or online. So I’m not quite sure where “saying that expectations were wrong by the readers (I think this is the wrong way to address readers' concerns)” comes from. I have the horrible feeling it might be from me, and that’s certainly never what I meant to convey. I think Brockmann has more respect for her readers than any other author I’ve ever met. I think she was talking more about genre conventions here than her readers, FWIW.

    The strange thing is, stuff that we now take for granted, like unhappy endings to secondary romances with the promise of future pairings, were the shit storm of previous years. When she actually married Sam Starrett to Mary Lou, when Mary Lou’s baby was actually Sam’s, when Gina was actually raped, when Jules had two previous relationships before Robin and Robin himself was a drunk slut, the outrage and “I will never read her again!!!!1!!”s were legion. So, here she’s challenging one more boundary, one more genre convention. And personally, I’m all for it. I think that writing about PEOPLE who CHANGE THEIR MIND and GROW UP is a very good thing. YMMV, obviously.

  7. Jane
    Dec 19, 2008 @ 09:42:54

    @Randi: The poll question wasn’t about who you wanted together but what your expectation was going into the book. I’ll go ahead, though, and add the option for those who had formed no expectation.

  8. Jane
    Dec 19, 2008 @ 09:48:43

    @Sarah Frantz: I get the readers who feel betrayed and sympathize. It will be a long cold day before I pick up another Karin Slaughter book. I’ve stopped reading Charlaine Harris because of what she did years ago in a murder mystery series. Readers form expectations and relationships with characters and just because the author wants to go one way doesn’t mean that a) the reader can’t express her extreme unhappiness, b) the reader can’t declare that she will never read the author again or c) that the reader can’t ultimately change her mind. I believe in the reader’s right to exclaim “I will never read her again” a thousand times and still read the author again.

    I do wonder, though, if Suzanne Brockmann is really a romance writer anymore. Maybe she’s a fiction writer with romance threads throughout the story? Why trade on the romance cache if you don’t want to abide by genre conventions? Isn’t it the conventions that form the genre itself? Otherwise, you wouldn’t have a genre or sub genre divisions.

    And genre definitions are important as are expectations those genre definitions create else authors wouldn’t be interested in tying themselves to certain genres or distancing themselves from certain genres.

  9. Jorrie Spencer
    Dec 19, 2008 @ 09:55:14

    While there was a time when I thought Sophie and Decker would eventually get together, I was never invested in it. And I increasingly didn’t want it to happen. I love Decker, but there’s no chemistry. Imo. People have other opinions that are, needless to say, just as valid.

    It could be Brockmann never intended them to get together. It could be that the characters, Decker particularly, balked, given the way Sophie and Decker met, that forcing them together wasn’t working. (Brockmann once wrote about how Robin demanded he and Jules be given his story when Brockmann had thought their story wouldn’t be written for a while yet. I’m sure she, like a lot of writers, discover things as they write. Not that I have any real clue about her process.)

  10. Jorrie Spencer
    Dec 19, 2008 @ 09:57:33

    Btw, I haven’t read the book yet!

  11. Jane
    Dec 19, 2008 @ 09:58:28

    Can someone explain the whole “blow job under dangerous circumstances” to me? I find that a little crazy out of context. This is what I’m envisioning:

    Sophie – hey, decker, we are about to die. Maybe I’ll give you a blowjob to release our tension.

    Decker – sounds good soph. at least kneeling between my legs, you’ll be safe from people shooting at us.

  12. Sarah Frantz
    Dec 19, 2008 @ 10:05:14

    I get that people feel betrayed. I felt betrayed when Vishous’s BDSM was “cured” by his One Twu Wuv, because his character had been set up as inherently dominant and kinky. But that doesn’t mean that I don’t grant the author all the rights and privileges to her own universe. And readers and authors can change their mind and will gain or lose readers accordingly. I don’t read Pat Gaffney’s women’s fiction, because I just don’t like women’s fiction. But she has every right to write it. And it’s not like authors haven’t always experimented: Sandra Brown killed off the hero of one of her books to give the heroine a second HEA in another book, after all.

    And I’d argue that Brockmann definitely still writes romance. There’s always a solid HEA at the end of each book, and the book itself is mostly organized around getting that HEA. She’ll threaten it now and then (James Nash and Tess), but she’s said (FWIW) that she’ll never truly pull a main couple apart.

    Then again, the book after DON is going to be a Sam and Alyssa suspense book that doesn’t challenge their relationship. I imagine it’s more along the lines of the continuing relationship of Eve and Roark. So does that make her not a romance author? Are Nora’s J.D. Robb books not romance? I guess.

    And while the conventions form the genre, that doesn’t mean that the genre isn’t strengthened by the stretching. Twenty years ago, if you had told the romance community that romances with vampires and demons and zombies and tentacled witches were going to be the best-sellers, I don’t know that anyone would have believed you. And as much as we all suffer a little paranormal fatigue, I don’t think that anyone could successfully argue that romance isn’t stronger for it. Ditto the unhappy ending to secondary romances. Brockmann started that and her protege Ward spiced it up, and I think it’s added immeasurably to the genre. I’ve heard feedback from someone that DON is Brockmann back on top of her game…Ah! found it! AAR, no less.

    So, yes, I guess genre definitions are important. But stagnation is also bad.

  13. Jorrie Spencer
    Dec 19, 2008 @ 10:07:46

    Well, it’s been a while, so someone may correct me. But they’re in a dangerous situation, Sophie’s frightened and believes sex will give her some power over Decker (Sophie’s been in a horrific situation for months), Decker tells her, no, back off, but she doesn’t. He’s disgusted with himself when it’s over.

    I don’t know how that sounds out of context of the book, and I don’t know if I’ve remembered it properly. So take it with a grain of salt. I’m not even sure it was on screen.

  14. Darlynne
    Dec 19, 2008 @ 10:10:33

    Although I chose the “Sophie-Dave” option in the poll, which was based on my read of the previous book, I truly don’t care who ends up with whom. I’m happy to go where Ms. Brockmann takes me; these are her characters and her stories after all. By the same token, I wouldn’t dream of telling the engineers at Disney that the new Nemo ride should have gone this way instead of that way–my choice is always whether or not to ride.

  15. Jane
    Dec 19, 2008 @ 10:11:48

    @Darlynne That presumes that you know how the ride is going to twist and turn before getting on.

  16. Sarah Frantz
    Dec 19, 2008 @ 10:12:08

    Blowjob under dangerous circumstances: After seeing her husband beheaded in front of her, Sophia is kept as sex slave for her husband’s murderer, in “Kazbhekistan”, a country generally meant to be the worst of Taliban Afghanistan and post-war Iraq. Sophia is farmed out to his friends and business associates for sex and general unconsensual sadism. During earthquake, she takes the sword that killed husband and tries to kill murderer, then runs away, but has no burqa or anywhere to stay safe. She’s trying to figure out a way out of the country, when she comes across Decker, who’s trying to gather intelligence. He follows her, she’s terrified b/c she has no idea who he is and has discovered that husband’s murderer is not dead and knows she has huge price on her head. She thinks she’s lost Decker, but he shows up at her hideout. She’s got a gun under the pillow he’s lying on, interrogating her, so she gives him a blowjob to get close to gun and almost manages to kill him. He throws $5 at her and leaves. And has been guilt-ridden ever since, after discovering who she was and what she’d gone through.

    I’ve NEVER liked him, never understood him, and I think Brockmann’s got a huge HUGE task ahead of her to make me believe in HIS HEA (and I’ve read the spoilers) than in Sophia’s. But that’s just me. Obviously other people feel differently.

  17. Jane
    Dec 19, 2008 @ 10:16:17

    @Sarah Frantz: Okay, so not like anything I was imagining. LOL.

    He sounds like a complete and utter prick, frankly. I’d take the nerd hero anyday. Nothing heroic about that deed. Surely the blow job was worth more than $5.00.

    This reminds me a little of the Linda Howard book, All the Queen’s Men, where the readers were clamouring for the villain’s story who killed people, did illegal things, but all in the name of his sick daughter so it was okay. Sounds like Decker needs a lot of redeeming. I know from the past that Brockmann believes characters have to really effort for their HEA.

  18. joanne
    Dec 19, 2008 @ 10:19:42

    I do wonder, though, if Suzanne Brockmann is really a romance writer anymore. Maybe she's a fiction writer with romance threads throughout the story? Why trade on the romance cache if you don't want to abide by genre conventions? Isn't it the conventions that form the genre itself? Otherwise, you wouldn't have a genre or sub genre divisions.

    YES, thank you.

    For goodness sake authors, write the book you want to write and I hope it sells in the bazillions…. just don’t call it romance and then backstroke your way into different genres while telling readers they got it wrong.

    How would it have hurt the next book to give some obvious clues that Sophia was looking elsewhere for her HEA? If you are writing one of these ‘endless arcs’ then you have to hope and respect the fact that readers have expectations that feed the machine. You don’t have to meet those expectations by compromising your characters’ growth, but you don’t have to blast their expectations to smithereens, either.

    I’ll deal with anything that gives me a HEA with the characters who are “up next”, even Ward’s ‘shot heard ’round the romance world’ didn’t upset me since the couple were still a couple at the end of the book.

    Romance = HEA
    Novel= everything else

  19. Sarah Frantz
    Dec 19, 2008 @ 10:38:10

    Joanne, all Brockmann ever promises is that the main characters of each book will end up with each other. And according to RWA’s definition, she still writes romance, because the core of each book is still a single romance with a happy ending.

    Look, I’m not presuming to say that you’re wrong about your feelings. And that came out way more condescending than it should have, but I don’t know how to rephrase. Readers have every right to feel betrayed, if that’s the way they feel, but *I* have every right NOT to feel betrayed and to feel that, absolutely, Brockman still writes romance. Two characters will get an HEA at the end of DON. That’s all that’s required for a romance.

  20. Sarah Frantz
    Dec 19, 2008 @ 10:40:39

    Jane, my problem with Decker has always been that he never seems to care enough about anything to try. I’m all for angsty heroes, trust me! But Decker isn’t angsty because he doesn’t care enough to try to overcome the angst. Or he’s too damaged to let himself try, or something. I’ve always been squicked by Deck and Sophia, but was totally willing to let Brockmann take me there, if that’s what she chose. But I’m obviously happy to be going somewhere else.

  21. RfP
    Dec 19, 2008 @ 11:05:41

    I do believe it is important that there not be any confusion over who the hero and heroine of the story actually are. To me, the hero/heroine relationship is the cornerstone of the romance novel.

    I don’t think those two statements are always connected. I loved Cotillion, in which the heroine is very clear that she wants one man, but chooses another in the very last chapter. But the hero/ine’s relationship IS the cornerstone of the novel, and that’s why she changes her mind. I’ve also read other good will-she-won’t-she scenarios with more than one potential romantic interest.

    I do wonder, though, if Suzanne Brockmann is really a romance writer anymore. Maybe she's a fiction writer with romance threads throughout the story?

    Absolutely, they’re romance novels. I don’t see anything about them that would put them in a different genre. The crux of every book is the romance(s), with at least one wrapping up happily and others still hanging. That’s the whole momentum of the series, not the action plots. I don’t see anything supporting this:

    Why trade on the romance cache if you don't want to abide by genre conventions?

    What’s unconventional is the structure of the books, in that Brockmann intersperses several couple’s stories in each, so the relationships develop over time. I think that structure is a great addition to the genre, as an alternative model to all the short, tight-focus romances and the lengthy easy-fuck-easy-go series in urban fantasy.

    Can someone explain the whole “blow job under dangerous circumstances” to me? I find that a little crazy out of context. This is what I'm envisioning:

    Sophie – hey, decker, we are about to die. Maybe I'll give you a blowjob to release our tension.

    Decker – sounds good soph. at least kneeling between my legs, you'll be safe from people shooting at us.

    Not even remotely close. They’re strangers, not on the same side, it’s a horrible situation for them both, and both feel they’ve violated themselves. Sophia needs years of therapy over the whole situation (and it’s difficult for me to imagine her ever recovering, really), and Decker avoids her like the plague for the next several books. I mean, seriously, it’s not the sort of rough start that’s an obvious lead-in to a relationship, unless we’re back in the days of the bodice ripper and sex has to be non-consensual and leads to Lurve. The flavor is more of war casualties who’ve been badly abused than a flippant moment between two hotties.

    Which I think points out that, even apart from differing interpretations, anyone who hasn’t read that book, or who read the books out of order, may have a very different impression of the dynamics. I know the standard romance setup is that unpleasant tension between a man and a woman means love is in the air, but in this case given the backstory I think it’s even odds whether Brockmann takes on the extraordinary angst it would take to resolve their situation.

  22. Ellie
    Dec 19, 2008 @ 11:14:10

    I always figured Brockmann was going to pair up Decker and Sophia, but am glad she’s not going there. “Blow job under dangerous circumstances” always struck me as a truly unhealthy way to begin a relationship. I wasn’t interested in Decker and Sophia’s relationship when I felt that was what Brockmann was doing.

    I think maybe part of the problem, though, is that it’s been five years since Flashpoint. If people who thought Deck and Sophia were going to be a couple realized they were wrong in the next book or two after the blow job, I’m not sure the outrage would be the same. But after five years of waiting for the book, I think it just makes the expectations that much greater. The problem may be more how long the idea of the relationship was stoked for, than the change itself.

  23. joanne
    Dec 19, 2008 @ 11:21:49

    as an alternative model to all the short, tight-focus romances and the lengthy easy-fuck-easy-go series in urban fantasy.

    wow, that’s a global statement, even in defense of a storyline you love …. it’s insulting.

    See, I didn’t knock Ms Brockman and/or her writing. The pole asked a question and I answered with my feelings… which Ms Frantz says aren’t wrong. Happy Day.

    And frankly: I don’t care if Decker ends up with Sophia or Dave or in a monastery in France.

  24. RfP
    Dec 19, 2008 @ 11:46:43

    wow, that's a global statement, even in defense of a storyline you love …. it's insulting.

    I enjoy both romance and urban fantasy, and I don’t see either of those descriptions as global or insulting. But since it struck you that way, I’m sorry I didn’t explain myself more.

    I’m actually not in love with Brockmann’s work either; none of her books is a keeper for me. But I’ve really enjoyed a couple of them, and beyond that, I’m glad her work is part of the genre.

    I think maybe part of the problem, though, is that it's been five years since Flashpoint. If people who thought Deck and Sophia were going to be a couple realized they were wrong in the next book or two after the blow job, I'm not sure the outrage would be the same. But after five years of waiting for the book, I think it just makes the expectations that much greater. The problem may be more how long the idea of the relationship was stoked for, than the change itself.

    That makes sense to me. I read an article a few months ago that said that over time, we tend to forget nuance and equivocation and remember something more definite. So it could be that a could-go-either-way storyline becomes more settled in our minds if there’s too long a gap.

  25. Randi
    Dec 19, 2008 @ 11:52:08

    Jane: I hope I didn’t come off sounding…uppity. I was just saying that I had read the books but DIDN’T have expectations about who Sophie was going to end up with. But I see, now, where you were headed with that question. It was only for people who DID have expecations about Sophie. I hadn’t initially read it that way, so I apologize for my misunderstanding. ;)

    I actually like Decker. I feel bad for him, because he initially liked Tess, and I had originally thought Brockmann was going to do the Tess/Decker HEA. And I don’t think he’s ever gotten over her. I think he likes Sophie, and I could see an eventual HEA, but I think it would take more “years” for that to happen. What no one here has mentioned about the blow job event, was that Sophie raped Decker. He said no and no, and no again, over and over, and she did what she did anyway. She realizes what she did and THAT is her shame with Decker. Not that she gave him a BJ, but that she forced it on him. And his $5 tip, I thought, was about in line with attempt to shoot him. Now Decker, he doesn’t quite see the rape part of it, but really, that’s what happened.

    My beef is more about Murphy. I mean, I wasn’t particularly involved with him, and who is Hannah and I don’t know..that whole story line seemed a throw-away.

    I also agree with whomever said (sorry, couldn’t find your comment) that Brockmann makes her h/h’s WORK for their HEA. And in real life, people change their mind, or make bad choices, or have to wait YEARS for their HEA. What I really like about Brockmann is that her characters go through that stuff. It’s not true love on sight, or true love b/c they had sex, or true love because they’re friends for 8 books. I’ll admit that I’m not always invested in the current h/h (like Murray and Hannah-I could care less about them; or Izzy and whats-her-name), but life is weird and has twists and turns, and even when I don’t care about the h/h, it’s still a good, honest read. IM very humble O.

    ps. I find this topic extremely interesting…;)

  26. Randi
    Dec 19, 2008 @ 11:57:38

    PPS. does anyone know what happened to Karen’s website? I miss it!

  27. Jane
    Dec 19, 2008 @ 12:15:21

    @Randi I didn’t think you came off uppity at all. I just wanted to test expectations because I think expectations really affect the reading of a book and the success of a book for that reader.

    As for Karen’s blog, I guess Karen is looking into it.

  28. GrowlyCub
    Dec 19, 2008 @ 13:22:25

    As I said elsewhere, if the only interaction between Decker and Sophia had been that non-consensual (on *his* part) encounter which was all about her getting him distracted so she could kill him and the only other times we saw them in later books had been as co-workers, nobody would be upset.

    However, over the ensuing books Sophia says she’s in love with Deck, but the only reason we get for why they aren’t a couple is because Deck feels guilt because he thinks he raped Sophia, when it was the other way around, but as a guy he’s bought into the idea that only men can rape women. I’m not convinced she has guilt over raping him with the intent to murder him. Jane, actually, in this pairing it’s Sophia who’s the prick.

    All the other POV characters, when they think/discuss this, consider that Deck and Sophia are heading for a relationship and they are waiting for them to end up as a couple.

    Additionally, the author lists them as a couple in one of her reader guides and also paired them in a couple of questions in an internet poll she conducted.

    We see Deck/Sophia mostly through Dave’s POV. Dave says he loves Sophia and he is convinced that Deck does as well and he knows she’s in love with Deck. This dynamic went on through 7(?) books and only in the last one did I see any serious effort by the author to redirect Sophia towards Dave. I think it’s legit for readers to assume this set-up would eventually lead to a HEA for Deck/Sophia.

    I get that some folks enjoy Brockmann’s stretching of the genre boundaries, and I’ve read the comments with interest by those who like how realistic her characters are compared to real life, but from my end, I’m just not sure that’s what is covered in my romance genre expectations and definition. Part and parcel of what I like about romance is that when we get glimpses of earlier HEA couples, it’s usually in cameo appearances and while the circumstances aren’t always all sunshine and kittens, it’s not couples breaking up, couples not getting married, etc., couples deeply unhappy with each other.

    I have not problem with couples working for their HEA. I do have a problem with having to see them crash and burn in later books after they had their own supposedly HEA book. As SarahF says, Brockmann claims she’s never gonna kill of a hero/heroine or bust a HEA couple, but she’s come awfully close several times and I don’t think I trust her any longer not to do it eventually a la Karin Slaughter, if she feels so moved.

    As far as I’m concerned while individual books may still qualify (in part) for the romance description, I’m not sure I’d be willing to award the label for the Troubleshooter series as a whole any longer.

    Usually when there’s a real life treatment of relationships over longer periods of time, we call that women’s fiction or novels/fiction which don’t exclude HEAs or h/h relationships, but where the focus is elsewhere. In a number of the books I felt the focus was on the suspense and the because the many romances were so spread out, none of the couples got the attention they deserved.

    From a marketing standpoint I have to applaud Brockmann, because she found a great formula to keep people coming back to buy more books.

    I’m not saying she’s not a great writer who manages to make her readers care about her characters, because she is (after all I read all the darn things and I DETEST suspense) but my cynical self is sitting back, imagining her deep satisfaction at all the publicity her books are getting over her decision to do something that she knew would rile her a considerable portion of her loyal readers up big time.

    Because as we all know there’s no bad publicity.

    In my mind it all comes down to the trust between author and reader which is tied into reader expectation and obviously she’s seriously damaged or destroyed that pact for many readers.

    When I pick up a book labeled romance, I want to know from the start who the main characters are and I expect that however serious the obstacles to their relationship that these two (or three) will get their happy ending. A happy ending that I can trust to stick, while not necessarily unchallenged for all times, for the rest of their lives.

    I do not expect to see them two books down the road, screaming at each other, hurting each other, one trying to make the other leave him.

    Mileage varies greatly on that, which again is a testament to her writing skills. I just wish she’d apply those skills to writing stories that aren’t so damn ‘real’. Cause real life I live and see on the news. Fights, divorce, unhappiness, disillusion should not be part of life for a romance novel couple after they’ve gotten their HEA as far as I’m concerned.

  29. GrowlyCub
    Dec 19, 2008 @ 13:47:49

    Oh, forgot to ask, which Sandra Brown titles are those, SarahF?

    The only one where somebody dies that I can remember off the top of my head is ‘Another Dawn’, in which the heroine’s father is killed at the end (his story was told in ‘Sunset Embrace’), but I didn’t follow Brown into romantic suspense, so it may be something written much later.

  30. MaryK
    Dec 19, 2008 @ 14:15:09

    @GrowlyCub: “As far as I'm concerned while individual books may still qualify (in part) for the romance description, I'm not sure I'd be willing to award the label for the Troubleshooter series as a whole any longer.”

    There was discussion recently about whether or not series books which don’t have an HEA until the last book qualify for the Romance label because each book can’t stand on its own as a Romance and it’s only the completed story arc that has an HEA. This situation seems like the other side of the coin. I would’ve said that the resolution of each book is more important to Romance than the resolution of the story arc. But this is obviously a case where the story arc is strong enough to ruin the romance of an individual book for some readers.

  31. Marianne McA
    Dec 19, 2008 @ 14:18:35

    I’m not reading the thread, because I don’t want to be spoiled more than I am – but, as someone madly trying to avoid spoilers for Dark of Night, I’ve got to say that’s a really suggestive question.

    I honestly can’t know if it is a spoiler – I haven’t read ‘Into the Fire’ yet – I’m waiting for it in paperback – and haven’t as much as read the blurb for ‘Dark of Night’ – but honestly, without having read one thing that has had a spoiler warning on it, the internet has given me the strong impression that Sophia and Decker don’t get together, and that it’s a twist the readership didn’t expect.

    If that happened in Into the Fire, that’s fine, or if it’s trailed in the blurb – which most people read – that’s okay, but if it is an actual spoiler – if Sophia and Decker don’t get together, and the reader doesn’t find out early on in the book, then I’d question whether you ought to put such a suggestive question on the front page of your site without a spoiler warning.

    I hope I’m just mistaken, and I’m getting the wrong end of the stick because I haven’t read ITF. (And, if so, I apologise: I can’t read any reply in the comments, because I’m not going to read them in case of spoilers.)

  32. Robin
    Dec 19, 2008 @ 14:36:25

    I'm not saying she's not a great writer who manages to make her readers care about her characters, because she is (after all I read all the darn things and I DETEST suspense) but my cynical self is sitting back, imagining her deep satisfaction at all the publicity her books are getting over her decision to do something that she knew would rile her a considerable portion of her loyal readers up big time.

    I have become extremely cynical about authors and their motives (much more so since being online, whatever that means), but I have the sense that Brockmann is one of those authors who really does have a great deal of respect for her readership and takes nothing for granted in terms of her continued success. She strikes me as a workhorse of a writer who doesn’t look down on her readers or take for granted the capricious nature of reader tastes. I could be very wrong, of course, but that’s the sense I’ve always gotten about her. And as much as I force a separation between book and author for the sake of reviewing, there’s something reassuring for me about the idea that some authors really do respect their readers and their work, and aren’t playing ‘nice to your face, then stab you in the back’ with dissenting reader views.

  33. Joan/SarahF
    Dec 19, 2008 @ 15:30:42

    Robin, yes, yes, and yes absolutely. Brockmann is everything you say, and I can’t see her gloating about anything, except perhaps Prop 8 getting turned on its head, and that would be more celebration. She one of the most genuine, honest, grateful, yet hard-working people I’ve ever ever met.

  34. Janet W
    Dec 19, 2008 @ 16:31:57

    What isn’t included here in Sandy C of AAR’s praise for DON — was that she enjoyed it thoroughly BUT she has been on Suz hiatus since ITS … a REALLY important thing to include when referencing her comments … /

    “But, undeniably, based on all that early reader outrage, those who make up Brockmann's core audience probably aren't going to see it that way. Which makes me wonder – and not for the first time – just what authors who extend storylines over multiple books owe their readers. Whatever kind of “suspense” angle the publisher tries to put on it, when romance authors reach the level of success that Brockmann has, the truth is that she still writes…well, romance. When readers pick up a book by Brockmann, they know they are guaranteed a main couple HEA and – reasonably enough – that the author's patented extended couple storylines will also end happily. That's the deal and both the writer and her readers know it.

    But I can't escape the fact that this book worked for me – far better than anything I've read by the author in the last four or five years. And, considering that I fully believed Brockmann had well and truly dropped off my list, that is saying something.

    Still, there's no getting around the harsh truth that expectations – especially when nurtured by the author over multiple books – can be a bitch. And Brockmann may well be about to find that out.

    But I'll say it again because it bears repeating: As a reader who approached Dark of Night with few – if any – preconceptions, I found it to be a great ride. Seriously.

    -Sandy AAR”

    For me the most important line is that one that says “expectations – especially when nurtured by the author over multiple books – can be a bitch” … and so we are seeing. In the thread of comments to Sandy’s terrific blog, Avalon’s is particularly interesting — she pretty much dissects, incident by incident, all the places where a reader might have thought that Sophia and Decker were in the cards. And gee whiz, if they weren’t, how about a heads-up say 2 or so books ago? If you like Sophia and Dave, you’re happy, if you don’t care, you’re happy, but if you are someone who actually enjoys (enjoyed?) the longdrawn out road to an HEA and thought they knew what to expect, this is not a good feeling. And whomever said all we were promised was an HEA, that’s, imo, really not an appropriate thing to say to readers of an author that stretches her HEAs over numerous books — do you really think it doesn’t matter who ends up with whom, just that they get an HEA? Perhaps I misinterpreted what you said but to me this book feels like a massive clean up all the lingering couples/people left standing, even if we have to shove a few squares into circles and vice versa.

    P.S. Again, Sandy’s AAR blog is really worth reading in its entirety. Thanks DA for covering this unfolding saga.

  35. Karen Scott
    Dec 19, 2008 @ 16:45:56

    Didn’t Lisa Kleypas do something similar with Daisy and the gypsy? Everybody expected Cam (?) to be her hero, but she ended up with someone else. I recall feeling a bit pissed off at the time.

  36. Chicklet
    Dec 19, 2008 @ 16:55:20

    Why trade on the romance cache if you don't want to abide by genre conventions? Isn't it the conventions that form the genre itself? Otherwise, you wouldn't have a genre or sub genre divisions.

    But is this situation a matter of generic convention, or community convention? Or is generic convention really a specialized form of community convention? I ask because I see Brockmann giving characters the genre-required HEA, but pushing at community conventions by, for example, stretching a particular couple’s story over several books. I would say that the HEA (which Brockmann provides) is a generic convention, and almost everything else is a community convention, and therefore more mutable — some readers might adhere to it, while others don’t want to (e.g., the heroine can’t have sex with another man after she’s met the hero regardless of whether the h/h are together yet; the heroine should not enjoy sex until she has it with the hero; etc.).

    We’ve all read single-title books where the heroine has to choose between two possible suitors (and the “winner” is the “hero”). It might seem like she’s going to choose Suitor A for most of the book, but by the end of the book, Suitor B has proven himself to be a better match. IMHO, this is the same, but it’s been spread across several books, instead of being resolved in 300 pages.

  37. GrowlyCub
    Dec 19, 2008 @ 16:55:59

    My impression is different. Maybe I’ve just visited at the wrong times, but every time I read her board, I got a load full of ‘I could tell you all these juicy details, yes I could, but I won’t, neener, neener’.

    Maybe I got the wrong idea from something SarahF posted about Brockmann’s reaction to readers expecting a Deck/Sophia HEA. I’m quoting Sarah from JMC’s LJ:

    that Suz herself has said that she doesn’t understand how/why anyone could think that one blowjob, done with Sophia in fear of her life and Decker knowing that she’s desperate, makes these two characters “destined” for each other. Like, why does a sordid sexual situation like this mean that they’re each other’s One True Love?

    If that’s indeed what Brockann said/meant then that sounds pretty dismissive to me, and not very respectful of her readers because if they believed so, they were led there by her.

    This combined with what I observed on the message board, just doesn’t make me feel the respect for her readers that others have experienced. I absolutely believe that she may be a fabulous person, but her author personality does not come across as such to me.

  38. Nialla
    Dec 19, 2008 @ 17:01:28

    At first, I thought we’d eventually see Decker/Sophia, but as time wore on and they weren’t getting any closer, I thought maybe I was wrong. The last book clinched it for me that they weren’t getting a HEA with each other. And I was perfectly OK with it, and happy to see that confirmed.

    Honestly, the book where the Decker/Sophia storyline was introduced was my least favorite in the series. Many of my friends in a book club who “discovered” Brockmann’s books in her early days gave up reading the series after that one. Too dark and depressing for a romance (even if you go with “romantic suspense”), even though we’re all OK with angst.

    None of us liked Decker at all, and Sophia often came across as whiny about her unrequited love later on. I try to take into account their history making them do the things they’ve done, but personally I think that very history is why they shouldn’t end up together.

    I understand why some would assume they’d end up together, because according to the tropes, it’s downright destiny. But sometimes following destiny can be kind of boring.

  39. Jane
    Dec 19, 2008 @ 17:11:55

    @Janet W Avalon’s post is very interesting. I think that someone like Sandy (or myself as I am kind of intrigued about reading it) would not appreciate the attachment that long time readers have developed toward the coupling of two people.

    As I said previously, I think that readers have the right to do exactly what Avalon has done and others and that is offer up their own viewpoints regarding expectations (backed up by specific examples in this case). One of the reasons that I started this blog was my own frustration with Eloisa James’ book – Taming the Duke – and her subsequent response. Readers need a place to vent and commune and hearing the opposing side as offered by say, Sandy or Dr. Sarah, is also very illuminating.

    @chicklet – you bring up really interesting points that I want to address when I have more time, but I agree that there is a difference between say ambiguity in a long time series such as what Colleen Gleason is doing (and to kind of shed light on my own bias of these books, I’m not reading Gleason until the series is done) where the outcome is ambiguous and what readers have perceived is a commitment by an author over the course of a series to keep you attached to a particular couple in order to heighten your interest for another book.

    I do believe that Brockmann is a serious marketer and that she’s developed this kind of writing because she knows that it is a successful way to build and generate momentum and interest.

  40. library addict
    Dec 19, 2008 @ 17:39:43

    I used to think Suz Brockmann had a lot of respect for her readers, but am no longer sure.

    In her last newsletter she stated: “But don’t you think it would be fun to read a romance WITHOUT knowing exactly who’s going to end up with whom? Knowing only that a happy ending is in store…?”

    She has gone out of her way to keep the names of the hero/heroine of Dark of Night a secret. It isn't really the secrecy that annoys me. It's the idea that she thinks the fact that someone gets a HEA should somehow be enough for us and that which characters are involved doesn't matter. I disagree that her characters are so interchangeable that we shouldn't care who ends up with whom.

    It goes without saying that she is free to write her books anyway she wants. On other sites some people have accused the Sophia/Decker fans of wanting to dictate where the story should go, but that's not really the case. She went out of her way, not only in the books, but with her reader extras on her website (the poll, the Reader’s Guide) to make us think Sophia & Decker were a romantic couple destined for a HEA. And now seems to be surprised that some readers object to the “bait-and-switch.”

  41. Joan/SarahF
    Dec 19, 2008 @ 18:17:58

    @growlycub: I’ll quote myself @6: “So I'm not quite sure where “saying that expectations were wrong by the readers (I think this is the wrong way to address readers' concerns)” comes from. I have the horrible feeling it might be from me, and that's certainly never what I meant to convey. I think Brockmann has more respect for her readers than any other author I've ever met. I think she was talking more about genre conventions here than her readers, FWIW.”

    Confession time: I’ve realized since this brouhaha that Brockmann said this to me over private email, and I was obviously remiss in revealing it. I thought it was common knowledge on her website and/or MB, but not so. So while I totally get what everyone’s saying about how she’s marketed Sophia and Decker as a couple a number of times, and spanned this over so many books, I still don’t think this negates what she said to me, either. But then, I guess I think she’s right, and, TBH, I’ve never liked Sophia and Decker as a couple. So I’m much less invested, I guess.

  42. Keishon
    Dec 19, 2008 @ 18:23:40

    I guess I would have been surprised and a little disappointed, too. I read the book that introduced Deck and Sophie….and so she doesn’t end up with Decker? Interesting. Who would have thought? I like when author’s give readers surprises like this. It keeps us on our toes. I liked Decker but they never were in a committed relationship, and IIRC, they always had all of these chance meetings but don’t quote me on that. I haven’t read Brockmann’s latest book. I read her rarely these days because I am sick to death of Navy SEALs.

  43. GrowlyCub
    Dec 19, 2008 @ 18:42:51

    Sarah, thanks for clarifying that. I’m not sure if knowing this was a private statement makes it better or worse. Worse I think. But I have to say that I don’t find it surprising, because while she may not have said it on the message board in so many words, that was the sentiment I was picking up on when reading her different comments.

    Robin, does the fact that she said this not in public but in private change your opinion about her and your assessment that she is among the authors who “aren’t playing ‘nice to your face, then stab you in the back' with dissenting reader views.”?

    After reading through a number of different discussions, I’m really very curious about a number of things:

    Supposedly, Brockmann stated that this was the pairing she intended from the start. If that’s the truth, it begs the question why she didn’t introduce Dave in earlier books as in love with Sophia and showed any kind of interest by her in him, why she kept inserting other characters’ observation about a Deck/Sophia relationship over so many books and why she didn’t include Dave in her online polls and reader guides as part of the Deck/Sophia story arc.

    Authors can change their minds, series and characters evolve and sometimes an original story line turns out not to work after all in the context of the series. I firmly believe if she’d come out and told her most loyal fans on the bulletin board: ‘Hey, Deck and Sophia came and talked to me and they just don’t want to be a couple and I cannot make them; I know some of you will be disappointed but the characters are just no cooperating.’, folks might have been disappointed but they wouldn’t have felt jerked around, which seems to be the strongest feeling the secrecy and the coy innuendo she opted for instead have caused.

    As to her newsletter question of whether it wouldn’t be fun to read a romance where you don’t know who the hero is until the end, my answer is a resounding *no*.

    ETA: Oh, and I have to say WTH to Tracy/Decker. That’s just bizarre.

  44. library addict
    Dec 19, 2008 @ 18:53:31

    “that Suz herself has said that she doesn't understand how/why anyone could think that one blowjob, done with Sophia in fear of her life and Decker knowing that she's desperate, makes these two characters “destined” for each other. Like, why does a sordid sexual situation like this mean that they're each other's One True Love?”

    Suz said this? I am shocked and saddened and have now lost all respect for her.

    If she felt this way, then why write Sophia & Decker's further interactions the way she did? Because to fans their relationship was NEVER based just on that initial bj.

    Why have Decker thinking about how he's been dreaming of Sophia when he first sees her again in HT? Why all the wistful looks? Why have Sophia telling Dave over-and-over how much she loves Decker? And all the rest of it (I won't list all the details but as GrowlyCub and others have said, there were more).

    Why list Decker & Sophia as a couple on the poll? Why not have Dave & Sophia as an option there as well?

    Why all the secrecy? Why not just say DON is Dave & Sophia's book?

    How are readers – those of us who fell for the whole Sophia & Decker charade – supposed to believe she wasn't taking some sort of malicious glee in taunting us and laughing all the way to the bank?

    I guess the “evil” in her nickname (TEAS, the evil author Suz) is closer to the mark than I ever would have believed. I always thought it was a joke.

  45. Throwmearope
    Dec 19, 2008 @ 20:19:21

    I never thought much about Sophia and Decker as a couple anyway. I wanted Decker for Tess (when we first met him) because in that book I liked him a lot better than that doodlehead Nash. In Deck’s defense, he did “lend” Sophia $50,000, so it must have been a helluva bj.

    Jane, I started Brockmann at about book 4 of this series, then glommed on the backlist. I think there is a culture in the series that has become almost unstated, but I don’t see why you couldn’t start in media res, as it were.

    I really miss her blended books, where she told a contemporary story mixed in with a historical romance. (And I gripe about how much I detest most historicals, but those were great.) If you wanted to start with Brockmann, I’d recommend one of the early blended novels.

  46. Joan/SarahF
    Dec 19, 2008 @ 20:23:20

    I think there are two ways to view this, and obviously libraryaddict and to some extent growlycub and I are on completely opposite ends of the spectrum.

    1. See these characters as people and the stories as episodes in their lives. Sophia was suffering from major reverse Stockholm Syndrome, IMO. Deck (and Dave) got her out of Kazbekistan (sp?). She feels attracted to him, but IMO, it’s totally a crush. She’s got hero-worship and thinks its love, and everyone knows it. Look, I’ve been there. I totally crushed on the high school quarterback (canNOT believe I’m admitting this) and as much as I wanted to hide it, everyone in the whole damn school knew about it. So, with Deck not being partnered, knowing that something happened back in-country, people assumed. But, you know what? They grew up! Or at least Sophia did. And she realized that this really sweet guy, who had been sweet on her since before he even knew who she was (Dave admits to himself in Flashpoint that he admired his CIA contact in K’stan, who was Sophia). So, yes, I personally think that there HAVE been Dave hints, but that’s just me.

    2. See the books solely from genre perspective and as needing to fulfill “community conventions.” I guess I just don’t do that, or don’t for this series, or this author, or something. Because I enjoy watching Brockmann stretch all the community expectations she can.

    I guess the issue is really coming down to the fact that people feel she’s betrayed readers, not through the books themselves so much, as through the peripheral discussions of the characters. And I guess I don’t really have any defense there, if indeed I felt she needed defending, which I don’t actually, because if anyone can stand on her own two feet and the strength of her own writing, it’s Suz Brockmann.

    If there’s one thing to take away from this discussion, please let it be that Brockmann respects her readers more than any other author I know. Obviously people don’t agree, but there’s some major author asshattery out there, and Brockmann isn’t it. Nothing further could be from her mind, IMO. Because this: “supposed to believe she wasn't taking some sort of malicious glee in taunting us and laughing all the way to the bank?”? I don’t even recognize what you’re saying there as anything Brockmann could or would do. That’s not why she writes, not how she writes, and certainly not how she feels about her readers. And if this is going to lose her readers, as people seem to indicate, how could this be her laughing all the way to the bank? She writes so that the characters come alive, IMO, and yanno, sometimes people make really bad choices.

  47. library addict
    Dec 19, 2008 @ 21:06:58

    @Joan/Sarah F
    I can appreciate your POV and, even though I am a Decker/Sophia fan and wanted to see them work things out and have their HEA, I wouldn't be nearly half as upset as I am if she hadn’t put up the poll, written the Reader’s Guide the way she did etc, etc. Because I do feel those were done with the intent to deliberately mislead her readers.

    Heck, if she had made it clear there would be no Sophia & Decker earlier on I probably would be rooting for Dave to get the girl. But as it is, I feel Dave is losing out as well as Decker. He will always be the guy Sophia settled for IMO.

    As for the laughing all the way to the bank, I meant that with the books from Flashpoint to Into the Fire. As you said, Suz is quite a talented writer and could, IMO, have easily kept Dave & Sophia as a “surprise” couple without going the triangle route. TBH, I never really considered it a triangle, even with ITF. I saw Dave as mooning over the unobtainable woman, Deck suffering from PTSD but with deep feelings for Sophia he would eventually act on, and Sophia working through the trauma her life became while a prisoner of Bashir's and waiting for Deck to come around. I don't understand why she felt it necessary to string us along with the probability/possibility that Deck and Sophia would work things out.

    So, we will have to agree to disagree about the books. As you said, she writes so that the characters come alive. We obviously saw the Sophia and Decker relationship differently.

  48. Vanessa
    Dec 19, 2008 @ 21:39:47

    I don’t usually jump in on the heated conversations on the internets, but I kinda feel like I need to this time.

    Put me down as one of those people that only saw Deck and Sophia in huge, flashing neon lights on the Empire State Building. Yeah, their relationship started off on the wrong foot, but most of the fun in my expectations came from wondering how Suz was going to get them to their HEA. It was going to be a long, hard road and I was in it for the long haul. Dave always came across (to me at least) as that platonic guy friend that always loved his best girl friend, but will eventually realize that there’s someone out there soooo much better for him.

    Cause while I felt that Deck/Sophia would work awesome, I never thought that Sophia was even slightly attracted to Dave. Seriously, we’ve got years upon years and book after book of Sophia expressing love and lust of Decker to Dave. I can’t think of any specific instance in any of the books that have ever shown Sophia thinking “Well, that Dave sure is the total package, definitely someone I can spend the rest of my life with!” I’m being ridiculous in that last sentence (lol) but really, any and all emotion about Dave and Sophia together came from Dave. Period. The end. Unless I’m forgetting some monster sized section in a missing book somewhere?

    I’m thinking I’m probably gonna library this guy, or maybe read it in Borders. Hell, I might even end up buying it, cause I’m quite a fan of how Brockmann writes. It’s possible that she’ll end up making me believe that even though all the clues she left me pointed to A, she actually meant Y the whole time. Who knows? But as of now, without having read the story, I’m kinda pissed that I’m not getting the couple that her books had focused on. Womp :/

  49. KristieJ
    Dec 19, 2008 @ 21:46:11

    I haven't read any of Brockmann's books but I admit this controversy has made me interested in checking them out.

    And I’m the exact opposite. I read the first two books way back when, and I didn’t really care for the direction she was going. Too many points of view, characters I didn’t care for, etc. And I watched while others agonized over whether Sam and Alyssa would ever get together and was glad I hadn’t gotten into it. I get too emotionally invested in books and I just know waiting through book after book for HEA’s would have driven me mad.
    So while I don’t know who Sophia and Decker are, I can imagine the frustration of many readers after being led to believe they would be together, Ms. Brockman takes them in a different route.
    Yet at the same time – I do believe that an author has the right to do with her characters as she will. And I don’t mean this in a snarky way at all, but as I reader, I have the right not to become invested either.

  50. romsfuulynn
    Dec 19, 2008 @ 22:12:56

    I am perfectly happy for Suz to tell me the story of who ends up with whom and make me believe it.

    I want Dave’s story, Deck’s story, Sophia’s story, but I am willing to accept that they may not be the same stories, and that sometimes people may have deep feelings but not be the only person for each other or the right person for someone else, because their relationship has too much baggage.

    I’m actually interested in seeing how she carries things off without demonizing anyone or negating previous books.

    I thought she did a great job of redeeming Mary Ann for example.

    I trust her.

  51. Jane
    Dec 19, 2008 @ 22:14:22

    @romsfuulynn I think the problem is that readers also trusted her but now feels the trust is betrayed by the polls/reader guide/and five years of misdirection (intentional or unintentional).

  52. library addict
    Dec 19, 2008 @ 22:19:59

    2. See the books solely from genre perspective and as needing to fulfill “community conventions.” I guess I just don't do that, or don't for this series, or this author, or something. Because I enjoy watching Brockmann stretch all the community expectations she can.
    @Robin/Sarah F

    Just out of curiosity how do you see the way she wrote DON as pushing the envelope or stretching community expectations? (I'm assuming perhaps incorrectly that you've had the chance to read it already).

    Because – separating out my expectations as a reader attached to the specific characters involved – haven't the “Falling in love with the best friend you've known a long time” (Sophia/Dave) and the “company receptionist falls in love with the executive” (Tracy/Decker) plots been done to death already? I'm sure Suz will have her own unique twist, but those basic plots I know I've read in both category and single title releases by other authors.

    I believe Suz would have pushed the envelope much further by actually going the Decker & Sophia HEA route. Because as Vanessa says, wondering how in the world Suz would pull that off is one of the things that attracted me to the story in the first place.

    I see Dave & Sophia in particular as the much more traditional coupling. They are the more conventional way to go, not the more unique IMO. So, I guess we will agree to disagree about that, too. LOL.

  53. Sarah Frantz
    Dec 19, 2008 @ 22:24:14

    Jane, not to belabor the point, or put words in other people’s mouths, but it seems to me that romsfuulynn gets your point but disagrees. As do I, as I’m sure is obvious from this thread.

    I guess what I’ve come to understand is that both sides have perfectly valid points. Yes, some readers trusted Brockmann and followed her clues and now feel betrayed, and I get why they feel like that and can sympathize with them. Then again, others still trust her and don’t believe that she’ll lead us wrong. I’m also completely looking forward to seeing how she manages the triangle AND the other HEA that I’ve seen floating around. And, TBH, how she manages to work out Nash and Tess, b/c that thread’s gotta close too. I’m much more nervous about that and the second HEA than about the “main” couple. But I trust her AND understand that other people feel betrayed. Even understand why they feel betrayed, and agree that they have very valid concerns (once again sounding incredibly condescending and not sure how to change the words around b/c that’s not what I feel), even as I respectfully disagree.

  54. Sarah Frantz
    Dec 19, 2008 @ 22:26:02

    @library addict: I see what you’re saying about the traditional pairing, and I like the point, but we wouldn’t have a 54-comment thread if she WEREN’T stretching boundaries somewhere, would we?! ;)

  55. library addict
    Dec 19, 2008 @ 22:27:59

    Just shoot me, I must have had Robin & Jules stuck in my brain. I meant “Joan/SarahF”.

    I think the pushing boundaries and feeling betrayed or jerked around are two separate issues.

  56. Sarah Frantz
    Dec 19, 2008 @ 22:29:37

    I was wondering! ::wink:: Certainly don’t mind being compared to Robin, of course, but I thought you were confusing me with Janet/Robin from here!

  57. Janet W
    Dec 19, 2008 @ 22:36:04

    … you know, if Suz didn’t have such a great track record of sharing how her characters “talk” to her and make her change her mind, there wouldn’t be such a controversy right now, imo. Robin fighting for his story, same with Gina — and her sharing her thoughts that an encounter, fraught with tension and fear, on both sides, was not exactly HEA material — so again, why not share that with her readers over a five year stretch? Why not present a poll with Sophia/Deck/Dave, like she did with Adam/Jules/Robin?

    I devoured Suz’s books, starting with Unsung Hero, and I think she’s the very best when it comes to so many things — but to me, and to others, this is visceral — this is 5 years of red herrings. OK, not so many in the last book or so, so why the coy mystery?

    And I “get” Cotillion, I get the story by Carla Kelly — it’s totally OK to switch the dancers midstream … but not this way. This feels unromantic. And again, due to Suz’s great writing skills, I really began to appreciate Tracy — I’m not happy that she didn’t get her build up, her HEA, like Sam and Alyssa did, like Max and Gina … this notion of “trust” coupled with too much author fed information doesn’t jell for me. I personally think Suz changed her mind about the hero, fair enough. That happens. But I feel as if I’m being asked to unvalidate my feelings over a long period of time and fall into place … to say, yeah, I was wrong, the signs were there all along and I just don’t feel that way. Whoever said Deck/Sophia would have been a hard sell but a great one, I agree — think of Francis and Serena in Beverley’s Forbidden — their HEA started with Serena to all intents and purposes raping him. But Beverley pulled it off.

  58. Sarah Frantz
    Dec 19, 2008 @ 22:46:17

    Here’s another thought that Janet W made me think: I’m pretty sure Brockmann meant Sophia and Dave to end up together all along, but she wanted us to think Sophia and Deck, she wanted us to watch Sophia “in love” with Deck, because people make mistakes and get things wrong and then learn and change and move on. So, no, that doesn’t invalidate anyone’s feelings about the relationships, except inasmuch as it challenges the genre’s community conventions that if there’s that much feeling, then these two people should automatically get together. She’s saying (and no, I haven’t read it yet!) that yes, there can be that much feeling, but that doesn’t mean that things can’t end up differently. And I think that’s fundamentally different than an outright betrayal. Does it make it better or worse that she might have meant us to be mislead, but not because she was playing tricks or being evil or mean or disrespectful of our feelings, but because she wants to show real life, and real feelings, and the misdirections that we all stumble through as we move through this wonderful thing called life? Okay, so that means that romance is not our automatic happy “escape” but it also validates the power and strength of romance that we’re all so riled up about this.

  59. Robin
    Dec 19, 2008 @ 22:53:58

    This combined with what I observed on the message board, just doesn't make me feel the respect for her readers that others have experienced. I absolutely believe that she may be a fabulous person, but her author personality does not come across as such to me.

    I understand this, even if I have a different perception of Brockmann. There are several authors who get tons of love from their fans for their conduct, but who I find not so stellar. There is still a lot of subjectivity in how we intuit people based on the limited contact we have with them in this very artificial environment.

    Robin, does the fact that she said this not in public but in private change your opinion about her and your assessment that she is among the authors who “aren't playing ‘nice to your face, then stab you in the back' with dissenting reader views.”?

    Not really, not based on that comment, at least.

    I remember a while ago (after the last Slaughter book, maybe?) that Charlaine Harris wrote a blog post about how she didn’t feel that readers should be angry at authors for the direction their work takes. I did not agree with her, and the comment rankled me, but I didn’t see it as wholesale disrespect, in part because I saw it as part of the natural distinction between authors and readers on this issue of authorial autonomy and reader expectations. I see Brockmann’s comment in the same light. It doesn’t strike me, for example, in the same way that the comment someone related by Gabaldon, in which she told a reader to her face to “get a life” because she was too invested in Gabaldon’s books — THAT seems really over the line to me and overtly disrespectful on a very personal level.

    I find this whole aspect of the reader – author dynamic very interesting and very sticky. OTOH I totally agree with Chicklet’s distinguishing of community conventions from genre conventions and the way these get conflated in some genre talk. Since I tend to be a reader who likes both types of conventions challenged and stretched, I’m the one who is intrigued by the possibility of not knowing who ends up with whom. OTOH, I understand that the genre so often delivers on reader expectations that I understand how readers may feel betrayed when a series or book takes a different direction. I think readers have a right to feel that way, and authors have a right to feel they are acting in the best interest of their work (even if readers don’t have that sense of it).

  60. Robin
    Dec 19, 2008 @ 23:03:52

    I just wanted to add that I am not a Brockmann reader, per se. I tried the first few Troubleshooter books and found them okay but not addictive (I liked her SEAL categories more, whatever that series was called). And it’s not the series or the open-ended nature of the books; if anything it’s that I have a really hard time with military-themed Romance, especially when it’s set around current political issues. So I don’t really have anything invested in this particular relationship either way. Although now I’m kind of tempted to pick up this book!

    One more thing about series and marketing. I know a lot of people hate the Stephanie Plum series now, especially the triangle between Morelli (my pick) and Ranger. But I like it and think it’s virtually unresolvable at this point, a belief that sticks with me even as I read each book and see how it all develops. The latest Plum book, Fearless Fourteen, was basically savaged by longtime Evanovich fans, but I liked the book. It disappointed in its shorter length, and it was not deep at all, but I felt like the old Evanovich screwball humor was back, and I enjoyed that a lot. But I get why other readers are disgusted and feel that Evanovich is just stringing them along. She may be, but for whatever reason, the books still work for me. In other cases, like the JR Ward series, I’ve been less enamored of the series as it has developed, and am frustrated that now it’s going hardcover. Yet other readers are still hungrily gobbling those Brotherhood books down.

  61. Jacqueline
    Dec 20, 2008 @ 00:12:38

    Wow-i am really pissed and shocked if Suz made that comment about the “BJ” i feel that is discounting the readers feelings about characters SHE wrote about.

    Whether you are a Dave fan, Deck Fan or neutral, there is absolutely no denying that Suz has set up her readers to believe that there was a hell of a good chance that Deck and Soph would get their HEA! I have always liked suz’s personality on her board and through e-mails, but I can’t help but feel like she purposely tricked her readers. I am NOT buying for one minute that she NEVER intended for DECk and Sophia to have their HEA. I think Suz fell in love with Dave’s character and screwed over Deck big time by trying to force a ridiculous, absurd coupling of Deck and Tracy. Suz has stated several times that this is the end of the story arc. I can’t see how she can cram all the HEA in this one book with any true belief when Sophia has never had feelings for Dave and has repeatedly said she loves Deck. Also, there have been no sparks and barely any interaction between Deck and Tracy-WTF?-don’t know how she is going to pull this off! They are so ill matched-it makes no sense!

    After 5 years, and over many books, as loyal readers and fans, we DESERVE better! Yes, it is Suz’s choice as the author but why string your readers along over years and why not be honest about it?

    Jane, honestly, I believe you have been mislead-Decker is not a prick! He tried to stop the BJ from happening and has been torturing himself with guilt ever since-he is an honest, stand up guy,(not to mention dedicated hero) who has helped Sophia but for some reason stops himself from being happy (he thinks he doesn’t deserve it) We have been feeling his tortured pain for years and many of us have been waiting and waiting for his HEA that we believed would be explosive! So yeah, some of us feel betrayed and bitter…..and for Suz to dwindle all of Soph and Deck’s history down to one BJ under distress-GMAFB! This is just a double slap in the face and insulting to her loyal readers! I hope she at least becomes aware of all the outrage and addresses it at some point (and in an HONEST fashion-no more BS! Geez, just tells us you fell in love with Dave’s character….I mean I am not a complete idiot, I could see that she has been favoring him, but never thought she would take it this far to discount 5 years of history so he could get the girl-the girl that has shown zero/zip/nada romantic interest in him!!)

    It’s too late and I’m too torked up to care about my spelling/grammar errors-sorry! Good night! and HO HO HO

  62. emily
    Dec 20, 2008 @ 02:33:12

    @ jacqueline – you summed it up perfectly for me… GMAFB indeed… that comment about the bj, made in any fashion by suz, is like trying to deny the undeniable… so is trying to sell the fact that this was the intended outcome all along… i don’t see how anyone could follow this series and believe that, but if suz can sell that bit of fiction, look out, because the next thing you’ll hear is that she’s got a great deal on a bridge for you…

    i’m another one of those people that saw “decker and sophia” in great big neon flashing lights… i’ve seen nothing from sophia that would indicate she’s sexually interested in dave – ever… i’ve seen nothing from decker that would indicate that he’s sexually interested in tracy – ever… but deck and sophia are so aware of each other, they sizzle… as a reader, i think it’s a big freakin’ clue when i read about decker fantasizing about sophia’s mouth – and i don’t think it was because of a deep and abiding interest in her dental hygiene… and sophia being so focused on decker all the time also seemed like a clue that she was interested in more than, say, what brand of fabric softener he uses… it’s not like there were any other clues pointing to sophia having romantic feelings for dave anywhere until the very end of ITF, and those read like the desperate actions of the broken hearted to me, and there have quite frankly never been any indications that decker wants tracy at all – he seems to view her as just being there, in the same manner as the desk, or the telephone – necessary, useful, but not something he spends any time thinking about… sure, it’s possible that they could develop feelings for each other – just like it’s possible that the tooth fairy and santa clause will waltz by my front door on a cloud of fairy dust holding the winning ticket for tomorrow nights loto – but neither is exactly a likely scenario, based on the knowledge i have at this moment in time… i figured decker's damage and angst, coupled with sophia’s damage and angst would give their story a wow factor 5000 – making that work would have been an amazing story to see unfold…

    @ sarahf – with the utmost respect, i think you’re reeeeaaallllllyyyy reaching with that explanation about suz wanting us to watch sophia in love with decker for 5 years, so that we could watch her make a mistake… that’s not genre stretching, especially when the end result is pairing the geeky 40 yo virgin with his beautiful, sexy secret love best friend, while pairing the alpha male company executive with the ditzy, slightly slutty company receptionist… i think those two storylines alone could be responsible for keeping the porn industry afloat… it doesn’t mean they can’t be effective storylines, and they certainly work for the adolescent male, but they’re not exactly cutting edge boundary pushers… i think people are up in arms because they feel like they’ve been misled and made fools of, not because suz is a genre-stretching maverick…

  63. Joonigrrl/Leslie
    Dec 20, 2008 @ 03:53:50

    I’m not a big Brockman fan and I know I’m focusing on the wrong part of this discussion, but . . .

    I've stopped reading Charlaine Harris because of what she did years ago in a murder mystery series.

    Jane, are you referring to her Shakespeare series? I remember feeling pretty upset when I realized that Lily wasn’t going to end up with the right guy. I always wanted Harris to write another so she could “fix” it.

    Didn't Lisa Kleypas do something similar with Daisy and the gypsy? Everybody expected Cam (?) to be her hero, but she ended up with someone else. I recall feeling a bit pissed off at the time.

    That and Blue Eyed Devil. I’m still disappointed with that one.

  64. GrowlyCub
    Dec 20, 2008 @ 04:29:46

    I agree that Decker and Sophia both have pretty severe baggage and making their relationship a healthy one would have required serious effort which was the whole attraction of the story line for me. Here was a seriously boundary stretching relationship and watching her pull it off would have been worth slogging through all that boring suspense crap around it!

    What I cannot get over is the question how the Dave/Sophia relationship can be considered any healthier?

    Sure, in the first euphoria, I can see Dave being happy. After all, he got the girl he’s been loving from afar for years! But how long until the doubts set in? After all, this is the woman who has done nothing for the last 5 years but tell him how much she loves another man, and for whom he has tried his best to get his friend Deck to acknowledge his feelings and start the relationship that both Sophia and Deck want.

    And how healthy is their relationship going to be, when Dave starts wondering and then obsessing in the middle of the night about being 2nd choice, whether Sophia just decided to ‘love him’ because she couldn’t have Deck?

    And that’s what it comes down to for me after having read the end of ITF. Sophia *decides* to be with somebody who loves her. Ehm, hello, that’s not how this works and it’s totally unfair to the one who loves you!

    You either love somebody or you only have friendly feelings for them, but if there’s no chemistry just wanting to be with somebody who loves you, is not very nice treatment of that person since you don’t love them back. Quite honestly, Sophia comes across as a total user, which may be understandable with her history, but that doesn’t make her relationship with Dave any healthier.

    At least with Deck there was chemistry, not necessarily healthy chemistry, but there was something there on a deep visceral level, which is completely absent with Dave. And since Dave has grown on me, I feel he deserves *much* better than being second string or wondering whether he is for the rest of his life.

    First she forces sex on Deck in order to kill him, and now she takes advantage of a guy she’s got no chemistry with because she wants somebody to love her. Yeah, that’s a recipe for a long-term healthy relationship… not.

    I have a whole lot less to say about Deck and Tracy, because that pairing is so unbelievable it’s not even funny.

    Now, nobody has said anything about Eden/Izzy. Is there any development on that front, are they quits or are they the next ‘string out over the next 5 book couple’?

  65. maggie b.
    Dec 20, 2008 @ 08:15:32

    Here's another thought that Janet W made me think: I'm pretty sure Brockmann meant Sophia and Dave to end up together all along, but she wanted us to think Sophia and Deck, she wanted us to watch Sophia “in love” with Deck, because people make mistakes and get things wrong and then learn and change and move on. So, no, that doesn't invalidate anyone's feelings about the relationships, except inasmuch as it challenges the genre's community conventions that if there's that much feeling, then these two people should automatically get together. She's saying (and no, I haven't read it yet!) that yes, there can be that much feeling, but that doesn't mean that things can't end up differently. And I think that's fundamentally different than an outright betrayal. Does it make it better or worse that she might have meant us to be mislead, but not because she was playing tricks or being evil or mean or disrespectful of our feelings, but because she wants to show real life, and real feelings, and the misdirections that we all stumble through as we move through this wonderful thing called life? Okay, so that means that romance is not our automatic happy “escape” but it also validates the power and strength of romance that we're all so riled up about this.

    I think this all depends on how we see romance. That conversation at the end of ITF between Dave and Sophia actually made me hurt for her. That was so reminiscent of friends who “settled” for the guy they had rather than holding out for someone they flat out loved. There is love in this type of relationship but it is much more a Philo (brotherly love) than an eros or erotic type love. For some I suppose that could be very acceptable. But I read to read eros — to get that larger than life attraction mixed with a full dose helping of Agape or complete love. Not to get a character who realizes that with Dmitri she had her one true love, with Decker she had Stockholm Syndrome and now with Dave she is ready to settle down and give up. Maybe have a few kids whom she can give her heart to. That would work in a women’s fiction story I suppose but I want that larger than life feel in my romance. I want that I was attracted to you from the first. And Sophia clearly wasn’t with Dave. That chemistry has been most definitely been missing.

    I have read many posts commenting on the realistic nature of this relationship. Well, in reality I have seen women in this relationship (and men) who have to spend the rest of their lives reassuring their spouse. I see Dave rolling over to fall asleep many a night doing just what he does in the opening sequence of DoN (posted on Suz’ website) SPOILERS AHEAD IF YOU HAVEN’T READ THAT EXCERPT! PLEASE STOP NOW IF YOU DON’T WANT THAT SPOILER! REALLY FOLKS, STOP NOW!

    Wondering who Sophia is thinking of while she makes love to him. I can see Ms. Brockmann having Sophia assure him later in the book how she only thinks of him and only loves him but again, if we are going with the reality of this relationship, that doubt will never leave him. It can’t. He knows the truth — and the truth is she settled for him.

    maggie b.

  66. Joan/SarahF
    Dec 20, 2008 @ 09:38:48

    Wow, all this passion! One thing Brockmann has said publicly many times is that she much prefers people to love or hate her books, rather than feel meh about them, because that kind of passion means that she’s created something that speaks to people. So I guess she’s done it again. And no, I don’t think this is all some big nefarious plot to make us all mad at her so we feel the passion she’s looking for.

    And I’m sorry, Jacqueline and Emily, but I absolutely do see that Sophia and Dave *could* have been meant for each other from the start. *I* personally don’t understand how almost literally not speaking with each other for years, after a few interactions under extremely stressful conditions, could mean that Sophia really loved the “real” Decker. And I’ve never felt any chemistry between them–everything they’ve done with and to each other has felt forced and almost embarrassing, IMO, so obviously, we don’t feel that same about these characters. And, personally, having a fabulous, long-term, and extremely passionate relationship with my best friend from high school turned lover (another romance convention that some people adore), I can completely get behind Sophia and Dave. It certainly doesn’t look like they were lacking any passion from the excerpt of DON that’s up.

    And remember, this is the author who made us all sympathize with and root for Mary Lou, and who made Robin one of my favorite characters after I started out hating him. If she can do that, I’m pretty sure she can do anything. We’re making all these assumptions about what she can and can’t do in this book without having read it. From Sandy’s review on AAR, I can’t wait to read this book to see what happens.

  67. Janet W
    Dec 20, 2008 @ 11:01:23

    http://www.likesbooks.com/blog/?p=273 … I apologize for not including a link to Sandy’s review on AAR earlier … and Sarah F, with all due respect, no one is saying that Suz is not the — copying another author’s words about another author, K M Peyton actually — Ancient Mariner of a Tale Teller — that’s so not the point. The point is, IF Dave was the hero from day one, and assuming that we’ve been treated to an example of RL over many years (like it’s a crush, get past it, fall for the nice guy at the next cubicle), if that’s stretching the boundaries of romance, it doesn’t appeal to me. I waited for Deck/Sophia for a long time and I personally would have appreciated a head’s up, oh maybe 2 years ago that it wasn’t going to happen.

    Polls, author comments, describing them as a couple, I know I’m getting into yadda yadda territory, but I feel as stretched as Gollum, it went on too long for me. And I don’t think Tracy is getting her due: the executive and the receptionist — hmmmm.

    People who aren’t invested or who had an early heads-up that Dave/Sophia were the couple du jour (du year?) are not particularly upset — I don’t put myself in that category and I feel annoyed, not placated when people say, see, isn’t there a lot of interest in this book. That does not accurately represent my feelings.

  68. Jacqueline
    Dec 20, 2008 @ 11:25:43

    Joan/Sarahf, it is great you are looking forward to the book-I will also read it but with a clenched stomach. Even though it is difficult for me to understand soph/Dave fans, I respect that they are out there and came away with a different perspective. However, it is difficult to respect what Suz has done because there is no denying that over many books that was a big chance that Soph/Deck would finally get there HEA! Can you honestly say that you NEVER were led to believe that these two would be paired, even if you were rooting for Dave? If not, perhaps you should go back and read some of the passages. The example Emily gave about Deck dreaming about sophia’s mouth is wonderful-did this feel forced or embarrassing?
    To tell you the truth, I feel embarrassed that I am getting this riled up over fictional characters! Maybe it is a testimony to Suz’s writing that she can evoke this much passion-However, to me it just feels bad! I know I am not alone, there are so many out there feeling the same. Is this what she truly wanted- people to feel this bad? I honestly think she could have handled it a lot better by moving towards a Soph-Dave relationship sooner then the very end of ITF. I mean really, she had how many books to do this in? I wish that you could see how it is just a teeny bit unfair to us loyal Deck/Soph fans (that SHE created) that she waited this long to screw Decker over- after we got so attached to the idea of him FINALLY getting his HEA.

  69. DS
    Dec 20, 2008 @ 11:51:27

    The Charlaine Harris series was the Aurora Teagarden books. I never particularly liked them the way I liked the Shakespeare series– and I did think Lily ended up with the right guy, at least of the ones so far– I would like to see more in this series.

    Actually the Teagarden twist had my whole approval because I didn’t like the character anyway and I wasn’t reading the series as a romance.

  70. Jane
    Dec 20, 2008 @ 13:45:41

    For those who did not expect the Sophie Dave pairing, let me ask you if this scenario would have made a difference. Assume that an author plans for a couple to be together and give hints along a series of books that this would be so. Then the author sits down to write that couple’s story and it’s not working. In fact, it’s a bad story. And it seems, upon thinking about it, that a different pairing makes a more vibrant story, one more believable, more emotional.

    If that author had then said to its readership, look, I know what you may have expected and it’s not turning out that way and I know you might be disappointed, but I really believe this is the better story.

    Would that make you feel any different?

  71. GrowlyCub
    Dec 20, 2008 @ 14:05:32

    Jane, absolutely yes!

    Especially with an author who has done ‘interviews’ with her characters and has shared in her reader guides how certain things that she had planned for a particular book or the series didn’t happen because the characters would not go along with it (meant to kill off Gina, Robin and Jules were supposed to have their HEA in their own book a bit later in the series, etc.).

    I still think the Sophia/Dave pairing is shortchanging Dave for the reasons listed above by me and others and I would have felt it better if all three had gotten a new love interest without the series baggage, if she couldn’t figure out a way to make the Sophia/Decker pairing work. And the Decker/Tracy pairing is totally out of the blue and also hasn’t shown any chemistry at all. As much as I disliked the doctor in ITF, Deck had more sizzle going with her in a couple of scenes than with Tracy over many books.

    I really don’t think that the new pairings are the main reason for the upset, even though they are the trigger, but rather the secrecy and the ‘I meant to do that all along and you are dumb if you thought otherwise’ vibe that folks have been getting. There’s a (perceived) dishonesty here in the author’s dealings with the fans.

  72. library addict
    Dec 20, 2008 @ 14:25:17

    And remember, this is the author who made us all sympathize with and root for Mary Lou, and who made Robin one of my favorite characters after I started out hating him. If she can do that, I'm pretty sure she can do anything. We're making all these assumptions about what she can and can't do in this book without having read it. From Sandy's review on AAR, I can't wait to read this book to see what happens.
    @Joan/SarahF

    Here’s another area we will have to agree to disagree. I felt Mary Lou is probably her most clichéd character. IMO she never really took responsibility for her actions. The only reason she even stopped running was because Ibrahim made her call Alyssa.

    I will say Suz did get me to change my mind about Max – twice LOL. I liked him in OTE, thought he turned into a real jerk over the next several books, but I liked him again by the end of Breaking Point.

    I do wonder how you would feel about all this if you didn’t hate Decker.

    We're making all these assumptions about what she can and can't do in this book without having read it.
    Even though I cannot approach the book the way Sandy at AAR did – with little or no preconceptions – I am going to still read the book. I feel I need to be sure Decker really doesn't end up with Sophia after all (and, no, I don't believe it is some big nefarious plot). But it will from the library as I cancelled my pre-order. The direction she's gone with DON is speaking passionately to me. It's saying “don't buy me.” :P

    Since I linked to this discussion at AAR, I'll link back to the discussion over there.
    http://aarboards.com/viewtopic.php?t=4228&postdays=0&postorder=asc&start=0

    If that author had then said to its readership, look, I know what you may have expected and it's not turning out that way and I know you might be disappointed, but I really believe this is the better story.

    Would that make you feel any different?
    @Jane

    Most definitely. As I said earlier, if she hadn't insisted on such secrecy, if she hadn't deliberately mislead us with the polls and reader extras…

    Well, I'll just second everything GrowlyCub said more eloquently in post 71 :-)

  73. Ann M.
    Dec 20, 2008 @ 22:53:34

    I’ve skimmed the blog mainly because I was trying to stay low on the spoilers for DON. While I think we as readers can favor a coupling for a HEA, it isn’t our place to demand it of the author. The author has a story to tell and it may or may not be the one that we expected.

    Suzanne Brockmann, for me, has a wonderful series in her Troubleshooters. While I miss the more SEAL oriented books with WWII parallel story, I’ve enjoyed the expansion of the Troubleshooter world with the Troubleshooters and FBI storylines.

    Sidenote – when I started reading JD Robb I found the books in the Mystery section of the bookstore. It is definitely where they books belong since the emphasis is on the mystery and not the romance. I did not even know that Robb and Roberts were one in the same and had never read a Roberts romance. I now see the In Death books placed in the Romance section to increase sales to equate to readers that Robb=Roberts. Unlike when reading an In Death book, when I read a Suzanne Brockmann Troubleshooter, I know there will be a HEA.

    Looking forward to the ride.

    YMMV,

  74. Janet W
    Dec 20, 2008 @ 23:29:14

    Words in italics are mine —

    by Ann M. December 20th, 2008 at 10:53 pm
    I've skimmed the blog mainly because I was trying to stay low on the spoilers for DON. While I think we as readers can favor a coupling for a HEA, it isn't our place to demand it of the author. The author has a story to tell and it may or may not be the one that we expected … imo, you have missed the point of most of these posts if you think the posters are “demanding” a certain coupling of the author — people are disturbed because they were given a road-map (polls, comments, reader’s guides, meaningful glances/conversations) over a number of books … and they feel that they were deliberately misled. Why might be the operative question since clearly there are people who knew that the Sophia/Decker outcome was not in the cards … so why keep most of your readers in the dark?

    Sidenote – when I started reading JD Robb I found the books in the Mystery section of the bookstore. It is definitely where they books belong since the emphasis is on the mystery and not the romance. I did not even know that Robb and Roberts were one in the same and had never read a Roberts romance. I now see the In Death books placed in the Romance section to increase sales to equate to readers that Robb=Roberts. Again, I disagree. Now that the cat is out of the bag and everyone knows Robb=Roberts, what’s the point of shelving the books separately? And have I missed something: is Roberts needing to increase sales?

    Unlike when reading an In Death book, when I read a Suzanne Brockmann Troubleshooter, I know there will be a HEA. Roarke/Eve are living a continuing HEA — the books are a mystery inside an HEA (or an HEA continuing over numerous books that are also mysteries to be solved?). What’s your point? Brockmann describes herself as a romance writer — so why wouldn’t you expect an HEA? HEAs are not interchangeable commodities — it’s not that someone ends up with someone, is it? Who is important — no one sticks with a story for 5 books+ for an eventual HEA, and no worries who that might be, or at least I don’t: for me it was the implicit promise of an HEA for two people … and I won’t bore you and others with a repetition of why I thought their HEA was coming.

    Saying that a Brockmann books comes with an HEA — what romance book doesn’t deliver that? YMMV but in my opinion, the discussion doesn’t center around that issue.

  75. Kristen
    Dec 21, 2008 @ 03:27:06

    I take Ms. Brockmann at her word, she always intended a Dave/Sophia pairing. I understand she wanted to write a storyline where the reader wouldn’t know until the end who the hero was. The furor erupted because she isn’t good at writing that kind of storyline (at least, not yet).

    She is too good at creating overwhelming chemistry that pops off the page, as she did with Decker/Sophia. As I think over her books, they all feature duos. Overwhelming passion and intense chemistry between two people.

    She just isn’t good at writing triangles. I can’t recall any viable triangles with real chemistry in any of her books. For this storyline, she overwrote the passion between Decker/Sophia and underwrote the possibility of any other storyline between Dave/Sophia. She didn’t even need to write anything about Dave/Sophia. It could have been just Sophia in a space without Decker. She just needed something so the reader could look back and say, oh here is the clue I missed that there might be a different storyline from Decker/Sophia.

    I wasn’t rooting for Dave/Sophia because I thought she was writing that storyline. I just didn’t like the Decker/Sophia storyline. Even though I was rooting for Dave/Sophia, I didn’t find the turning point at the end of ITF very convincing. I think (without having read DON) that she miscalculated as an author, what she had to do to nurture the Dave/Sophia storyline.

    She hasn’t created a storyline where the reader didn’t know which guy the heroine would end up with. The readers knew who the hero was, and then the story took a right-hand turn and took off in a different direction.

  76. Ann M.
    Dec 21, 2008 @ 04:43:33

    I understand the controversary very well. I think that as readers we need to remember that it isn’t our story to tell. I would have like to have seen Decker/Sophia find a HEA but can wait to see the twists and turns that gives Sophia HEA.

    Not I didn’t miss that Robb/Roberts was a slightly different subject but it was mentioned earlier and I didn’t include the quote.

  77. peggy sue
    Dec 21, 2008 @ 09:15:53

    I agree with Ann. There was bound to be controversy with this book. I, like a number of others who have posted to this thread, am in neither the Decker/Sophia camp nor the Dave/Sophia camp. I am in the “no expectations” camp (yes, I have read the series). I want the the author take me on a ride, with her trademark twists and turns, and convince me that the Troubleshooters’ universe has unfolded as it should by the time I finish the last page.

    Like some readers, yes, I did see the poll on SB’s website. Having read the books (and skimmed through them a second and third time), I discounted the poll because I did not see any compelling evidence for a Decker/Sophia HEA in anything I had read. Their HEA was not implicit to me. That’s not to say that the interaction between those two characters, however minimal and, for me anyway, uneventful and lacking even a modocum of passion, could not be interpreted otherwise. That being said, I did not see a Dave/Sophia HEA either.

    So, I am going to pick up the book and sit down to read with anticipation and hope that, as with her other books in the series, SB has delivered what she promises to deliver – a book that, at times, will leave you on the edge of your seat and, by the end, will leave you wanting more.

  78. maggie b.
    Dec 21, 2008 @ 10:28:02

    Sidenote – when I started reading JD Robb I found the books in the Mystery section of the bookstore. It is definitely where they books belong since the emphasis is on the mystery and not the romance. I did not even know that Robb and Roberts were one in the same and had never read a Roberts romance. I now see the In Death books placed in the Romance section to increase sales to equate to readers that Robb=Roberts. Unlike when reading an In Death book, when I read a Suzanne Brockmann Troubleshooter, I know there will be a HEA.

    I am not the author or publisher and can’t state this emphatically but I do know that the books were all originally published under just the Robb name. No advertising was done to link them to Roberts in any way shape or form. Word was leaked out eventually, (If I remember right fans found out and asked her to confirm) and after five or six of the books were published the information was put out via advertising. It wasn’t done to increase sales. It was done to satisfy reader demand (basically the opposite of what is happening here). They started shelving them with romance because book stores had trouble with fans looking for the books in romance and getting frustrated when they were not there. Roberts actually used the new name because she was well aware the books weren’t romance and didn’t want to mislead fans. So basically, this is the OPPOSITE of what has happened with Brockmann.

    I think it’s great that SB has loyal fans. I wish that for all writers. But most writer/publishers don’t do what she is doing — write general/womens fiction and stay in romance. To name just a few authors who haven’t done this:

    Kathleen Giles Seidel (general fiction) most recent release “Shut Up and Wear Biege”

    Pamela Morsi (general fiction) coming in July “Red’s Hot Honky-tonk Bar”

    Tess Gerritsen (suspense) just about everything in last five years

    Lisa Gardener (suspense)

    Tami Hoag (suspense)

    If these ladies can have the courage to label their books what they are and take the chances with sales I don’t quite understand why Ms. Brockmann can’t. I think this argument would completely disappear if she simply labeled her books general fiction or suspense and admitted that she no longer had an interest in the romance genre. I just makes it more difficult to have her try to sell these books to us as romances and then break every genre standard. The point of a genre is the standards. Otherwise, everything could be labeled fiction and thrown in a big pile together.

    maggie b.

  79. GrowlyCub
    Dec 21, 2008 @ 10:49:08

    I, and everybody I ever discussed it with, knew from the first book that J.D. Robb was Nora Roberts and while the early books do not have ‘Nora Roberts writing as J.D. Robb’ on the cover, they do have Nora Roberts listed on the copyright page.

    I really don’t think there ever was an effort to ‘hide’ the ID of J.D. Robb from the public. I always thought the new name was chosen so romance readers would have a heads up that there was something different between the covers than what they could expect from a Nora Roberts book.

    I’m sure Ms. Roberts will correct me if I’m mistaken.

    Personally, I appreciate it when erstwhile romance writers make it clear that they are now writing something else. I don’t like it at all that they are doing it, grin, but I appreciate it when they come right out and say so, so I don’t get sucked into a book that then doesn’t deliver for me.

    One of my absolute favorites is Ruth Wind. I mourn her demise and resurrection as women’s fiction author Barbara Samuel (I know that’s her real name). I read one of her wf books, and it made me rip-roaring MAD. I never want to do that to myself again. In this case I have nobody but myself to blame because I knew going in it wasn’t a romance novel, but this reaction is part and parcel of what makes me so adamantly lobby for correct labeling for genre titles and so loudly complain when it’s not right.

    Nothing makes me madder than books/publishers trying to cash in on romance readers book dollars by mislabeling books as romance that are not. Maybe I’m one lonely customer out there, but I have stopped buying books by authors and also publishers (where feasible) who do this.

  80. Joan/SarahF
    Dec 21, 2008 @ 10:53:20

    Maggie, the problem is that some of us–a good portion of us–think that Brockmann DOES still write romance. So while I understand what you’re saying, and agree with some of it, that doesn’t negate my beliefs–and hers, I might add–that she still writes romance, that the core of each of her books and of her writing is still romance, no matter how much she might stretch the genre conventions. Some of us appreciate that stretching, after all. So please don’t assume that you’ve got the one right answer, b/c this conversation has certainly broadened my understanding of the issue and shown me that *I* don’t.

  81. I Am Starting to Rally! « My Thoughts On Nothing Much At All
    Dec 21, 2008 @ 10:55:38

    […] of Night is finally lifting. I have to say that reading people’s comments (on different blog posts and message boards) has helped lift my spirits. Who gets this upset over a book? Well, I know that […]

  82. Robin
    Dec 21, 2008 @ 12:34:41

    I really don't think there ever was an effort to ‘hide' the ID of J.D. Robb from the public. I always thought the new name was chosen so romance readers would have a heads up that there was something different between the covers than what they could expect from a Nora Roberts book.

    Several years ago I read an article in one of those money/business magazines, a profile of Nora Roberts that included a long section on the marketing of the Robb books, specifically the way the publisher built a very deliberate campaign to create a separate readership for those Robb books by readers who did not know Roberts was writing them. I will try to find the article, because there was a direct reference to this — to the idea of doubling the potential market for Roberts — and a discussion of how banners would be placed in bookstores to heighten the “suspense” over who Robb was, with a schedule reveal timed to merge new readers with existing Roberts fans. After that, the book began appearing with both names on them, until the latest book, that is, where both the author photo and Roberts’s name have been removed from the books, replaced by a quote by Stephen King. It would be tough to convince me that her publishers were not, again, trying to expand her market beyond Romance readers and Roberts loyalists.

    But here’s the thing: is that bad? Marketing is inherently manipulative in that it aims to capture our interest and secure our loyalty. Albert O. Hirschman’s economic treatise, Exit, Voice, and Loyalty was one of the first books I read on the way that the market is shaped by the tension between customer loyalty, customer protest, and customer abandonment, and books, as we know, are considered a consumer product that is susceptible to market forces. Consumers who don’t like what they read will exit that author and take their loyalty elsewhere. We see that all the time among readers.

    So marketing is clearly important, as we’re reminded all the time by authors who feel pressure to get out and stump for their own books. The thing is, though, it sounds really negative to think about marketing in terms of manipulation, because the word manipulation has such a negative connotation. So it’s like we know we’re being marketed to, but if we feel that manipulation too strongly, we resent it, feeling that we’re being had. But are we, really? And is there any way around the idea that reader loyalty to a certain author makes the author a brand in certain ways, and therefore marketed as any brand would be?

    Because IMO that’s a big part of what’s going on here — that we’re seeing and experiencing the tension between our loyalty as readers to any particular author and the brand marketing of an author from the publisher/author side. Some readers feel that the marketing has supplanted the author’s artistic integrity, while others don’t. I suspect this is largely related to how readers internalize the balance between their own loyalty and Brockmann’s marketing.

    And IMO Brockmann is a master marketer, with these large, multi-book story arcs part and parcel of that marketing. And obviously it’s effective, even for some readers who resent it. Perhaps *too effective* in this case, as readers feel they have been promised one thing and are now being delivered another, which may bring out latent feelings of being manipulated through the marketing, feelings that weren’t so bothersome when expectations were on track with the books themselves.

    I don’t know what the objective truth of this situation is, because I can very much see if from both sides. I understand, for example, what it’s like to plan a writing project one way and then to find you have to execute it differently. Although I wish that if this is what happened with Brockmann that she would explain it this way, because I think readers would respect and embrace this.

    Another possibility, though, is that she really didn’t think she was moving the series in the way many readers have. I can only compare this to my reading experience of the Stephanie Plum books and my belief that Evanovich is really setting the series up for Morelli to prevail. I really see this in the books, a decided skew in Morelli’s direction. And in fact, Evanovich admitted that she never intended for Ranger to become such an important character until readers responded to him and he began to take shape more strongly in the series. Still, though, I believe that the series favors Morelli. Would Evanovich agree, though? I don’t know. I could see her arguing strongly against that point, at which point I might think she’s a) trying to keep her options open for a Ranger coup, b) unaware of the skew, or c) who the hell knows. Anyway, I do think it’s possible that an author has less conscious control over his or her work than many people think (to both the benefit and the detriment of the work, IMO).

    And then, of course, there is the possibility that readers are merely being manipulated, but I have to ask whether an author who has traditionally been so good at marketing her work would consciously risk alienating so many of her loyal readers. That’s not to say it isn’t possible or imaginable, because people make all sorts of risky decisions that don’t turn out like they’re planned. But the big question I have is what purpose would the switch serve if it is merely for marketing purposes? In other words, what’s the intended gain? That’s the part I’m still fuzzy on — what would be gained from this, especially since new readers would not have enough investment in this issue to find it resolved by picking up the new book.

  83. Robin
    Dec 21, 2008 @ 12:51:27

    Okay, I found the article, Who Needs A Muse? at Forbes.com. Back to this issue of marketing to gain readers, check this out:

    Around the same time Roberts’ handlers wrestled with a different problem–how to deal with the author’s hypergraphic output. She was flooding her publisher with up to six book-length manuscripts a year. “We couldn’t publish as fast as she could write,” says Grann. Berkower suggested a brand-new category of romance novels under a nom de plume. At first Roberts resisted both suggestions. But Berkower explained that Grann would spin her into two brands, like Coke and diet Coke. “This lightbulb went off in my head, and I thought, ‘Oh, it’s marketing!'” says Roberts.

    Running a double game, Gelbman and Grann tried to create a little nonfictional intrigue, exploiting the public’s ignorance that the two authors were really one. Posters went up in bookstore chains, asking, “J.D. Robb writes as what other bestselling romance novelist? Ask your bookseller.” First released in paperback to snare the largest possible audience, In Death books shamelessly hooked readers on sequels by including an excerpt from the sequel in the back of the book–a rip-off of television’s tried-and-true use of previews and coming attractions. Putnam hoped to tease the suspense as long as possible, “outing” J.D. Robb as Nora Roberts in 2001–with poster displays in bookstores–by which time the In Death books had become regular bestsellers.

    Now I wonder whether part of the conflict in Brockmann’s case is that she is the focus of attention, not her publisher. That readers feel they are loyal to her, and that she personally has manipulated them, not her publisher. Which makes me wonder whether this is part of that art – commerce divide, wherein readers want to focus on the books as artistic expressions but authors and publishers must seem them as commercial products that also happen to be creative works (and how this balance works can make a big difference, too).

    In any case, I still wonder about the potential pay off here for Brockmann in intentionally changing direction. That’s the one piece that I can’t get my head around in order to see her as intentionally deceptive.

  84. library addict
    Dec 21, 2008 @ 13:04:07

    I don't know what the objective truth of this situation is, because I can very much see if from both sides. I understand, for example, what it's like to plan a writing project one way and then to find you have to execute it differently. Although I wish that if this is what happened with Brockmann that she would explain it this way, because I think readers would respect and embrace this.

    From everything I've read, she still states this is the way she always intended this particular story arc to end.

    Another possibility, though, is that she really didn't think she was moving the series in the way many readers have.

    I could maybe believe this IF she hadn't put up the poll with ONLY Decker & Sophia listed twice AS A COUPLE, and NO mention of Dave. She listed a triangle – possibly more – with “Jules/Robin/Adam/???.” If she wanted total surprise, why list Decker & Sophia on the poll at all? She left off Tracy and others. She could have just as easily left Sophia & Decker off altogether. Not to mention the Readers Guide, which – again – links Sophia & Decker, but no Dave.

    This poll – which Suz created, NOT the readers – and the Guide – which Suz wrote – were linked to on her site, which she uses to market the books.

    She WAS marketing Sophia & Decker as a couple.

  85. GrowlyCub
    Dec 21, 2008 @ 13:09:22

    Interesting article, thanks for posting it, Robin.

    I should clarify, that I meant to say that I didn’t think there was much of an effort to keep J.D. Robb secret from the Nora Roberts fans (I said public and that was unclear). I mean how could you, if NR’s name is right on the copyright page? I always check the copyright (learned the hard way when publishers started to put out old books with new titles or a different author name). Am I the only one?

    I absolutely don’t doubt that trying to get a new audience who wouldn’t have touched romance ‘cooties’ otherwise was a goal.

    I find the language of the article rather intriguing and not necessarily in a good way. Both article writer and the quoted publisher sound negative (‘handlers’, ‘flooding’, ‘hypergraphic’ – is that a real word?).

    On the other hand, that first book came out quite a while ago and I could have forgotten how it really happened to me. ;)

  86. Robin
    Dec 21, 2008 @ 13:14:19

    I find the language of the article rather intriguing and not necessarily in a good way. Both article writer and the quoted publisher sound negative ('handlers', ‘flooding', ‘hypergraphic' – is that a real word?).

    Me, too. I found the whole article rather condescending, actually.

  87. GrowlyCub
    Dec 21, 2008 @ 13:27:31

    but I have to ask whether an author who has traditionally been so good at marketing her work would consciously risk alienating so many of her loyal readers.

    I have two explanations:

    1) She really couldn’t imagine that most romance readers would answer the question in the newsletter ‘wouldn’t it be fun not to know who the hero is?’ with a loud ‘no’. And adjunct to that I agree with the comment that she overwrote Deck and underwrote Dave, because she knew which one it would be and she tried to keep things open in readers’ minds.

    2) She is the author, she feels she can do it, since it’s her creation and if readers don’t like it, tough shit.

    I think it’s both, but I’ve seen a bit more of number 2 creep in.

    We’ve seen that in the past with other authors who have reached a certain level of success (Coulter comes to mind) and start thinking they are untouchable. And for all intents and purposes they may very well be, since the loss of part of the original fan base is probably set off by the influx of newly won readers.

    As one of the dumped erstwhile loyal Coulter readers who got told to drill a hole in my knee if I didn’t like what she was doing, now that we had paid for her million dollar mansion, I obviously think that’s a really shitty thing to do to the people who made it possible for her to be a bestseller, but what do I know…

    I’m getting a similar vibe like that I felt then (and still do for that matter, I hold grudges!) from those Brockmann readers who’ve been with her for years. I wasn’t one of them, came to the series in the middle and only this year, but the reason I’m so het up about this is because I’m very sensitive to the ‘manipulate just because I can’ vibe. And I’m getting it from Brockmann.

    Naturally, it may be all in my head, but with a considerable number of people seemingly feeling similarly, I’m not convinced it’s just my paranoia speaking. :)

  88. maggie b.
    Dec 21, 2008 @ 14:02:31

    Maggie, the problem is that some of us-a good portion of us-think that Brockmann DOES still write romance. So while I understand what you're saying, and agree with some of it, that doesn't negate my beliefs-and hers, I might add-that she still writes romance, that the core of each of her books and of her writing is still romance, no matter how much she might stretch the genre conventions. Some of us appreciate that stretching, after all. So please don't assume that you've got the one right answer, b/c this conversation has certainly broadened my understanding of the issue and shown me that *I* don't.

    If you look back at my post I said

    I think this argument would completely disappear

    I certainly wasn’t trying to say I’ve got the one right answer, simply what I *thought* was the root cause of the argument. Hence the word *think*.

    I would not have even said anything if the number of people disappointed was not fairly high. On many places I have been it seemed that the number *not* liking her new writing style far outnumbered those that did. That made the whole subject worth conversing about to me. I figured if that many people were upset there was probably an underlying reason. And I was giving what seemed to me a reasonable explanation for that reason.

    maggie b.

  89. Robin
    Dec 21, 2008 @ 16:11:17

    Naturally, it may be all in my head, but with a considerable number of people seemingly feeling similarly, I'm not convinced it's just my paranoia speaking. :)

    I can’t discount your or any other reader’s feelings, because first they’re yours and you’re entitled to them, but also because I know very well what it feels like to go against the popular wave of an author and be told I’m so wrong for not seeing them as saintly. ;)

    She really couldn't imagine that most romance readers would answer the question in the newsletter ‘wouldn't it be fun not to know who the hero is?' with a loud ‘no'. And adjunct to that I agree with the comment that she overwrote Deck and underwrote Dave, because she knew which one it would be and she tried to keep things open in readers' minds.

    Okay, so let’s assume for a minute that this was her plan all along — to make Sophie and Dave the couple. It strikes me that there are two issues in play here: a) the feeling that readers have been misled for the sake of marketing and b) the idea that Romance relies on meeting reader expectations regarding the main H/H.

    As to the first, I think this is a somewhat unresolvable issue that will confront virtually any author who writes a long series, because IMO at some point many readers will feel the balance between their own interests as readers and the author’s interest in marketing shift too far toward the author. In this case, it seems to have happened on a large scale, which makes it very interesting and noteworthy, IMO.

    As to the second issue, I would definitely be one of those readers who wants to be surprised. I don’t feel there’s enough surprise in the Romance genre, so I’m the reader whose expectations are to have my expectations blown out of the water.

    But more generally, I am brought back to Chicklet’s question about the difference between genre rules and community rules, and since genre is fundamentally a formalistic category, I am having trouble with the argument that making the main couple a surprise pushes a book outside Romance. My understanding is that Romance consists of a focus on the emotional journey toward love and a happy ending. From there we’ve argued about whether the end has to be HEA or HFN, about whether there need to be only two characters and whether they need to be male and female only, and now, it seems, about whether readers need to be able to count on a certain coupling within a series. To me, these are all community conventions and not generic boundaries at issue, because they do not IMO violate the structural guarantee of the genre Romance label.

    That doesn’t, IMO, mean that readers can’t feel pissed, betrayed, jacked around, or the like, but do we really want to get into a position where an author cannot validly challenge reader expectations about who will be that main couple whose emotional journey we follow to a happy end? How much predictability is necessary v. how much is preferable?

    I ask this question because I see comments on the AAR board about contacting Brockmann’s publisher. But I wonder what the complaint is going to be. Because if the complaint is that Brockmann is exceeding the Romance label, then I will protest *that complaint*, because I don’t want to see even more narrowing based on what are perceived to be reader expectations about genre conventions.

  90. GrowlyCub
    Dec 21, 2008 @ 17:19:49

    Robin, I see your point, I just don’t agree with regards to the genre boundary pushing. :) That said, I don’t think I’d bother to contact the publisher. I speak with my pocket book which means no money for Brockmann or the publisher.

    Off the top of my head I cannot think of any romance title I read that changed heroes mid-way through or at the end of a book/series that I liked (the Kleypas comes to mind; I was really thrown by the fact that Hardy was not the hero of ‘Sugar Daddy’. I didn’t hate the book, but I really noticed and wondered why Hardy was so prominent at the beginning of the book only to be thrown out and then turned villain as a plot expediency later on).

    I’ve seen people mention Heyer’s Cotillion as an example of it, but I don’t agree with that assessment at all. While Kitty may originally set her cap at Jack, it’s clear from the start of the book that Freddy will be the hero of the book. How do I know that? Well, strictly mechanically speaking, because he’s there from the beginning of the book.

    For me it comes down to this: I read a romance novel for the relationship story of two (or three) people. That means I want to see maximum interaction between the main couple/triple in the 200-400 pages I get. That doesn’t make me inclined to favor a book in which the heroine or hero is involved with one character for 150-350 pages and then changes her/his mind in the last 50.

    Also, coming back to the example of ‘would you enjoy…?’ I think we need to see that in the context of where the series was when she asked that question.

    You said you would enjoy reading that general scenario, but what would that enjoyment be predicated on (equal interaction between heroine and 2 heroes throughout the story, for example)? Would you really enjoy a story where the first 250 pages are devoted to heroine plus X with nary a mention of Y and then the last 50 pages being heroine plus Y as the conclusion of the story, while X is left alone and hurt?

    I might enjoy a story where there’s a legitimate reason for a hero or heroine to have to make a choice late in a book after reading about both choices all along. Probably not, but you never know, but I’m not sure I’d be convinced this book was a romance, because inherent in this setup is that one partner who is loved, but not loved enough, gets the boot at the end and that may be realistic but it sure isn’t romantic.

    I haven’t read the Kelly that supposedly inspired Brockmann, since Kelly doesn’t work for me at all.

    I guess it all comes down to how you define the romance label.

    My understanding is that Romance consists of a focus on the emotional journey toward love and a happy ending.

    As far as I’m concerned, this definition is not complete. To me it means, the recounting of the relationship journey of h/h (/h) from beginning of book till end with a HEA or HFN (in erotic romance). Meaning there’s a clearly identified couple/triple at the start of the story.

    Any book where the focus is on one character’s journey towards love and a HEA I would classify either as women’s fiction or chick lit depending on tone and style of writing.

    And I disagree that Brockmann didn’t break that genre convention because if her goal was all along to pair Sophia with Dave, she failed at conveying that through the equivalent of 350 pages of a 400 page book as far as I’m concerned.

    Obviously a fourth of the respondents disagree at *this point in time* knowing that Sophia/Dave it is, but I wonder what they would have said if polled after Flashpoint, Hot Target or even 2-3 years ago.

  91. myownthoughts
    Dec 21, 2008 @ 17:30:02

    How lucky Suz is to have a fan in Sarah F.

  92. Robin
    Dec 21, 2008 @ 18:17:36

    You said you would enjoy reading that general scenario, but what would that enjoyment be predicated on (equal interaction between heroine and 2 heroes throughout the story, for example)? Would you really enjoy a story where the first 250 pages are devoted to heroine plus X with nary a mention of Y and then the last 50 pages being heroine plus Y as the conclusion of the story, while X is left alone and hurt?

    I don’t think this is comparable to one book, though, because I can absolutely see a series pointing in one direction and then a 300+ page book instituting a new direction and winning me over. Absolutely. But I tend to love a lot of books where I don’t necessarily love the characters the way they love each other. For me, if the author shows me that the couple is good together, that they are perfect for each other, then I’m good with that. I have no idea what I would think of the triangle in the Brockmann books, as I have not read them. I may find the Sophia/Dave pairing completely unconvincing, or I may find the Sophia/Decker pairing unconvincing. And certainly readers will weigh in on how they accept the romantic resolution, which will be very interesting to see.

    I might enjoy a story where there's a legitimate reason for a hero or heroine to have to make a choice late in a book after reading about both choices all along. Probably not, but you never know, but I'm not sure I'd be convinced this book was a romance, because inherent in this setup is that one partner who is loved, but not loved enough, gets the boot at the end and that may be realistic but it sure isn't romantic.

    I have very strong feelings about this notion of Romance v. romantic, so I’ll just put that out there right away. ;)

    For me, the conflation between what is romantic and what is genre Romance is a huge problem in the genre right now. Because the idea of what is romantic is so varied among readers, much, much, much more so than the debates over what constitutes Romance. And so many of these debates about what constitutes Romance end up encompassing ideological and thematic issues, NOT structural/formalistic ones. While I read Romances all the time that I do not personally find romantic, I must concede that they fit the genre Romance formula, and that other readers will find them deeply romantic.

    IMO, if we get to the point where we define Romance by what is romantic, the idea of genre will disintegrate completely, because there can be no fundamental agreement on that, and we will be in the arena of policing books on the basis of moral, ideological, sexuality, cultural, racial, and other related issues. And wouldn’t that be scary? I mean, those few times we’ve seen the “Romance featuring two Black characters is not romantic” assertion it’s made waves. Imagine the argument that because it’s unromantic for non-virgins to be Romance heroines, so we should ban them from the genre. Or gay heroes and heroines. Or handicapped protagonists, etc.

    At least with the bare bones definition of Romance as it’s offered by the RWA, for example, or the Romance Wiki, we can find enough agreement to provide formalistic recognition among readers and structural guidelines for authors. And to some degree we can skirt these ideological arguments about what is “appropriate” in the genre. Which IMO benefits all of us as readers and ensures that all of our various tastes in what’s romantic are protected.

    I think it’s completely valid for a reader to say, ‘I found this book completely unromantic and therefore not fulfilling to me as a Romance,’ but I think that’s quite different from saying, ‘I found this book completely unromantic and therefore it is not a Romance.’ A book that’s not romantic to the reader may fail as a Romance for that particular reader, but it doesn’t mean, IMO, that it’s not still generically Romance.

  93. GrowlyCub
    Dec 21, 2008 @ 18:45:02

    Hmm, Robin. I’d agree with your point about people using ‘romantic’ to mean ‘romance’ with regard to excluding people due to their color, sexual preference, etc., but I have doubts that you could find very many people who feel that reading a book in which one part of a triangle is left emotionally destroyed fits their definition of a romance. It may possibly structurally be made to fit the definition of romance, but I’m not sure I’d even go that far. That story line for me would fall clearly into women’s fiction/fiction/novel/chick lit and not romance.

    Part of the romance fantasy, at least for me, is that at the end the characters aren’t so laden down with guilt that they cannot function or enjoy their HEA.

    Quite honestly, I’m not really sure I agree with the separation of definition and community conventions. I just think there are some ingredients that are essential to make a book a romance and the absence or total contortion of those elements do not constitute ‘genre stretching’ for me but leaving the genre altogether.

    I’m sorry I triggered you with my use of the word ‘romantic’ (especially since you use it differently than I did in my comment), because I would have liked to get your input on some of the other points I raised.

  94. Robin
    Dec 21, 2008 @ 19:03:56

    but I have doubts that you could find very many people who feel that reading a book in which one part of a triangle is left emotionally destroyed fits their definition of a romance.

    But isn’t this what series are for? I mean, what about all those broken-hearted blokes in Romance novels, the saps who fall in love with the heroine *until* they meet their own true love in the sequel? Seriously, I thought this was a pretty standard convention in the genre.

    It may possibly structurally be made to fit the definition of romance, but I'm not sure I'd even go that far. That story line for me would fall clearly into women's fiction/fiction/novel/chick lit and not romance.

    But why would that be? Does that mean the readers who believe the coupling of Sophia Dave is both romantic and Romance are wrong? What if Decker gets a heroine in his own book that is better for him than Sophia could ever be — is *that book* a Romance and the Sophia-Dave one isn’t?

    I would have liked to get your input on some of the other points I raised.

    I thought I was responding to the main argument you were making, so could you point out which issues you’d like me to address? I’ll certainly give it a shot.

  95. Joan/SarahF
    Dec 21, 2008 @ 19:20:17

    Okay, I’ve been away Christmas shopping, so I’m not going to try to respond to individual quotes, but to larger ideas people are putting forth. I just have to say how ironic I think this whole argument since it’s Brockmann who came up with the whole extended story arc in the first place, or at least she’s the one who popularized it with Sam and Alyssa. So the fact that we’re now arguing that it’s generic convention that Decker has to end up with Sophia is fascinating, since Brockmann is the author who created that convention. Before Brockmann, authors might have introduced future characters in the series, but no one actually started their relationship before their book itself. And usually it was that one character was introduced and we’d be introduced to their mate during the book. Sherrilyn Kenyon’s Acheron did this, right? (Haven’t read any of series except first few, so I’m not really sure.) IIRC, complete mystery as to who his heroine was going to be until his book came out. That we’re so emotionally invested in Dave vs. Decker for Sophia comes from Brockmann’s stretching of the genre conventions in the first place.

    That aside, growlycub, I absolutely don’t agree (I was going to say “don’t think you can say” but of course you can–I just absolutely disagree) that the triangle can be compared to one book. It’s not one book–it’s five or six or however many it’s been so far. And as none of us have read DON, we can’t know how much time Dave and Decker are spending with Sophia and whether or not we trust in the relationship, and I think everyone’s assumptions that Dave is going to feel like a second choice for the rest of his life forever and ever amen are incredibly presumptuous, again without having read the book. I’m fascinated to see how she’s going to make Decker’s HEA work, because I’m having more problems with that relationship than with Sophia and Dave. Back to my point: it’s NOT one book. One book will give us Dave and Sophia and their HEA and that’s the fundamental definition of a romance. The fact that another potential hero has been posited for so many books does not, IMO, negate the fact that this one book is and should be considered a Romance.

    I also get twitchy when you say, “I have doubts that you could find very many people who feel that reading a book in which one part of a triangle is left emotionally destroyed fits their definition of a romance.” And I’m quoting that because it particularly rubbed me wrong. We don’t know that this will happen b/c we haven’t read the book yet. B/c from what I hear, this WON’T happen in the book, b/c apparently everyone DOES get their HEA.

    Anyway, obviously YMMV. But I couldn’t accept the fundamentals of your argument, so the rest of it didn’t work for me at all.

    And Robin, I’d love to know exactly how and why Brockmann planned things this way. How much of it was marketing, how much something else, and how we can ever tell the difference. I guess we’ll never know. :)

  96. GrowlyCub
    Dec 22, 2008 @ 07:15:52

    When I said “I have doubts that you could find very many people who feel that reading a book in which one part of a triangle is left emotionally destroyed fits their definition of a romance.”, I was not talking about DoN, but speaking in general, addressing Robin, who had said that she would be interested in reading a story where she didn’t know who the hero was until the end and I posited that scenario as the result of a love triangle in which both love interests get equal time.

    Going back to Brockmann, if we take her at face value in the way that she builds relationships over several books, I believe you have to take the complete relationship into account and not just the relationship in the last book. And if we do that, we don’t see a whole of of Dave/Sophia, except for their friendly lunches in which she obsesses about Decker. I feel that you are contradicting yourself when you argue that we need to see this relationship only in terms of this one book, whereas we are supposed to evaluate all other relationships (Sam/Alyssa, Max/Gina) over their multi-book story arc.

    I don’t know if she can pull off Dave/Sophia believably in this book because as you so rightly said, I haven’t read it, but I can say that I’m convinced Dave will always wonder, because he already is wondering in the prologue, whom Sophia is thinking about when she’s having sex with him, Dave. That doubt will break my suspension of disbelief in any Sophia/Dave HEA due to my real life experience with that kind of situation.

    The fact that another potential hero has been posited for so many books does not, IMO, negate the fact that this one book is and should be considered a Romance.

    And that is where we fundamentally disagree.

    Also, how do you know for sure, since you haven’t read it yet either? :)

  97. SandyC
    Dec 22, 2008 @ 18:54:16

    The short answer: I expected what we’re apparently going to get – Dave and Sophia. However, I didn’t expect or foresee Decker and Tracy, but I’m sure Suz will win me over in the end. I go by what has been written and ever since ITS, I’ve seen more clues and hints that it’s going to be Dave and Sophia. Since I never thought Decker and Sophia had a great chance for an HEA after the sordid way they met, this definitely works for me.

  98. Leigh
    Dec 22, 2008 @ 21:15:11

    Hey, Sandy C

    Here we are disagreeing again

    I am amazed that so many people find that Decker & Sophia introduction was sordid, but they don’t consider that Robin first sexual relationship with a man was with Adam (Jules ex). And that relationship worked out.

    Ms. Brockmann had us as readers suspend belief on so many relationships that in real life would be unhealthy, that I continued to do the same.

    For example, so many of her characters have had issues with alcohol or alcoholic parents with no long term affects that you see in real life, like being an alcoholic, problems forming long term relationships, and trust.

    Characters are able to do a complete about face on issues such as interracial marriage, gays, sleeping with teammate’s sisters, etc.

    One long term story arc (Max & Gina) had not only that Max was there during Gina’s rape, but he was the leader responsible for bringing everyone to safety. So you have his guilt, the age difference, transferance (for lack of a better work).
    They worked out as a couple.

    Gina & Sophia as of right now had few problems after their rapes. Eden didn’t see to suffer any problems having sex either after she was date raped.

    So all legitimate concerns about healthy, long term problems are written away. I expected the same with Sophia & Decker.

    How is Sophia & Decker unhealthy vs. all the other concerns that were just written away?

  99. peggy sue
    Dec 23, 2008 @ 09:51:07

    Here we are disagreeing again

    I am amazed that so many people find that Decker & Sophia introduction was sordid, but they don't consider that Robin first sexual relationship with a man was with Adam (Jules ex). And that relationship worked out.

    – I’m not sure I see the connection? I was under the impression that they knew each other going into their first sexual encounter and that, unlike Decker and Sophia, it was consensual (even if Robin was conflicted). I don’t recall Adam using the sexual encounter as a means to attempt to kill Robin.

    Ms. Brockmann had us as readers suspend belief on so many relationships that in real life would be unhealthy, that I continued to do the same.

    – What romance writer doesn’t? I would be hard-pressed to find many romance novels which don’t require readers to suspend belief in regards to the lead characters being able to achieve a HEA in spite of past traumas, whether it be alcoholism, childhood abuse or neglect, rape . . ., which result in trust issues and the inability to form meaningful long-term relationships. As a matter of fact, the tortured hero and the scarred heroine are IMO, mainstays and seem to be very popular in romance novels.

    How is Sophia & Decker unhealthy vs. all the other concerns that were just written away?

    – This is just my personal opinion, but I think the difference is that while other heroes/heroines may be carrying their own baggage into a potential relationship, Sophia and Decker have an incident in their past that caused angst, guilt, remorse and a myriad other emotions, maybe just on the part of Decker, maybe on the part of both. This may be just me, but how does one rise above an incident in which the basic fundamentals of trust and survival are compromised? The Decker character was put in a position where he veered from his moral compass and sacrificed a part of himself in the process.

  100. Leigh
    Dec 23, 2008 @ 17:21:33

    This is just my personal opinion, but I think the difference is that while other heroes/heroines may be carrying their own baggage into a potential relationship, Sophia and Decker have an incident in their past that caused angst, guilt, remorse and a myriad other emotions, maybe just on the part of Decker, maybe on the part of both. This may be just me, but how does one rise above an incident in which the basic fundamentals of trust and survival are compromised? The Decker character was put in a position where he veered from his moral compass and sacrificed a part of himself in the process

    So, using this logic Eden & Izzy shouldn’t work out either. Since she paid for his help with a bj after they first met, and then she paid for her room & board with sex, and Izzy at their knew at their wedding that he was going to lose her if he had sex with her.

  101. Anita C.
    Dec 26, 2008 @ 08:51:02

    Robin, this is you, right:

    “It doesn't strike me, for example, in the same way that the comment someone related by Gabaldon, in which she told a reader to her face to “get a life” because she was too invested in Gabaldon's books -‘ THAT seems really over the line to me and overtly disrespectful on a very personal level.”

    Hey, I was there! University Bookstore, in Seattle (across from the University of Washington) a good 12-15 years ago, I guess. Gabaldon had published about 2 or 3 books by then. The bookstore was PACKED, and we’d had to wait about 45 minutes because the weather was very bad and she’d been delayed at her prior reading. She came in and told us about having to stop at a Burburry boutique downtown and buy an $800 raincoat, because she wasn’t prepared for our weather (I think the price really threw her!). I ended up about 4 or 5 feet from her the whole evening, and boy is she beautiful, even more stunning in person than in her dustjacket covers. She was nervous – she spoke very quickly and in short bursts, but she stayed a long time and answered all questions, very freely and after considering them.

    Seattle is a very polite city and I think we were all startled at her reply to the girl you’re talking about, but on balance, I think it was a wise response. I hope it did the job Gabaldon intended it to do, which was to snap this girl out of what sounded like a very unhealthy obsession. Gabaldon is (was) a university professsor by vocation and she is well used to taking control of a classroom of misbehaving undergraduates and telling them some home truths. I believe this was one of the first tours she’d taken and she was standing the whole time in the middle of a bookstore, and completely hemmed in by masses of women, a lot of othem sillly girls. Her questioner was the most silly of them all and actually embarraseed the people around her. After asking Gabaldon when her next book was coming out and not getting a definite answer (“I’m writing it now and I’m not sure how long it’s going to be, etc., etc…”) this student practically wailed that she didn’t know what she was going to do with herself, that she was just “living” til the next installment, ad nauseum. Gabaldon may look like a gorgeous young thing, but she has a very decided, matter of fact manner and in public she says what she thinks, not what might be politically correct. (This is a trait she shares with Jodi Picoult, another author who will literally say anything, and damn the consequenes, and I love it because you never know what’s going to happen and you know that neither of those women will give you any B. S.) I could tell she was simply horrified by the obsessiveness and theatricality of this fan, and maybe felt she had some moral obligation to get this girl to “snap out of it.” As a matter of fact, most of standing close enough to see the two participants were a little embarrassed by it all and by the gushiness and neediness this girl displayed. That’s when she said, as nicely as possible, that she thought this girl should get a life, instead of spending all her time waiting for the next book.

    I didn’t realize that incident had got out “on the air waves” but it obviously made a big impression on me, since I’ve remembered it in detail all this time. I greatly admire writers who can stand against their publishers and editors (and fans) and insist on writing true to their lights.

  102. FD
    Dec 31, 2008 @ 21:50:49

    FWIW, I was always vaguely skeeved at it anyway; ignoring Decker for the moment, Sophia has been tremendously traumatized and lived in what sounds like dangerous situations for most of her life before that. I never thought she was in a healthy place as a heroine and had figured we’d have at least one or two books dealing with that. I didn’t feel her attitude to relationships / sex was likely to have been entirely healthy before she was betrayed, failed her loved one, bereaved, raped, tortured, enslaved, on the run, and sank herself to the point of attempting to kill someone who was trying to help her.

    I figured it was partly rescuer’s syndrome, partly idealization, partly guilt, partly attraction, and partly her needing to redeem how damaged she was by making the terrible beginning to their “relationship” a positive outcome. Having since reread the books, they don’t interact, they don’t really know much about each other – their circle / avoid / repeat pattern came across more as obsession than anything. Seriously, she says she loves Deck, but what exactly she loves about him, and on what evidence, I could never figure out.

    Decker I actually found quite intriguing – we’re rarely in his head, and when we are, we don’t learn a lot about him. If I compare him to Nash, who is more generally supposed in the series to have issues, I actually think Decker is worse. Nash has made an attempt at moving on, and has committed himself to Tess. Yes, he’s holding off on the marriage, but I believe that’s mostly due to fear re the AlphabetAgencyOfDoom, and lingering issues with trust and asking for help. Which is understandable.
    Decker now – he’s completely shut down and his self image? Eeep. I really want to know his backstory – why is he so incredibly hard on himself, and why is he such a boyscout? Why does he need that perfection so intensely? We never see him at all outside of crises, and don’t see his ‘life’ at all. Family? Friends? Hobbies? Big blank. At least Nash dates! He comes across as pretty self involved and damaged and I was looking forward to seeing why exactly he is the way he is. I was never sure he would go the distance with Sophia – too much baggage, and not enough willingness to reach out on either party. We’ve seen fantasy romances fail before – see Wes / Lana. I thought they were going to get a happy ending at one point, but no. Did that bother anyone? We had a couple of books worth of set up for that non event if I recall rightly.

    Gina and Eden are mentioned upthread by someone as heroines whose trauma is “written off”. I disagree; at this point anyway, as future events could prove me wrong.
    Although Gina is shown as suffering major trauma, her life history is otherwise normal, she has a loving family, an education and she also has several years of therapy to boot. I could accept her HEA, she’s gotten to a point where I can accept it.
    In contrast, Eden has a unpleasant childhood, no education, sweet FA in the way of family support, (anyone else want to slap her brother? Egads!) a deeply traumatic adolescence and is quite understandably very effed up. I thought Brockman did a good job of showing just how effed up, using the sex scenes she gets into with Izzy to demonstrate that though physically he’s pushing all the right buttons, and his actions ought to be reassuring, she’s mentally and emotionally unable to handle or even understand the concept of a relationship based on anything other than ego stroke / sex / mutual back scratching / what’s in it for me. Hence her complete inability to be honest with him. Will they end up as a couple? I think it likely, but damn, does she have some healing to do.

    Leigh – I feel the difference between Eden / Izzy and Decker / Sophia is that although some of Izzy’s actions are a shade less ethical than they could be, he’s not that broken up about it – he accepts his less-than-perfect nature in way that Decker is just not set up to do. Eden also is shown as being somewhat less morally constrained than Sophia, and although she has mondo major issues, her attitude to their sexual involvement is more of a “I don’t want to be beholden, and I have nothing else, and sex is a good a payment as any,” than the “Oh god I don’t want to DIE,” attitude as evinced by Sophia. Same deal with Robin / Adam, they (and the readers) react the way they are set up emotionally to react.
    Different dynamic and really neat examples of how on the surface similar incidents can affect different people in such very different ways. Basically, it’s good characterisation.

    The comments about the nature of a romance were utterly fascinating – I had no idea that the genre was considered to be so stratified and rule-bound, outside of categories.

    For me, it ceases to be a romance when it stops being primarily about the evolution and growth of a character in relation to other characters in a emotional and or sexual manner. So a novel can have a love story without being a romance.

    I’d still call J.D Robb romances – they’re about Eve’s emotional growth and her deepening relationship with Roarke, even after they’re married.
    I’d call the Bridges of Madison County a romance – even though she doesn’t get her HEA with him.
    I’d call Lois McMaster Bujold’s Chalion series romances – the heroes / heroines grow and change in relation to their partners.
    I still see Brockman as romance, because although there is a strong suspense / action plot in her books, the primary focus is still about the characters relationships. You could use other vehicles for the action / suspense bits, and you’d still have a viable emotional journey there. IMO, anyway.

    I personally don’t feel that a romance has to take place over one novel. I don’t feel that the successful depiction of one romantic relationship means that it’s not OK to show a previous or a future successful romantic relationship. I can believe in people falling into, and out of love thanks, and also believe that the new love is not necessarily less than the first. I can deal with some chars having HFN’s, as you know, even in more conventional romances not all characters have to be solidly in love and happy. Or even survive to the end.

    One of the things that I like about Brockman is that she shows her characters making mistakes, screwing things up and dealing with consequences. And I like that things are not always tied up in a neat little bow at the end of one novel, waiting for the next little self-contained episode. Life ain’t like that and it adds to the suspension of disbelief for me to have her handle it that way. I don’t feel betrayed by it, and I don’t mind that, there’s emotional backstory for Decker / Sophia with no payoff, because there’s backstory there for Dave / Sophia too. It just wasn’t presented as romantic.

    I dunno, I’m just not bothered by the weight of expectations as some commenters have been – I gather the feeling is that they’ve been bait & switched? I can kinda understand that – there’s only one series where that’s hit me – the Anita Blake series. I gave up reading after she intro’d the Micah character as the primary romantic relationship. I felt as many do about this, betrayed by the author. The difference is, I gave up after I’d read the next couple of books involving him, and because the 180 the character and series focus had made had no emotional or logical continuity, and the author had completely failed to ‘sell’ the change in romantic leads to me.
    Ultimately, it depends on how well the author writes it. LKH failed, Brockman may or may not succeed, but I will be reserving judgement till I actually read it.

  103. ali
    Jan 30, 2009 @ 11:40:53

    Hi….
    I do agree that Brockmann is a super talented lady and spins an amazing tale…however, I am one of those diehard Sophia/Decker fans and I bought the book without reading any spoilers. I have since returned it because I found the coupling so disturbing since I was expecting something else. I read romance because I like to have the feeling that my couples finally got together after some conflict and knowing there won’t be any stressful surprises. So once again, the story is a great one, but I felt devastated reading it….not happy.

  104. artie
    Jan 30, 2009 @ 11:45:55

    I thought the ending was awful

  105. library addict
    Feb 02, 2009 @ 20:44:20

    Jane and SarahF,
    I am curious if you still feel Suz has “nothing but respect” for her readers given some of the answers she is giving at her B&N Q&A.
    http://bookclubs.barnesandnoble.com/bn/board/message?board.id=CenterStage&thread.id=4383&view=by_date_ascending&page=1

    I realize I am considered on the wrong “side” of the whole triangle, but her answer to Alyssa21 in particular seems condescending and dismissive.

    Obviously she isn’t as talented at foreshadowing as she seems to think if so many readers still expected a Sophia & Decker HEA after so many books.

    I foolishly thought she would take the opportunity with the B&N Q&A to explain why she marketed Sophia & Decker as a romantic couple and try to win back some of the fans she lost. Instead we get “I framed it to fit the boundaries of the romance genre” She could simply have left them off the poll altogether.

    I am amazed (and not in a good way) at some of her responses.

  106. Jane
    Feb 02, 2009 @ 21:00:28

    @library addict I have to confess that it’s hard for me to measure those comments because many of the comments are “hey, why didn’t you do this instead of what you did do” which Brockmann is answering but that has to be difficult.

    I know we address our letters to the authors here, but that’s a construct. We don’t really mean for authors to read them.

    I don’t want to be a Brockmann apologist, but I feel like she’s in a tough position. She probably loves her book and seeing people not happy with the way that she wrote it out might be difficult for her to respond to. (Again, I’m speculating here. Have no insider knowledge).

  107. Sarah Frantz
    Feb 02, 2009 @ 21:05:28

    @library addict: Not to start the whole thing over again, but *I* feel that she is indeed being respectful both to her readers and fans AND to herself. *I* was thoroughly annoyed by the tone of some of the questions on the Q&A (just reading it a few minutes ago), considering that the people writing them KNEW that they were writing to Brockmann herself. And I feel that Brockmann is being respectful to those who are being respectful to her and that she is explaining herself in a logical, reasonable, respectful way. Would the people *asking* these questions do so in this way if talking with Brockmann face-to-face? The problem with online communication…tone of voice…smiles and gestures…yada yada yada–we all know how that one goes, right?

    But more importantly, we obviously have to agree to disagree, here and in the other debates about this topic. I hope that can be done in a respectful manner, but I do think it’s obvious that we’re never going to agree on this issue.

  108. library addict
    Feb 02, 2009 @ 21:45:44

    I know we don’t agree, but I appreciate that the “conversation” here as been respectful.

    I think mocking her readers and offering a book to the first person who “posts a YouTube video of a weeping reading sobbing “Leave Suz alone!!!”” is over the line. Even if some of the posters aren’t being as respectful as they should is that really an excuse for Suz to sink to the same level?

    Even the fans who love the book are asking if it is really a HEA for Decker & Tracy, so the ending of DON wasn’t as obvious as she may have thought it was.

  109. Ellie
    Feb 06, 2009 @ 00:52:53

    I was trying to stay out of this, and only made a comment as to the book itself on the thread from Jane’s review. SB used to be one of my favorite authors. I’ve become disenchanted with the past few books as story arcs became longer and more of them and the books IMO became less and less realistic. At the same time the vitriol and the parsing of everything SB has ever wrote IMO has gotten out of hand. I only mention this to say I have no truck in this. I am no longer enthralled by SB’s books as I once was, but I do not feel angry or betrayed by her.

    However, I think SB’s comments tonight on the B & N board crossed the line. http://bookclubs.barnesandnoble.com/bn/board/message?board.id=CenterStage&thread.id=4383&view=by_date_ascending&page=11. She is implying in the middle of her first post on page 11 that the people who posted their anger at her did so because they’re homophobic. I have no idea if they are or not, but to deflect the anger at her writing decisions into that the angry people are prejudiced is beyond the pale. It does a disservice to the real problems that result from prejudice and homophobia to accuse people of that as a deflection of criticism. I agree with Jane that SB is in a tough position answering those questions, but accusing those that asked the questions of homophobia is not an appropriate response. At all.

  110. GrowlyCub
    Feb 06, 2009 @ 01:17:00

    Ellie, yes, I just saw that too, and I think this is an illustration of two things:

    1) the internet can be a real pitfall in navigating author-reader interaction

    2) sometimes authors really should take a step back and wonder if this kind of response, as true as it may be to their feelings at the time, is a professional way to present themselves to all their readers.

    Maybe the number of people who dislike DoN is really as small as Brockmann implies (I tend to doubt that, I’m still stuck at chapter 2), but such comments may turn off readers who liked DoN because they are in such bad taste.

    I was very taken aback by this posting and I cannot believe that her publisher will be happy when they see it.

    Kind of sad.

  111. Robin
    Feb 06, 2009 @ 02:04:08

    I doubt Brockmann’s publisher will care one little bit what she says; they’re too busy counting the money.

    But as a reader with absolutely no investment in the series, I’ve been reading her responses with an increasing feeling of horror. And here’s my question that would never be answered on that board: if a fan goes out of her way to talk up, publicize, purchase, recommend, review, and otherwise rave over an author’s books, spending hours upon hours in said activities, even on the author’s own messageboard, does that count as cyberstalking?

    I really do get that when you pour all this energy into writing a book that even the most confident of authors can feel besieged by negative commentary. But when will authors understand that they have the lion’s share of the power in the relationship between themselves and readers, and that taking a hammer to a reader just comes across as unnecessary and often cruel overkill.

    From comments left at AAR, it seems Brockmann has changed her board and that some posters have been banned. That’s kind of interesting.

  112. Jane
    Feb 06, 2009 @ 06:54:49

    @Robin: I expected the comment to be much worse, but yes, it does make me uncomfortable when authors marginalize a reader’s voice, impute motives behind a reader’s opinions (something readers get KILLED for doing), especially for some sexually distasteful motive; and suggest that people are stalking her around online and that only if you don’t like her or Jules could not like the book.

    This is pretty bad:

    And I know that the people who disapprove of me and DARK OF NIGHT (and probably Jules Cassidy, too. Let’s be honest about what this is about, at least for some of these disproportionately angry folks) are a small portion of the online romance reading population. (Talk about limited!)

    I would like to believe that she’s merely misinformed about the people who dislike the book because seriously Dark of Night had little to do with Jules and Robin, the homosexual couple in the Troubleshooter series. She did say that she never reads blogs or message boards and that is getting her information from other people.

  113. Ellie
    Feb 06, 2009 @ 07:59:01

    Jane, I was reacting just to the paragraph you quoted. The rest is dismissive to readers, and probably terrible pr, but it doesn’t offend me. On the other hand, implying that people who disagree with you are homophobes is something I find deeply offensive. I just don’t understand why SB would even go there, even if she was misinformed. And if there is some information that the people who spoke out against DoN are doing so because of her stand on gay rights (and I have seen no evidence of this) she still should not have posted that, because more than that person is going to read her response on B & N. This is going to be seen by many, many people and ascribing those kind of motives to people, when Jules and Robin barely appear in the book, makes little sense, and just makes her appear small.

  114. Jane
    Feb 06, 2009 @ 08:06:55

    @Ellie Yeah, the more that I think about that comment. Oy. I try to give her the benefit of the doubt because I’ve met her once and she seems to genuinely love her fans. I’d like to chalk this up to lack of sleep or something.

    But her arguments do see a bit inconsistent. Like if the internet romance community is so small to be dismissed, why is she on BN doing a chat? And if the readers that dislike the book are motivated by hate toward her and gays, why even respond to them?

    I hope that she doesn’t believe that everyone who dislikes her books are a) homophobes or b) out to get her. That totally contradicts her statement that a book can just not work for a reader.

  115. Robin
    Feb 06, 2009 @ 12:57:37

    Reading the AAR thread, I see there was some trouble a while back on Brockmann’s BB, but the problem for me is, how many people reading that BN thread even know about that? It’s like she’s got this whole context she’s bringing to those comments that to the readers like me for whom this issue is wholly new is a big WTF.

    At this point, I think the person who really needs to internalize the message that the detracting views of the book don’t matter in the large scheme of things is Brockmann herself, because her comments suggest to me just the opposite. And I can’t be the only reader who bristles at the ‘well, look at all the people who LOVE the book!’ defense (oh, that’s such a trigger for me, lol).

    Beyond the homophobia comment, which I suspect she didn’t intend to use as a blunt instrument against every reader who disliked DON (again, I thin she’s over-reading based on saturation in the world of her own BB and whatever people have told her), there are just a lot of backhanded slaps in that comment (and in a lot of the comments to questioners, IMO). Look, I’m the first person to suggest that an author should be in charge of her own work and process and apologize to no one about that. But if you’re the author who’s worked like crazy to engage a dedicated and large fan base, then you’ve got to be aware that you can’t keep all those readers in line on every book. And that the passionate fan-feelings can so easily become passionate disappointment. So what do you do in the face of that? It’s a tough call, especially when you share a somewhat enmeshed connection with your fan base. But if I were in charge of spinning Brockmann’s public statements at this point, I’d be advocating a respectful distance and neutral self-assertion of her rights as author. For example: ‘I’m so sorry you didn’t like DON. I wrote the best book I could and I am proud of it. I always appreciate the dedication of my readers, and I hope the next book works better for you, should you choose to read it.’ How about just, ‘I understand you’re disappointment and I’m sorry.’

    Re. the triangulation issue among Sophia, Dave, and Decker, I have to say that as a complete outsider to this relationship, reading Jane’s review and the comments about “superDave” make me wonder how powerful the triangulation was for readers. For example, the triangulation in the Stephanie Plum books between Ranger and Morelli has yielded really strong fan bases for both guys. Did that happen with Brockmann, and if not, why not? And I’m NOT suggesting that Brockmann did or didn’t do anything intentionally here, or that she’s wrong in how she handled thing, just wondering how effectively the tension between Dave and Decker vis a vis Sophia played out, since for more than a few “disgruntled” readers it seems like Dave was never a serious contender for Sophia. Is it possible that the triangulation was not as well defined as Brockmann seems to think it was, at least for a certain cohort of readers?

    I don’t see any reason for Brockmann not to stand behind and actively defend the choices she made, but from the outside looking in, I don’t see the value or effectiveness of dismissing readers who saw it differently as a way to do that. Just speaking personally, an author telling me I didn’t understand what she was doing is fast-tracking my dropping of her books from my TBR, because that’s one of those things where the author is literally intruding on my reading experience and my right to independent interpretation, and that’s definitely a line crosser for me. And I just think it’s unnecessary, since, as I said above, the author has the majority of power between herself and her readers, even when it doesn’t feel that way to the author.

  116. Robin
    Feb 06, 2009 @ 13:10:34

    Seattle is a very polite city and I think we were all startled at her reply to the girl you're talking about, but on balance, I think it was a wise response. I hope it did the job Gabaldon intended it to do, which was to snap this girl out of what sounded like a very unhealthy obsession. Gabaldon is (was) a university professsor by vocation and she is well used to taking control of a classroom of misbehaving undergraduates and telling them some home truths.

    Sorry about the late response, but I just saw this.

    Having had to wrangle my own share of undergraduate classes myself, one of my first lessons was how much more power you have as a professor than you do as a student. However, due to the kinds of insecurities everyone has, but in particular, I think, academics who aren’t used to holding broad-based authority and respectability, that balance can sometimes seem flipped, and the professor can feel at the mercy of his or her students. And ignore the incredibly high levels of sensitivity many of these undergraduates possess, even as their affect shows something else entirely. And I say that as someone who is quite blunt in a teaching situation, because I think clarity is really important in an academic setting, where students are measuring their expectations against mine.

    Obviously, I wasn’t at the reading, so my reaction is based on the hearsay rendition of Gabaldon’s comments. But based on that rendition, I’m still somewhat appalled by the way those “home truths” were dispensed. Not only because the story will eventually circulate into forums like this one (and who knows how all the rest of the attendees reacted, since you won’t see everyone’s response on their face), but also because I don’t think humiliating someone is the best way to get them to listen to you. And it sounds like that’s what she was doing, inadvertently or not. Of course, in the re-telling,we miss the tone and the exact wording, and all that subtle coding one’s body delivers in concert with the words themselves, but still . . . it feels unnecessarily and inefficiently extreme.

  117. GrowlyCub
    Feb 06, 2009 @ 14:54:56

    Word, Robin. But being a mouthy little thing I have a few more comments.

    As somebody, who only slogged through all the suspense to see where the Sophia/Decker relationship was going (after listening to Hot Target with my husband on a road trip) and only for that relationship originally, I’d have to say I didn’t have any inkling until the book immediately preceeding DoN that she was not going to explore that relationship, as difficult as it would have been.

    She’s saying they would never have worked and that she couldn’t believe that anybody thought they would have a healthy relationship, but the whole point for me in reading these books was to see how she, the author, could get these two so very damaged people together after setting up a 4 or 5 book arc. It’s a testament to her writing that she got me interested enough in them as a couple that I read forward first and then went back and read the earlier TSI books, when I detest romantic suspense and make a practice of staying far, far away. She made me care about the other couples along the way, some more than others.

    I totally agree that an author shouldn’t write a book if it doesn’t feel right, if the coupling, even if previously planned, didn’t work or if she planned it differently from the start, or should try to write a book her readers seem to demand, but I also think an author is selling a commodity, even if it’s a work of art, and I cannot help but cringe when I see her dismiss and insult her readers wholesale like that. And I think it’s worse because the readers she insults are not the casual folks or ‘literary’ critics, but long-time fans who only were disappointed *because* they cared so much. If people didn’t give a flip, there would have been no discussion months in advance.

    The whole post strikes me as a very bad PR move, even though I’m sure she felt vindicated after writing it.

    Besides the homophobia comment, the opening comment was also pretty ugly as far as I’m concerned:

    “I know that there’s been noise about DARK OF NIGHT, but from what I understand — without soiling myself too completely in the ugliness — that noise has been from just a relatively small group of disgruntled people — who seem to have more of a beef with me than with the book. ” (from the Barnes and Nobel Q&A linked above).

    As you said, if it really was such a small number, why not just ignore them. I’m afraid this falls under ‘authors behaving badly’ in my book.

    I still want to see if she managed to pull it off, but I can’t get past chapter 2 and I wish I hadn’t read her comment because now I have that negative reaction about her when trying to read the book, but I still want to know if her craft could carry me through the disappointment, which seems a contradiction, but I still care about the characters.

    Is this a tempest in a teapot, should people get a life and get over it, since this is only a fictional story? Possibly, but a writer cannot court readers on the one hand, wanting them to connect and then complain when they do. Well, she can, but in my opinion she ought not to, because she’s creating ill-will, possibly only with the ‘few’ disgruntled readers, but possibly with others who did not dislike DoN as well.

  118. Christiane Gordon
    Mar 13, 2009 @ 14:45:26

    March 11: About Ms Brockman’s last book Dark Of night, I am one of the Sophia/Decker fan. I love the troubleshooters serie, but was specially hooked to the dark and heart-breaking subplot of Soph and Deck thanks to the wonderful and extremely talented Ms. Brockman, I was totally invested in thoses characters. I know i should get a life. But I also have experienced tragedy as I lost my 16 yrs son in a fire. So I somehow identified with Sophia (`which I know is only a novel character’). However the joy the books gave me helped me with somewhat escaping to a more joyful world. I waited 5 years for DON as I thought it was going to bring Soph and Decker together. I knew it would be no small feat for an author as both characters were so complex and intense. But for me Ms Brockman is a master in developping character and bringing anyone to a better life. I love Jules and Robin best. The relationship of Jules, Robin and Sam is hylarious. Anyway after reading the book, to my husband’s dismay I felt crushed. ANd it’s RIDICULOUS!! I felt cheated. But such is life. It is bad, even in books. So, I am going to write my own version of Soph/ Deck HEA. PLEASE forgive my typing. It sucks. So Ms. Brockman Thank you to encourage me to write. Anyway I love your politics and I am pro-gay marriage. Robin is such a joyful and giving character, I could adopt him.( but he is only a book character!!) ms. Brockman you are an excellent writer!!! Christiane ( I am from France),

  119. Emma
    May 11, 2009 @ 07:09:49

    I was shocked to discover it was not Decker and Sophia in Dark of Night–having read it I still feel that she chose the wrong couple. No offense, as it is her story to write, but I was disappointed with the story overall, not just the fact that is was Dave/Sophia instead. I thought the book itself wasn’t very exciting and for me, it didn’t have an emotional arc the way some of Ms Brockmann’s other books do.

    I am not angry like dome, but like I said, I am disappointed both by the choices made and to be honest, by the overall book calibre compared to some of her earlier works.

  120. Emma
    May 11, 2009 @ 07:21:35

    GrowlyCub, your post makes sense. I am admit to just picking up DoN as a casual fan from the library–not having heard about any of the controversy over Dave/Sophia/Decker but I was surprised by this “twist” because to me, the twist felt forced–as did the relationship between Decker/Tracy. It just felt odd and maybe I wasn’t one of the small group of people, but as a casual fan, I was taken aback, so I feel the author had to have known a lot of her readers (who follow her series) would be surprised–and probably not happy. I do think knowing that some of her readers invested so much in her characters, there would be repercussions. I admit, it had definitely made me more leery of picking up a Brockmann book to be honest–this entire book felt forced and didn’t flow the way her earlier books flowed–that is more my criticism though I also agree she didn’t sell me on the Sophia/Dave relationship–to me if she went that route, she should’ve started where they are forced together and we see the arc shift rather than throw them in bed due to grieving over Nash. Huh? It made no sense to me and again, felt forced rather than a natural progression.

    I also feel the author shouldn’t criticize her fans for being upset. I wouldn’t say I was a big fan, like I said I had read a few of her earlier books, and if i had actually bought the book (vs library where I got my copy) I would probably want my money back–partly because the romance genre is about happy endings–and this book definitely didn’t feel happy at the end. =)

    Her comment (below) I think is wrong. I don’t think it’s a small group of people disgruntled. I think it’s a lot of them, just not everyone goes online to post opinions. It’s probably the majority of them and again, she could’ve pulled it off if the book had sold the new relationships, but the book didn’t do that for me at least.

    “I know that there's been noise about DARK OF NIGHT, but from what I understand -‘ without soiling myself too completely in the ugliness -‘ that noise has been from just a relatively small group of disgruntled people -‘ who seem to have more of a beef with me than with the book. ”

  121. MB72
    May 18, 2009 @ 08:41:11

    Wow. Been reading this morning all about the contraversy that surrounded DON, months after I read the book itself. Will just add my own two cents instead of commenting on all the various complaints, theories, diatribes and rants that I have read and either agreed or disagreed with. I have read all the books, and have followed all the relationships very closely. I have loved certain characters, basically just rushed through others when they didn’t appeal to me as much, but loved the ride all the same. Two books ago I would have claimed to be a Sophia/Decker fan, and was interested to see what their story was going to be like. But, I thought DON was great. First off, half the the time I love the friendships in SB’s books even better than the love angles. I LOVE Decker and Jimmy, Izzy and Mark, Lindsey and Tracy. They make me laugh, and cry. This book was filled with friends making each other grow and be better human beings. That said, I felt fond of Dave for the first time. He made alpha males love him in this book, but remained true to who he was. I loved Jimmy opening up to Tess, and Sam. Deck and Tracy I totally bought and SB made me grow to really like Tracy over four books or so. In my mind, while the book did have to jump around a lot in order to get it all in, I thoroughly enjoyed the ride and the growth of so many characters. Worth the read to me! My only issue is I am wishing the next book was based on a new couple, not Sam and Alyssa even though everyone loves them!

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