Romance, Historical, Contemporary, Paranormal, Young Adult, Book reviews, industry news, and commentary from a reader's point of view

Reader Roundtables Part II – The Content

The second part of the Reader Roundtables was content. (I really could talk about covers forever   but we had to move on).

Readers said that they were tired of paranormals and to expand on that, they may not be so much tired of paranormals but rather they want something fresh. One reader commented she wanted to see more fantasy ala CL Wilson. I saw Erin Kellison in the group and noted that she is purportedly writing/selling fantasy romance. It's on my Kindle, awaiting a reading.

The Darkest Hour by Maya BanksA number of readers said that they wanted more internal conflict, more conflict to do with the romance and less to do with what is going on outside of the relationship. (I think this is why Maya Banks' upcoming romantic suspense, The Darkest Hour,  worked so well for me. While there was suspense the real crux of the conflict is between the hero and heroine).

Someone commented that they wanted the "Wow" feeling that these characters "really love each other". Outside conflict doesn't necessarily deliver that “wow” feeling.

Readers were tired of books that lacked character development. I took this to mean that they wanted to see a character grow and change over the course of the book. (My notes say "rejicu-female in a dress" I think that must have been related to covers. My handwriting really sucks.)

Kristie J said she wanted more Westerns. She liked westerns because the heroes were more relatable. She likes the working man hero. The hero seems more down to earth, grounded.

butterflyswordsfront-1More than one reader said that they were excited to read Jeannie Lin’s Butterfly Swords.   I swear this came unprompted from the audience!   A few readers mentioned that they wanted to read alternative locations.   Carrie Lofty sold a book to Pocket set in South Africa.

We talked about reading historical. A reader commented that she read for the time period.   We talked briefly about paranormal historicals.   I suggested paranormal historicals weren’t doing well because its too much extra details (building the historical world plus the paranormal world doesn’t leave much time for character development and romance).   One editor in the audience, though, pointed out how much she enjoyed Gail Carriger’s Parasol Protectorate series which is a paranormal historical.

We talked about series. There was a robust discussion about series and whether readers were tired of it, whether they would pick it up in the middle, etc.   Most readers agreed that they liked connected stories. Stories which stand alone but had characters that appeared in previous books.   There was no agreement on series books themselves. Some readers said that they would pick up a book in the middle of a series.   Some readers said that they would buy a series and wait until the series was complete before starting.   Some readers said long series was a turn off.

I’m doing this with Karen Marie Moning’s “Fever” series. I heard that there were huge cliffhangers and I am content to wait until the series is complete before committing.   I’ve also heard that authors don’t like this because if we readers wait, there might not be a series end, but for many books, I’ve just been reluctant to start a series without having all of them available, if possible.

When asked about storylines that readers felt were missing we received the following responses:

-. Would like more edgy characters
-..Strong heroines who are not cold and are looking for love
-.never the storyline that matters, it's always about the characters

Again, I’m interested in hearing what you have to say about the contents in books.   Are there storylines that you aren’t seeing being published?   Do you think you are getting enough internal conflict or character development in your stories or do you feel authors are relying too much on external factors?   What about series books?   Do you feel differently about series books v. connected books (and why won’t publishers put the series numbers on the sides and front of the books)?

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

48 Comments

  1. Estara
    Jul 15, 2010 @ 05:51:15

    Re: Fantasy romance with a stronger fantasy base – what about Elizabeth Vaughan – all her books are like that.

    To a lesser romance, more fantasy extent we have Sherwood Smith for Samhain (and some for Norilana as well as the YA Crown Duel), Jaqueline Carey’s Kushiel Universe, Maria V. Snyder and her Study series.

  2. Jennifer Estep
    Jul 15, 2010 @ 06:06:09

    Amen, Kristie J. I would love to see more westerns, both historical and contemporary. And I’d like to see different locations and different time periods in historicals as well. There’s a whole world out there, not just England. Give me some variety.

    I hate the lag between series books too. I like to see at least two books a year in my favorite series. As an author, I’d love to be able to do a five-book series and have all the books come out back-to-back. I just think that would be awesome.

    I know the publisher put the series numbers on the spine of Lilith Saintcrow’s Dante Valentine series. I wish more publishers would do that. It would make keeping up with the books so much easier.

  3. Linda Banche
    Jul 15, 2010 @ 06:34:02

    I like historicals, especially those set in the Regency. I can’t get enough Regency, and I’d like to see more.

    I’m not much of a paranormal fan, so I don’t care for paranormal historicals. In most of these, the paranormal tends to overwhelm the historical. An exception is Susan Krinard’s historical werevolves. Ms. Krinard has done a fantastic job with the history, and the werewolves are integral part of her world without dominating the history.

    I also like a good story, especially one that has something else (mystery, suspense, adventure) going on in addition to the romance.

    And I HATE coming in on the middle of a series. I don’t mind waiting for the next book, but if I can’t start at the beginning, say because the first book has gone out of print, I won’t read the series at all.

  4. Jessie
    Jul 15, 2010 @ 06:57:48

    I would love to have been at this roundtable–such interesting discussion! As either you or SB Sarah mentioned in one of the RomCon posts, I, like many other romance readers, have no one to talk to in person about this stuff. It’s so exciting to experience a great conversation about romance novels, even secondhand.

    Re: Series–I love series books because that means I can (usually) count on an author to have books coming out regularly. As long as the books are only connected and not a true series, I can start reading anywhere. Of the authors I read, Eloisa James is pretty much the only one I can’t do this with, since she weaves the stories of future heroes and heroines throughout the earlier books.

    Re: Missing storylines–I read mostly single title historical romances, and I would really like some recommendations of marriage of convenience plots. Julie Garwood was great at this, but I don’t read her anymore. Most of my authors now write stories where the marriage ends the book. I like when the hero and heroine can explore their relationship in the close proximity of marriage (as in WHEN THE DUKE RETURNS by Eloisa James).

    Also, agree about the internal conflict–really don’t care that much if people are running for their lives/being blackmailed/masquerading as a highwayman while they fall in love.

  5. Vi
    Jul 15, 2010 @ 07:26:54

    I am exhausted of books in a series. I grateful that some of favorite authors J.D. Robb, Nalini Singh and Lisa Kleypas release a couple of books a year in a series. Like you, Jane, I am not reading the Fever series until the last one is available.

  6. Jen X
    Jul 15, 2010 @ 07:31:41

    More internal conflict. YES! Absolutely. I enjoy a good romantic suspense story but if it’s all about adrenaline and hunting bad guys, I’m ‘meh’. A good example of a character-driven rom-sus is Pamela Clare’s, NAKED EDGE. I wanted to get inside Gabe’s mind, heart & maybe his pants, too. LOL! Loved it.

    I’m down for different settings & ethnicities, too. I keep hearing authors say that their publishers want English/Scottish setting because they sell. They sell because THAT IS ALL THAT IS OFFERED! The proverbial chicken/egg situation.

    Personally, I do not enjoy reading PNR but it doesn’t bother me to see it offered. What bugs me is seeing traditionally non-PNR authors write one just for commercial reasons.

  7. Gwynnyd
    Jul 15, 2010 @ 08:03:06

    I do like internal conflict, but I don’t want either internal or external conflict to be the be-all and end all of the book. It matters to me if the action is “good” – that is, exciting, consistent, well-plotted and well thought out – and definitely plausible, either in a contemporary or a historical, as a backdrop to the unfolding character and relationship development. When I say “plausible” I don’t mean merely mundane. I am more than willing to follow an author into their universe, but I want it to be in a way I can believe in. Detectives ought to be able to detect. Airship captains, no matter how corseted, ought to be able to command. (I’m looking at you, Katie McAllister.)

    Giving up, or glossing over, either one of the internal or external elements makes a book unsatisfying for me.

  8. Joy
    Jul 15, 2010 @ 08:03:34

    I like a loosely connected series, where you don’t need to have read the earlier books to fully follow the later ones. I do appreciate some more closely-tied books but ideally these should be released the way Tessa Dare’s series have been– one a month for N consecutive months in the same year! I don’t like to wait once I’m hooked.

    I would say this feeling of “Wow! These people really love each other” is the primary reason I read a romance. It is a disappointment that I so frequently get a feeling of “Wow! These people really have a dysfunctional relationship.”

  9. Sam
    Jul 15, 2010 @ 08:06:50

    I like to see more variety in the Regency world.

    I read a lot about aristocratic marriage affairs in the regency novels(the married woman who sleeps with the hero before he meets the innocent heroine)

    What about reading a flashback book about such woman? We get to know her as a widow and we slowly learn about her affair with the hero. Maybe even with a child that looks like him. Or just about a widow with a previous marriage like that. I jsut want to read something different.

  10. Barbara
    Jul 15, 2010 @ 08:16:40

    Thanks for the informative article. I agree with most points already discussed – more internal conflict and character development.

  11. Lindsay
    Jul 15, 2010 @ 08:21:03

    A big YES! to more character-driven romance. I mostly read historicals, and it seems to me like every book I pick up has a mystery subplot, and I just don’t care. Don’t people fall in love in unremarkable circumstances too?

    Like Kristie J, I would also love to see more Westerns. Working heroes are sexy, and I’m willing to put up with a lot more hero angst if he’s earned everything he has, rather than inheriting it – a hero who’s had a dukedom handed to him on a silver platter, but who’s still brooding and cynical risks coming off as entitled. Plus, I like to indulge my Little House on the Prairie fantasies.

    Also loving the strong heroines who aren’t cold. I think it’s very easy to equate emotional openness with weakness, because it does leave a person vulnerable to being hurt. Om the other hand, it means being strong enough to take the risk of being hurt, which really shouldn’t be underestimated.

    I second Jessie’s request for marriage of convenience plots. It’s my favourite trope, but I see more compromised into marriage than true marriage of convenience plots. Off the top of my head, I enjoyed Jo Goodman’s Never Love a Lawman (a Western), and I’m drawing a blank on other titles. I’ll add them if I think of them.

  12. JenD
    Jul 15, 2010 @ 08:29:27

    You know those little cans of pineapple juice? They have a little metallic pull-tab on them, it’s hard to open and when you do manage to open it up- the edges are all sharp. Yet, you get this delicious juice behind all that work and sharpness.

    I miss that. I miss the romances that could make me have that ‘pulled tab’ feeling in my chest. Everything else in my world has faded away and there is nothing beyond these two people and their love story- and I can feel it, really feel it.

    Thinking about the books that have done that and what they have in common leads me to agree that there needs to be more internal conflict- or at least have them show some deeper *believable* emotions.

    I’d also like to see some new settings. England is lovely, Scotland is my second home and the Wild West is breathtaking- I would still like to visit other places on Earth. Even the same locations but in different time periods- what about a book set in the period of the suffrage movement; a romance between two tribespeople in 1700’s Africa or just something besides the same four locations.

    I’d also like some more air-punching moments. Something that makes me really react to the story. It’s been ages since a book made me feel like I’d been a part of the World Cup winning team- like I’d had a moment of being part of something truly great.

    Also- I know I’m going to be in the minority on this- I’d like to see a hero that’s not the embodiment of every mainstream woman’s fantasy. I don’t like six packs, super tall guys hurt my neck and I have a weakness for bald men. If we have all this variety for women- why not for guys too?

    I’d love to read a love story between two real, flawed, people. A woman who’s beautiful to him; a man who’s beautiful to her- without having every other person in the world bursting/gushing their drawers because of them. How about a woman with a snaggle tooth or a man with a little pudge? I want more unique people in the books, and not just on the sidelines.

    Non-classically beautiful people have love stories too- and I’d like to read them.

  13. Aislinn Macnamara
    Jul 15, 2010 @ 08:45:44

    Huge yes to a variety of settings in historicals. I love me some Regency, but I also love places and times that are NOT Regency. I also love reading about characters who are not necessarily aristocracy and who have to earn their living.

    I wouldn’t mind more of a return to the old-school style sweeping historical that covers more than just a few weeks’ time. Minus the rape/forced seduction and purple prose.

    I am not into the whole paranormal thing at all, although I wouldn’t mind giving romance that draws on high fantasy a try.

    Also agree on more character-driven plots. I want to read about the characters’ journey to falling in love over the whodunit business. I’d like to read more realistic heroes than straight-on alphas. Maybe it’s because I’m married to a beta?

  14. Keishon
    Jul 15, 2010 @ 09:02:59

    Great article. I think I miss the conflict between the h/h which I think dominated much of the romances I enjoyed back in the 90’s. I am a reader who reads for character and that goes across genres. It’s the characters that make/break the book along with the content. When you have great characters + great content = win. I hate paranormal anything except those authors I already enjoy. I agree with other readers, authors/publishers need to move onto something else that is fresh and exciting and stop adding paranormal to everything (paranormal r/s, paranormal historical, paranormal romance)

  15. John
    Jul 15, 2010 @ 09:24:25

    More settings in historicals would be really nice. As much as I love the genre for being one that introduced me to romance, I want to see more time periods. Regency gets old after a while. I’d really like to see ones in interesting places. Other than China – count me as one of those excited for Butterfly Swords and her next historical coming out in September – I’d like to see ones in India, Russia, Japan, and South America. I mean, there are so many untapped locations that I would love to see authors work with. Even a pre-historic ala Clan of the Cave Bear or She Who Remembers would be a really nice change.

    Series wise; I don’t mind them, but I prefer if they stand on their own, so that way I can drop reading them if I get bored, or not feel the need to be a perfectionist if I don’t want to backlist the sucker. From what I’ve learned in examining the reader who doesn’t go online (aka the mother figure), it seems like she also enjoys a series that can be read out of order. For instance, she loves reading the In Death books, and she hasn’t even read those in order. With almost 30 books, it’s just easier to read what’s available on sale for her. I think that shows that authors should focus more on making connected series – or at least ones that can be dropped and still feel complete. I’ve started way too many YA series, and several I’ve dropped because it’s just too much hassle to keep up with them.

  16. Jane
    Jul 15, 2010 @ 10:14:25

    The reader roundtables were great. Sarah and I will be doing more of them at RT. Hopefully we can get some more cover images to show and more readers engaged in talking about what they love and don’t love about our genre.

  17. Eva_baby
    Jul 15, 2010 @ 11:01:48

    I gave up on historicals pretty much because how many bored Dukes/Earls or Scottish clan leaders can one really read about? I’d love to see historicals set it other times places: Czarist Russia, Ancient Rome, even more early Americana. I really also like stuff set in the Gilded Age and Turn of the Century NYC. So far only mysteries get set in those times.

    Ditto on SFF/Romance hybrids. Why not have some romances set in the future? The Eve Dallas series does a great job of doing a not to distant future so that things are familiar yet, the author can play a bit and create a place with totally made up yet-to-occur events have happened and reshaped civilization a bit. There is a whole lot of unexplored potential for that. It is not necessary to have werewolves and vampires to get a fantasy fix.

  18. mb
    Jul 15, 2010 @ 11:07:42

    @JenD: I so agree!

  19. Darynda Jones
    Jul 15, 2010 @ 11:12:25

    I’m dying to read Jeannie Lin’s BUTTERFLY SWORDS!!! I can’t wait for this one!

  20. Zoe Archer
    Jul 15, 2010 @ 11:20:34

    Duty compels me to mention this blog:

    Unusual Historicals

  21. Shelia’s Adventures Part Deaux |
    Jul 15, 2010 @ 11:22:59

    […] Romance Reader Roundtable was hosted by Jane from Dear Author and Sarah from Smart B, Trashy Books. Great discussion on book covers (likes and dislikes), what […]

  22. Karen W.
    Jul 15, 2010 @ 11:23:31

    I don’t know if I’ll ever get tired of UF/paranormal because my first love is SF/F, but I *do* agree that it’s nice to come across something different.

    I read two books recently that I thought did a great job of doing something original with UF: DEADTOWN by Nancy Holzner and UNHOLY GHOSTS by Stacia Kane. I would recommend them, especially for those who like their UF darker/grittier.

  23. Romance Reader
    Jul 15, 2010 @ 11:29:32

    NYStacey is guest blogging at Barbara Vey’s blog about RomCon:

    http://blogs.publishersweekly.com/blogs/beyondherbook/?p=1660

    and two tidbits sound delicious:

    “Celeste Bradley and Susan Donovan are working on a book together-Susan Donovan's character finds a diary written by Celeste's character”

    “Anna Campbell has a Golden Heart winning Historical Romantic comedy waiting to be published…which readers would like to see.”

    So perhaps readers will accept something a little different from their favorite authors (I would).

  24. Lindsay
    Jul 15, 2010 @ 11:30:12

    For some reason, lately I’ve been wishing for a romance set in the Great Depression. I can’t imagine a publisher going for it, but the idea of people struggling and finding happiness in the face of such huge odds somehow works for me. I could go for a happy ending where it’s not going to be easy, but the characters know they have each other and their love, and will pull through.

  25. Lynne Connolly
    Jul 15, 2010 @ 11:38:58

    I don’t read so many historicals these days because of the thin plots, thin characters (in every sense of the word) and thin history. Most of them could be set anywhere. Add a train and it’s Victorian. Add a suit of armour and it’s medieval.

    Still write them, though. Don’t seem to be able to stop, and there are still some wonderful writers out there.
    Fresh from the inspiring RNA conference, the talk by Lucy Inglis on “The prospects for the single woman in 18th century London” I’ve come back refreshed and full of good ideas. Since I sat next to Janet Mullany, and Amanda Grange and Nicola Cornick were sitting in front of us, with several other writers of historical romance liberally scattered in the group, hopefully we’ll all get inspired!
    Women as tradespeople, coffeehouse owners, silversmiths, owning chains of flower suppliers, and so on. I can’t wait to get started!

  26. Kate Pearce
    Jul 15, 2010 @ 12:07:28

    Having just written my first paranormal historical romance, ‘Kiss of the Rose’ I have to agree that it is hard work to set up a paranormal world, a historical world, internal and external plot and a love story-all in 85K. I ended up getting away with writing the first 2 books in the series with the same h/h so I could have a better go at a longer romance arc.

    I’d love to see more historical time periods written about, would love to write them more too. I’m looking forward to Butterfly Swords as well :)

  27. Lynne Connolly
    Jul 15, 2010 @ 12:14:10

    BTW, for those of you who love the wallpaper historical – carry on loving them. Anything that brings people a bit of escapism is fine. I spend my reading time with improbable Greek billionaires and Spanish hotties, so I shouldn’t really let fly and I promise I’ll try not to.
    It’s just that I’ve just bought this beautiful Blackberry, and it’s my first smartphone and it’s driving me demented setting it up. No Stanza for it, not that I’ve found, anyway.

  28. Lindsey
    Jul 15, 2010 @ 12:14:34

    Having recently read a book which I thought was going to be set in Regency, but turned out was set in the Georgian era, I would rather like to see more diversity in the time periods historicals are set in. It was a welcome and refreshing change to read something non-Regency, though it was still set in England.

    I will also confess that I will never get tired of paranormals. I love them, and though they are saturating the market right now (and a great deal of the newer ones aren’t to my taste), I like having the variety to choose from. Most of the paranormals I read are part of series, but I confess that I do often get frustrated having to wait 6 months to a year for the next book in a series to be released. On the one hand, I’m grateful, because it somewhat curtails my spending habits, but on the other, I’m impatient, and want more content sooner.

    Re: More internal conflict: yes please. I think that books require a good balance of both internal conflict, and action, but the action should not overshadow or eliminate internal conflict. I like action that is tied into internal conflict, and action that helps the characters grow as people.

  29. Sahara Hoshi
    Jul 15, 2010 @ 13:32:04

    I really do enjoy the conflict driven romance and character-driven plot. I think the issue of a strong heroine who isn’t cold, is the toughest challenge, though, for me to find in a romance that I pick up. There is a fine line between Mary Sue and G.I. Jane, which makes it hard for a happy medium to exist. I think novels that I’ve enjoyed have had a mix of both, for women with flaws yet strong personalities such as Victoria Dahl’s Lead Me On and in the urban fantasy genre/paranormal genre – Patricia Briggs’ Mercy Thompson series.

    In terms of the contemporary romance, if I see another animal trope I might scream. I mean I love animals and I they’re great in books, but when the focus of the romance is solely on the animal as the main catalyst for the relationship…that doesn’t work as well for me.

    I am really excited to see the rise of more of a post-apocalyptic vibe to some novels. I was over the moon with the mention of the YA novel How I Live Now in a recent review, a great book that exemplifies a new sort of character development and romance.

  30. Wendy
    Jul 15, 2010 @ 13:47:43

    I would ammend “strong heroine looking for love” to: Strong heroine unopposed to love. I’ve been playing with the concept of “what makes a strong heroine” in my personal writing and have been fascinated with the growth from my teen years–fighty wench! with a bitter streak a mile wide– to the present in which my heroines are all strong, but it is not their rage at the unjust world that makes them so, but their ability to act against the unjust world.
    I would definitely like to see other writers take on making a truly strong heroine, not just one who is because she has the markers of: 1) I told you and 2) She’s cold and feels she’s been wronged or loving makes her “weak”.

  31. Randi
    Jul 15, 2010 @ 13:51:02

    Ugh, the Fever series. I could rant all day long about that one. But my rant has more to do with the LENGTH of each book, rather than that it’s a series. Remember all the bitching about LKH’s Micah? Yeah, that’s me with all the Fever books. They’re all NOVELLAs and I’m paying $8 for them? Forget it. I love Moning, but I refuse to be taken from behind anymore; so I’ve put her on my Do-Not-Buy list.

    As for series in general: I do like them. I like the related series (i.e Trouble Shooters), the single couple series (i.e Ilona Andrews, Maria Snyder), combo (i.e. Vorkosigan, Kelly Armstrong, Maria Snyder); it really just depends on the writer.

    I would like more stories in other locales, like Australia. I don’t understand why the Australian market thinks we here in the US won’t be interested in Australian stories. Hello…Keri Arthur anyone?

    And yes, once again, to putting numbers on the spines of related books. I don’t start a series in the middle, I start at the beginning, so it’s VITAL I know what book is the beginning.

    Oh, also, this has been bugging me for awhile. When a new book in a series comes out, could bookstores PLEASE make sure they have the previous books IN STOCK!!! I don’t get this problem, at all. What better way to sell more books than to have the WHOLE series (at least what’s been currently written) available to the buyer (me!)? So annoying.

  32. Kalen Hughes
    Jul 15, 2010 @ 14:45:39

    I’m so glad to see people ringing the bell for character-driven romance! This is what I like to read and what I like to write. External conflict works best IMO when it feeds into the internal conflict you’ve already got going . . .

  33. Kalen Hughes
    Jul 15, 2010 @ 14:50:47

    I think the issue of a strong heroine who isn't cold, is the toughest challenge, though, for me to find in a romance that I pick up.

    Ok, I try never to do this, but I think the heroine of my first book (Lord Sin) fits this bill to a T. If you like historicals (I write Georgians), you can still get it as an ebook or used for a penny, LOL!

    I’m certainly trying to write this kind of heroine for all of my new Isobel Carr books.

  34. Mary G
    Jul 15, 2010 @ 15:29:31

    Ditto JenD
    Never thought a bald guy could be sexy until I read In Enemy Hands by Michelle Perry. He is ripped though.

    I’m still concerned that we need to “Save the Contemporary”. Sometimes I just want a regular story with regular people in this era. I do read different genres and that’s what I want available.

    My naive dream would be that every author could just write in their own voice & not what their editor thinks the public wants.
    There would be books out there in every genre to please anyone & everyone.

  35. Kalen Hughes
    Jul 15, 2010 @ 15:38:35

    My naive dream would be that every author could just write in their own voice & not what their editor thinks the public wants.

    One of the things I'm really hoping to see the “eBook Revolution” do is open the field to wonderful books that simply don't have the mass appeal NY requires to take a risk on them. With a 70% royalty, you could still make a decent living while selling a LOT less books, which means it would be profitable for authors to take a chance on their own books that might not meet the requirements of NY (for whatever reason).

  36. Liz
    Jul 15, 2010 @ 16:02:11

    Reading these comments, it seems like a lot of people want a little more reality in their romance: stories that reflect more of our world, past and present, and even in fantasy, more emotional or psychological realism.

    I’m as susceptible as the next person to the fantasy of the hard-bodied hero and the perfect sex from the get-go that proves they’re meant for each other (even if she’s a Regency virgin), but I get tired of that ALL the time. And the omnipresence of such elements helps create some pernicious impressions: that true, lasting love is only a fantasy, or at least not available to ordinary people, and that romance is porn for women.

    So I say let the hero, as well as the heroine, be a bit soft in the middle sometimes, let them sometimes fumble around before they get sex right, let them find a love I can believe will last, and let them do this in all kinds of times and places.

  37. Jenny Schwartz
    Jul 15, 2010 @ 18:16:59

    While everyone else is coming to grips with the substance of this discussion, I’m stuck on the “put the series number on the cover”. Yes! Do you know how easily confused I am? Numbering the actual book so that I don’t start reading at the third book in a new-to-me series would be great.

  38. SonomaLass
    Jul 15, 2010 @ 20:04:15

    I was at the rescheduled panel, and I found the discussion really interesting. It was especially nice to hear other readers say that they are interested in other settings for historicals. I know Sherry Thomas and Carolyn Jewel both has books set in India last year. Lorelie Brown’s Jazz Baby is set in the 1920s , and Carrie Lofty has one book set in Spain and one in Vienna. Nowhere near as many as in England, but there are some.

    For a recent marriage of convenience story, try Tessa Dare’s One Dance with a Duke.

    I agree about fantasy authors like Maria V. Snyder and Jaqueline Carey. Guy Gabriel Kay is another author who does fantasy with very powerful romantic elements.

    Jane, I’ll be interested what you think of Erin Kellison’s book.

  39. Trisha
    Jul 15, 2010 @ 20:25:45

    It’s not so much series or connected stories that I dislike as it is blatant sequel-baiting. When I’m reading a romance novel, I expect the romantic relationship to be resolved by the end of the story and I want the focus to be on the romance between the main characters, with maybe a (resolved) secondary romance, too.

    When I think about many of my favorite romances, here’s what they have in common: the internal conflict is resolved early enough that the couple then faces the external conflict together. For the most part, I don’t find the OMG!-I-suddenly-realized-I-love-the-person-I-saved-and-can-abruptly-let-go-of-all-the-baggage-left-from-the-death/abandonment-of/by-my-kid/former-spouse/parent-with-only-thirty-pages-left-in-the-book thing all that convincing. But I also think it is more romantic to see the couple trying to overcome an obstacle, to fight for their relationship, *together*, and I become more invested in the story when I care about the couple, not just one person.

    I also would love more diversity, in characters and settings. Definitely want more non-Regency historicals (srsly, South Africa? Pocket and Carrie Lofty, you have one guaranteed purchase, at least). And while I do plan on buying Butterfly Swords, I have to say, historicals set in East Asia have an extra hurdle to climb with me, simply because (assuming the couple are not peasants–since how often are peasants the focus of European-set historicals?–who meet outside of a marriage arranged by their parents) I need to be that much more convinced of the romance that they’d be willing to put their love ahead of their family, etc.

    Disclaimer: I’m just speaking of romances here, because my thoughts on the subjects in genres other than romance may differ…

  40. Renee Wildes
    Jul 16, 2010 @ 05:24:17

    I like reading fantasy, grew up on Mercedes Lackey. I like reading books where ordinary people do extraordinary things and good always wins out over evil. I like books where stuff happens besides people falling in love. So I finally decided to write the kind of books I want to read. Samhain’s “Guardians of Light” series is the result. High fantasy romance.

  41. readerdiane
    Jul 16, 2010 @ 14:32:01

    I am tired of books/series where the main characters get beat up all the time. Too much violence for me. I do like the paranormals where the heroine is able to get herself out of trouble using her brain. I loved the the old sword & sorcery books where magic, brain power & some sword play where able to carry the day.
    I seem to be heading to contemporaries right but some do not stand up to the character driven books I like.

  42. Moriah Jovan
    Jul 16, 2010 @ 15:53:08

    @Wendy:

    I would ammend “strong heroine looking for love” to: Strong heroine unopposed to love.

    @Kalen Hughes:

    Ok, I try never to do this, but…

    Oh, me too, but I can’t resist, either.

    I like to think I do this to varying extents with most of my heroines, but only readers can say for sure if I make it work. (I do have one who’s simply waiting for Prince Charming, which I think could be stretched to the Opposed to Love category.)

    I don’t get the “love makes me weak” thing, but I do buy “I have issues and yes, I’m wary, but I’m not going to kick you in the nuts for trying if you intrigue me—please be patient with me?”

    @Mary G:

    My naive dream would be that every author could just write in their own voice & not what their editor thinks the public wants.

    It’s nice to be able to do that. As a reader, I’d sure like more of those. I’ve read quite a few unpublished manuscripts by good writers that are marvelously unique but can’t find a home.

  43. becca
    Jul 16, 2010 @ 16:09:05

    I refuse to read series books that end on cliff-hangers. I just won’t.

    One thing I like about the In Death books is, if Nora stopped writing them today I would weep, but I wouldn’t be left hanging. these are series books where you can read a book and the story *ends* – Eve and Roarke and company go on, but that story is done.

    Nora’s Blue Smoke is my example of what a solidly character-driven story should be like. The plot proceeds naturally out of who the characters are and their life choices. That book is my benchmark for a good mixing of romance and suspense.

  44. Ridley
    Jul 16, 2010 @ 17:45:27

    Maybe this ties into internal conflict as well, but I want more diverse contemporaries, and I don’t mean that necessarily as a euphemism for multi-cultural.

    I want more heroines to keep their name after the HEA, a hero who stays home so mom can make partner, protagonists who aren’t middle-class white Christians of no particular cultural extraction, more city set contemporaries not set in huge cities like NYC/Chicago/LA so we can have neighborhoods without the Sex in the City vibe, more sexually experienced heroines without it being an “issue”, and so on.

    I like the story options contemporaries, but the characters are so friggin bland half the time. All white people are not the same, and a non-white protagonist every now and again would be fab. I don’t get people and their “but I wouldn’t identify with a character who doesn’t look like me.” We are not a nation of gorgeous size 6 women with perfect teeth and hair, firmly and comfortably seated in the middle-class, yet your average reader manages to identify with the current crop of whitebread heroines just fine.

    I need some variety. I’m sick of reading the same hero and heroine.

    ETA: More American or Canadian set historicals plz. I’m not interested in historicals in non-English speaking lands, but there’s a wealth of historical options other than England and Scotland even sticking to English speaking countries. America’s 400 years old. There’s a lot to play with there.

  45. Angelia Sparrow
    Jul 16, 2010 @ 20:11:39

    I’m not crazy about internal or relationship conflict. I don’t like all the waffling and misunderstanding and miscommunication that could be cleared up with one solid question. Don’t even get me started on angst.

    I just finished Narcisuss in Chains. And it drove me DAFT. The whole thing was Anita having internal conflict about all the external stuff, because of her precious principles. I would have ditched the principles the minute I realized they were hurting more people than they were helping. I would have rather had half the page length, a tighter focus on the external plot of high-ranking shifters going missing and a lot less angst.

    I want a good solid adventure plot, with romance as the B plot. (I cut my teeth on mythology, Robin Hood and Edgar Rice Burroughs) Location and time period don’t matter so much, but they need to be solidly done.

    I’m really tired of “Straight-acting single atheist GWM of means seeks same for curtain selection” that I’m getting in the romances I read. Give me flamingly fabulous vampires, interstellar drag-queens, even slightly campy HR reps. Give me happy endings that don’t involve domesticity, but perhaps staying together for profit or revenge. Give me men of color and of all faiths.

  46. Grace Draven
    Jul 17, 2010 @ 07:52:29

    I’d love to see more of the strong heroine who isn’t cold or afraid to show some vulnerability. Strength manifests in different forms, and I’d like to see that explored more. Bettie Sharpe’s fabulous free read Ember has just such a heroine. She’s formidable but in a way that’s presented in such an achingly human fashion you fall in love with her as much you fall in love with the hero.

    I’d like to see historicals set in different time periods other than Regency. Something during the time of the Merovingian or Carolingian dynasties would be excellent.

    For me, character always trumps plot in a romance. If I read one with shallow characterization and strong plot, I’ll put it down. I’ll keep reading if the opposite is true.

    I can understand numbering a series if the books in the series have endings that are cliff hangers and rely on the next book to resolve issues. But for those that are loosely tied together (where an ending for that book is resolved and there are hints of another story for a secondary character), I think the numbering system might be a detriment. I’m thinking of several of Mary Balogh’s series. Each book really stands alone and can be read out of order. I’d think numbering those might cause some readers to hold off buying or reading the series when it’s not necessary to do so.

    What I don’t like are series that seem to drag into infinity. With very few exceptions, I’m pretty much done with a series at Book 4 and would like to see something else by the author.

    I love paranormal that extends beyond the vampires and wolf/cat shifters. Selkies, the fae, banshees, dragons, angels, sorcerers, etc., all good and something I’d read quicker than the vampire or werewolf tale.

    My first love is high fantasy, so romances in that category will catch my attention. While I didn’t care for C.L. Wilson’s series, I cheered when I saw her books being published and hope she and others (Elizabeth Vaughn) have many more high fantasy romance novels published in the near future.

    I’m not all that interested in contemporaries and Westerns are a hit and miss for me. I would like to read a western written in the style of LaVyrle Spencer.

  47. Renee Wildes
    Jul 17, 2010 @ 08:08:03

    I like series where you can see recurring characters and places, but each book stands alone – the new characters deserve their own spotlight. What bugs me is when the secondary characters overshadow the main ones. As a writer, I take note of which secondary characters are in ascension and then give them their own book later.

    I also like variety in my characters – I don’t like to repeat. I write high fantasy, so I’ve had:
    Heroines – dragon mage, gypsy queen, assassin nun, single-mom selkie, dream faerie
    Heroes – elven prince, elven paladin, human mercenary, werewolf, and elven spirit healer

    We’ll have to see where the Guardian of Light goes next, with the younger siblings and/or children…

  48. Katie
    Jul 18, 2010 @ 12:44:58

    I’d love to see some WWII romances in any number of locations. Globe spanning, even. The romantic storylines in certain episodes of the recent HBO miniseries The Pacific really caught my imagination.

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