Liveblogging The Duchess, Her Maid, The Groom, and Their Lover
Starting at 9:00 pm EST/8:00 pm CST, Smart Bitch Sarah and I will be liveblogging our reading experience of The Duchess, Her Maid, The Groom, and Their Lover by Victoria Janssen. Come back and join us. I think you can enter questions/comments.
NOTE: Apparently there are some hurt feelings and other feelings of uncomfortability about this format so if you have thin skin or know the author or whatever, don’t read the transcript. Just skip straight to the comments with your outraged “HOW COULD YOU.”
Fucking brillant! Loved the snark as always. What might have made it even more fun would have been to have Doc Turtle along for color commentary.
Of course now I have the Little Drummer Boy stuck in my head, but at least it is the David Bowie and Bing Crosby performance.
Yes, I have the dang Drummer Boy carol stuck in my head, too, thanks to SB Sarah.
That was a very enjoyable chat/review thing, and I look forward to you doing it again, perhaps with a shorter work and/or one that people can buy as an e-book to follow along, if they want.
Great idea, lots of fun!
I came in late and spent the whole time trying to catch up and then couldn’t comment because I was laughing so hard.
Well done, you all.
For your listening pleasure: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=_zMhSjDqvRs
Is this intended to be a review? Or is the idea just to have fun at an author’s expense. I’m probably just missing the point . . . right?
I’m so glad I’m not the only one who read this book and had a “say what?” moment. I spent most of my time scratching my head and thought it was just me. Yay!
@EC Sheedy… I think if the book had been written well it would have gotten the kadoos it deserved. I didn’t see anyone purposely being nasty to the author… just commenting and having fun with a plot and characters and language that really were silly and boring after the first few dozen ‘encounters’.
I just wish S & J had read the last few pages.
I was going to buy this just to have for giggles, now instead I’m going to buy several copies for Holiday Gifts for my best friends because why shouldn’t they share the joy? And it will be fun to get their emails after they start the book and want to know WTF was I thinking.
When it comes to gift giving, It’s all about me.
I understand that it’s frightening for authors to think that their book might engender a negative reader reaction, but the implied condemnation because we dared laugh and make fun of a piece of work that should have NEVER been published in my utterly un-humble opinion, is making this reader feel rather annoyed.
We weren’t having fun at the author’s expense, we were making fun of the utter awfulness she perpetrated and her publisher dared foist off on unsuspecting readers for the outrageous price of $14.
Authors might not like me much for saying that a book is awful, but I am one of the potential customers whose book buying dollars they are courting and I have a really allergic reaction to authors telling me I should not voice my opinion of a book I read or come across because it might hurt the author’s feelings.
My feelings and my pocket book are hurt when I am out a significant chunk of change for a wallbanger when I could have invested the money in one or two *great* books instead.
I, for one, am grateful to the Bitches, Dear Author reviewers and other review sites for warning me away from these ‘should never have been published’ titles.
And I’m a much happier and healthier person after last night’s live blogging because I hadn’t laughed like that in months. It felt great. I’m looking forward to the next time, hopefully with a book that deserves to be published.
I, for one, am grateful to the Bitches, Dear Author reviewers and other review sites for warning me away from these ‘should never have been published’ titles.
And I’m a much happier and healthier person after last night’s live blogging because I hadn’t laughed like that in months.
I enjoy both the Bitches and Dear Author, too, Growly Club. I think both sites have done great things for the romance writer/reader et al. And I luvs me some good snark. I guess I just missed the point on this one. That happens with me.
I don’t know this author or her work I just know she’s not feeling very good today and that makes me ache a little. But, hey, I am not saying and never will say that anyone–ever!–shouldn’t have and voice an opinion on work that is put out there and paid for.
That’s the biz, after all.
I have mixed feelings.
I do think that the book is fair game for review, even if it’s by sentence-level and with a bottle of wine and several snarky friends. I went to a museum once with my BFF and we laughed at an entire exhibit of very pricey, classic art. Some people thought we were jerks, sure, but we enjoyed ourselves and we still paid our money like everyone else.
That being said, I got uncomfortable last night at the end of the chat when a few comments turned to “Shame on this author!” and “How dare her publisher publish this!?” (Not from Jane or Sarah, btw)
To me, that went over the line from “The product is fair game” to “The author is fair game”. I don’t necessarily think that the two go hand in hand, and I felt bad for the author. That was a case, IMO, of when fun went too far.
So, in general, I’m all for liveblogging and fun, but in the future, we do need to leave the author/publisher out of the slams, IMO. :)
I missed that, any of that and couldn’t find any of it this morning, but then I did a very quick reviewing of the night’s end and I was in and out (no pun intended) because I do that with chats all the time.
I also want to say that the author let that title fly out into the reader’s world and it seems like the publisher and she knew it was going to be a joke of sorts … at the very least.
I’m never, ever into author bashing but geeze, take this with a grain of salt and some rum. I said the writing sucks. It does. I’m still buying it. And I’m sorry for authors who feel badly for this author, but her book is selling.
I was the one who asked what drugs or alcohol the acquiring editor imbibed when buying this and I stand by my question. I did a double take when I saw the title and another one when I saw the summary before the book was released. Last night’s excerpts confirmed my initial reaction.
I don’t see why the publisher should be left out of the conversation when discussing quality of a book. The publisher is the one responsible for putting the work out there, they are the gate for quality control. If they fail at that they are fair game for being held up as having failed.
Same with the author. They are the one who produced it.
I’m sorry the author feels bad. I really am. But, while a book is never liked by all readers, an author can make sure the story has the basic elements required to make a *good* book: understandable character motivations, character development, logical setting, consistent story telling, a plausible plot, and appropriate (and I don’t meant that in a moral sense) language, all of which seemed lacking in the 5 chapters discussed last night.
Reading that was just too funny …. but who the heck is the lover of the title? If anyone’s managed to get that far, that is.
No, of course not. So noted.
Well, readers will sometimes not care if they are over the line, some even feel justified because they’ve been burned by a bad book. Readers come in many different stripes and hey, that’s the way it is. This is a reader blog and as readers and we, well, sometimes not all of us will watch what we say since authors tend to read this blog. I thought the snark. review, commentary and the comments toward the author were made in jest, YMMV. But if this is the type of scrutiny readers are in for if they decide to host another live blogging review of a book, good or bad, then maybe it’s not worth doing. Speaking for myself, of course and I speak for no one else here real or implied.
Sorry if the author out there has hurt feelings. No reader likes to purposely hurt anyone’s feelings but no way am I going to watch what I say for fear of hurt feelings.
I suppose just as authors have to be prepared to take it when they publish a book, reviewers/commenters/readers have to be prepared to take it when they publish an opinion — not necessarily from the author (whom most of us agree is best served by staying out of that particular exchange) but from people who feel compelled to publicly critique the critique. And then more people will critique their critique of the critique and so on and so forth.
Basically, *nobody* gets to be completely unscathed on the internets. Whatever it is, somebody out there hates it, my precious.
Jody W. –
Fair enough point.
Yup, we’ll take our licks for our opinions just like everybody else on the internet.
As a reader and occasional reviewer, I have added authors to my ‘never to be bought’ list over their reaction to this (seen on other sites).
Last time I looked, no book gets sold unless there’s buzz about it. Readers/reviewers create the buzz for a book. Authors who go around saying that reviewers are only out to be mean and who will never send their books to X review site do not need to be surprised if their books aren’t bought by the same readers/reviewers they malign.
I really dislike this ‘readers/reviewers are mean girls’ bullshit that’s cropping up again.
Dude, that’s not what I was perpetuating at all. My thing is that I felt it was all in good fun. Books are a product. Sometimes they hit the right market, and sometimes they incite nothing but giggles. I am totally cool with everyone hating or loving a product, because we’re all going to have different opinions.
I personally just disliked the turn it took when the author/editor was dragged into it. No one ever writes a book and thinks “Wow, this is a huge turd! I’m sure glad I’m pulling the wool over everyone’s eyes.” But when the conversation turns a little too far and becomes about the author rather than the product, I get uncomfortable. I fully acknowledge it’s probably personal bias. YMMV, but I brought it up because I was uncomfortable with it. Not saying anyone else agrees with me.
I have no idea if the author has hurt feelings or not, TBH. I don’t know her from Adam. It just made me squirmy as someone that was participating in the conversation.
Very true. We’re all not going to agree. :)
And for the record? I’m probably going to be one of the very LAST people that would ever say “Reviewers are mean girls.”
sorry if I didn’t make it clear. I was referring to comments on another site with regards to the liveblogging of this book that included the ‘mean reviewer’ bit.
I certainly didn’t see anything wrong with a) the concept or b) the execution. If authors have problems with it, then they have problems with it. I’ve read plenty of reviews at NY Times that say way worse things about book, author, and publisher. Maybe we should start quoting some mainstream reviews so that people can really get a good measuring stick for the mean girl scale.
Actually, I enjoyed the liveblogging. A lot. Sure, we giggled over a lot of the book but I have to admit, I’m tempted to pick it up and it’s on my radar now (and wasn’t before).
I fail to see how this is a bad thing. :)
(There were other sites complaining?)
Of course not. I don’t think a reader has ever implied that an author has such inclinations. On that same note, a reader doesn’t go buying a product and expecting to hate it. The outcome is a shared one, I would hope: a satisfied reader and a writer providing the enjoyment and getting paid for it.
So noted and understandable. I mean this is your career and she is your colleague. I’m just a reader and a consumer.
But equally important. :)
Jill said: And for the record? I'm probably going to be one of the very LAST people that would ever say â€œReviewers are mean girls.â€
Well said. It’s not about being mean, it’s about diversity of opinion.
Not that anyone cares, but yanno what I think, when it comes to reviews? Some reviewers are good writers, sharp, fair, insightful, widely-read, and fiercely and unblinkingly honest. Love ’em!
Some reviewers are the opposite of that. Is this a surprise to anyone?
That said, I fully respect the rights of all reviewers to say whatever the hell they want to say about an author’s work. Always have. Always will.
Since I’m one of the authors who has commented on it on their own blog — I felt that some of the comments crossed the line into attacking the author, and I was taken aback specifically because I *don’t* see Dear Author as a mean blog. (Critical in both senses of the word, yes; mean, definitely not.)
I haven’t disentangled all of this yet, and I know that my reaction is partly because I know Victoria Jannsen from a writer’s group. But I think there is a genuine difference in how it looks to someone reading the transcript cold afterwards (as I did) and how it would have looked to someone who was there at the time.
Would it stop me offering a review copy to Dear Author? Of course not. I don’t have to *read* reviews, and sometimes I don’t. Sometimes I haven’t even when they’ve clearly been favourable reviews. But I think this style of review has a lot more potential to upset authors, and any author who hasn’t got a very thick skin should think twice about reading one even if they’re usually okay with less than glowing reviews.
I came in and read some of the transcript cold, too, and I agree I would likely feel less squirmy had I been a participant, rather than an after-the-fact witness. Or rather, I would have felt less squirmy while participating in it than I might upon reflection the next day.
I think this style of review has the potential to get out of hand, and venture into a mob mentality (I know that term is a bit over the top for what this is, but I can’t think of anything better right now). Because it’s live, the temptation to one-up the snark is hard to resist, and the immediate positive feedback encourages the pile-on. I didn’t see many people in the discussion offering dissenting opinions.
I’m reminded of highschool, when some poor sap would make some social gaffe and everyone would laugh and ridicule him behind his back. If they did it to his face, no one would think twice about condemning it, but because they did it out of his sight, they could say what they wanted and not feel guilty.
But this, well, it’s the internet. The author can and may come read exactly what was said, now that the mood of hilarity has ebbed. She doesn’t need a second hand account of how people made fun of her missteps, because she’s got the firsthand evidence right here. In fact, she may have been here reading the hilarity live last night. That just makes me feel…weird.
I’m not saying you all don’t have every right to do this, or that you were mean to do it. But it was one reason I did not participate. It would have left me feeling… just…I don’t know. Squirmy.
Personally, I didn’t like the book. The sex was too clinical for me and I’m not a pure erotica fan. There are legitimate criticisms that could be leveled at this book. But there was nothing legitimate about the “event” last night. It was like a nauseating example of juvenile bullying.
You (the hosts) started out by admitting you didn’t notify the author because you thought it would be bad. So, you’re kicking off a new “review” style with something you bought with a negative prejudice? That right there should have told me this wasn’t a “review” but an attempt at entertainment and if you actually liked the book, it would have failed. There was nothing related to a critical or literary review. This was to entertain people and the easiest way the hosts had of entertaining and getting that ego boost of a few vultures vocally cheering was by apealing to the lowest common denominator. People like me just stayed silent or logged off in disgust. Now I am ashamed.
Frankly, this format is clearly not suitable for you. You were too caught up in trying to entertain the masses to actually read the book and thus missed or misrepresented some pretty obvious stuff. Like, duh, of course all the names were puns (which should be all right with a crowd that thought punning Duchy with dookie and douche was funny, oh wait, it’s only funny when you’re making fun of someone…), and Maxim (who does have a big cock) led a protectorate that used to be a Duchy equal to the one that now rules it…Whatever.
Where did it say that this was a review? My understanding is that the blogging was basically a joint reading of the book between Sarah and Jane — and an up to the minute reaction as they were reading. Sort of like those folks who read erotica or erotic Romance and post the videos at You Tube (wasn’t there one of a Lora Leigh novel circulating not that long ago?).
I happened to meet the author of this book at RWA and she seemed like a very nice person. I looked forward to this book because of the cover and some of the buzz. I purchased it and was disappointed in it, finding a lot of it just waayy over the top and not cogent in its logic. Some people love that campy quality, others don’t. Like the cover snark at the Smart Bitches, that over the top quality can lend itself to harsh snarking, as uncomfortable as that makes some folks.
And speaking of the Smart Bitches cover snark, this blogging thing reminded me very much of the SB cover snarking, which I have seen authors participate in pretty readily. So what’s the difference? Is it that cover artists don’t have feelings, too, or that it’s not personally directed at the cover artist? I mean, why is it okay to snark covers but not the books themselves?
Because books are like chiiiildren and we can’t insult an author’s chy-uld. I mean book. Because authors are artists and have feelings, but artists are just labourers and have no feelings. See the difference?
Man, the ‘you’re so meeeeeeen’ bandwagon lost its wheels so long ago, the axle’s worn down to the shadow. Reviews and snark are not for authors. Get the hell over it.
I can’t even express how incredibly disgusted I am right now at this blatant hypocrisy by the holier than thou crowd here and elsewhere! When it’s somebody else who gets made fun of, it’s all fine and games, but we’d better not talk about what’s inside the book covers, because if we don’t gush uncritically, we are considered ‘mean’.
I’ll just say this to clarify: books don’t get negatively discussed or made fun of by readers if they are good. If the book had had a plot, believable characters and erotic encounters, we would have had fun recommending it to each other, talking about the things we particularly liked and which small issues didn’t work for us.
I say it *again* for those who think readers are ‘vultures’ out to destroy poor authors’ lives: if this had been a good or even a decent book, there would have been nothing to make fun of or to have the mind boggle at.
Half the people I’ve seen commenting in different venues on what horrible human beings the folks are who participated last night haven’t even read the book by their own admission. They just happen to feel bad for the author, even if they don’t know her or solely because they think she’s a nice person, because clearly we ‘mean girls’ would have been mean to a good book’s author too, because all we care for in life is making other people miserable.
The above is a wrong assumption. I want the words they produced and the only time work and author get intermingled in my mind is when authors behave in a way I cannot overlook, be it online or in person. A good book gets good reviews and happy readers. A bad book gets bad reviews and unhappy readers. Occasionally, there can be disagreements about questions of style and personal preference, but bad writing craft is bad writing craft.
The next time I read a badly written book like the one discussed last night, I won’t keep quiet like I usually do, I’ll make sure to discuss the bad book as widely as possible so other unsuspecting ‘vultures’ don’t waste their money.
It’s been really illuminating, and not in a good way, over the last few months to see how many authors think that readers are not only unscrupulous pirates, but completely despicable human beings out to cause authors mental harm by dissing their books. And yes, this comment was sparked by the discussion today, but also by the many other discussions in this vein I’ve had the misfortune to stumble across in the last year.
The internet is not always a blessing for reader-author relations, that’s for sure. Ignorance is bliss!
As I said on the DA email loop, I think there is a difference as with cover snark it’s assumed that everyone is looking at the cover being snarked. With the liveblogging the other night, I got the impression that some people hadn’t read the book and didn’t have it in front of them, but they still snarked it. I think anyone who puts a work in the public domain can expect that and worse, but at the same time, that doesn’t make it fair.
I also had the impression (though admittedly I missed a lot of the chat) that some people judged the book as bad because there was indiscriminate sex in it. Since it’s pure erotica, that doesn’t seem like a fair criticism to me. That’s what pure erotica is all about — stuff like orgies. If it’s not your cuppa, fair enough, but complaining about it is a little like complaining that fantasy books don’t take place in the real world, or that characters are killed off in mysteries.
I guess this is where we discuss our individual definitions of erotica vs porn. I require my erotica to have a plot, believable characters and plausible story developments in between sexual encounters, because I feel if these ingredients are lacking, it is not erotica (meant to titillate the mind first), but porn (meant to solely titillate the gonads).
I’d also make the point that regardless of how it’s labeled, Harlequin is associated in most readers’ minds with romance, so it wouldn’t be completely off the wall for readers who find this book at Harlequin to assume it’s really hot romance rather than porn.
This is what the Harlequin site says: “steamy erotic fiction … a hot new lineup of sexual and sensual stories for discerning women”.
Obviously the participants last night felt that the book failed to deliver steamy erotic fiction.
Needs to be the strapline on every less than A+ review you do.
As does a resounding chorus of ‘Answer no. 4!’
I also want to say that the author let that title fly out into the reader's world and it seems like the publisher and she knew it was going to be a joke of sorts … at the very least.
“I did a double take when I saw the title”
Maybe no-one’s mentioned this because it’s so obvious, but I don’t mind stating the obvious ;-) The title’s clearly alluding to Peter Greenaway’s 1989 film “The Cook, the Thief, His Wife & Her Lover.” Looking at the synopsis of the plot of that film, it has as its heroine the “battered wife of a loathsome gangster [who] has an affair with a man she meets at her husband’s high-class restaurant, with gruesome consequences.” From what was said during the liveblogging, it sounded as though Janssen’s Duchess is the battered wife of a loathsome duke.
Reading the transcript of the liveblogging it also seemed as though some of the participants thought the text in question was supposed to be an erotic romance. The eHarlequin guidelines for the Spice line, though, encourage authors to “keep in mind that Spice Books are not traditional romances, nor do they require a happily-ever-after ending.” Maybe the expectation that there would be one hero contributed to the confusion expressed by some of the commenters?
Yeah, everyone was so mean pointing out the poor writing and plot holes. I mean come on Romance readers don’t care about characterization, or plot or editing. Just put in lots of SEXXX and everyone will be happy. You really aren’t supposed to actually think about the book.
There may, somewhere, be some lowest common denominator of writing that everyone who read it would agree was “bad”…maybe…in a million years. I sincerely doubt the book in question is that book. But there is nothing in the world that would get universal acclaim! Somebody out there (esp on the internets) would feel perfectly justified making fun of it and negatively discussing it. Just look at the different opinions on whether or not Harry Potter is “good” or “bad”. Or any book, really!
“I require my erotica to have a plot, believable characters and plausible story developments in between sexual encounters…”
It’s kind of amazing how one can have such a complete evaluation based on a few cherry picked, out of context, excerpts, some of which were blatently misrepresented and misunderstood by the typists.
Re: cover snark
I think part of why covers seem to be more free game is because they are seen as much more mercenary. The publishers pretty much dictate them; they have almost nothing to do with the writer’s tastes and I suspect little to do with the creator’s tastes. Also a lot of the most lurid covers are old and the humor has as much to do with the change in the times, style and fashion conventions as the content.
Ironically, the attempt at cover snark was one of the first things that threw me off at the live blog–if there was one bullet proof thing about the book, I would say it was the cover. That they started off trying to snark it (and the worst they could come up with was a comment about the pearls), pretty much says the goal here was taking potshots, not well-reasoned criticism.
Misunderstood by the typists? Oh, so now we’re back to the old, “it’s not a bad book, the reader just wasn’t smart enough to understand it” argument.
Well, me too. This wasn’t a book review. It was MST3K. And as such, the people participating were performers for an audience and not book reviewers or fans. Which makes them fair game for everyone. Even authors. Anyone with an opinion should be able to take a cheap shot at this, if they didn’t like it.
Especially if they are funny, because we all like a joke.
I don’t see where writers or anyone else have to stand back and keep silent. Since when are we not allowed to heckle comedians? Are you going to tell us it’s not polite, and that only mean girls would do that?
I have total respect for anyone who wants to take time to read a book and then sit down to write an intelligent review or critique, no matter what the results. But this wasn’t that. It was live, unedited, and written while drinking. As such, it doesn’t deserve the respect an author should give to an honest review.
Or can’t pronounce the word Duchy.
Is a Duke married to a Dookus now?
Jesus wept. Was that really the joke? Maybe people wouldn’t be picking on this if it were funnier.
Please go back to doing regular reviews, which are intelligent and well written.
And stay out of the Dookie of Luxembourg.
Hmmm. I skimmed through the liveblog transcript and was a bit startled by the book THEY seemed to be reading. (For the record, I have this book on my TBB list, and I have read large swathes of it at the bookstore, so I *think* I have a reasonable understanding of the writing style/naming style/etc. I don’t know the author, and only saw the book at the bookstore, without any advance notice/blurb-reading. ) To me, this book was clearly set in fantasy seventeenth-century France (the names seemed reasonably French and the world-building was nothing to write home about, but it served) and there was a plot. In fact, there was a lot more in the later parts of the book about regaining the Duchy and politics than sex scenes — so much so that I wasn’t actually sure that it was written as erotica/romance. My impression was that the author was torn between writing a somewhat interesting tale of the Duchess reclaiming her birthright after being passive so long and the erotic aspects.
I read the trascript after the fact. All it is, is the raw material for a DNF review before it’s prettied up for publication. The gut level reaction of readers. You can’t get a purer review than that.
Interesting. I see the difference between pure erotica and porn as that the first term is positive or value-neutral but the second can be used pejoratively.
I don’t know if you have read Anne Rice’s Beauty trilogy but that is an example of what I consider pure erotica (as opposed to erotic romance, erotic novels, etc.) I think it is very well-written for what it is and achieves its aims but the story development isn’t plausible and the characters’ actions are only believable within those implausible scenarios and don’t honestly make sense if you think about them.
I completely understand that from a reader’s point of view, but if you look at it from Harlequin’s viewpoint, just because they are associated with romance in readers’ minds, does that mean they should refrain from ever publishing anything else? What if, God forbid, romance stopped selling and science fiction sold like hotcakes? Should Harlequin continue to publish only romance, and never publish SF, because romance is what readers associate it with? As a business model, that doesn’t make sense.
This book is not labeled as romance, and the cover and title make it pretty clear what it is about.
I haven’t read the Beauty books, so I cannot comment on that example, but we definitely have a difference in basic definition there which explains why we came at it from different angles.
I certainly knew that this title wasn’t a romance, I was just pointing out that the description of what SPICE is that most readers will see does not include the quote by Dr. Vivanco from the writer’s guidelines about SPICE titles not necessarily having HEAs. How many readers who are not interested in selling a book to Harlequin read the writer’s guidelines?
Harlequin should certainly experiment if they are so inclined and from the success of Megan Hart and Sarah McCarty, they have made choices for SPICE that have worked for a number of readers.
I have a very negative reaction to the Hart and the Madore titles I read (definitely neither romantic nor erotic to me, more like chilling and offputting for Hart and completely boring for the Madore), but I did enjoy McCarty’s ‘Sam’s Creed’ and to a slightly lesser degree ‘Caine’s Reckoning’ which – while sporting some serious alphas and subject matter that will seriously turn off some sensitive readers- do have HEAs and a traditional romance structure.
I didn’t think the live-blogged book was mislabeled in the sense that I expected a romance story line (how could one with that kind of title? :), but that as part of the SPICE line it’s billed as ‘steamy erotic fiction’ and that it failed to deliver on that billing as far as I and a (considerable?) number of the attendees were concerned.
I’d like to point out a few things:
1. I do believe most people liked the cover. Quote: “It’s totally eye catching. and while the looking-down-her-nose face is somewhat bothersome, it’s a good cover. ”
2. There was a HUGE lag in the actual chat. So, at times it was impossible to respond to something someone else said, because by the time you actually said it, the topic of conversation was over. Participating in the chat was quite unlike reading the actual chat, later.
3. I bet this review (chat, discussion, whatever you want to call it) generates at least a few sales of the book. Another example of how “bad” such an exercise is?
4. I’ll own up to being a stupid idiot who hasn’t read the “submission guidelines” to the Harlequin Spice line (why would I? I’m a reader) and who hasn’t read any definitions of the Spice line (again, I’m a reader and I don’t normally sit there and read all the descriptions of the lines – I figure “spice = steamy romance” just like I figure “inspirational = romance with no steamy sex”). So you know, when I hear Harlequin, I think there must be at least some romance in it. I bet you I’m not alone and that most of the romance readers I know are the same. We don’t all troll the internet looking for descriptions of what a Harlequin Spice is so that we can have preconceived notions of how much romance our book is going to have in it vs. how much sex. In my apparent stupidity, I would expect more romance in my erotica. Now that I’ve been informed, I’ll know not to purchase any Spice books, thanks.
5. I think most of the commenters did not comment on the book as a whole, but on exerpted parts which were being discussed. In those excerpted parts, I saw (IMO) “problems” with the book. The heroine deciding she’s not pregnant on the same day she gets laid. Hookers giving it away to the hero because he’s so awesome. (IMO) “purple” prose like “turgidly” and “quim.” The idea that having enuchs who are your slaves to order around and fuck you with a glass dildo is somehow erotic. I have to read the actual book to have an opinion on these excerpts? Huh. Who knew.
I’m confused and all about this manners stuff, so forgive me if this seems rude – but just where in the fucking fuck do people get off telling the owner of a blog what to post in her own space? That’s like walking into someone’s house and saying you don’t like the rugs, remove them forthwith, and by the way, no one uses pastels any more, you will redecorate.
For the record, reading the transcript made me belly laugh, though I didn’t read right to the end. A group of friends enjoyed themselves – they were *not* drunk – and made the funny. And then reposted it in their own place, where – correct me if I’m wrong – no one stapled anyone’s eyelids open a la Clockwork Orange and made them read it.
I do adore it how the ‘don’t say anything if you can’t say anything nice’ crew are more than happy to rip shit out of reviewers, and make it personal, when they don’t like something. Not to mention people whining about picking on an author when they’ll happily join in any dogfight going.
And yes, I’ve used the f-bomb and the s-word, and I’m working my way up to the c-swear, because the rudeness here is simply incredible.
If you do not like, do not damn well read. And if you do read and do not like, one lick of the backbutton will take you to the whole World Wide Web where you will undoubtedly find something more appealing to your rarified tastes.
I think so too.
I’ve never read the Spice guidelines before either. I did know that they don’t necessarily contain HEA, but only because it was discussed a long time ago here at DA.
Yeah. I’ve read three of Hart’s books,Dirty and Broken, which I loved, and Tempted, which was interesting, but not as successful for me as the other two. Of these, I would only consider Dirty a romance (though it wasn’t labeled as one). I think Hart has said before that these are erotic novels, and I don’t think that’s the same thing as pure erotica (in the vein of the Rice books). But I could be wrong; it certainly seems that there is no widespread agreement on what pure erotica is.
It sounds like Spice includes a wide variety of books under its umbrella. I haven’t read either McCarty or Janssen’s books but both sound pretty different from Hart’s.
I think you’re completely within your rights to say you didn’t find the book steamy or erotic, growlycub. I actually don’t read that much pure erotica because from what I’ve read, I usually find romance and erotic romance a lot more hot.
Switch it around, Ann. You’re the biggest advocate I know for getting to say what you want however you want to say it. So why can’t those who were offended, disgusted, annoyed, peeved, perturbed or otherwise less than impressed with the live blogging say what they think? And if you don’t want to read their opinions, what’s stopping you from taking your own advice and going elsewhere?
Oh, wait. It’s because you’re entitled to express your opinion, and they aren’t. I see.
Never mind. Shutting the fuck up now.
Ironically most of this post applies to anything and everything…including the subject book of the review. The review was posted for public consumption, I unfortunately consumed and did not like, I posted why I did not like it–and in more polite and coherent terms than the original chat. Also ironically, I know I (and I suspect the person you quoted), took a page from the reviewers in my final judgement: “You aren’t good at this. Do something else.” Presumptuous, yes, but following precedent.
And, as always, no one has said don’t say negative things–I actually said negative things about the book in my comments–but negative criticism and ridicule are not the some thing. If you are going to do it, do it well, not half-assedly, ignorantly, or in a way in which it appears you are blatently manipulating negative responses.
As far as the Harlequin/Spice thing goes, I feel like this is a red herring argument–people grasping at straws to be annoyed at. As far as I recall, it doesn’t say “Harlequin” on the cover, just Spice. (Or if it does, it’s subtle enough that I didn’t notice.) Nor is Harlequin mentioned anywhere on the Amazon page. At my Borders it wasn’t with any other “Harlequins” or in a “Harlequin Romance” section, it was in erotica. They seem to go to great effort to make it a distinct brand.
I wouldn’t have known it was Harlequin if not for the internet. Maybe I’m just publisher-ignorant or I’m in a weird minority that doesn’t buy according to publisher (I buy by author and content and covers–I’m a sucker for a good cover), but I suspect most people who are complaining about their “expectations from Harlequin” also would not have realized Spice was a Harlequin brand if they weren’t also reading blogs.
by MaryK December 8th, 2008 at 12:48 pm
I read the trascript after the fact. All it is, is the raw material for a DNF review before it's prettied up for publication. The gut level reaction of readers. You can't get a purer review than that.
There is definitely a truth here, MaryK. Other than the public aspect, the live-blog thing is like a book club meeting. Interesting. But then Dear Author always is.
I don’t think you were being stupid. But this is the sort of thing that a review by someone who’d read to the end of the book would have been able to flag up as a potential issue for romance readers. I’m not sure if this particular Spice novel does or doesn’t have an HEA, but I have the impression, from reading Jessica’s review, that it isn’t a romance.
Another Harlequin imprint which contains books which often aren’t romances is the LUNA imprint, whose novels “contain romantic subplots that enhance the main story but don’t become the focus of the novel.” I have the impression that the now defunct Bombshell line was another which sometimes did and sometimes didn’t have HEA endings. Harlequin’s MIRA imprint “features a variety of genres: commercial women's fiction, literary fiction, historical fiction, romantic suspense, paranormal fiction and thrillers.” Harlequin also publish a few non-fiction books.
I’ve been working on romance from an academic perspective, which is why I’ve spent so much time looking at the guidelines for the different lines. Dear Author has posted some very positive reviews of some SPICE novels, though, so you might not want to write off everything in the imprint. As Janine mentioned above, she liked Megan Hart’s Dirty and she gave it an A- .
As I said, a reviewer who reached the end of the novel is going to be able to report to their readers whether or not the book in question is a romance, which is an advantage that the normal reviews have over this liveblogging review.
I also wonder if the speed at which the reviewers were having to read and/or the fact that they had to respond to comments from people reading the liveblogging while also reading Janssen’s novel meant that they got a little distracted at times. I just got the impression that they were a bit confused by the characters and plot, but when I read an the excerpt it seemed relatively clear, for example, that Maxime is the ruler of a domain which used to be an independent duchy in its own right, but was conquered by Camille’s father and made a protectorate (i.e. a vassal) of the Duchy which was first ruled by Camille’s father and then ruled by Duke Michel .I also had a more favourable impression of the characterisation after I’d read the excerpt. Maybe it’s because the first chapter has no sex scenes in it at all.
I wonder if there is a record for how quickly comments can devolve into “you’re mean”, “No, you’re meaner”.
For the record, I don’t care if no one reads the liveblog or comes to the next one (which we are having next week). I don’t care if the people who read the chat find it execrable and will read other blogs instead.
I do, though, wish we as commenters could be more temperate in our comments. I hardly know why the default position for some people is to call others fuckers or to call some people “mean”, as if either is reasoned discourse.
But, Carol, if you like, I can certainly end every review of a book I didn’t like with your suggestion of “you aren’t good at this, do something else” if that’s deemed to be acceptable review behavior.
You can say what you think – but telling a blog owner what they should or should not post is flat out stupid.
Somehow, I doubt it.
@Ann Somerville: Maybe you and Saell can take your lovefest somewhere else as I hardly see comments like these contributing to any discourse, even one about whether the liveblog is appropriate, which, it is in my eyes as evidenced by the fact we will do another one.
Um, I didn’t say mean or fuckers or even particularly disagree with the end opinion. I just disagreed with the way it was anything but well-reasoned or temperate.
I actually have tried to be temperate, though I did say vultures and say/imply there was pandering and misinformation/misunderstanding going on. (No, I’m not saying you were too stupid, just too distracted and busy looking for something to post.) Feel free to accuse me of that.
I’m still curious why you kicked off a weekly event with a book you expected to dislike? That’s the part that feels most like a mercenary set-up to me. If you went into this expecting a positive experience with a book that you expected to like or from an author you liked, how would behavior be different? Would you, as hosts, have set a different tone? Or did you really think it would flop if you weren’t making fun of something? Were you really relying on controversy to pull in more ‘viewers’? In any case, it’s not really possible to know how it could have been done. To mangle Heisenberg’s Principle–once observed, an event always changes path. I have a bad feeling with this precedent and people all up in arms about who’s meaner, it’s going to be a nasty path.
I’m an avid reader on this site and I’ve never posted here before but what the heck, I’ll jump in and comment.
As a reader who doesn’t blog or review, I use sites such as Dear Author for honest, intelligent reviews. I find it disheartening to see you state that you don’t care if people come back to this blog Jane. I would like to say I will keep coming back to this site as I find it trustworthy and darnit I like the snark. :)
For me personally since I’m not a reviewer or author, I don’t find myself getting heated like some of the above. Not saying that other readers won’t. I did have a moment where I went ouchie! I hope this author isn’t reading this, but then I think that can be said for all reviews. The one above happened to be a live blog. For me, I see no difference between a posted one.
Truthfully, I think readers like myself can be a lot more harsher than what was said above. I’m sure there are other review sites who would have bashed it, kicked it to the floor and stomped for good measure. Then you will have other review sites liking the book and singing it’s graces. Whatever floats your boat.
I won’t be reading the book since it’s not to my taste and to be truthful, I find the reviewers here on Dear Author usually get it spot on when it comes to books. Hence why I have bought so many that have been recommended from here.
Yup, your to blame for my forever growing TBR pile. You evil, evil people.
@Carol: Unless I directed something to you, then it probably doesn’t apply. The only thing I was commenting about directly to you is your “go do something else” comment as nowhere did Sarah nor I say that about the author. What the commenters may have said about the author, you’ll have to direct your ire at those individual commenters because, if you read the comment moderation policy, you’ll see that we neither endorse nor adopt the statements of the commenters unless expressly stated.
Perhaps you didn’t read the transcript closely enough, but I suggested to Sarah that we do a liveblog of a book that we like but we cannot know whether we are going to like a book when we start. As for the traffic thing, please. We know what generates traffic and I doubt liveblogs are it. If everything we did was generated by a desire to increase traffic, I think this would be a fan fiction, stephenie meyer, harry potter hang out filled with F reviews.
@Louise: What I said was “For the record, I don't care if no one reads the liveblog or comes to the next one (which we are having next week). I don't care if the people who read the chat find it execrable and will read other blogs instead.”
I don’t care if people read the next liveblog. The fact is that I found it enjoyable to interact with Sarah and the commenters while I was reading and we’ll be doing it again.
This clearly not a review, but a liveblog of our reading. I could craft a review which would be: confusing, boring prose with unlikeable characters and laughable sexual situations. The passive heroine who failed to act after 20 years failed to engender any sympathy for her situation and the villain was cast through a bunch of telling rather than showing. The worst, of course, was the fact that I found the story so dull that I can’t even bring myself to read past chapter 5.
I’m not saying you shouldn’t do liveblogging again (although I hope for the author’s sake that you adore the next one). I’m not even saying it’s a bad idea–just hat it has the potential to devolve into something that reflects poorly on the participants. You all are perfectly entitled to do what you want on your own blog, even if it makes others feel squirmy, or worse.
But I’m going to borrow from an earlier commentor, in saying that if you put something out for public consumption, you invite criticism. She was referring to the book, but it applies just as well to reviews and liveblog events. If you don’t want to hear what others think of such events, hold them on private loops by invitation only, so you can weed out the dissentors beforehand. At the very least, I’d suggest you change the header at the top of the comment box from “Say what’s on your mind” to something that more accurately reflects your wishes.
@kirsten saell: Oh, I didn’t realize I couldn’t respond to your criticism. Is that a function of only commenters? I don’t mind the criticism but it isn’t going to change my mind and I feel free to say so. Isn’t that the part of debate or did you think I was just going to shut up because I invited you to comment.
Edited to add: I should modify that and say that criticism about the liveblog isn’t going to change my mind. Other issues, who knows.
Sorry, Jane. My snipe about your header was out of line. Maybe it’s the weird defensive tone of many of the comments on this thread, but after going back and reading yours without applying that defensive tone to them, I realize you haven’t actually tried to silence anyone. I subconsciously lumped you in with those who in a bizarre mangling of logic insist “we were only speaking our minds, how dare you criticize us for that!”
I’m actually curious to see what next weekend brings. I do hope you choose a book you will love, because I would hate for these liveblogs to turn into a weekly book-bashing. And I reserve the right to feel squirmy again (and comment on it, heh) if the whole thing goes into the crapper like it did this time.
And you know, I don’t know why you think I’m in love with Ann. I haven’t even pulled her hair or anything…
But the post tags DO seem to imply that the liveblog is a review. Maybe not a formally written one, but a review nonetheless.
I love the idea of liveblog that simulates a book club discussion, but I do wonder if the format doesn’t skew toward negative reviews. How many people would have hung around throughout the liveblog if you and Sarah had both liked the book you were reading? I think it’s much easier to be funny and engaging when you only have negative things to say.
I’m not saying that I didn’t enjoy reading the transcript. I did. Immensely. I guffawed quite loudly at times. I’m just not sure I would have had the same response to (or interest in) a liveblog of a book you would have given an A or B (or even C) grade to. Frankly, I doubt it.
All of which leads me to wonder whether a book reviewed by this method may have the deck stacked against it. I could be totally off-base and the next liveblog reading/review may prove me wrong. But it is something, perhaps, to be wary of…
Actually, I participated because I was interested in buying the book, and I wanted to really like the book. I looked at the discussion as the way that I look through the first few chapters of a book when I’m in the bookstore, contemplating if I want to buy it. Obviously, there are some pretty visceral reactions, and people may feel differently or react differently. But it’s important to remember that the posts were an immediate reaction, which is a different format than a formalized review.
I’ve read other Spice titles before, and I’ve liked some, and others, well, not so much. Unfortunately, I had a hard time with this book. Like GrowlyCub, I really look for some kind of plot, both in romantica and erotica (and naturally, in romance, too). And I prefer to like the characters, or at least see character growth, but by Chapter 5, I really wasn’t getting a sense of that. Things were just – well, perplexing, to put it mildly, and the prose didn’t help. (As to the comment of reading through a book and then giving feedback on it – if a book fails to engage me, or worse, I don’t like it, I don’t see the point of finishing it.)
I don’t read books with the expectation of not wanting to like it/wanting to rip it apart. I read books hoping to like/love them, and I similarly read reviews with the same intention, while looking for honest commentary.
I’m not looking to defend myself here, and I understand that some people, the author included, may feel bad about the liveblogging about the book. That is their right, and their reaction. But similarly, I don’t feel the need to apologize for what were my honest reactions to what I was reading.
So do you think that people who comment on our actual reviews without having read the book shouldn’t be allowed to do so? Because I already feel like it’s tough to review a book that very few people have read and expect any discussion, and I think we all tend to draw tentative conclusions about books based on other people’s reviews (like whether or not we’d enjoy the book, how the prose sounds to us, etc.).
As for the issue of people being able to see the covers, making cover snark different, I am not as persuaded by that difference as you are, because IMO a lot of the dynamic of cover snarking is about one-upping the cleverness of another commenter regarding some point of ridiculousness or hilarity. A lot of times the cover serves as a jumping off point (as the book in the live blogging did) for an exchange that’s only tangentially related to the source. Also, I doubt the fact that people can look at the covers makes it seem less harsh to the cover artist, lol.
Also, as Laura Vivianco pointed out on Jules Jones’s blog (in response to my comment over there), we rarely talk about the cover models, and yet their images often take the brunt of the criticism. I think you could argue that the commentary on these sometimes very real bodies is the most personal of comment types, and yet we viewers most often see the images as completely distinguished from the RL people who have been posed and drawn or photographed or photo-shopped.
This was not my impression at all; IMO a lot of the commentary came from excerpts Jane and Sarah posted. Do these represent the entirety of the novel? No more or less than any quoted material does. Does the context make a difference? I don’t know, because having read most of the book, some of those scenes are pretty out there regardless of context, and my sense is that people were commenting on that out there quality, as well as the observations Jane and Sarah were making as readers.
I’m sure there are people who believe that all erotica is ridiculous to some degree, but I’m not one of them. I find Emma Holly’s erotica pretty readable, even though all erotica has an over the top quality because of the central role sex plays in the story. I think it’s quite a challenge to find creative ways to make all that sex play as both arousing and integrated into something that is not intended purely for physical stimulation (which I would define as pornography). But I don’t find it impossible to have smart erotica, well-written erotica, and/or logical erotica. Janssen’s book did not impress me in the ways I wanted it to, despite the fabulous cover and riffed title (which was vaguely reflected in the plot). The one snippet Jessica posted regarding the approach to sex was pretty representative, IMO, and her comment about the emotional aspects of the story not working well with the sexual ones was also right on, IMO. There was IMO a lot of camp, but it didn’t work really well for me, in large part, I think, because I could not work up much sense of connection to the characters, no real sympathy or empathy, so I felt a lot of distance from the book and its happenings.
Which is in marked contrast to how I felt with Hart’s Dirty (or Joey Hill’s Natural Law, for that matter, which is not published by Harlequin but is also erotica), where I was very engaged with Elle’s struggle and felt the sexual content of the story meaningful, necessary, and even arousing in its description. And I have to wonder, as well, how well Harlequin is doing in characterizing the Spice line, since I am of the opinion that readers should not have to read the submission guidelines to know what to expect in a book. Part of the issue may be discerning a cogent definition for erotica, and some of it may be taste, but some of it is labeling, IMO, and I wonder how many readers will be surprised by the book.
But how do we know any of this? It’s a judgment, pure and simple, and one that works to justify what IMO is quite similar to what people are responding to in the live blog. Very similar. Just because cover artists don’t regularly show up to defend their work doesn’t mean some of those snarks don’t sting, IMO, and regardless of whether the artists see the snark or not, why does no one worry about the feelings of cover artists, even if they are simply responding to the format of the publisher? So that isn’t a creative endeavor while writing a genre Romance novel is?
Some people would argue that writing genre Romance is exactly what you’ve described for cover art, and yet we readers would blast that assertion to smithereens. So why can’t cover artists working within a prescribed set of rules (like genre fiction) be exerting creative energy and artistry, as well? Why don’t we worry about their feelings or about the feelings of the cover models whose images are being picked apart for our entertainment and clever performance?
There are times when I get the sense that there’s an unspoken assumption that authors are the only group who have feelings and whose feelings must be respected above all else. We bloggers don’t have feelings, so authors can trash us at will without it being bad (we’re so *mean* after al), readers don’t have feelings, editors and cover artists don’t have feelings, etc. — or at least they aren’t producing anything worth the transcendent respect that authors are.
I defy anyone to compare the covers by Anne Cain for Samhain to those at Changeling Press, as a notorious example, and still say there is no artistry or talent or creativity involved in taking stock images and making something gorgeous out of them. As for mainstream romance covers, a good deal of thought and effort goes into their creation (maybe a bit too much thought). I see no reason to privilege words over pictures when it comes to criticism.
I see no reason to refrain from criticising either, if they’re put forward as part of goods to purchase, either.
And I don’t see much reason to refrain from criticizing a review, or whatever this liveblog thing was.
I’m forced to wonder exactly how valuable the exercise was, since I personally loved the title (having got the reference) when so many thought it was terrible, and I adored the cover (including the pearl necklaces, thank you very much) when everyone seemed to find fault with it. I felt as if the fact that Sarah and Jane were having their first reading of the book while in the midst of a large, vocal, eager to snark (anything: cover, title, character names, setting) group might have had an impact on their experience of it. I wonder whether the general atmosphere of the liveblog–where negativity garnered immediate positive reinforcement–led them to be predisposed to dislike the book more than they might have otherwise?
I’m curious to know–because I didn’t have the time or the stomach to read the whole transcript–was anything positive noted about the book (other than the very first comments about the cover)?
My own personal discomfort about this particular event aside, I don’t really know if I can trust the impressions of the reviewers under these cricumstances. I’m looking forward to the next installment, if only to confirm or disprove my misgivings.
@kirsten saell: Your comments make me laugh. Why don’t you buy the book and see for yourself if you like it instead of going on and on about the unreliable and uncomfortable nature of the liveblog. Buy the book. I did.
Also, I get that you think DA should live up to some standard you’ve set in your own mind. You’ve made that abundantly clear in other threads.
I think I will buy the book, Jane.
And yes, I have come to expect a certain degree of… class from this blog. But to be honest, that’s because I’m so rarely disappointed in that regard. Maybe if you were more consistently irksome, it would be less, well… irksome.
I will admit, however, it’s more diverting when there’s a brouhaha going than when there’s no controversy at all. I don’t really know whether I want you all to behave or not. I’d hate to have to go hang out somewhere else to get my drama fix.
Either way, glad to have given you a laugh. My purpose in life is fulfilled. :P
Good point. Although I was also speaking out of turn because more often than not I don’t get into cover snark. I’ve mostly just viewed the SB galleries from a couple of years ago and never really bothered reading the comments. The first ones were really creative and funny but after that, it got pretty repetitive and boring and boredom led to pettiness IMO. I really balk at calling a lot of attempts at snark, “snark.” Snark IMO should be witty and original, clever even, not just a one note joke.
It’s kind of like Justice Stevens and Porn–I may not be able to define it, but I know it when I see it. Yes, all subjective. However, I can think of an example of bloggers who have become big and for the most part kept their snark without falling over into pettiness: Gofugyourself. I’m not that into fashion or celebrities, but when I happen to read GFY, I usually leave thinking, “There’s a couple of women who enjoy what they do.” There’s a tone of affection for their subject–however bizzarely attired–that makes the snark palatable to me. I think cover snark that has a similar tone of affectionate WTF?! combined with clever/nonsensical interpretations works for me. When it starts reading like disdain or I’m sick of this crap, but I need to make a posting quota.” Eh, not so fun.
I am perhaps fooling myself in order to justify enjoying a bit of schadenfreude, but I do think that this tone of affectionate teasing is apparent and appeasing to the subject of the snark.
No, actually, I would say it applies to a lot of genre romance and erotica. Any genre actually. Indeed, variations of this hypothesis would lead to the reviews that say “if book x had done (insert genre romance conventions), I would like it.” There’s a reason plot recipes and cliches exist. Breaking them sometimes works, but more often leads to a reader feeling agry and “betrayed.”
I guess the key difference is, an author putting a book out has (for the most part) not made a statement about the reviewer/blogger. In turn, literary criticism is typically impersonal and consists of statements and supporting arguments. As a result, reviews that are too personal–that read like the reviewer had a vendetta rather than a professional criticism–feel like the reviewer threw the first punch. It’s hard to have sympathy for the person who starts the mudslinging.
I actually wondered today if this controversy erupted in part because we’ve gone at least a week without a trainwreck. Heck, even the author seemed to brush off the transcript comments (on Jules Jones’s blog).
In any case, one irony I find in all this is that at least three sales were made of this book between me, Jane, and Sarah (i.e. no ARCs were harmed in the making of the live blog).
Carol, as someone who’s done both, I can tell you there’s a difference between reviewing and critique. The former is done for a mass audience of disparate backgrounds and tastes, the latter is aimed at fellow academics of similar background and interest. There’s some crossover, but reviews are necessarily personal opinion, and are valid (if more or less useful) even without supporting evidence. Literary critique is deliberately objective in tone, if not in reality.
The vast majority of romance reviews are just that, and are reader to reader experiences. To criticise a review for being too personal when it hasn’t attacked the author as a human being, misses the point of what it does. It *is* personal. One reviewer’s personal opinion, nothing more. It no more prevents another reviewer liking the book better, or a reader buying and enjoying it, than my not reading the Da Vinci Code stops anyone else from doing so. I’m seeing a surprising amount of commentary here which seems to presuppose that the LiveBlogging’s negative assessment of the book somehow alters the value of the book to anyone else, and destroys their enjoyment of it. I can’t see how that could possibly follow.
I believe it is justice Stewart who made the obscenity quote. As for snark, you are applying a term we do not apply to dear author. We are not snarky. We don’t try to be and we don’t promote ourselves as such.
I challenge you to read the transcript that so horrifies you and point out the exact statements where either Sarah or I make any comment about the author.
Is it possible that some of the confusion over this not being a review comes from Sarah’s post on the 6th about the live blog? She says it’s a live blog and a review.
“Tune in to Dear Author at 9 EST/8 CST for a live blogging read and review of Victoria Janssen's The Duchess, Her Maid, The Groom and Their Lover.
I think you can ask us questions while we read & review & type at the same time. So head on over and enjoy!”
Did the SBs post a review of this book separate from the live blogging?
Ah, it was just surprising to see my name.
No, I do not remember who said what and I *really* don’t care to reread it. Discalimers may have legal effect, but they don’t change the underlying impression that people followed where you/the hosts led. When a person establishes a forum, sets the tone, and directs the conversation, it is not unreasonable to assume they agree with where it goes. In the live blog, the hosts could have easily redirected the conversation if they disagreed or felt it was crossing a professional/personal line.
Yes, I do recall that now. Maybe that and the statement that you expected it to be bad is what made me wonder why you started LiveBlogging with this selection.
Indeed, I know very little about the blogging business. But it seemed like an intentional decision had been made to start with an unpleasant controversey and I was trying to figure out why–what the value was. If it wasn’t to create buzz, I still don’t get what the value was.
Wow, this was really controversial. It reminds me of the reactions to negative romance reviews when they first started being published.
IMO, the Liveblog was a window into the reader experience. Yes, it was in front of an audience; but I don’t see how that changes the reading experience of the bloggers. If they’d been reading for a formal review, I’m sure they’d’ve been noting the same issues for use in the review. This is a step deeper into the negative review, and it’s obviously pulled the bandage off of the negative review wound.
The reader’s perspective is raw and not always pretty. I’m sure it’s not something authors really want to witness. Would an author want to sit in a room with a reader and observe the exclamations of disbelief, the Googling, the wall denting? Then why look through the Liveblogging window to observe all that? Apparently, a lot of people think the author’s presence places some kind of obligation on the reader.
And please, about picking a book you love next time, I wish somebody would explain to me how that’s done because it would really help weed down my TBR pile.
Yes, you are correct.
This is a rather boggling statement as the word “snark” has been used repeatedly through out this thread, usually by those who approved of the event. In any case, I was explicitly following up on a question about why “cover snark” is acceptable, but not other “snark.” I thought this is an interesting question and enjoyed noodling on about it. My answer was pretty subjective and not about the liveblog at all.
I was writing my thoughts on this subject as you were writing this. I didn’t say it horrified me, just that it was juvenile and smacked of a set up. At least I don’t think I did, it seems like ages since I wrote that.
Hear Hear MaryK! Only, can I add that I’d like to pick the books I’d love BEFORE I buy them!!
I haven’t read all of the transcript yet but the first part was pretty funny. I’m going back for more!
I’m looking forward to future liveblogging review thingys – whether you like the books or not.
I don’t know if you’re an author, Carol, but I’ve seen this comment (or some like it) made by authors, and it always baffles me. While it is true that readers expect certain definitive characteristics within a genre (happy ending in Romance, for example), but I’ve yet to see any reader consensus on what makes a good book in terms of motifs and tropes and themes. In fact, I see over and over again, on blog after blog, pleas from readers to expand the offerings in the genre, to break free of over-written tropes and motifs, and to stretch, stretch, stretch beyond the known and the norm. IMO one of the greatest disservices done to readers is underestimating and condescending to us with suppositions abut what we will and won’t like. That we’re loyal is so often exploited, IMO, because we will continue to purchase books we don’t like in the hopes of finding that one that knocks our socks off.
MaryK’s comment has given me a new perspective on this thread, and especially on this sentiment. Because if you consider that live blog “mudslinging” then I cannot imagine what would pass your acid test for an acceptable review of less than positive response. Was that chat raw? Yup. Was it informal and not polished and sometimes bawdy in its unvarnished reactions? Hell, yes. But I cannot possibly imagine how that chat could seem like a “vendetta” against the author, especially when the book — and by extension the author — was being read for the first time by both Sarah and Jane.
As for the issue of criticism, I agree with Ann that literary criticism and reviewing are different. One focuses on the value of a book to the reader while the other explores various issues within texts in service of a larger argument and analysis. While reviews can contain analysis (and that’s one of the things I love about the DA reviews — all the reviewers here are very analytical in their approach to the books), they don’t have to be analytical, and many aren’t very detailed in their treatment of a particular book. I am more interested personally in highly analytical reviews, but some readers prefer those that simply offer an emotional reaction to the book or some other level of response.
In any case, while books are not commentaries on readers, they invite response in the form of purchase, and also in the form of feedback for the purpose of promotion. And when readers offer feedback that isn’t what the author might hope, that can lead to insults about said readers/reviewers/bloggers, as if what we do in responding to a book isn’t to be respected. Not all authors participate in this kind of talk, of course (at least not publicly), but I have to say I’ve been surprised by the number who do.
I’m baffled by the assertion that the participants in this liveblog set out to ‘mudsling’, had the intention of slamming the book, planned to be mean and to act like ‘vultures’.
That’s an awful lot of assumptions about a whole bunch of people whom folks don’t know and pretty presumptuous as well to think they know what people’s motivations were for coming to this liveblogging event.
It also implies that readers are not allowed to have a negative reaction and deserve to be called names and branded as mean and spiteful, if their reaction is not favorable.
I don’t know anybody who enjoys reading a bad book. It’s a waste of time, money and emotional energy. Ascribing pack mentality to the readers who commented during the event is extremely insulting because it presupposes that each individual reader would not have had the reaction they had unless lead to it like a lemming by some evil overlord (Jane, are you getting out your Darth Vader costume yet?).
From a reader perspective, I have to say this reaction leaves a really bad taste in my mouth. It sounds very much like, ‘you can have a reaction and can comment on books only if your are nice and gush’ because ghod forbid, if you decide to have at least some fun to make up for the wasted time, money and emotional energy, others are entitled to call you names.
Astoundingly enough, calling me names and ascribing dark motives to my honestly disappointed reaction to a book is not the way to sell me a book just in case anybody wondered.
I thought it was a review also, since it was “filed under Reviews” and labeled a “DNF”. But I’m not sure what hangs on the question of its status as a review.
I felt that Jane and Sarah didn’t like this book, or at least weren’t going to take it even semi-seriously, prior to opening it, as indicated by the jokes about the cover, which, as Carol has pointed out, is one of the unassailable positives of the book.
Rather, it felt to me, as a reader, like Jane and Sarah decided to make fun of a book, have some fun on a Saturday night, and this was the book they happened to pick up.
It reminded me – and I am just honestly reporting my feelings here — of the new kid in school rounding the corner, looking for his classroom, and happening to run into a couple of tough kids looking for some fun.
Whether the book sucks, and Sarah and Jane are better judges than me, isn’t relevant to me. Jane is very smart, and can and has come up with lots of post hoc arguments for why the book was a DNF — plot, characterization, and all that. But what felt off to me was the sense that the decision was made arbitrarily in advance, and evidence was only admitted that confirmed the initial judgment.
Thanks for giving commenters the space for reporting our feelings about it (be nice to know where SB Sarah is on his issue as well)
Uhm – I saw that as “Ooh, pretty cover” comments, not as making fun of it. And as to the issues of plot, prose, characters – uhm, that stuff was being raised during the liveblogging, which is why there were such reactions.
Again, let me reiterate – I didn’t participate to make fun of the author or be a mean girl, or tear her to shreds (or whatever other attributions are being made). I was hoping for an interesting read – I was curious how the author was going to make the premise work. I think that is where some of the disconnect lies – reading about a premise and wondering how it’ll turn out, while some people think that this contemplation predisposes you to not like something. (Honestly, if you find out that eunuchs are part of an erotic story, aren’t you going to wonder how that’s going to work out?)
Unfortunately, I found myself frustrated when the book didn’t work for me. I didn’t work for me on a whole bunch of levels, for example, I felt that there was a lot of ‘telling’ about characters motivations, but not a lot of ‘showing.’ (And I could go on here about what my problems were with this book). I posted my comments and feelings as I was following along. That’s what the liveblogging process was like for me.
Some of you obviously don’t like what I or other participants wrote. That’s your prerogative. But to ascribe motivations of meaness and (hidden) agendas, well, I don’t think that is correct, or fair.
Laura, thank you for your comments about the Spice line, and about erotica vs erotic romance, and in general for taking the time to respond to my somewhat defensive comment. I apologize for being defensive, and I appreciate your response.
In defense of my defensiveness… I guess I felt like I participated in a fun, lighthearted discussion about a book with an odd premise (sorry, eunuch sex is somewhat odd, IMO). I didn’t participate with the idea that we’d be ripping a book to shreds, or personally insulting an author. Then, a few days later, I came here and read comments that I participated in a bashing, the online equivalent of a bunch of high school bullies making fun of someone for the way they dress or something like that. And yeah, that made me defensive.
It made me defensive because I was always on the receiving end of the high school bullies, and I think I’m pretty sensitive to other’s feelings because of that. I didn’t think we did that here. There were some legitimate criticisms made over plot lines, characters, etc. I just did not see the “gang” mentality that has been ascribed to everyone participating.
I read comments at Jules’ blog and the author said that we didn’t get the campy nature of the book. And you know what, I believe that to be true. It’s really hard to do “campy” and appeal to everyone– and one person’s idea of “campy” is another person’s idea of ridiculous or silly. A lot of times I don’t “get” some people’s sense of humor. But I don’t see what’s wrong in saying that. To me, the excerpts posted and summarized and talked about didn’t seem campy. I don’t think it’s unfair to say “this didn’t work for me” and say why so.
Also, I don’t mean to belabor the point about the erotica vs. romance, but I didn’t read the cover closely, I didn’t read the fine print, and I assumed the book was an erotic romance. I do judge erotic romance differently than erotica; however, some of the premises STILL wouldn’t work for me in erotica, either. That’s all I was trying to say by going on about Harlequin, etc.
Also, one final comment – I DO BELIEVE PEOPLE LIKED THE COVER. I know I did, but I’m not sure that I was able to say so given the lag time, I’d have to go back and read the transcript.
No problem, Kerry. I’ve not got a big stake in the issues being discussed here, so it’s easy for me to remain emotionally detached. I can be a bit of a Harlequin geek, though, hence my clarification about Spice.
It’s certainly not something I know much about, that’s for sure. I do recall reading something about castrati being the eighteenth-century equivalent of the sexy pop stars of today, so perhaps, given the fantasy-historical setting it’s not totally without basis to have eunuchs employed at court who are sexually active. That said, the castrati were singers, not bodyguards. I haven’t seen the film Farinelli, about a famous castrato singer, but I assume it included eunuch sex, since the castrati were eunuchs and the film’s R rated.
I didn’t show up at the live blog thinking about the author’s feelings.
For me, I swear, that’s a big mea culpa.
Remembering that real people are behind the books is something I forget sometimes and I just react to the books themselves.
But I’m not going to get out my dusty hair shirt on this one because I laughed.
When an author starts off by putting a title on her work that mimics another author’s title like The Cook, the Thief, His Wife & Her Lover and then she writes it with the kind of graphic sexuality that Peter Greenaway used as his stock in trade, I think I can be forgiven for thinking the plot and writing were meant to be fun so that the reader could have some laughs with the book.
Added to that the weird words … and honestly I can’t count the number of books I have read with some of the words this author used.
Oh, yes I can.
And the characters & situations they were in.
If it wasn’t suppose to be funny and to have fun with then the author and her editor need some face to face time… big time.
Of course the author shrugged off the comments made on the live blog.
First of all that was a smart and classy thing to do.
Secondly if she didn’t mean the book to be campy then saying after the fact that it is/was is smarter still.
Best of all she got her book published and people talking about it.
She wanted readers, she got them.
Certainly any book, any author, can be torn apart and made to appear funny and that’s cetainly not part of an author’s dream. It doesn’t stop me from laughing everytime I read books-a-minute Classics and see the collected works of Jane Austen condensed into two sentences.
So, a storm in a teacup as my very slick mother used to say.
And in my opinion: no one here sucks.
Especially Jane & Sarah.
(that I know of)
(not any of my business)
FWIW, I think eunuchs are far more familiar in erotica than Romance.
Also, FWIW, I thought people liked the cover and were not making fun of it.
It amazes me that the blog was tagged under reviews, because my understanding from talking to Jane was that it was an experimental live blogging thing with a book they both had heard about, liked the cover of, and were curious about, hoping that it had enough spice (pardon the pun) to allow for interesting discussion. ‘Cause it’s a provocative book, folks, and IMO it’s intended to be, inside and out.
I could barely keep up with reading the comments and had nothing of substance to contribute to the discussion, so I was busy trying to figure out how to use the live blogging thingie, lol (I did want to point out that the author was a woman, but couldn’t get a comment done in time with the other ones).
I see this as less about the book, though, and more about some perceived abuse of power, and while I’m intellectually coming to understand that, I would really like to know what comments people think are so over the line. Really. Point them out. Were the majority of the comments even about the book, because I remember a lot of meandering. But in any case, I’m interested in understanding better what really offended people and seemed so mean to the author.
I’m not touching any of the above!
But speaking of eunuch sex… I have two words for you: ROBIN SCHONE.
More specifically, “A Man and a Woman” in the anthology Fascinated.
I luurve this story for two reasons: first of all the Arabic-language orgasmic cries of the hero have been rendered with a scholarly devotion to proper grammar that warms the cockles of my heart. Second, the story does not have gratuitous eunuch sex. Instead, the spirit is more along the lines of what sex might look like/feel like for a differently abled man like the hero. I rather liked it…
Also, what’s more campy than a woman flung back in time by the power of her own desperate masturbation? Just saying…
Well, I missed those entirely — I don’t think I was there when any of the excerpts were posted (admittedly, I was doing other things at the same time and checking out the chat only intermittently.
My expectations of pure erotica, based on the little I’ve read, is that it is often out there, because the plot has to take some improbable turns for so many sexual encounters and sexual situations to come about.
I haven’t read Emma Holly’s erotica, just her erotic romances, so I can’t comment on that, and on whether I would consider it pure erotica.
I haven’t read this book either, and my comment was not on the book but rather on the impression I got from the chat, that it was improbable sexual situations taking place left and right in the book that was the problem for some readers. I acknowledge that since I only caught a bit of the chat I could be wrong in that impression. But if that impression isn’t wrong, then I wonder if these readers like pure erotica.
That is how I feel too when I read pure erotica, which I define as the kind of book where there is sex on every page or every other page. I think it’s very, very hard to put that much sex in a book and create a sense of connection to the characters and emotional aspects to the story.
What I get from Jessica’s review, though, is that this book is pure erotica:
What I take from the review is that there are a lot of pages devoted to sex, a lot of different kinds of sex, characters are partnered with a variety of characters for sex, and plotting and characterization are secondary to the sex. Yet Jessica doesn’t conclude that it’s a bad book, or that erotica lovers would not enjoy it. She says she see why it shouldn’t appeal to readers who are looking for a book with this much sex in it. And in conclusion she states that if the author ever wrote a book with 80% less sex in it and with a romance in the story, she would “definitely check it out.”
I haven’t read Joey Hill’s books but I don’t consider Megan Hart’s books to be pure erotica. Sure, there is a lot of sex in them but not on every other page. I think Dirty is an erotic novel, and an excellent one at that, but that doesn’t make it pure erotica. Anne Rice’s Beauty trilogy (The Claiming of Sleeping Beauty, Beauty’s Punishment, and Beauty’s Release) is well-written pure erotica IMO, though much of it doesn’t work for me since I am not that into BDSM and since there’s not as much emotion in it as I would like. I don’t hold either of these things against those books, though. Pure erotica is not a genre I am all that into, and I have enjoyed Rice’s early vampire books a lot more.
Well, it’s clear that there is a wide variety of different types of books under the Spice line, from Sarah McCarty’s, which sound more like erotic romances to me, to Megan Hart’s erotic novels, to this book, which sounds to me like pure erotica. I’m not sure if the solution would be for Harlequin to stick to only one type of book, though, because then we would have less variety available to us. I do feel that the title and cover did a pretty good job of communicating to me that this book was what I consider pure erotica.
Janine, I wonder if your definition of erotica is closer to that of pornography than mine is. IMO the label “an erotic novel” = erotica.
As for Jessica’s review, I feel a bit like you’re judging those of us who didn’t love Janssen’s book through Jessica’s review of it, and I just don’t know how to respond to that. I’ve read the book, I’ve read the entirety of the chat, and these are my raw responses to both. My sense of Jessica’s review was also much different than yours, I think, because when I see someone say they’d want 80% of the sex cut from a book to want to read it, that’s not exactly a ringing endorsement, IMO (and she said straight out that the book did not work for her).
I’ve always looked at pornography not as a seperate category of fiction from erotica but rather as a pejorative term used by those who don’t care for a piece of erotica. By putting the label of “porn” on it, they indicate that it has no value to them. Some people call romances porn, too.
ETA: As for erotic novels like Hart’s being the same thing as pure erotica, I don’t even read Hart’s books for the sex — they are all about the characterization for me, so I can’t agree that they are in the same genre as pure erotica.
I’m not judging anyone who didn’t love the book, and certainly not through Jessica’s review. I understood quite well that her review was not a ringing endorsement, and frankly, it doesn’t sound like a book that would work for me either. I don’t have much interest in reading it, so how could I judge others for not loving it?
The point I was trying to make is that the title and cover did a good job of communicating to me that it would be pure erotica, and therefore not something I would be likely to enjoy that much. When I read Jessica’s review, it reinforced that impression of the book.
What puzzled me was the impression I formed that others approached the book with a different set of expectations or standards than I would have for it, based on its genre. Some readers seemed to me to be expecting a book where plotting, characterization and emotion get the same level of attention as sex does. To me, that is not pure erotica.
I have no beef with anyone who doesn’t care for pure erotica — it’s not usually my cuppa either. I have no problem with anyone saying they don’t care for that genre, nor this book. Nor do I have a problem with anyone saying that they do like the genre but don’t care for this particular book.
I do wonder though, if the fact that we are all coming at this with different genre definitions isn’t responsible for the way we viewed this liveblogging through different lenses. The criticism I saw reminded me of seeing a horror book criticized for being terrifying. I don’t enjoy being terrified when I read, but I recognize that some readers do, and that is why the horror genre exists. Likewise, I don’t usually enjoy being titillated purely for titillation’s sake, but others do, and that is why pure erotica exists.
To me, it seemed that some readers were criticizing a book in a genre they don’t usually read or care for. It was just my first impression, and I acknowledge I may very well be wrong about that. But I was reminded of the woman at whose yard sale I bought my first copy of Gaffney’s To Have and to Hold, who told me that she was a radio talk show host and that, though she doesn’t read romances for pleasure, she does read excerpts of romances out loud on her show to make fun of them.
At work today I had a bit of an ephiphany as to why I disliked the liveblog so much.
This whole debate has been rather frustrating to me becuase anyone who objected to it or criticized it was immediately pigeon holed as whiners who only want “nice” reviews. I (and most of the other objectors) went out of our way to demonstrate this was not the case, but this was pretty much disregarded because people who liked the liveblog assumed they knew what I was “really” thinking. (I would say fight the patriarchy, but I think most of us are women…)
What I was really thinking is that the setup was very discomforting to someone who was in the minority. I didn’t empathize with the writer because she was a holy mother deserving of protection, I empathized with the author, because I felt like if I had liked the book and tried to defend it, I would have risked being an object of ridicule as well.
The common theme of all the criticisms of the liveblog were not about it being a negative review–they were about the nature of the event. Words like mob mentality, piling on, one-upping, etc. appeared throughout the critiques, which leads me to wonder if others had a similar incohate feeling. I describe it as incohate, because it wasn’t a conscious thought, rather a general feeling of unease, that this was a potentially unsafe space to voice dissent.
And because I now know certain people are going to read this and take the worst possible interpretation, I don’t think over all DA stifles dissent, quite the opposite, but the freewheeling, hit enter, then regret, nature of a chat is a bit different.
Just wanted to answer: No. At least not fiction, I do a lot of technical analysis and writing for business purposes. So, while I am familiar with writing what is and having the recipient be annoyed because it’s not what they wanted, the basis of that comment was actually all the reviews I have read over the years where someone has said, “if only x…then I would like it.” For example, I’ve read reviews of romance/mystery crossovers along the lines of “If only the writer focused on the mystery instead of the protagonist’s emotions/love dilemma.” To which I feel like saying, “If she wanted to write a mystery/action/horror, she would have. She wanted to write a romance with mystery/action/horror elements.” The next step is, of course, the “I read this expecting…, the author has betrayed her fanbase!!11” <–sarcasm, but I have seen these rants. Also in relation to movies, tv shows, etc.
To be honest, I’m not entirely sure I believe them. At least I can’t really think of any reviews of books that seriously broke free of romance tropes, that didn’t ultimately caveat with, “but, if only…” Maybe a Laura Kinsale–but even she follows the rules, she just treats the tropes in cool, creative ways that make them fresh. Caveat: I am not an exhaustive review reader, so I may just be ignorant.
I am clearly not suited to blogging, as I was responding to a lot of ideas, some of which weren’t even about the live blog. I can’t keep track of what anyone is really talking about, but I think a lot of the conversation had left the liveblog behind by that point. This was about the whole cover vs. book snark, and why so much sympathy/defense of the author (meaning authors in general, not this particular one)? I was positing an idea as to why it’s easier to see reviewers as the aggressors.
And again, I am having to state I have nothing against negative criticism. Actually, some of the more recent comments in this thread by people who actually read the book are along the lines of what I was expecting and looking for.
Rats, the Transcript seems to be gone. I would loved to have read what has caused all the fuss.
I will have to be onhand for the next one.
@DS: Just hit the little arrow circle. It will allow you to read it.
@Janine: It sounds like your opinion of pure erotica is that it does not need to have characterization, emotional connection or plot. Your parsing out the differences between erotic fiction and erotic sound strange like the definition of a good and bad erotica book. I.e., erotica that does have characterization, plot and emotional development is deemed to be erotic fiction but erotica that lacks any of those elements is “pure erotica”. Even porn is designed to turn you on, stimulate you.
DS, the transcript’s still there. You just have to click on the green arrow which is almost a circle, beneath the words
One thing that occurred to me, looking at the way this post is “Filed under: DNF Reviews, Reviews” is that even if the people doing liveblogging in the future like the book being liveblogged, it’s still almost certainly going to have to be filed as a DNF, unless the liveblogging continues for hours and hours, because there’s not likely to be time to finish the book. And yet, readers of Dear Author are likely to assume that a DNF means that the book was considered to be bad (because that’s the usual reason for awarding a DNF).
@Laura Vivanco: I hesitate to create a new “category” for it because I don’t know how many of these we are going to do. I mean, after next week, we might be totally bored and decide to scrap the whole thing. Every post is defaulted to “Review” here at DA (which is why some items that are really misc) fall under review if I forget to change it.
I’ll go ahead and change it to MISC for now and remove the DNF.
I would not go that far but I do think these things are secondary to the hot sex in pure erotica. To go back to my example of Rice’s Beauty trilogy, there is certainly characterization and plot (though not much emotional connection) but the plot and characterization wouldn’t make much sense in a real world context — the reader has to buy the premise that sexual training is important to practically everyone.
No, what I meant is that in a well written erotic novel, the characterization and plot are at least as important as the sex, and the sex is a natural outgrowth of the plot and characterization. Pure erotica is more of a fictional construct for bringing about a lot of hot sexual situations. To write it well does require plotting and characterization skills but those skills are applied to make the sex all the hotter.
Situations are often improbable in pure erotica so it does require suspension of disbelief, but that is not that different IMO from, if you compare a genre like horror, in which monsters are created that we all know don’t exist, in order to scare readers. In pure erotica sexual situations that don’t really exist are created in order to arouse the reader. Sure, if you don’t prefer that type of fiction they can seem absurd and ridiculous, but the same is true of the scary monsters in a horror book or movie.
As I’ve said before I think porn is a word people use pejoratively if they don’t like erotica.
As for why people saw the live blogging as a review, I was just at Smart Bitches and I see that the post there begins this way:
So then is it really surprising that people viewed it as a review?
I guess if they didn’t read the chat or its transcript. Perhaps Sarah thought they were going to get to the review, but considering they hadn’t read the book until the chat, I have no idea why anyone would call what actually occurred a review. At least no one who reads this blog even semi-regularly and reads our actual reviews. Heck, even the video reviews are actual reviews, while the chat, well, how could it be?
To me it’s a genre unto itself, and that view has gained a lot of steam in academic circles, led largely by UCSB Film Studies Professor Constance Penley, who, along with a handful of other scholars, is teaching undergraduate and graduate classes on pornography (in fact, she says here that she was inspired by slash fiction to pursue the work). Penley has given a lot of serious attention to what she terms “the most enduring and prolific of all film genres,” and some of her work on the subject has influenced my own view of the genre (it’s really interesting, for example, the way pornographic films often spoof the so-called legitimate Hollywood film culture as a way of commenting on the very taboos they are breaking open (i.e. it’s sometimes about more than the sex, lol).
When some people use the term pejoratively, IMO they are really trying to characterize whatever it is they’re talking about as obscenity, which is a term I use very sparingly, because it is outside First Amendment protections. Some people see porn and obscenity as synonymous, though, which has certainly made it more difficult to differentiate among all the various sexually-focused material out there.
I believe that there is a difference between how we read certain books and their structural, formalistic category of identification. Erotic works encompass a very large area, and their appeal varies widely, too. Interestingly, I understand there’s been an attempt to relabel some of Emma Holly’s erotica as erotic Romance, which fascinates me, because I’m not sure whether it reflects broader perceptions of what erotic Romance is (i.e. when she wrote them they were considered erotica, but now they can be seen more as er) or a somewhat fishy marketing tactic and attempt to capitalize on the popularity of er, or something else. I would not call them er, though, any more than I think Hart’s books are er, even though they have elements of Romance in them. But I certainly don’t think it’s insulting to Hart’s book to label it erotica.
Well, as I said, I think erotica covers a huge swath of material, but I didn’t get the impression at all that people were looking for a book that had as much focus on plot elements and character development as sex. What I perceived was an unwillingness to suspend all expectations for plot and characterization for the sake of the sex. This wasn’t an article in Hustler; it was a book published by Harlequin within the same line as Megan Hart’s books, and is subtitled “an erotic novel.” So I guess I’m less clear perhaps than you are on where reader expectations should be on this one, since it shares a lot of superficial qualities with Hart’s book (I mean, what would one make of the title “Dirty” if one was unfamiliar with Hart or the book?).
I will simply repeat my request to have someone point out where all this piling on was occurring.
I definitely think there is an insider/outsider dynamic on all blogs, and perhaps a subcultural manifestation of this dynamic in particular threads or discussions. And I understand how that may be operative here for readers, especially if they were not in the chat at the time, haven’t read the transcript fully, or aren’t familiar with the handful of people participating (there were so few people commenting, which I guess is one of the reasons I resist the characterization of the pile on).
IMO if more people had actually read the book there would have been more back and forth discussion about it. Also, for the few of us who were numbers 11+ as commenters, we could not comment without our comments being approved first (it’s a software thing), and so that created a tremendous lag time and some frustration for some of us (so much so that we just didn’t even try to comment). But beyond that, I don’t think I’ve ever seen any commenter ridiculed in any thread for liking a book others hated, even in some of the reviews we’ve done that have been really negative. Even in this thread, dissenters haven’t been ridiculed, so while I understand what you’re saying, I wonder where the precedent for such a view is on the blog. Had more people commented with different views, the discussion might actually have moved past chapter five, lol.
I find this kind of insulting, Carol, lol. We reward innovation all the time in our reviews here, and some of my very favorite books are those that take the conventions and really flaunt them (same for the other Ja(y)nes, too), from Pam Rosenthal’s two recent books to Loretta Chase’s recent book in which she wrote an actual courtesan who really and truly sells herself AND does not regret it, to at least half of Judith Ivory’s oeuvre (how about an ether addicted hero, for example?). There are many of us who want more experimentation, more stretching of the genre, but we just aren’t getting it, and any supposition that readers are driving the market feels like total bullcrap to a reader like me, whose desires are certainly NOT driving the current market.
Robin @101, as I look at this post, right now there is an ETA in the main post which mocks anyone who has a thin skin or knows the author, and strongly implies that there is no legitimate reason for dissent from the party line. I certainly got the impression that any attempt to expand on my earlier comment was not welcome and would be met with variations on the theme that I simply think that reviewers are Mean Girls, and that I’m only upset because it was someone I know on the receiving end.
I can understand the frustration that led to that ETA. But insisting that there has been no ridiculing of dissent looks decidedly disingenuous from where I sit.
Jules, a number of people have criticised the live blog while saying they hadn’t even read it, or read very little of it (I actually have read almost all of it, and I think the comments slamming the exercise as a pile on or bullying are utterly without justification.) I took Jane’s ETA for frustration with that – if people aren’t able to come out with concrete examples of what bothered them, and haven’t looked at what the point of the exercise was, I don’t see why anyone should take them seriously. This is quite apart from those who are quite vehemently telling the blog owners and blogging partners what content they can put in their own space.
How the reactions of ‘think of the
childrenauthor’ differ from any other time the DA team have posted negative reviews and been jumped on, I can’t myself distinguish. No author is going to enjoy reading a less than positive reaction to her writing – that’s no reason why it shouldn’t be given, and whatever format a reader chooses.
It’s precisely because we’ve done reviews in so many different and unsual formats here — animated drawing reviews, animated lego reviews that renacted scenes from the book, letters addressed to the author, conversational reviews where we discuss books with one another, etc., that it doesn’t seem at all strange to me that some people would perceive this livelogging as a review. We’ve been very creative and varied with our review formats, so when we take a new format and tag it as a review here, and title it a review on SBTB, it doesn’t surprise me at all that people approach it as a review.
Plus, we’ve done so many posts here on how labels affect the way we view books (for example, a romance label leads us to expect a HEA, and be disappointed if there isn’t one) that we should know that the same is true of our posts too, and if we label something a review, people will approach it with a certain set of expectations.
I certainly never thought it was insulting, nor did I mean to imply that it was. I just think of pure erotica as its own genre and Hart’s books, at least the three I’ve read so far, seem more like genre-benders that use some components of erotica, some of romance, and some of women’s fiction to create a blend of all three. One of the things I find most impressive about her books, and IMO one of the highest compliments I can pay her as a writer, is that I think she has created a new subgenre with her recent works, one that is as different from pure erotica as romantic suspense is from pure suspense. I don’t know exactly what to call the genre Hart has created, but I know I haven’t read anything else like it. I alluded to that at the end of my review of Broken.
Since you’ve probably read more of the chat than I have, it’s quite likely that you have a much better feel for it than I do. My main objective in posting to this thread was not to say that my impression was supreme to yours, but rather to convey the impression I had and to suggest that it was possible that different perceptions of the book’s genre were partly responsible for the different perceptions people had of the liveblogging, and the resulting disconnect. To that end, I thought that sharing my initial impression of the chat, mistaken though it might have been, could be useful in helping to clear things up.
I have to admit though that I am getting tired of explaning what I mean over and over. I find it very frustrating when I don’t appear to communicate well and that seems to be the case here since what I’ve said has been misinterpreted several times. I think the problem may be that we are all too much on the defensive here — everyone feels that they are being accused of something. We could probably all benefit from being more open-minded and from stepping outside our own boxes, but I don’t know if I can do much more of that at the moment. I like and respect both you and Jane very much and don’t enjoy disagreeing with either of you, and I feel I’m approaching my limit of how many times I can stand to be misunderstood in one week.
@Janine: I understand what you are saying, I just don’t agree with your definitions or outlook on the differences you’ve ascribed to erotic fiction, erotica, literary erotica, and so on.
I appreciate that you took something different away from skimming the livechat and reading Jessica’s detailed review. It is why I suggested to you that you read to the book to make your own conclusions about where this fits into your metric. I encourage anyone to do that who has some interest in measuring the book’s success or lack thereof.
Janine, I’ve understood what you’re saying, I just think your understanding of erotica is different from most of the readers here. It’s clear that they do expect plot and characters, especially from a Harlequin line, and the fact that this book didn’t deliver is more than enough reason for them to be annoyed.
Is this right or wrong? Does it matter? In the long run, they’re the ones the book is being marketed and sold to, so if Harlequin isn’t getting the point across about whatever this book is, readers are going to react the way they did in this liveblogging event. And really, what we’re here to show is honest reader reaction so others know what to expect. I think that was done.
In my first post I did try to give examples of how I felt the hosts went into the event with a goal in mind and seemed to be cherry picking lines to support that goal. I was also pretty hot in that post because I sat back, thought about my feelings on the blog, then I come back and there’s a message from the host telling me I have those feelings because I’m “thin skinned”–so there went half my good intentions. That message has been repeated through out this thread–that dissenters are just thin skinned and want to protect authors. This messages have typically been couched in fairly disdainful terms, implying we are whiners and almost always imputing some belief in the sanctity of authors or need for nice reviews on us.
The argument that the ‘thin skin’ header was a result of people who hadn’t read the blog commenting is disingenuous at best. I think everyone who posted before me said they attended or read it and the note was already up by the time I posted. I admit to skimming parts; it was repetitive and frustrating to read. No, it does not look like any participant was ridiculed in the blog, however, the person who kept trying to clarify that the setting was fantasy was basically ignored in favor of complaining about the setting.
Given what has happened in this thread and what I have seen happen in chats and email lists over the years, it is not hard for me to imagine an attempt at defense getting ugly. For example, “Yes, the sausage skin metaphor was not erotic, but some of the clothing and setting descriptions were lovely. Also, it was a teenage stable boy’s POV, maybe comparing his cock to sausage was appropriate.” Could easily lead to “so you like sausage, eh” (which in friendlier contexts I might find funny) to derisive comments on my taste in books or or heroes or lovers. After all, I’ve been implicitly accused of thinking reviewers are mean, opposing negative review and wanting to protect authors and their child-books (a metaphor that is particularly laughable since I dislike being around children and think they shouldn’t be allowed in public until they are capable of understanding restaurants and theaters are not playgrounds).
The complaint about people commenting without having read the blog is also doubly ironic as most people felt free to riff on a book they hadn’t read, only had a few lines cherry-picked for amusement value.
Also, as I stated in my initial comments, I felt that the hosts seemed too distracted to always make sense of what they were reading or wait to see if it would be explained in the next paragraph. To me, the part about Maxime’s protectorate was clear, but I wasn’t skimming the book while struggling with a new technology or knowing a group of people were waiting for me to post a witty comment. Yes, the Duchess was bossy and imperious–but so was her maid. Also, I thought it was interesting to have an older woman and a woman who wasn’t always nice and giving and thoughtful of others as the heroine. How often does that (either a heroine 2x the age of the hero or a not-sweet heroine) happen? I really felt like the hosts weren’t looking for anything but the funny or awkward and it was easy for people to follow on with jokes about that until it ballooned into “this is awful” and “for shame”–from someone who has admited she hasn’t read the book. People who hadn’t read the book quickly concluded the writing was unclear and the characters hateful when in fact the people who were relating the book to them were unclear and distracted.
As for examples of piling on, take any retyped excerpt and the following 10-15 lines. If you don’t see it as piling on, you don’t. To me, things boiled up pretty quickly from “this is a bad line” from the readers to people who hadn’t read the book declaring the whole thing was tripe. For better or worse, it is subjective, but there were a fair number of us who have that vibe.
I certainly agree with this, I think it would be a much more interesting exercise if it was conducted like a book club . Contrary to what some posters have said, this was not like any book club I have attended. Yes, we tell jokes, sometimes at the expense of the book, and I often have criticisms of writing style and technique, but I’m speaking from the whole of the book and those who disagree with me have a basis for bringing up opposing arguments. I have only been to in-person book clubs so maybe that is a key difference also.
To me, this reinforces that this is a bad set up for this kind of event. I would like to again point out that many of the criticisms (and almost all of mine) were of the format of the event. Why not just do it as a normal chat where anyone can post? This isn’t a criticism, I really don’t get what the difference is between that event and a chat other than the event SW apparently being a pain in the ass. I thought it was intended to be more than just a chat, but the hosts seem to be backing away from that pretty quickly.
As noted above, I would disagree on this point. For the most part, no one has really been hit as hard as the book was, but I did have a real “Huh?” moment when comments on how the event failed as a review, as literary discussion, or even as criticism, were transmogrified into “you’re mean,” “I hate negative reviews,” “books are like children” complete with whining sounds. (And yes, my comments started out hot, but I was somewhat ticked off by coming back to the “thin skin” message on top of what really did read to me like an event manipulated into a certain direction.)
Also, on posting vs. chat (where one-liners are encouraged) is different–chats can get very ugly very quickly. You have more time to think about posts and more room to attempt to explain what you mean–and the time to edit function DA has is brilliant.
Yes, like I said, there were some thought provoking parts of the book if also plain provoking parts.
@Jane and Jan,
I was pretty much at the end of my tether last night and am feeling somewhat better today, but I do feel that I have been misunderstood on several points in the course of this conversation, and had to explain myself, i.e.:
This kind of thing gets very tiring for me.
I’m sure you mean well, but you’re mischaracterizing my definition of pure erotica. I never said there were no plot or characters in it, just that these elements are applied to making the sex hotter. Anyway, I will agree as far as this — I think many readers did have a different set of expectations for this book than I did. I don’t think I’m completely alone in my expectations, though.
To me, this is not about right or wrong, ultimately. I only think it matters because I think it accounts for the impression I had of the chat, which I think others may have had as well — an impression of readers making fun of a book from a genre they didn’t normally read. Some of the things that struck readers in the chat as laughable — the eunuchs, for example — just seemed to me to be pure erotica’s equivalent of the all the dukes you find in historical romance. People who don’t read much historical romance could come along and laugh about there being dukes in a story, and it would come across to me in a similar way.
My point isn’t that this is wrong — I’m all for free speech — but rather that I can see why not everyone was left with a positive view of the chat. ETA: I don’t know the author from Adam, so this is not about her feelings for me. And I agree with Carol that not everyone who had a negative impression of this liveblogging is thin skinned or opposed to negative reviews. I’ve given DNF reviews here myself. Jessica has certainly posted negative reviews at her site, but look at her post on this thread at #82.
That is an excellent point. Though I do think Harlequin tried with the title and cover, to indicate what kind of book it was. I think some readers will pick it up knowing exactly what to expect, but clearly that is not true of everyone.
I wonder if the chat would have gone differently had the book that was picked not included any sex. I mean, would there have been so much to laugh about? I don’t deny that there was honest reader reaction, but many readers who reacted had not read the book, so it’s a lot like my reaction to this liveblogging without having read the whole thing. Honest but maybe not that reflective of the contents of the book, or, in my case, of the contents of the discussion, just of first impressions.
Having read (and loved) Anne Rice’s Beauty trilogy, I want to second what Janine has been saying: The cover (to me) clearly indicates what this must be (besides the title being a clever knockoff of The Cook The Thief His Wife & Her Lover). I haven’t read this book (yet, though I have been asked to review it), but I took one look at it and made the connection.
In The Claiming of Sleeping Beauty, the plot and characterizations are created around the erotica so that the sex acts are believable within that world, which is, by definition, fantasy. I would even go so far as to say early Susan Johnson historicals are in this fantasy realm (haven’t read her later work).
I would also put the movie Eyes Wide Shut in this category, although the sex acts in that film were not meant to arouse (but probably do anyway).
I certainly agree that the title ought to give a reader expecting a romance pause, but I’m not sure that the same could be applied to the cover.
I’ve looked at it several times and it didn’t strike me as more provocative or indicative of what you call pure erotica than any other cover of current historicals. Half-naked woman (reclining or standing) seems to be the formula of the day (it did make me expect a historical not a fantasy, an impression reinforced by the parts of the summary I read). For what it’s worth, I think it’s a very attractive cover.
Neither title nor cover indicated to me that this was supposed to be camp and that’s a problem since I don’t like camp, not even when it’s well-done.
As for the eunuchs raising eye-brows, I didn’t have the impression that it was the fact that they were in the book that was criticized but rather the power differential between the duchess who claims to be powerless and her servants/slaves? whom she commanded into providing her with sexual satisfaction. That elicited remarks that there seemed to be a disconnect between her portrayal as persecuted, powerless woman fearing for her life and the actual powerful position she took full advantage of for her own sexual gratification.
which S. Johnson titles are you thinking of particularly? Off the top of my head I cannot think of any I would consider fantastical rather than straight historical with lots of hot sex, so that comparison made me very curious.
Janine, I have no problem with defining pure erotica as having characters and plot that only serves the sex. It’s pretty much my definition lol. But that’s a very subjective thing there. Romance readers would expect, I think, a great deal more going into making the sex interesting for them than someone who just reads erotica or porn. They might require emotional investment for the sex to matter and work for them. And since this book is of Harlequin’s Spice line, they might well expect it. (I personally think the title and cover could be taken as comedic and not real btw, so that people would expect farce rather than an acting out of what’s there.)
The “right or wrong, does it matter?” in my comments has to do with the people expecting something from a book that it’s not intended to be and getting annoyed when their expectations aren’t met. Is that OK? It has nothing to do with the liveblogging as such, but rather with the sentences that precede and follow it.
I think the chat would have gone differently if several things had been done differently. This was the first time, and we’ll live and learn. I’ll be approving all comments on the next one, and not be reading or participating in any other way, so that should alleviate any lag problem. I also think that anyone who is reading along should let us know, and we could mark their comments as automatically approved so they’d look like the moderators. That way people would know who is speaking with authority there.
I don’t think this sort of thing can accurately represent the contents of the book, not done in one go, because the whole book won’t be read. So there’s no point in having that be the aim, or getting upset that it fails to do that. The only thing this can tell us is an honest reader reaction to the book, uncensored, not prettied up, just out there and raw. It might not always be pleasant, but it is interesting.
It’s been a while since I read one, but I remember one in particular (but it wasn’t my first Susan Johnson). It was set in the late 1800s and the heroine was a successful Native American lawyer. Well, that I couldn’t possibly buy on its face, but I did buy it in her world because it seemed to serve the sex, not the other way around. Her heroes are superstudlier than the superstudliest superstud in romance ever.
*After searching for this book, Forbidden, I found a reference to this right here at Dear Author. But note that Jane said she could buy it, it was only AFTER having read the footnotes. And there is a review of it, even.
Perhaps it was my impression because while I had read and enjoyed erotica, I wanted a romance and the first time I read Susan Johnson, I felt ambushed. It was erotica packaged as romance–and maybe that’s exactly what’s happening here, as some others have pointed out. To ME, the cover of The Duchess et al screams “erotica of the fantasy sort,” but obviously not to others.
that’s so interesting! ‘Forbidden’ is one of my favorites of hers and it never felt like a vehicle for sex to me, nor would I consider it ‘fantasy’ in having to overlook things to make it work for me. I always read the footnotes as I went along so the Native American lawyer did not even make me twitch. :) If I picked up this title as historical romance today it would not make me feel like I fell into the erotica well against my wish at all.
I’d really be curious what made you feel it’s not a romance. It has a committed couple that overcomes obstacles to their love, character development and plot with a HEA at the end.
I have a different impression of Jane’s review and mention, considering that she gave the book an A- and the bit you took to mean ‘could only buy it after’ felt much less strongly expressed to me.
My absolute favorite Johson is ‘Pure Sin’, talk about scorching hot, with plot and character development and a big dose of angst. I re-read both at least a couple of times a year.
Different strokes. :) The only time I feel ambushed is when something is sold as romance but doesn’t have a HEA, involves sex with others once the committed couple/triple is established, has no plot, lacks character development, and spends more time on a (suspense, paranormal, women’s fiction-y) subplot than on the relationship development.
Oh, and I need to add something about the cover.
After seeing some more comments, I decided to take a closer look (as in more than just looking at the thumbnail a couple of times). I never even saw the guy in the right hand corner! :) And I didn’t notice that second guy’s hand or the maid’s for that matter. Talk about the artist making me focus on the central image when only giving a glance to get a general impression.
If I had picked it up in a bookstore and seen it up close, I would have clued into the type of book more, but I still wouldn’t have thought it camp. While the title made me stumble (as in that doesn’t sound like a romance or even erotic romance) it was not for the reason it did others. I have only vague impressions of the movie and then only after somebody mentioned the title here.
Another example on how important individual reader experience is to the reception of a book/title/cover. Clearly those who knew the movie and got a really good gander at the cover had a completely different immediate association than I did and it seems a bunch of others.
I honestly think it was my initial impression of her work overall. The first time I read a Susan Johnson, I felt ambushed by the level of erotica because I had never read that much heat in a novel tagged “romance.” (And I HAD read erotica.)
The reason I don’t think of them *as romances* (although technically, yes, I know they are) is because now, 10 years since I’ve read one, I remember specific sex scenes from various books with details, but I do NOT remember that it had an HEA, that it mattered if they had an HEA, whether I believed they’d stay HEA, nor did I care about the characters getting an HEA.
And I have to admit, that is an impression of the brand of Susan Johnson I’ll probably never shake. I enjoyed her books and in fact, have been meaning to pick up a contemporary of hers. I love the footnotes (although with regard to the lawyer, I did not REMEMBER the footnote). So this is not a moral judgment on my part; it’s a categorization judgment.
As to that, did you notice she’s wearing a pearl necklace? On a traditional romance cover, I wouldn’t have noticed, but with the title and all those people on the cover, I sure did.
I’ve recently read a number of her contemps and while they were hot, fast, fun reads to my mind they’d fit the ‘vehicle for sex’ category. I’ve already forgotten the plots on any of them and they are a lot more chick-lit-ish than I usually consume.
I understand your point about first impressions. I have a few of those authors/oeuvre associations myself.
As to the pearl necklace. I saw it, but only noticed it because somebody commented on it and only after all this discussion did I associate it with things other than a necklace made of fresh or salt water pearls, grin. I guess I’m slow… he he.
::biggrin:: No, I just have a dirty mind.
Jan, I think we are in agreement. It will be interesting to see how the next liveblogging goes. I would have said so much sooner but my internet connection has been coming and going today. The cable company says they are fixing it but don’t know exactly when they’ll finish.
I don’t feel I have much more that’s new to contribute to this conversation so given my internet situation I should probably sign off.
Mojo — thanks. I’m glad I’m not the only one here who saw the cover and title in that light.
Janine, I went through your comments and pulled out most of the things I reacted to or responded to in my own comments. If I’m misunderstanding you, maybe this will help clarify how that’s happening.
Because I think we’re disagreeing, and that the crux of our disagreement emerges from our very different definitions of “pure erotica.” IMO erotica doesn’t have to have sex on every page or ever other page (in which case this book wouldn’t even apply, lol); I don’t think erotica and porn are equivalent; I think your definition of “pure erotica” is closer to what I think of as porn, esp. the idea that characterization and plot are there to serve the sex; I know there was at least one overt discussion in the chat about how this book was erotica and therefore not to be judged by Romance standards; I don’t believe that Hart is creating a new genre; and I don’t think chat participants were criticizing the book for having a lot of sex in it.
What gave me the sense that you were judging me through Jessica’s review was the passage I quoted regarding her review, especially the sentence “Yet Jessica doesn't conclude that it's a bad book,” as if her judgment about the book was the gold standard and that those of us who did not see the book that way were misinterpreting it because we have different definitions of erotica or worse, unfairly judging it for what it was. And my perception that you felt it would be an insult to Hart to label her book erotica came from your comments that pure erotica and porn were equivalents, which came across to me as something you wanted to distinguish Hart’s book from (especially when you said you didn’t even read it for the sex).
Ultimately, I think we’re operating from very different perceptions of erotica and what the book is and has been advertised as. My sense is that you think people were unfairly judging the book for what you saw it to be based on the cover, title, and Jessica’s review. Whereas I feel that that book was not marketed the way it appeared to you and that even the definition of erotica you believe it to reflect is not the definition of erotica I hold or that IMO the book conforms to. So I fundamentally disagree that people were holding against the book exactly what it was, since I don’t think we’re operating off the same definition of “what it was” or the book’s character itself.
I’m sorry if I’m still misunderstanding you, because if that’s the case, I’ll have to concede that I’m at a loss to understand what you’re saying.
As smart-ass as I agree the last line of that note is, I think Jane’s frustration was coming from the fact that some folks who were commenting about how horrible the chat was *hadn’t even read it OR the book.* But I agree with you that it’s sarcastic (I think her warning about reading the chat is sincere). However, I think Jane has treated her dissenters with a reasonable level of respect in this thread, and that note is still an after the fact comment, so my request for horrible chat comments hasn’t really been answered by that.
Well, I could argue that you’ve come to this discussion with some pretty disdainful perceptions about Romance readers vis a vis what they want out of a book. Your perception, my perception. Maybe we should just call this one a draw. ;)
Having been in the chat, albeit as more of an observer, many of these comments were occurring at the same time because of the time lag. So in all likelihood the person who was submitting the question about the setting hadn’t even seen the comment answering someone else’s asking of the question. Then by the time everyone got caught up, the conversation had jumped forward to something else.
I agree (well, not with the cherry picked lines part of your comment), except there is a difference of importance, IMO, in the fact that the transcript was available to be read by the time these comments were made, whereas the chat was occurring in real time. To me, there are two potential problems with publishing the transcript: that it does not adequately reflect the nature of the event and the difficulty of commenting (and this is partly because it was the first time anyone did this or used the software to do it) and it has a definite insider/outsider vibe that is similar to viewing the drunken antics of friends who are laughing at something you, the sober observer, find completely juvenile and stupid. Where I disagree is in the characterization that it was mean or bullying or a frontal assault on the author.
IMO the characteristic of the chat is going to be that of a free-form festival of reading, a raw, untamed, undisciplined experience that is much more about the pinging back and forth between comments than about any highbrow literary experience. That may come off as stupid to people, it may give a glimpse into the process of reading that authors might not want (sometimes it’s ugly, I gotta say — I’ve used the “this book didn’t work for me” euphemism for books that made me so bored, frustrated, angry, or induced such chronic eye-rolling that I had to really cool off before sitting down to write a review), and if anyone actually thought it was going to be a review, well, after reading the chat I don’t know how that perception could be sustained, at least not here where reviews run into 2000 words with some frequency, and where even DNFing a book generally takes longer than an hour or two.
Bottom line is that IMO people are ascribing so much more intention to this chat and its hosts and participants than was actually present. Jane and Sarah had the idea to try out the software and do this live blogging thing as an experiment. They chose a book they both were curious about reading and that seemed like it would be provocative enough to be interesting. They started doing it and found that technical issues made it far less smooth than they thought it would be. And then they were basically reading along, posting things that struck them. Had they been blown away by different passages, I’m sure they would be quoting those.
And yes, people did comment on what they saw out of context. People comment in the same way on reviews, too. In general I don’t find this troubling, because we all take impressions away from things we glimpse out of context. The only situations I get upset by this kind of thing is when, for example, people who have not read a book begin arguing that an author is doing x or y. For example, I got frustrated when people who had not read Anna Campbell’s Claiming the Courtesan argued that Campbell was advocating/excusing rape. That, IMO, is of a different character than saying, ‘ugh, this book sounds awful,’ which I think we all do with some frequency. I think there’s an analogy here to your point about the chat and its non-readers, but I’m too tired to track it down.
I’m sorry to say that when we read it isn’t always a polite or pretty experience. Sometimes I yell at a book, sometimes I underline something that pisses me off so much I practically rip through the page with my pen, sometimes I mutter and fold pages down with aggression, sometimes I sigh and re-read a passage just to experience again the beauty of the words, sometimes I start calling and emailing people to tell them they HAVE TO BUY THIS BOOK, sometimes I drop everything else to finish a book, sometimes I get so bored I fall asleep on the book, sometimes I silently deliver a silent lecture on why I hate crappy copyediting, sometimes I make snide comments to myself about a plot point or character trait I can’t stand or that I find poorly executed (and thus insulting to me as a reader). Maybe authors don’t want to see those aspects of the reading process, because they aren’t always very refined.
Robin, because I have a compulsive need to clear up misunderstandings, I will re-enter this discussion, but frankly I am so frustrated at this point that I am not sure it will do much good.
Yes, we have different definitions of the genre, and that’s the main thing I set out to point out in most of my posts here.
It’s not the fact that our definitions of the genre are different, though, that is frustrating to me but rather the way my motives for pointing that out, and my judgements or lack thereof, about readers here, about the genre, about specific books, etc., are being misrepresented.
Okay, I may have been exaggerating a bit when I said that and I obviously did not communicate that well. I don’t have that specific and rigid a definition of pure erotica, but when I read them, they come across to me as books with lots and lots of sex; books whose primary objective is to arouse the reader; books where other elements (like plotting & characterization) serve that purpose, rather than having the sex scenes serve the other elements.
Neither do I. To me, erotica is a wide umbrella for a variety of books and other works. Pure erotica is a narrower subgenre of erotica. Porn is a largely pejorative term since, when I look it up in the dictionary many definitions will say it has no artistic value. That seems like a negative judgement to me (However, some dictionaries do define “Erotica” as “porn,” so I think the two words could be applied to the same work by different people — someone who liked it might call it erotica, someone who did not might call it porn).
Fair enough, but I don’t think I’m completely out in left field in my views. Upthread, there is Carol’s comment that:
And Jan’s comment that:
And Jessica commented that though there was 80% too much sex for her in the book, she didn’t see why erotica fans would not like it.
So, although I agree that my defintion is different from yours and from Jane’s, and no doubt from many other readers’ too, I don’t think I’m completely alone in my views, and my reason for posting for much of this discussion (after the first one or two posts) was that I felt that if others viewed the genre as I did, they might have had a similar reaction to my first impression of the chat. I have stated multiple times that I only caught bits and pieces of the chat, and that my impression could have been wrong, etc., so I don’t see why you feel I am judging those who participated in the chat.
ALL I have been speaking of here is how the conversation first came across to me, and why it came across to me as it did. I’m not saying my impression is correct, or that those who participated in the liveblogging were wrong and I am right. I just wanted to convey my initial puzzlement when I first logged onto the liveblogging on Friday night. What interested me shortly after the beginning of the post-mortem on the liveblogging was the disconnect in genre defintions and how it might have contributed to the different ways in which the chat was viewed.
To me, this whole teapot tempest of a brouhaha has looked partly like a misunderstanding, which I’ve been trying to help clear up, but since I’m only getting misunderstood myself for my troubles, I’m growing more and more frustrated.
I have been upfront about the fact that I wasn’t there for the entire discussion and may very well have misjudged it initially. My aim here was to present that initial impression and explain how it came about, not to say that it was necessarily correct.
That is interesting, because I recall you saying, shortly after you first read Dirty, that you felt it was a hybrid of several women’s fiction type genres. I think it might even have been your comment that got me thinking along those lines. Eventually I even discussed that aspect of Hart’s writing with Jennie in our conversational review of Tempted:
Back to your post:
I don’t know how many more times I can say this: I’m not saying that’s what people were actually doing, only that that was my first impression of the liveblogging, which may well have been mistaken. But I felt there was value in sharing it, since some of the other comments by other people mirrored my reaction or were even more negative (read Jessica’s at #82), and I did so in the hopes of clearing things up, not causing more confusion.
I never said that Jessica’s judgement was the gold standard. I was just explaining the reason for my initial reaction to the liveblogging, and my feeling that it was possible to look at a book as Jessica did, find the sex too clinical and plentiful, the book lacking in emotion, and still conclude that there was no reason erotica fans would not enjoy it. I haven’t read this book, but that would be my judgement of something like Rice’s Beauty trilogy. I pointed to Jessica’s review to show that it was possible that others would view things from my angle. In my mind, I was trying to point out that this might be a contributing factor to why some people’s reactions to the liveblogging were negative.
I don’t think it’s an insult to pure erotica to say that its primary aim is to arouse. I don’t feel that that’s the primary aim of Hart’s books, though. It’s certainly not their primary effect on me (though I do find the sex in her books sexy). I see them as explorations of character, partly through sex, whereas of pure erotica it’s more apt to say that I see it as exploration of sex, partly through character. I was just trying to distinguish two different types of books, but not because I thought it was an insult to confuse them — just because for me it muddies things to confuse them.
Yes, and that was the main point I was trying to make.
That is inaccurate. I did initally think that when I saw the liveblogging, and that was my immediate response. But I think even in my first post here I acknoweldged that I hadn’t read the entire transcript. And very shortly after that I said I could be wrong in that first impression. I’ve been far more interested in the way different genre definitions have shaped the different responses to the liveblogging, than in judging the livebloggers for unfairly judging the book.
I think you’re fundamentally disagreeing with my first impression of the liveblogging which I have stated multiple times may be mistaken. I frankly don’t understand why you feel the need to disagree so strongly, and over and over again, with something I have already acknowledged was just a sketchy first impression and not one that I stand by. Seeing as I have also already said that I agree different people have different genre defintions and therefore different perspectives on both the book and the liveblogging, I don’t understand why you and others feel so compelled to keep repeating that point as well.
I hope I have cleared it up in this post because if not, I don’t know how much more effort I can expend on it. I mean, I will probably try, since there are few things that upset me more than being misunderstood and misrepresented. But well, it is getting pretty disheartening to have to do it so many times in one conversation.
@Janine: I think I hear you saying that those who might have a differing expectation of pure erotica may enjoy the book. I don’t have any doubt but that you are right. Certainly those at Harlequin Spice believed that there was a market for this and I’m sure that there is. I appreciate you working so hard to clear up misunderstandings. I am sorry if I contributed to your frustration but I will say that your last post did clarify for me what your intention was/is and so I am glad that you persevered.
Thanks Jane. I really appreciate that. I’m sorry if I made you and Robin and others here feel judged. I honestly wasn’t trying to. I think we can all get so caught up in defending our various positions that we sometimes have a hard time seeing where someone else is coming from and I think that’s what happened here. I am glad I managed to clear things up, too.
Janine, I’m sorry you feel misunderstood and misrepresented. I’m afraid of saying anything more because I don’t want to perpetuate those feelings further, but I will say that it wasn’t clear to me that your comment of “that’s my first impression and I might be wrong” meant you were no longer forwarding it (probably because I read that paragraph on the Gaffney novel in comment 91 as a continuation of that perspective, not as a ‘that was then but not necessarily now’ kind of thing).
I also tend to see a comment of “that was my impression but I could be wrong” as a rhetorical device for “that’s what I think but I’m not going to press the issue.” That’s my interpretation, of course, but it’s honestly how I was reading that statement. And the reason I’ve been arguing with you is that I’ve not felt understood and not really understood where you were coming from and why, either (I’ve spent a lot of time puzzled over your comments, which I’m sure surprises you because you feel that you’ve been clear and don’t understand why you’ve been misunderstood, but that’s where I am). But I’m done now. I think we’re basically doing the same thing to each other, wondering why the other keeps on, and it’s clearly counterproductive at this point, since I now understand you’re not still asserting that initial impression, but merely trying to offer a different perspective on the book and on erotica in general.
On a slightly different note, I absolutely believe that Hart’s first novel is hybridized (as are, IMO, a lot of Holly’s erotica books, which I think is why she’s being marketed as ER, even if it’s not quite a true characterization of her work), and had I read it this year instead of whenever I did (two years ago, maybe?), I would have a different sense of that hybridity, because I’ve spent the last year or so reading more erotica (because of my interest in understanding the rape in Romance trope) and have been studying the captivity trope in genre Romance, which has changed my perspectives about the relationship between hybridity and genre transformation (in other words, I now think that there’s much more hybridity within genres than there is transformation, and that genre thrives on that hybridity). I’m not saying my views are correct, only that they are driving my interpretations, which are themselves changing somewhat as I study genre structures more.
I wasn’t using the phrase as a rhetorical device. I do agree that it’s counterproductive to keep going at this. I think I have made my initial point about different genre definitions, and as I said last night, I don’t have much new to add to the conversation.
Regarding the question of whether hybridization is transformative or not, that is something that I judge on a book-by-book basis, and also, within a context of what else is being published at the time. It seems like something that could be an interesting topic for another day, but I’m talked out here.
Check your email; I responded to a couple of your points privately.
I have a tremendous respect for your patience, civility and fortitude from this thread. :-) Also was really fascinated by the allusions to Claiming the Courtesan and rape fantasy.
Just a few comments, that really aren’t meant to be divisive or argumentative, but this conversation has spawned a lot of interesting thoughts for me.
Ironically, it’s more of a “draw” than you perhaps realized, as the “not believe…” line just popped out. It was my first gut reaction to the “we want different” line. So I guess I have to lend more credence to the assertions that the liveblog was the result of a lot of thoughtless remarks, since this was itself just an off the cuff remark about my perception of how mass media works.
There were two bases to that remark: 1) Personal experience reading reviews. I don’t have a catalog of all the movie, tv and book reviews I’ve read over the years (btw, that comment related to all media consumers/reviewers, not just Romance), but my basic impression is that I’ve read a lot more, “What were they thinking?” then I have praises for going out on a limb. It seems when someone does something risky, unless it’s executed near perfectly, they are in trouble with most consumers, even if they are “critically praised.” There is a reason “Critical hit” is code for “flop;” often it’s code for “flop that only intellectual wannabes like.” For producers of media, the message is go perfect or go home. Needless to say we get a lot of medocrity as a result.
The second half of that equation comes from the ‘mass’ part of ‘mass media.’ Media producers are’t stupid, they aren’t banking on pleasing the top 10-15% of prolific readers, they’re banking on the majority who read less than 15 or 20 books a year (granted all numbers are tweakable, to wit: http://writtennerd.blogspot.com/2007/08/link-mad-response-american-reading.html). If you read a book a month, or less, tropes don’t really seem like tropes. They may even be exactly what you have a yen for.
Regarding Jane’s comment at the top–as I said, it went up before anyone posted saying they hadn’t read the transcript. I’m not really sure how anyone could seriously post w/o reading the transcript–what would you comment on?
As for your frustrations while reading, I’ve been there too, but the liveblog response seems a lot less reliable? (I think “reliable” is the right word), when the person is struggling with technology and trying to entertain a cadre of listeners. Yet, because of the reputations of the hosts, their statements are treated as highly reliable. As I’ve pointed out there were a couple of basic errors made by the interpreters, that have been cemented and repeated as the hard and fast truth by certain members of the group. The Maxime thing, also what GC said in this thread about the Duchess abusing her power over the eunuchs et al. That scene was one of the more unerotic for me (“clinical” is the term that comes to mind).
Your comments on Claiming the Courtesan are comparable. To me, the Duchess was pretty clear on consent issues. It wasn’t explicitly adressed (for which I thank the gods–I hate kink where people go through the whole Safe, Sane and Consensual recital–I want fantasy, not reality, people. The joy of kinky fantasy is that you can have non-con AND have it be erotic and satisfying for both parties (I am not into realisticly portrayed rape in stories). I get that it only works if that is your kink, if it’s not, it will probably be creepy or bizarre. But I digress. In any case, I thought it was made pretty clear that that everyone who served her adored her and/or wanted her and they didn’t view the opportunity to please her as a bad thing. Whether or not she deserved this adoration…
Well, I guess having a Duchess actually act like a superior instead of one of the people is one of those risky writing moves that are rarely well-received. There’s a reason nobly born hero/ines are usually out of character for their station and time–to make them likeable to the reader.
To me, the event read as intent-to-snark, whether or not that’s the word Jane would use. I have no objection to snark, but for my taste the best of it has an affectionate-yet-pointed tone; part of what makes for great snark is that someone appreciates a work enough to engage with it and take it seriously, albeit often in a non-serious tone.
I think that’s an important difference between snarking covers and books: with covers, because the entire object is present for both the snarker and the snark-reader to view, all parties start out able to judge the snark against the object. That’s not the case in snarking a book, and even less so when *no one*–including the snarkers–has read it.
It’s common for the review-reader to be unfamiliar with the book–that’s part of what reviews are for–but when the snarkERs are unfamiliar with the object they snark, of course there’s some outcry. Just as there are “Has he ever even READ a romance?” complaints about non-romance-readers who snark the genre.
In this case by starting the snark simultaneously with the reading, and doing that reading in what looked like a pretty distracting public setting, the snarkers open themselves up to the perception that they aren’t sincerely engaging the text. It’s one thing if the whole thing comes across as a riff on the object, but I read those opinions as seriously meant, despite the jocular tone. In other words, it came across as a very negative review, and one in which the reviewer didn’t set the stage with any preparatory remarks (that I remember), e.g. this is erotica, not romance; this is a fantasy historical period; etc.
That’s precisely where I disagree. As I said above, I didn’t get the impression it was what you’re describing. The multitasking and commenting and “WTF”ing over details started immediately, which seemed like a signal that the readers’ focus wasn’t really on the book.
That’s very true, and it certainly reflects my own experience when I started reading genre Romance. I would pick up books that I thought were unusual only to have my long-time Romance reading friend inform me that they made use of tired tropes in an entirely tired way. But to me, of course, they were new. And depending on how one goes about learning genre, they might be introduced to tropes in different books, thus one of the sources of disagreement about whether a book is doing anything new.
I don’t know how publishers appeal to readers, as I doubt I will live long enough to understand publishing at all, either the business model or the overarching artistic philosophy (yeah, I’m assuming there is one).
There was another conversation going on at Jules Jones’s blog, which I think prompted Jane’s comment on DA. Strangely (or perhaps not so strangely), some of the most provoking comments over there have disappeared, though.
I actually thought that her maid was a bit cynical about the whole thing, but in any case, IMO when you have characters falling all over themselves to sexually serve their mistress, that’s it’s own kind of fantasy, open to all sorts of critical interpretations.
To your general point about consent, though, I have learned the hard way that what looks like clear consent to me is not always to other readers (and vice versa). I believe that there is a continuum on which consent moves from an unequivocal statement on the part of the involved characters to consent given only by the reader on behalf of the submissive character (and beyond that, no consent given by either). Where any scene falls on that scale (which will, of course, vary from reader to reader), will determine the character of the scene (total mutual consent to rape fantasy to outright rape) for the reader. And depending on how a reader tolerates the more hardcore end of that continuum will make a difference in how each reader accepts what’s going on.
If the reader is willing to consent on behalf of the heroine, she may not see what’s going on as rape at all, while another reader who refuses to grant consent might. Other readers might see it as rape fantasy, etc. And some readers might crave that rape fantasy scenario, to be empowered to consent where the heroine doesn’t, etc. IMO it’s an extremely complicated and very fascinating issue that goes waaayyyy beyond the traditional “stressed women want an excuse to give up control’ explanation.
Has someone edited the comments? There still seem to be the same number of comments on the thread. I don’t think Jules Jones’s second post on the topic ever had more than three comments attached to it, and they’re still there.
the comments to which I was reacting so negatively by an author who commented on Jules’ blog post are now gone.
I never had an issue with Jules’ post, just the reaction by that one person which was the tired old ‘reviewers are all mean and especially DA, who are only interested in making fun of people’s hard work’ (paraphrased).
Since I consider DA one of the few places with very analytical reviews, that are well thought out even, or especially, when they are critical, I got rubbed really the wrong way and that’s why I brought my frustration here.
The number of comments have not changed but if you look at this thread, you can see the text of some comments are no longer there even though the responses are. Meaning they were either deleted or screened (since this is livejournal we’re talking about, which has that capability).
“the comments to which I was reacting so negatively by an author who commented on Jules' blog post are now gone.”
“the text of some comments are no longer there even though the responses are.”
Ah. I’d not noticed that. Thanks for putting me right, Growly and Jia. I think I probably saw the now-vanished comments before they vanished, but I can’t exactly remember what their contents were.
Ahhh shit, I can’t believe I missed this lovefest.
Jane, I’m playing next time, erm, actually, the time after next would suit me better.