The Long Goodbye
Last week, I reviewed Blood Magick by Nora Roberts, a book that really didn’t work all that well for me. Given that Nora Roberts wrote the very first romance I ever read, and has authored probably 20 books that I re-read for comfort; and that the Cousin O’Dwyer series, which features a paranormal element and is set in Ireland, two sure fire winners for me, I was really surprised that the series didn’t work better for me.
Part of it is that I think I’ve read so many Nora’s that they start to feel the same to me. She definitely recycles plots and heck, even names (Tod = odious ex or sassy gay friend in multiple Nora books), but it’s not just that, she, like Linda Howard, seems to be moving away from a focus on romance, and on to something that has a more women’s fiction feel. Now, there’s nothing wrong with that, women’s fiction sells well, and if that’s where her muse is taking her, then I begrudge her nothing. But for me, it’s really rare for a Nora book to work for me anymore, when it used to be that I studied her yearly releases noting each release date religiously and awaiting her books desperately and then gobbling them up and re-reading them over and over again.
I chock this up to two things: first, my reading tastes have absolutely changed. These days, I prefer my romances super sexy. I rarely read books that barely touch on love scenes or ones that stop at the bedroom door. And if they do stop at the bedroom door, I’m generally frustrated by the lack of that aspect of the story. Second, I think Nora is, in fact, moving away from a deep focus on romance. Her last couple of books have focused on what Sarah from SmartBitches taught me is called “competence porn.” The stories seem to focus more on some expertise that either the hero or heroine have, rather than on building a relationship. I can’t remember the last time I read a book of Nora’s and really gasped at how romantic it was.
In short, Nora is no longer an autobuy for me.
In that same vein, neither is Linda Howard, or Julie Garwood, or Christine Feehan, or Sherrilyn Kenyon. In the case of Linda Howard, her books no longer feel like romance to me. They are more romantic suspense without the romance. Yet, Shades of Twilight, Dream Man, and Dying to Please remain beloved keepers on my shelves. Julie Garwood moved away from her charming historicals, featuring Caregiving Alphas and perky heroines. Now she also writes something that is more romantic suspense, and again, not really to my taste. I think I outgrew Feehan and Kenyon, with both author’s long running series feeling overindulgent and neverending to me. I want to be clear, I have nothing against romantic suspense. Sometimes it works perfectly well for me. But I remember vividly when Linda Howard published Cover of Night, the first in what I consider to be her long fall into suspense that perhaps features a mild romance. I was pissed. Mainly because I felt duped. Linda Howard was a romance author. The cover screamed romance. And yet, when I opened it, the book barely focused on the romance and even worse (in my opinion) it was all about the suspense plot. I tried another two books by her before I realized, she was no longer writing romances that I wanted to read. What a disappointment for me! She’d be always been a sure thing. Now, I don’t even consider buying her books, and she used to be an author I happily plunked down hard cover pricing for.
Yet, every time I see a new Nora marketed, I read the blurb carefully, I download a sample thinking, “Maybe this will be the one that draws me back”. I’m always in search of the way I felt when I first read their books. Alas, I have yet to experience that same, sharp pang of “OMG, I love this book!” that I felt so many times before. But I keep trying, going back to my formerly favorite authors, hoping that they’ll write something that I adore.
In their place though, are new favorites: Nalini Singh, Lisa Kleypas, Lauren Dane, Julie James, Jaci Burton: authors whose books I look forward to as much as I ever looked forward to a new Nora or Linda Howard book. I’m thrilled when I hear they have a new release coming out, and just as I did back in the day, I count the days until their books release.
Your turn: Have you broken up with beloved authors? Do you continue to re-read old favorites? How do you wean yourself altogether from authors you used to love? Do you still try old favorite author’s new releases? When do you know enough is enough?