Not Really a Book Review, but a Rant

Dec 16, 2010 by

Yesterday, I admitted one of the books I was reading turned out to be a great, big, Did Not Finish. In fact, if I hadn’t been reading this one on a rather expensive electronic device, it would have been pitched across the room and straight into the trash. While the style of writing might be entertaining (the author gives good snark), the characters were so thoroughly unpleasant that the snark quickly wore thin. About a quarter of the way through, I skipped to the end to see if the author really was going where I thought she was going. Turns out she wasn’t — but it turns out the heroine doesn’t end up with anyone.

Now, I don’t insist every book I read has a happy ending with our two leads pledging eternal love; there are stories where that is simply not organic to how the plot flows. Look at Casablanca. If Ilsa had ended up with Rick, it wouldn’t have worked. In Chick Lit, women often end up on their own because the story is about the journey, not the romance. But, if I buy a book that is labeled “Romance,” then I’m expecting certain things when I curl up with it. One of those things is the romantic journey and the promise of two people building a life together at the end. If I don’t get that when that’s what’s promised on the tin, I get a little annoyed.

You’ll notice I haven’t mentioned the name of either the author or the book. I’m not annoyed with them. If I’d known this wasn’t a romance, I wouldn’t have picked it up at this moment — and if I picked it up at another time, I might have felt more open to the story. But I’m in the mood for romance, especially as a counter to Wolf Hall, which is marvelous historical fiction, but I know what ultimately happens to our happens to our main character and it’s not pretty. No, I’m annoyed with the publisher and their marketing department and whoever decided it was a brilliant idea to put something that’s very definitely a non-romance in a romance line. I don’t care what else the book might be; the marketing said Romance, it was grouped with Romance, and that’s what I thought I was buying.

I’m speaking purely as a reader here. I know it’s likely to be difficult to go back to the book later when I’ve gotten so annoyed with it, and that also means I’m less likely to go spend my money on any of the author’s other books. This is one reason I’m loving buying stuff for my Kindle. Some things I thought I really might like to read? Turns out I’m feeling “meh” a few pages in to the sample, while books by authors I’ve never read before are causing me to finish the sample and click the “buy” button. Getting to read a chapter or two is encouraging to take some chances I might not have taken otherwise — but books like the one I just dropped are making me more wary of just clicking “buy” without reading the sample first.

Years ago at an RWA Conference, Anne Stuart joked, “Editors aren’t the enemy; Marketing is.” The audience laughed, but in this case it was true. The marketing told me I was buying a banana split; turns out they were selling me a meatball sundae. They didn’t either me or the author any favors.

Rant over. I need to pull something else onto the iPad because the Thalberg bio is a bit too dense to read casually during breaks at work. Maybe a short story anthology, one that is — hopefully — guaranteed to be fluffy.

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