Category: Discussions

Retro Post: Should an author push their personal beliefs in their books?

Posted April 19, 2017 by Casee in Discussions | 22 Comments

Today I’m bringing you a post from 2009. Suzanne Brockmann was a big voice in romance back then. She was a big voice for gay rights. She definitely brought her voice into her books.

This was originally posted on August 25, 2009.


If you read between the lines as you’re reading, you can see that some books do reflect the author’s personal belief(s) (i.e., Political, Spiritual, etc.). I think that’s natural. I’m not an author, but I would assume that writing is very personal. So I don’t think it’s wrong if it doesn’t really impact the reader. However, after reading Hot Pursuit, I have to put my reader foot down and say enough is enough. Not that she’s going to listen to moi.

I’ve met Suzanne Brockmann several times. I’ve listened to her speak. I lurrrrve her. I’ve read her Team 16 series from the beginning. I waited forevah for Sam & Alyssa’s book to come out. I was disappointed with it, but it didn’t stop me from continuing the series. I now get her hardcover’s from the library, but I still read them. Hot Pursuit didn’t make me decide to stop reading the series. It just annoyed the ever living hell out of me.

Suz’s readers should know that one thing she is extremely passionate about is gay rights. Her dedication to her son in Hot Target made me cry. Srsly. I was thrilled when she wrote Jules’ story in All Through the Night. If any of her characters deserved a happy ending, it was Jules. Occasionally her newsletters will inform readers of certain things that pertain to gay rights. To each her/his own, right?

I started noticing it several books back. If you pulled every passage having to do with what rights gay people do/don’t have out of all the books and put it together, that would be a book by itself. The point here isn’t whether or not I agree with her. The point is that all the facts and opinions she inserts really takes away from the story. Robin (Jules’ husband) was so glad he was married to Jules because if he wasn’t and Jules was hospitalized, he couldn’t see him because he wasn’t family. They live in Massachusetts because their marriage is recognized there. On and on about what they could/couldn’t do. And if that’s not bad enough, she also brought a new character into Team Sixteen. A gay SEAL. So now she’s going to be tackling the “don’t ask, don’t tell” policy that the military has. It’s not the character that I protest, it’s the reason she brought the character into the series.

After reading Hot Pursuit, I also have a good idea of her political beliefs. I’m reading a fictional story. If I wanted to read a political book, I would pick one up. So while I did like the book, I was thinking about this all the way through.

What do you think? Should authors push their “agenda” into their books? When is it going too far?

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Do You Like It Scary?

Posted March 27, 2017 by Jen in Discussions | 7 Comments

I am a truly ridiculous wimp when it comes to scary movies and TV. And I mean a WIMP. I will cover my eyes, bury my head in a pillow, and let out sad little whimpers the moment anything scary comes on the screen. I can’t even get through the trailer for a horror movie without my stomach doing uncomfortable flips. I actually scared myself while looking for gifs for this post because there were too many horror movie scenes. Come on, that’s wimpy! And while I can tolerate comic-book movie violence, I have a pretty low tolerance for realistic violence. I remember watching Saving Private Ryan in a class in college and I got so upset by it I ended up sitting with my eyes closed most of the time, desperately trying to ignore what I was hearing. Like I said, I’m a wimp.

But not when it comes to books! In books, I have a pretty high tolerance for scary stuff and gore. While I don’t like to read them every day, some of my favorite books are the freakiest and most explicit serial killer stories. I can read about ghosts or supernatural evil entities terrorizing humans. I can read about people trapped and pushed to their limits. I can read bloody, gruesome hand-to-hand combat described in great detail. Sure, I’ll still flip on a few extra lights, double check the door lock, or feel a little kick in my pulse when I’m reading something scary, but it’s nothing like the reaction I have to the same stuff portrayed in movies or TV. Instead, it’s kind of pleasantly exhilarating.

It took me a while to figure out, but I think one reason this happens is because I simply don’t visualize things strongly in books. I might imagine a few hazy images, but I won’t actually visualize an entire scene or focus on the gruesome/upsetting details for any length of time. In other words, my brain kind of avoids that all when it’s reading, but it can’t escape the visual and audio in movies and TV. There the scary or bloody situation is right in your face, and there’s no way to ignore it or to gloss over it. I also have a higher tolerance for the scary stuff in romance than I do in other fiction. I’ll read a bloody non-romance mystery, for instance, but I don’t find it as enjoyable, and I often find myself getting just slightly more frightened/queasy. I think the romance aspect provides that guarantee to my brain that things will be ok in the end, that there really is nothing to be scared of because the main characters will be A-OK.

What about you? Do you like scary stories, either in romance or elsewhere, or will you never sleep again after reading a scary book? Do you picture the scary stuff in your head as you read?

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Retro Post: Forced Seduction or Rape?

Posted March 15, 2017 by Casee in Discussions | 22 Comments

A lot has changed in publishing since 2008, but forced seduction and rape haven’t gone away. If anything, I think we’ve seen even more of this in contemporary novels.

This was originally posted February 25, 2008.
Casee: The other night, Holly and I started talking about the ever controversial topic–rape in romance novels.

The topic came up when I mentioned that I was going to start reading Claiming the Courtesan by Anna Campbell. (I’ve since finished it and hope to have my review up in a few days.) Holly asked if CtC had the “forced seduction” in it, which yes, it does. There are several reviews on Amazon taking the author to task for daring to call her book a romance when the hero rapes the heroine. Whether it was rape is another story altogether. One reviewer told her that CtC was a throwback to the bodice-rippers of the 80’s.
Hello? Have these reviewers ever read Stormfire by Christine Monson? That is indisputably rape. That book is one that doesn’t neatly fit into the “romance” slot it’s supposed to. I’m sure that almost everything that has read Stormfire would agree that there is no question of forced seduction or rape. It was rape.

Then you have the books where it’s rather murky. It basically is left to the reader to decide for themselves b/c it’s far from cut and dried.

The few books that came to mind when Holly and I were talking were Once and Always and Whitney, My Love, both by Judith McNaught. Holly is insistent that Jason raped Tory in Once and Always. Me, not so much. As a matter of fact, I had to go back and read a few pages b/c I don’t remember ever thinking it was rape.

No means no. Right? It’s not so black and white when it comes to the written word (please remember that we’re talking about this topic in regard to reading). As far as Whitney, My Love goes, I think it was rape. Clayton raped Whitney. I don’t even have to think about it.

Then you have books like The Duke by Gaelen Foley. The rape of the heroine turned the plot. It changed who the heroine would have been if the rape wouldn’t have happened. Does that make it less a romance? No, that makes it life. It made the heroine change her life choices, sure, but it didn’t make it less of a romance. That doesn’t mean it’s any less tragic, it just showed the reader that something like that changes a person’s life.

Holly:

There’s definitely a fine line between what I consider “acceptable” forced seduction and just flat out rape. While I agree with Casee about Whitney, My Love, I disagree with her about Once and Always. In my opinion, Jason raped Tory, same as Clay raped Whitney, it was just written prettier in O&A.

You see, Tory said no. She said no at the beginning and continued to say no throughout. Even as her body responded, she told him no. No is no. I don’t care what your body says. If your mouth says no (and it’s clearly not what you want) that’s rape. Plain and simple.

Of course, there are a lot of gray areas there. Because if well written, a forced seduction can be a turning point in a novel. And if extremely well written, I – who considers the “forced seduction/rape” issue a major hot button – will love the hero anyway. That doesn’t happen often, but it has happened.

But back to Jason and Tory. The thing is, I liked Jason. A lot. He was a good hero, and to be perfectly honest, I’m not sure Tory deserved him. She wasn’t totally TSTL, but she did come close. Regardless of that, however, that one scene, the scene where he forces her to submit to him, wasn’t sexy, or hot, or something I’d ever want to experience. Maybe it’s because I’m fairly independent. Or because I’m a modern day woman. Or maybe it’s just I can’t imagine having all control taken away, but when Tory told Jason, “I’ll hate you if you do this” and he did it anyway..well, a part of me hated him, too.

I have to give Judith McNaught credit, however, because even though I hated that one scene in the book, I didn’t end up hating the book as a whole. Nor did I hate Jason or Tory. Honestly? I’m not even sure if I can explain exactly why that is. I imagine it has something to so with JM’s ability to make her characters 3 dimensional and real.

Of course, we’re still not talking about rape. We’re talking forced seduction. Rape, well, that’s something all together different. I don’t think there’s any coming back from rape.

What do you think? Do you think there’s a place for Forced Seduction in romance? What about Rape? I’m not talking about the heroine being raped by someone other than the hero, either. I’m talking about the hero forcing the heroine, against her will.

I think Forced Seduction has it’s place. There are times – though I’m loathe to admit it – when it really needs to happen for the story to progress, or the characters to develop. Rape? I don’t know. I have yet to read a novel labeled romance where the hero actually raped the heroine. There have been a couple close calls, but not an actual rape.

Casee:

I really believe that in the cases of the McNaught books or Claiming the Courtesan, it really is left up to reader interpretation. In books like Stormfire or Island Flame by Karen Robards (those come to mind first), it is clearly rape and those books are not for everyone. I agree with Holly that Forced Seduction does have it’s place.

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Retro Review: Shadow Music by Julie Garwood

Posted February 22, 2017 by Holly in Discussions, Reviews | 15 Comments

Retro Review: Shadow Music by Julie GarwoodReviewer: Holly
Shadow Music by Julie Garwood
Series: Highlands Lairds #3
Also in this series: Ransom
Published by Ballantine Books
Publication Date: 2008
Genres: Fiction, Romance, Historical, General
Pages: 438
Buy on Amazon | Barnes & Noble
Goodreads
two-half-stars

Throughout her acclaimed writing career, Julie Garwood has captivated readers with characters who are compelling, daring, and bursting with life. Now one of the most popular novelists of our time proudly returns to her beloved historical romance roots–in a thrilling tale of love, murder, adventure, and mystery set against the haunting landscape of medieval Scotland.
For Princess Gabrielle of St. Biel, Scotland is a land of stunning vistas, wild chieftains, treacherous glens, and steep shadows–skullduggery, betrayal, and now murder. Prized for her exquisite beauty, the daughter of one of England’s most influential barons, Gabrielle is also a perfect bargaining chip for a king who needs peace in the Highlands: King John has arranged Gabrielle’s marriage to a good and gentle laird. But this marriage will never take place.
For Gabrielle, everything changes in one last burst of freedom–when she and her guards come upon a scene of unimaginable cruelty. With one shot from her bow and arrow, Gabrielle takes a life, saves a life, and begins a war.
Within days, the Highlands are aflame with passions as a battle royal flares between enemies old and new. Having come to Scotland to be married, Gabrielle is instead entangled in Highland intrigue. For two sadistic noblemen, underestimating Gabrielle’s bravery and prowess may prove fatal. But thanks to a secret Gabrielle possesses, Colm MacHugh, the most feared man in Scotland, finds a new cause for courage. Under his penetrating gaze, neither Gabrielle’s body nor heart is safe.
A gripping novel that delves into the heart of emotions–unyielding passions of love, hate, revenge, and raw desire–Shadow Music is magnificent gift from Julie Garwood and a crowning achievement in her amazing career.
From the Hardcover edition.

******As part of our 10 year anniversary celebration, we’ll be re-posting old reviews that make us cringe, laugh or sigh all over again.

Man, I love me some early Julie Garwood historicals. She lost me with her romantic suspense. I remember being so excited when she announced she was releasing a new historical. I’m still pretty disappointed it didn’t live up to my expectations. I wonder what would happen if I read it now? I might need to reread it and see if I still feel the same. 

This review was originally published January 8, 2008

This is less a review about this particular book and more my thoughts on the writing of Julie Garwood. Casee reviewed the book here. You can check that out for a plot summary and her thoughts, for they mostly mirrored mine.

Throughout her career, JG has remained a favorite of mine. Well, let me clarify. Prior to Killjoy she was a favorite of mine. Her historicals still call to me on occasion and I find myself picking them up at random, anxious to sink into an old, comfortable story, similar to how I might slip on my favorite sweats after a long day at work, or pop in a favorite DVD if I’ve had a particularly bad day.

But after Killjoy, not only did I think contemps were not her thing, I decided her writing itself deteriorated. The last novel I read by her was Slow Burn. While I enjoyed the basic premise behind it, I was sadly disappointed in the actual writing. Sentences were choppy, paragraphs seemed to bleed together, or go in odd directions that made no sense to me, dialogue was stilted, characters were half formed or one dimensional. I thought the plot was an awesome one, and had it been better fleshed out it had the potential to become her best written novel yet. But instead it fell far short.

After that, I decided not to read another of her contemps. I told myself, and others, that I’d buy her again if she went back to historicals, but otherwise I was done with her. I removed her from my auto-buy list and comforted myself with her old historicals, the ones that got me hooked on romance to begin with.

Then the announcement came. That yes, Julie Garwood, historical legend, would be returning to her roots. Love her older historicals or hate them, you can’t deny she’s a basic staple in romance. I was happy to hear she’d be returning, but somewhat apprehensive. Because although the moment I’d been waiting for had finally come, I was concerned about her actual writing style. The way she wove a story back when was unconventional perhaps, but still engaging. I didn’t think she’d be able to return to that, not after seeing evidence of her decline in her more recent novels.

I’m sad to say I was correct. She may have done quite a bit of head-hopping in her previous novels, but the focus remained on the two main protagonists. In this novel, however, she chose to write in a more narrative style than from one POV or another. So I was constantly pulled out of the story by her glossing over things, or seeming to sum things up. Very frustrating.

I’m also extremely unclear about how they H/H came to fall in love. There was hardly any interaction between the two, and what there was was disjointed and…once again, glossed over. There seemed to be no rhyme or reason to her writing. A chapter would start out from one POV or another, and then half-way through she’d jump into a narrative style, summing things up rather than allowing us as readers to follow the progress.

I suppose it would be like me starting a story, in which I use rich, colorful detail and much humor only to say, once you’re engaged and intrigued, “Blah blah, yada, yada, you get what I mean” and then just leave it at that. Frustrating, no?

There were some good parts. When the POV was written from either the hero or heroine, I was drawn into the story. Unfortunately, those parts were few and far between, and when they did happen, they didn’t last long. The basic premise was also a good one, and classic Garwood. Sadly, the point of the plot was lost somewhere in the muddle of switching from one writing style to another, the jumping between characters and places (i.e., from the Barons in England to the clans in the Highlands to the heroine to the hero to the guards of the heroine to her father back to the barons to the king of England, etc, etc) and the mass amount of inconsistencies presented.

A lot of the reviews I’ve read for this book said the Priests provided a lot of comic relief, but I didn’t really see that. Sure, there were some amusing parts, but I think I assumed they played a bigger part in the overall story (with actual read time, I mean) and that just didn’t seem to be the case.

I’m sure I’ll end up buying her next book (assuming she continues to write historicals), just to see if she somehow improves…hmm, or perhaps that’s not the right word. Regresses into her old writing habits? Goes back to being the Garwood I knew and loved? I’m not sure. I have a feeling I’m going to be sorely disappointed when (if) that time comes, however.

On a related note: Ange, The Romance Groupie, posted about this book on Saturday. I mentioned my disappointment in the overall writing in the comments, and she responded with this:

Actually, I’ve noticed that many of the popular authors appear to be going down in the quality department. I’m wondering if it’s the editors, publishers, etc. that are ruining it. It just seems strange that so many great authors have gone bad in the last year or so. Is it just me? Are you seeing this trend too?

I thought about it some, and yes, I have to agree. Some of my favorite authors have seriously declined in the last few years. Could it be because of the publishers or editors? Or is it just simply something with them personally?

Regardless, I’m disappointed.

Even though I said this was less a review and more my thoughts on JG’s writing as a whole, I’ll still rate the book:

2.5 out of 5

You can buy it here in hardback or in eBook format here. When I bought it from Books on Board, they were offering a $5 cash-back incentive, bringing the total book price down to $9.95. I’m not sure if they’re still offering the promotion, but you could email them to see.

two-half-stars

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Retro Post: Does Size Really Matter?

Posted February 15, 2017 by Holly in Discussions | 15 Comments

This week I’m bringing it back around to the good stuff…because this is still a relevant question today.

This was originally posted May 4, 2007.
A few years ago I read a book by Susan Andersen called Hot & Bothered. The hero of H&B is none other than John “the Rocket” Miglionni. He’s a former Marine turned P.I. and his claim to fame is the size of his Johnson. No, I mean it. You see, The Rocket had a pretty hard childhood, and he kind of figured he wasn’t as good as all the other guys out there. Until the first time he had to take a shower in the locker room, that is. Then, much to his surprise (and mine, if I’m being honest here) the other men started going on about how well hung he was. Now, it’s been awhile, so I can’t remember for sure if SA actually told us just how big The Rocket was, but I do know his nickname stemmed from his rather..ehem…large size (If you know what I mean and I think you do).

Now, SA certainly isn’t the first romance author to talk about her darling hero’s size, and I know she most certainly won’t be the last. And if we’re being honest here, ladies, we can admit (if only to ourselves and each other) that size does matter. Now, now, don’t look at me like that. We all know it’s true. Men, if your lady is telling you it’s not an issue, she’s lying.

Side Note: Regardless of the size, however (whether it be large or small), knowing what to do with it does make a difference. Right ladies? :End Side Note

But I think it’s important for women everywhere to qualify the statement “Size Matters!”. Why? Well, while it’s true that size is important to us, there has to be a cut off point there. Because, I have to tell you, there have been times when reading about a particularly large member and my only thought is, “Ouch! That’s gotta hurt.”

That’s right, I think it’s time we draw the line. Sure, size matters, but that statement goes both ways. Because I have to tell you, the thought of a full foot of manroot anywhere near my love well just makes me queasy. Come on, that shit would hurt! As Jaine Bright from LH’s Mr. Perfect once said, “Anything over 8 inches is strictly for show and tell.”

Rowena here and I’ve got to totally agree with Holly there, and I’ll tell you why just as soon as I can stop laughing from her mention of man roots and love wells.

LMAO LMAO LMAO!

I’ve been reading romance novels for a few years now and I’ve read my fair share of descriptions on just how well endowed most of the heroes are and lately, it’s been making me roll my eyes down the street at how absurd it’s getting. And not even just in books that I’m reading but also in reviews of books that other people are reading.

Like Karen S for example. She just read a book called Ben’s Wildflower by Carol Lynne and the hero, Ben has an overgrown cock. His overgrown manroot is giving him problems and he’s ashamed of it because it’s the total bane of his existence.

Are you frickin’ kidding me?

Yeah the eff right. If you’ve got a 10 inch boinker, you’re not ashamed of it, you’re not being a whiny baby about it, you’re screaming from the rooftops like you’re Dirk Diggler.

You’re screaming, “I am a star. I’m a star, I’m a star, I’m a big bright shiny star. Yeah, thats right!”

Really.

But does the size of a man’s johnson really factor into how well we like our heroes? Say Derek Craven had a little willy, would we all still love him as much as we do? I mean, that’s not what we’re all gushing about when we discuss his book, right? It’s not what we most remember about Derek, so is it really necessary to go on and on about the size of the hero’s ding-a-ling? I’m not saying that Lisa Kleypas did that or anything I’m just well, saying…yeah we know the hero is a big mothereffer down there, we expect it…but would it matter what size the hero is in order for him to be macho and lovable?

I don’t think so. We love them for who they are, not what they have in their pants…don’t we?

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