The First Book I Loved to Hate: Open Thread for Readers

Posted October 24, 2014 by Holly in Discussions, Promotions | 29 Comments

Knight in shining armorWarning: This post contains spoilers! I’ve marked them below.

The Open Thread at Dear Author got me thinking today about the first romance novel I ever loved to hate. When I first started reading romance I pretty much loved everything I read. Not having a basis for comparison, it all seemed wonderful. Even when the characters or plot frustrated me, the ending always made it all worth it. Now I’m much more critical in my reading and rarely give 5 star ratings, because I rarely love a book so much I can’t see its flaws.

Young, idealistic me didn’t have that problem. As long as their was a happy ending, nothing else mattered. Sure, I loved some books better than others, but they all left me feeling happy. Until one didn’t.

I remember visiting the Jude Deveraux message board for the first time and lurking there as others discussed her books. The main topic for most was A Knight In Shining Armor, which seemed to be her most popular book. Eventually I gathered the nerve to actually post a hello and ask for recommendations, and AKISA was the first book I was told to read.

I fell straight into that book. I felt for poor Douglass who ended up stranded in a foreign country after her asshat boyfriend took off with his brat children. I also came to love her knight in shining armor, Nicholas, who came forward in time because of her crying.

It’s a sweeping tale, full of romance and suspense; how would these two end up together? There were so many obstacles, not the least of which was the fact that 1000’s of years separated them.

Up until the last page I was on the edge of my seat, dying to find out how Devereaux was going to make it work between them.

Spoiler Alert! Do not read on if you haven’t read AKISA and don’t wish the ending to be spoiled!

And then she didn’t.

Nicholas remained in his time while Douglass went back to her own and hooked up with Reed, who may or may not have contained the soul of her beloved.

I was devastated. I spent hours invested in the story of Douglass and Nicholas. Watching Nicholas grow from a jaded, immature playboy to a man who valued others and looked outside himself was wonderful. Douglass, who was so lost in the beginning of the story really found herself. It was beautiful.

There were so many possibilities with Douglass and Nicholas, so many other ways she could have taken the story. She could have written half the book about Nicholas and half about Reed and made it work. She could have figured out a way for Douglass and Nicholas to stay together, like KMM did for her Highlanders. She could have devoted the entire story to Douglass and Reed, with flashbacks for the both of them with Nicholas.

Instead, she devoted an entire story to making us fall in love with Douglass and Nicholas, to give us three sorry ass pages in the end where Reed shows up, says he found a picture of Douglass when he was a kid and knew it was fate that he had it and…that’s it.

Douglass lives Happily Ever After with a COMPLETE STRANGER while Nicholas died alone in his time.

Deveraux could have made it so that Reed remembered Douglass from when he was Nicholas or something, but no. He sees a picture of her and from that she assumes he’s her soul mate. And Nicholas had no one though-out his very long life. NO. ONE.

End Spoilers!!!

Ehem. Not that I’m bitter or anything.

It’s been many years since I read this book. If I read it now, I wonder if my own growth and maturity would flavor the ending in a different way. Would I still hate Douglass and Reed together, or would I appreciate the gesture for what it was; an attempt to remind us of the power and endurance of love.

Eh, probably not. And I’m not willing to test the theory by rereading the book.

This an open thead for readers to share what book (s) really stayed with you. Is there one particular novel you love to hate? Or one that you loved, period? If you have to recommend one book to a new reader, what would it be? And which would you warn a person away from?

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29 responses to “The First Book I Loved to Hate: Open Thread for Readers

  1. Nushie

    **There Be Spoilers In This Comment**

    I agree with Rowena…not only will you still be pissed off about the ending, I think you’ll also notice how ridiculous Douglass was. She started veering into TSTL category right from the beginning, letting her boyfriend and his kids treat her like crap. All the crying. I’ll stop there before I go off into a rant about this, but I think that the title is pretty indicatave of the type of heroine she was – one that needed to be saved constantly.
    The main reason the ending frustrated me is how unequally the fates of the hero and heroine were presented. I would have been okay if Nicholas and Douglass were separated, and both lived out their lives, content and still in love with each other (and maybe even finding other love). But Deveraux’s ending, giving a cop-out HEA for Douglass, made it seem like Nicholas was not the hero, but just a love interest to the heroine, who is the one that “deserves” happiness.

    **End Spoilers**

    I love to hate books that are so bad that seriously presented characters and plot points make me laugh (like Twilight). However, this must not cross the line into me grinding my teeth and banging my head at the ridiculousness of the the characters’ actions – then I just hate the book (i.e 50SoG). I was able to laugh my way through all four Twilight books, but I had to DNF 50SoG.

    • I don’t remember hating Douglass but I’m pretty sure that if I were to read this book now, I’d still hate the ending but I think that I’d hate Douglass too because of exactly what you mentioned. I do remember her being a big ol’ crybaby and not standing her ground with both her boyfriend and his horrid kids. Wasn’t it her tears that awakened Nicholas in the first place? Haha. Oh goodness.

      • Nushie

        Isn’t that always the case? I was pretty forgiving of the romances that I read in high school (including AKISA) – I have no idea why! I know I was young, but even at that age, I knew a lot of the crazy that was doormat/weak heroines and misogynistic heroes was not okay. But I remember just accepting that kind of stuff in romances. I discovered the issues when I tried to reread some ‘beloved’ favorites from that time – I almost burst a vein rereading Lindsey’s Captive Bride!!

      • I remember thinking Douglass was weak and silly in the beginning, but that she grew as the novel progressed. I’m afraid that would no longer be the case if I tried to read it now.

    • That was my biggest complant as well; how unfair it was that Douglass would love her life with her “soul mate” while Nicholas spent his life alone.

      You make an excellent point about the level of ridiculous I can accept in a book. Twilight was silly while 50SoG was rage inducing.

  2. I remember reading Barabara Delinsky’s categories back in the day – gobbling them down and then she started to publish mainstream. I remember Three Wishes, a love(?) story between 2 characters that built up over the book. They fell in love and had a baby and then right at the end she killed the heroine off. Yes, killed . her. off.

    I was stunned. I sobbed buckets. I was furious. And there was a tiny epilogue which had the hero moving on to marry and live with a neighbour. UGH!

    I couldn’t get that book out of the house fast enough – and I have not read a Delinsky since. So there! Pffft. That will fix it!

    • A category that I love is One Lavender Evening by Karen Keast. Still have my battered copy from the 80’s and still re-read it. It is part ghost story – before PNR became sooo popular. And Voices On The Wind – written under her name, Sandra Canfield.

      Scanned both of these books onto the computer and made e copies of them for my e reader . . a labour of love! 😀

    • Oh, no. That would devastate me. She killed off his heroine? Is that the name of the book? Three Wishes? I have to stay far, far away from that one.

    • I read Three Wishes when I was still fairly new to contemporary romance, so I think my expectations were different. I wasn’t really bothered by the ending. I cried, of course, but I didn’t feel betrayed.

      Our friend Grace, however, to this day will go on a days-long rant about the ending if it’s brought up. I’m sure my feelings would be different now.

  3. Sorry, I can’t help but disagree regarding AKISA–I still like that book. I don’t think I ever loved it to death, but I could never understand the hatred towards it.

    I admit that I see that indeed it could have been written differently, so as not to make Nicholas into the sacrificial lamb for Dougless’ happiness (I’m pretty sure that’s her name–yep, fantastic fiction says so).

    I don’t know that there’s a book that I love to hate–if I hate it, it’s usually gone pretty quickly–but I remember utterly despising ALL the heroines in ALL of Barbara Cartland’s novels. Just wanted to shake them until they got some backbone, and perhaps a couple of functioning braincells.

    • Holly also loves to hate characters and one that she loves to hate is Sam Starrett from Suz Brockmann’s Troubleshooters series. That makes me so sad for her. 🙁

      But, I remember the last time Holly and I reviewed AKISA, we both hated it. We hated that Nicholas ended up all alone for the rest of his life while Douglass got to live the rest of hers with someone. I just, after everything that they went through, could not get over the fact that they didn’t end up together. Nicholas went back to his time and then a lifetime later, Douglass finds “him” on the plane? Didn’t work for me.

      • There you are, I just can’t understand readers who don’t adore Sam 😀

        I adore how he grew through the series, how he ended up being as good a friend to Jules as Alyssa, how he’s okay with Alyssa being his boss…I just love everything about him, really.

        • I know. He is one of my top favorite heroes and all she has to say about him is that he’s a crybaby. Grrr…

          He really did grow through the series. By the time his book came around, you could totally see the change in him. He wasn’t that d-bag that even Alyssa hated in the beginning. He came into his own and dealt with a lot with Mary Lou and all the drama with Alyssa while still fighting the good fight as a SEAL. It’s okay. I love him enough for 10 people. 😉

  4. Jen

    When I started seriously reading romance I was pretty forgiving of books too. I read some that were mediocre but nothing truly terrible. And then I read Dangerous by Diana Palmer. It was so so bad. The heroine is the wettest blanket you’ve ever seen. The hero is a grade-a asshole who bullies the virgin heroine into marrying him so he can have sex with her while she helps him investigate the murder of his wife. Because apparently he couldn’t possibly keep himself from screwing her, and a fake marriage would be better than premarital sex? I didn’t even understand what was going on but it made me so mad!

    • Diana Palmer is an author that I thought I would enjoy but every book that I’ve read by her just doesn’t work for me, so I’ve given her up. This doesn’t sound like a good book, either. But that hero would probably piss me off too.

      • There was a short period, back in the late 90s, where I read a bunch of Palmers. I had bought them used, see, and wanted to see what the heck the fuss was about. I remember only one title– Lacy–but kept none of them. I found that they were all the same–same characters, same plot, same issues, and the misogyny was sky high.

        Some people online excused the misogyny with, “they are historical westerns” but no. Just, no.

        • Same here. All of the Palmer books that I bought and haven’t read yet will probably never get read because I’m positive I will not enjoy them. They’re just not for me.

    • I felt that way about All That Glitters and The Independent Wife by Linda Howard. Oh my god, the rage. I get all het up now thinking about those two.

      • I have all of Linda Howard’s back list–I think I stopped buying her when she wrote the first person books–except for All that Glitters and An Independent Wife. Those two I read, raged, and got out of my house as fast as I could.

        • I stopped buying at the Blair books too – those were Awful, with a capital A! I even checked the copyright page to make sure it was a LH that I was reading!

          • I know I’m the minority, but I didn’t hate the Blair books. They aren’t my favorites (I only read them once each, I think) but I was entertained while reading.

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