What are we looking for? Really, I’m curious. What are we looking for when we pick up a book? What is it about a good book that makes us pick up the phone and call our friends and say “you’ve got to read this one”? What about the books we slog through with dispirted interest? And then there are the books that are so bad that we can’t finish them? I’ve been trying to figure that out. I’ve gone to numerous web sites and read many reviews to try and discern what we’re looking for in a book. What is that certain ‘something’ that speaks to one person and falls on deaf ears to another? Why do I love some books that you wouldn’t read even if you were sitting in an empty room chained to the floor with nothing but white walls surronding you? I’m curious. Really, really curious. I’ve been searching the net and reading different reviews of the same book to find an answer. I found many differing opinions and I’m finding it hard to believe these people read the same book.
I first read PJ’s review of Annie Solomon’s new release One Deadly Sin here at Romance Novel TV. PJ said:
ONE DEADLY SIN is a story filled with deadly secrets, snappy dialogue, steamy sex, heart-stopping suspense and enough twists and turns to keep me glued to the edge of my seat and devouring every word of this terrific thriller.
Then I read William’s review from Reading Romance Books
The…suspense made the book exciting and dark with a looming ambience that follows you through the whole story.
So far we have agreement, but then I read Madeline Muravchik’s review from Donne Tempo
It is billed as a romantic thriller. Yet there was very little suspense. How could there be, when much of the story is dedicated to clearing the main character, Edie Swann, of murder charges that readers know from the get-go she did not commit?…
She goes on to say:
Yet it is too little too late as far as a satisfying plot goes, especially when the far-fetched culprit is finally revealed. Instead of being satisfying the surprise ending is more apt to make readers groan, “You got to be kidding me.”
What did PJ and William get from this book that Madeline did not? What was Madeline looking for when she picked up Annie Solomon’s book? I’m not sure, I didn’t ask her – but I read her review and she definitely felt unsatisfied.
I can point to my own example – after reading J.R. Ward’s Lover Avenged it went directly to my keeper shelf. It was all that I was looking for and yet others were not so fortunate in getting their needs met.
For me, one element of a good romance is when the hero and/or heroine give unselfishly to the people they love, no matter what; and that is what Ehlena and Rehv do for each other. Romantic? Absolutely.
In Adventures in Katidom Kati wrote:
The story went in a few unexpected directions and I actually mostly enjoyed it. I think I attribute part of that to the fact that I just didn’t read it as a romance, and I expected next to nothing from the romance side of things, and the rest to the fact that I just don’t have high expectations for the series any more.
Nicola at Alpha Heroes says
So while, yes, I think the book qualifies as a romance, it’s not a *great* romance.
Jennie at Dear Author wrote
I will say that though I did not find Rehv’s and Ehlena’s relationship excessively romantic, by the climatic scene I did feel a little frisson at the thought of their HEA being in sight. (If I don’t get that feeling at some point near the end of a romance, I know it’s failed me; it means I really just don’t care about the characters at all.)
Then we have Kate’s take on the book. In Babbling About Books and More she wrote:
The past six books have been a whirlwind of action, suspense and romance. Some readers have begun to question about the changes Ward have written because the first few books were very much Paranormal Romance. But now she has changed the dynamics of her series and the front and center romance between the hero and heroine is not the most important reason in picking up these books. Ward has expanded this world to encompass many stories in one.
Reading a book is a very personal experience. When we read a book that touches us in some way we want to share that with others. How do we express what ‘touches’ us? What do some books give us that others do not? How do some books seem to hit all the right notes for us, while others leave us cold?
Just yesterday we Posted PJ’s review of Jo Davis’ Under Fire
Davis once again has brought us a passionate love story with tightly woven suspense, a likeable hero and heroine, plenty of sizzling hot sex, secrets that must be faced head-on and obstacles that can only be overcome through trust and love. Happily, the rest of the FS5 firefighters have plenty of face time in this book, though the primary focus remains on the hero and heroine, and the groundwork continues to be laid for their stories in future books – books that can’t come fast enough for this reader.
The flip side of how this book was received can be read at Adventures in Katidom. Kati says:
The book suffers from a terrible case of tell not show. If there weren’t so many returning characters from Trial by Fire, I’d think that a different author wrote it.
My advice? Buy Trial by Fire, and read and love it. Then pretend like this book never happened — that’s my plan.
Vision in White by ‘go to’ author Nora Roberts also has readers divided. It resonated with some readers while others were left feeling a bit disappointed
In Babbling About Books and More Jen said
One of the biggest problems with this romance is that the hero and the heroine spend most of the book apart. There are more and longer scenes listing tedious details for weddings we never see involving people we don’t know or care about than there are love scenes between the main characters. Mac spends the entire book resisting the idea of Happily Ever After until one day she decides to go with it. Not because of anything Carter says or does. He spends the entire book patiently waiting for her to come around.
Jane from Dear Author said:
I loved the girl power relationship Mackenzie had with her three friends. I also appreciated that they fought and made up. It wasn’t halcyonic storybook friendship, but real and authentic. Again, it was Carter, blushing, sweet, earnest and hot Carter, and his hilarious conversations that made the story for me.
Then there are those books we all seem to agree on – what is it about those books?
Let’s look at Always a Scoundrel by Suzanne Enoch.
Andrea Williamson of Romance Novel TV said
Suzanne Enoch is a master at crafting notorious, bad boy heroes and Always a Scoundrel is a perfect example of that. The way she skillfully combines a cynical rake, a respectable lady, loyal secondary characters and a sadistic villain is nothing short of magical. Always a Scoundrel has joined the first two books of Ms. Enoch’s Notorious Gentleman series on my keeper shelf and I suggest you make room on yours, because you do not want to miss this one!
Jane from Dear Author seems to agree.
I’ve really enjoyed this Notorious Gentleman series which started with After the Kiss and ends with Always a Scoundrel, a book that csquared deemed one of your best in years. I agree. This is a book that had my emotions in my throat nearly the entire time. It was dark, evocative, and moving.
And so does Jean Wan from AAR who gave it Desert Isle Keeper status
The last time I gave a DIK to Suzanne Enoch, it was London’s Perfect Scoundrel, about a seriously bad boy scoundrel (duh) who falls for a proper lady and rescues her from her uncaring, exploitative family. Now, normally when I encounter repeat plots I start thinking the author’s run out of juice, but when the book is a) significantly different from the last one, and b) damn good, you forget the similarities, stop nitpicking, and just enjoy the ride.
Scandal, by Carolyn Jewel is another book that we all seem to want to read.
Kate loved the book and in her review she wrote
WOW. Simply, wow. That is the only word I can use to describe this masterpiece. It has been such a long time since I have read such a rich, emotional and tension filled romance. Not only did Scandal have me hooked from the very first page, but this is the first book, in a very long time, where I had to read straight through into the wee hours of the night because I couldn’t put it down. When an author can write such a book, that book is destined for greatness. I wouldn’t be surprised if Scandal becomes one of the favorites of 2009, and perhaps placed on most reader’s lists for all time favorite historical.
Janine from Dear Author
I couldn’t agree more. I loved the smoothness and elegant simplicity of your writing. There was a seamless quality to it that, along with the emotional aspects of the story, made the book wholly absorbing, and I stayed up until 3 AM in the morning to finish reading it.
Casee from Book Binge
This historical was amazing. I don’t quite know what I was expecting, but whatever it was, it didn’t come close to what I actually got. Carolyn Jewel is an amazing historical writer. I read her paranormal, My Wicked Enemy, and thought it was very good. It doesn’t hold a candle to Scandal.
So many different opinions. So I’m asking, what are you looking for when you pick up a book? What about it makes it a book you want to keep reading?