Laurie's News & Views
October 1, 1996 - Issue #13
WHAT A GREAT READ!
I was on one of the romance BB's the other day, posting about a book that was possibly the worst romance I'd ever read. It was practically a parody of romance, with overblown descriptions and the silliest of silly sex. While there was some agreement with those who also had read this book, a couple of readers admitted they . . . enjoyed it.
Just as there are books I've hated that others have loved, there are books I've loved that others have hated, or been indifferent about. One of the great things about romantic fiction is that there is such variety that everyone can find something to love. A while back I listed the books I go to over and over again, and why I do so. Some of you have shared with me your favorites, and why they are special to you.
While readers provided different titles, there was some commonality. Reader after reader revealed how deeply they had been affected by these books. Whether they couldn't stop laughing at the funny parts, couldn't stop crying at the sad ones, or suddenly felt the need to make love with their spouses/lovers, the reactions caused by these books ran deep. Read along...perhaps you will discover a new keeper:
Susan says there is a scene from Diana Gabaldon's Voyager that she never tires of. It is the scene "When Jamie and Claire are reunited after she has returned to her own time and believes him dead; and he believes her lost to him forever. Can anything be more romantic than finding your soul-mate when you thought the loss was irrevocable? And the author manages to make me laugh as well as cry when Jamie falls into a barrel of beer when he faints from the shock. My all-time favorite scene, hands-down."
Another reader most cherishes Kathleen Woodiwiss' classic The Flame & the Flower. When "K" first read it nineteen years ago, she couldn't put it down, and cooked dinner one-handed. She says, "When I finished it, I immediately started it over again except skipped some of the beginning and some of the end. . . I have probably read the best parts of it (most of it) about 20 times over the years. I picked it up to read within the past year after not reading it for many years, (I knew it too well to reread) and after discovering the likes of McNaught, Robards, Spencer, Garwood, and others, I have to say that styles have changed. It would be hard to say (this book) is the best of the genre anymore but it was great in its time and led me down the path into romance reading obsession."
One of Dana's all-time favorites is another Woodiwiss title -- A Rose in Winter. "I think I've read it at least 10 times from beginning to end. The main reason I love this book is its hero: Christopher Seton. . . is a man not just brought to his knees by love; indeed, love is the force energizing his actions and infusing him with the power to put his plans in motion (namely the saving and persuasion of the heroine, Erienne). Love makes Christopher a man not to be taken lightly; nothing stands in his way in the pursuit of Erienne and love is the catalyst for the execution of his daring and ingenious plan. He says to her, 'Look very closely. . . and tell me again if you think I would ever allow another man in your bed while I yet breathe' (page 458). Discussing this book makes me want to read it again!
"I think many women dream of having a man who moves heaven and earth for the privilege of receiving a woman's love. I agree with your statement that in order for a novel to succeed, it must inspire suspension of disbelief in the reader. All my keepers were kept because the author achieved believablitily with me. In real life, it would probably be very difficult for a man to masquerade as a tortured, scarred lord, a handsome rake, and an avenging angel all in one day! But Woodiwiss made me believe in it. And I must still believe in it because I still read this book time after time."
Heidi has four special keepers, the first of which is LaVyrle Spencer's Years "because it is simply the best book ever written." She reads Twice Loved "when I feel the need to deplete my Kleenex supply and make myself experience cough-up-a-lung sobs". She reads Hummingbird, another Spencer book, "when I want to laugh, then cry, then laugh, then cry again." Heidi's final favorite is Judith McNaught's Perfect, because it is a "tender love story with an absolutely hunky hero."
Wylinda's favorite re-reader is Judith McNaught's Double Standards. She has read this book at least 20 times. She says, "I'm sure many women see themselves and remember their first love. We identify with heroine who falls too fast and too hard for the hero only to have her heart broken because it's not the same for him. This was the only book I ever read in one day. Granted I didn't do anything but read, but hey -- the house didn't fall down and dinner was a hot one of corndogs and french fries. It captured me from the beginning and didn't let me down anywhere along the journey to happily ever after."
While Deborah loves everything written by Julie Garwood, she most cherishes Honor's Splendour. "Apart from the fact that this book makes me laugh, like most of her others, I love Duncan. He is so by the book in his thinking. It will only been done this way, not that way. I'm the lord and master, etc. . . I love the fact that he claims her has his simply because she warms his cold, bare feet by putting them beneath her clothes and against her body for warmth. This is after him spending hours standing out in a courtyard for hours in the snow with nothing on but his gauchies. It's a wonderful thought. . . Whether we are career women or domestic engineers, we still want to love, to nuture, to take care of our men and we want them to be warriors whether from the 15th, 16th, or 18th centuries or from today. Can anybody not say that when there man goes out that door in the morning, you still expect him to climb on that white charger and be the warrior that he is? I think that anyone who dwells in the romance genre, whether they admit it or not, still feel that way."
Catherine has several favorites, according to what mood she's in. "When I want love that doen't depend on looks I read Wishes by Deveraux, or Runabout by Morsi. When I want love that goes beyond death or seperation then I read Twice Loved by Spencer. . . If I'm really in a slump then I can spend a week rereading books that I could probably quote. When I need a laugh, Morsi usually does the trick and when I want to cry I go to A Knight In Shining Armor by Jude Deveraux. . . But to tell you the truth I rarely read them cover to cover more than once. I usually pick up the story about half way thru or like you, find that certain scene that I loved so much. And oh the sex scenes, I love the way in Tender Rebel Tony tells Roselyn on their wedding night that everyone knows what they are going to be doing tonight. And then in Night Fire by Coulter when Arielle finally realizes that Burke would never hurt her. I can't even come close to giving you a favorite. I love so many of them for completely different reasons. That's what makes them all so great."
Ann finds her tastes change and that books she loved several years ago aren't the ones she loves now. Still, she managed to re-read Jude Deveraux's A Knight in Shining Armor several times and has lent it out 6 or 7 times (hint: buy a second copy for lending). She recalls sitting "in a lounge chair at a pool with two friends who were decidedly 'anti-romance'. I was on my 2nd read of (it) and went back to the beginning and started reading it aloud to them. Well, after about 4 hours of this, we were all completely sunburned (not to mention me being a little parched). The two of them actually fought over who was going to take the book home with them that night! I was redeemed!"
Miriam's favorite keeper is A Knight in Shining Armor as well. She has "kept this and re-read it countless times because of the sheer romance of it. If you've never read it, it's a time-travel romance. Each major character travels across time to find each other, and the ending is so sad and beautiful, it makes me cry. It has inspired me to write one, although I don't have much time, having 2 small children and a full time job. But somehow, I will prevail!" Good luck, Miriam!
As always, this topic shall remain open for comments. Are any of these your absolute favorite? What is your absolute favorite, and why? Finally, did any of you hate one of the titles listed above? (Maybe it's time to revisit a favorite reader topic Authors Others Love That You Don't.) Please e-mail me here with your answers.
SILLY SEX & OTHER SILLY STUFF:
Silly Sex -
It's been awhile since this topic was discussed, and there have been some whoppers read lately. I thought first I would share this choice snippet -- see if you can guess the author.
"He could feel her tensing within, and then her quivering little flutters of satisfaction as she crowned the head of his manhood with her own sweet honeyed libations of pleasure. The warmth of it sent him out of control, and his own love juices burst forth in greater measure, searing her hidden garden with an intensity of ectasy. . . ."
I'm going to make it easier by giving a couple of hints - two additional snippets by the same author:
"I could not allow anyone else. . .to plow a furrow in your love fields, my darling"
"Your love juices have begun to flow, sweetheart"
E - mail me here with your guess, and enjoy these additional offerings:
- Would you believe nipples as sentient little tips (all I can imagine are tiny little Martians)
- How about nipples as knobs (can you imagine opening a door with one of them? -- yikes, that would smart!)
- Throbbing and pulsating breasts (doesn't that happen when you get a breast infection?)
- Naked globes (I'm getting dizzy from all that spinning!)
- Breasts as cone-shaped orbs (do you get a picture of ice-cream cones floating in space?)
- Ever imagine a chestnut patch of pleasure?
- Or a silken love cave?
- What do you think about that ever popular mound of Venus?
Please e-mail me with any particularly silly sex you've come across lately. I'm interested in turning all those I receive into a new special list. If there are particular books or authors that feature particularly silly sex, share the fun and e-mail me here.
Other Silly Stuff -
I've received mostly positive feedback about the "How Come?" section included in the last issue of Laurie's News & Views. Lots of feedback wanting more but very little new stuff to add. Put on your thinking caps and let me know about things you don't want to know about (but maybe really do) and/or parts of romances that allow us to laugh at ourselves. Such as this entry from Eleanor: "Have you ever noticed how all those shiney eyed heroines with plaits they trip over are always paired with heroes who have lots of hair on their heads and none on their backs???? And if you think hairy armpits are gross, I don't reckon they're anything as vile as hairy backs!!!" - Eeewww, Eleanor, I don't want to think about that!
And this from Sherri, "What about those scenes where they've been riding hoseback or crossing the country on a wagontrain. Most of the time they haven't had a bath in days; of course that doesn't spoil the nights any. I probably wouldn't sleep within 50 feet of my husband if he hadn't had a shower for 3 or 4 days. When we go camping, after the first night there's very little romance involved in the rest of the trip. Or what about those wake up in the morning love seens. Barf. My husbands' morning breath definitly does't get me all hot and bothered. If we do it in the morning, it's quick and to the point. And then I run for the shower."
One reader asks about a subject I definitely don't want to think about - circumcision and the ever-popular foreskin. Now, I am no expert on this, but I don't think clipping was done in days of old unless the hero was Jewish or Moslem. In fact, I don't think men as a rule have been clipped except in the United States and then only in modern times. Now, if that's true (and if it isn't, please enlighten me), why haven't I ever read a romance with a foreskin? Not that I really would have wanted to. What about you?
Please e-mail me here; perhaps we can have a gross- fest in the future.
ON THE ROAD AGAIN:
Our newest special list, of Road Romances, has finally begun to move. These stories take place on voyages and journeys, offering lead characters the chance to learn about each other in new and different ways. Road Romances also provide action and adventure for readers.
This list, as well as our other special listings, can be found at The Archives of Laurie Likes Books, the new web site set up as an adjunct to The Romance Reader. There's lots of good stuff over there, but I thought I'd offer an update on this list here. Please contact me here with additional titles.
- Corbin's Fancy by Linda Lael Miller
Only His by Elizabeth Lowell
My Lady Notorious by Jo Beverley
Prince of Midnight, For my Lady's Hand, and Seize the Fire by Laura Kinsale
Pearl Stallion by Rae Muir
Angel Rogue by Mary Jo Putney
Velvet Angel by Jude Deveraux
Chance the Winds of Fortune by Laurie McBain
The Gift by Julie Garwood
The Windflower by Laura London aka Tom and Sharon Curtis
One Night by Debbie Macomber
Wings of Desire by Elizabeth Lambert
Heart's Masquerade and Taming the Wolf by Deborah Simmons
A Taste of Heaven by Alexis Harrington
Irresistible by Catherine Hart
Heaven in His Arms by Lisa Ann Verge
Outlander by Diana Gabaldon
Silver Nights and Beloved Enemy by Claudia Bishop aka Jane Feather
Touch of Fire and Heart of Fire by Linda Howard
Fierce Eden by Jennifer Blake
The Diamond Tiger by Ann Maxwell aka Elizabeth Lowell
Walking after Midnight by Karen Robards
I COULD BEAT A DEAD HORSE, BUT WHY BOTHER?
Several weeks ago I discussed the results of a survey about readers and publishers. One publisher didn't fair particularly well in the survey and was more than a bit perturbed with my coverage of the topic. Kensington Books president Steven Zacharius e-mailed me extensively about his displeasure, as did his Webmaster, who banned me from Kensington Chats (Mr. Zacharius rescinded the ban the next day).
Apparently still not satisifed, someone at Kensington forwarded copies of the column to various Kensington writers, some of whom I communicate with on a fairly steady basis. Authors such as Stella Cameron and Deb Stover, who wrote reasoned and polite responses, received the same in return. Other authors accused me of nefarious deeds and received a form letter in response.
Since the survey results were fairly conclusive, I do not plan extensive follow-up to that column. However, because I am a let it all hang out kind of person, I am re-printing a letter from author Gwen Foster as well as my response, below.
Gwen's Letter (in its entirety):
"Laurie, I was scandalized by your attack on Kensington/Zebra. If you had set forth the principles that you consider essential to a romance novel and had shown specifically the way in which the books that Kensington publishes deviate from your personal standards, your harangue might have appeared less vituperative. You damned every Kensingnton writer (except four) and the publisher of 20 to 25 percent of all romance titles sold in this country without providing any evidence that you had read a single one. Had You Read Any of Them? And are the millions of women who buy Kensington titles so much less discriminating than you?
"Many of Kensington writers also write for the houses whose 'works' you so much admire. Would you buy a Kensington writer if she her book was published by another publisher? After all, it's the author whose work you're reading, not the publisher's. My reaction to your assult on Kensington is to discount anything else you may write. When you publish negative comments about anyone or any business, you should ask your 'correspondents' to give their full names and addresses. How does anyone know that you didn't fabricate those comments?"
My Response to Gwen (in its entirety):
"I received your e-mail regarding issue #9 of Laurie's News & Views. That issue included the results of a question I posted on various romance listservs and bulletin boards in late May/early June. Here is a copy of the note I posted:
"I've been noodling around w/another column idea and thought I'd solicit input from this BB. I sorted my library database by a different field the other day just for fun and was surprised to discover that, of the majority of romances I've read and enjoyed, most were published by a handful of publishers. On the other hand, one publishing house which shall remain nameless popped up for another reason - every book I'd read by that company, no matter whom the author, was a book I'd traded in. I would like to know if any of you have noticed the same thing - that most of your favorite books have been published by a few publishing companies. Is this a topic you would care to participate in? Learn more about? Delve into further? You can post publically or e-mail me in private. As ever, only first names are used in my column. (By the way, the "publisher who shall remain nameless" was not Kensington.)
"Issue 9 provides a sampling of comments received via e-mail from readers, and in conversations with other readers and bookstore managers/owners in person. Because of length restrictions, I was unable to include every response. The published responses are representative of all those received. Had I had any sort of personal interest in the outcome of this survey, you can be sure I would have included more of those responses negative about Kensington -- I have plenty left over.
"And, in fact, my personal remarks about Kensington in that column were limited to three fairly innocuous ones, which are re-printed here:
- Kensington and St. Martin's Press have not faired well in my ratings. One-half of the Kensington books I've read received low ratings. My Kensington results, once I checked with other readers, were not surprising, although recent improvements may change the outlook for them
- Some readers who used to be adamant about their dislike of Kensington have slowly been coming around and now view it differently, as evidenced by the following statements
- I always remember that every publisher has some fine authors - personally, I think Lisa Ann Verge, Sylvia Halliday, and Anne Stuart are quite talented, and they all write for Kensington.
"Those Kensington authors who have e-mailed me in a polite and professional manner have received personal replies, and in some cases, extensive exchanges of opinions in back-and-forth e-mails. Those, however, who do not extend me the courtesy of a polite and professional response will receive the same consideration and will receive one and only one response - this one."
As you can read from my response, I did not dignify Gwen's statement about falsifying responses with an answer. I have read many a survey in my time and have never read one where the responder's full name and/or address is given. And, I was very surprised by her personal attack on me. I had no vested interest in the survey results - I simply reported the responses I received.
Another Kensington author, adventure author Mack Maloney, wrote his response to the Kensington Webmaster, which she forwarded to me. The gist of his missive was that I must be a frustrated romance author with a vendetta against Kensington. In part he says, "It appears to me that Laurie has an agenda against Kensington and skewered this article for that purpose. . .But I think that for what ever reason Laurie had a particular bone to pick with Zebra or more likely, wants to be published by us. Who is she anyway?"
My response to him read, in part, "As to your final question, "Who is she anyway?", I am simply a lover of romantic fiction who happens to write a column for a web site. I write author profiles, book reviews, and commentary about romantic fiction. . . What you read was a sampling of the results. Had I printed them all, Kensington would have fared even worse than it did. . . If I did have an agenda against Kensington, I would not have included those reader comments indicating improvement. Nor would I have mentioned the few Kensington authors I enjoy reading. . . My only interest is in improving the level of quality of romance available to the public."
The responses I've received since writing that issue of this column have generally been in agreement with the survey results. I am not publishing them here because it would serve no purpose to do so. However, the next issue of this column will include a very thoughtful response from Leisure/LoveSpell author Janeen Deboard.
The issue of Laurie's News & Views that followed the one discussed above focused solely on the mid-list and the mid-list crisis. The powers that be at Kensington were no more pleased with that column than they were with issue nine. The vast majority of responses I received on that column recognized that the focus was less on Kensington than on the industry as a whole. True, I made no bones about disliking the Precious Gems line Kensington is touting these days, but the true focus of the column was the mid-list crisis. (My follow-up to that issue will be published in shortly.)
That crisis has recently hit home for Kensington. Denise Little, whose romance imprint is published by Kensington, has been let go. A blurb in Publisher's Weekly indicates Kensington has reevaluated its lines and is going to focus less on genre fiction than on non-fiction and hardcover fiction. Readers interested in learning more about this should contact Kensington at http://www.zebrabooks.com
For those of you who have not yet weighed in on the mid-list crisis, feel free to do so - my follow-up column on that issue has not yet been written. Please e-mail me here if you are so inclined.
As usual, I've run out of room before running out of ideas. So you'll have to check back soon to read up on the mid-list, ratings, glomming, glomming-related syndromes, beauty, etc. If you've missed back issues of this column or are interested in our special listings, visit The Archives of Laurie Likes Books.
TTFN, as Tigger said to Winnie the Pooh,
Laurie Likes Books
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