Issue #53 (June 15, 1998)

I'm giving fair warning - this column is a whopper! The topics discussed within are those which generated more than 125 posts to my message board, and while I've tried to be concise, I had to present as many views as I felt were warranted. If it helps to read it in two sittings, be my guest. Also, this column is mostly "straight", there's little of the humor I try to inject in most columns, but the subject matter didn't exactly lend itself to the tongue-in-cheek.

Picture this: my husband and I check into a nearby hotel with our daughter, then put her to bed in another room. We take showers to clean up, . . . and then nitpick each other's hair for two hours before falling asleep utterly spent.

Pretty romantic, huh? My life could be considered a bad joke these days - you know the one I mean, where the doctor says, "Vell, Mrs. Gold, I have some good news and some bad news." On the one hand, All About Romance is doing wonderfully. On the other hand, my hand hurts too much to do as much work on the site as I should to take advantage of it. On the one hand, I don't have an embolism (as my husband feared) or ganglian cyst. On the other hand, the orthopedic surgeon is baffled and has sent me to a neurologist to explain the pain, the tingling, the pins and needles, the swelling, etc. The good news is that I just bought a new vehicle, my first in years. The bad news is that it's a mini-van and I'm at that time in my life when I actually think a mini-van is "cool". The good news is that Rachael made it through Kindergarten. The bad news is that she picked up a case of the dreaded head lice in her last week of school, and it spread through our house like you wouldn't believe. Our house has been bombed, fumigated, and steam-cleaned by men looking as though they were cleaning up Chernobyl, and we sit, my husband and myself, night after night, nit-picking (yes, that's where that terms comes from) her head, and mine as well. Luckily we were able to delouse my husband after just one week. Somehow having my beloved husband wash my hair with lice shampoo is a far cry from Robert Redford rinsing Meryl Streep's tresses in a stream in Out of Africa.

Needless to say, I haven't been feeling very romantic these days, and maybe that explains why many of the books I've been reading lately haven't been romances. So this is a good time to revisit a couple of issues first brought up several weeks ago which aroused strong feelings in many - reviews and multicultural romance.

Multicultural Romance and a World of Expectations:
Last fall I read Star Catcher by Patricia Potter. It was set in the Highlands of Scotland, a particularly favorite setting of mine. And yet, the book fell flat for me, and the main reason for this was that I couldn't see Scotland in my mind. The book was an advance review copy with a plain blue cover, and for the life of me, that's all I could see when I was reading the book. No crags, no heather, no stark beauty, nothing but that plain blue cover ever came to mind when I read the book. This book could not evoke any images for me, and I've been to Scotland! As such, this book failed for me.

Last week I caught author Clive Barker on a talk show. In addition to writing books, he also writes for the movies, and was talking about the differences between movies and books. Movies require no conscious effort of the viewer while books do, and he said that the reader is partly the creator of a book when it is read. Without the reader's input, the book doesn't come alive. I so agree with that, but would add a caveat - the author's part in making a book comes alive is far larger than the reader's part. To me, if a reader is engaged enough to pick up the book and read it in hopes that it will be good, it is then up to the author to fulfill his or her responsibility to make it so. And if the book fails for the reader, then the author has failed in that instance for that reader.

True, not every book will work for every reader, just as not every movie works for every viewer. And a particular book might well work for some readers, and not for others. Some of it depends on what's expected, and from my husband comes an interesting analogy. He left town this evening for a business trip, and I took our daughter to dinner to take her mind off of his leaving town. She chose, of all places, a soup and salad restaurant, surprising to me because she hates salad. But, what the heck, maybe her taste-buds are changing? She asked me to put some peas, beans, noodles, and turkey on her plate, but wouldn't eat them once she found out they were not hot - in other words, they were cold.

My husband, as I relayed this to him on the phone tonight, said that she might have eaten them had she known they would not be hot so that her taste buds would know what to expect. I immediately poo-pooed that idea, but when sitting down to write tonight, thought that perhaps his idea had some possibilities.

My expectations of a romance novel, in addition to an HEA ending, include having a hero and heroine I will come to love. Do I want to know these people, would I want to spend time with them? I can be fairly finicky - if either the hero or heroine does something despicable or nasty, they will have to redeem themselves very admirably or I won't forgive them. It doesn't matter if their nasty action comes early on - in fact, a very early despicable action or series of nasty actions will likely cause me to give up in that act of creation Clive Barker talked about.

A romance I read and reviewed recently featured two lead characters who managed to turn me off before I'd read ten pages of the book. Page four of that book featured the 30-year-old virginal heroine playing with her nipples in order to seduce the hero. Page seven featured the hero, assuming the heroine was a call girl, giving her oral sex. Now, the author of this book has focused on two words in my review of her book, where I indicated that the characters seemed "lily white" to me. Since then I have changed those words, although I also posted a paragraph following the review stating that I had changed the review, which now reads the characters were "oddly colorless".

This, of course, makes so much more sense to me after having watched that Clive Barker interview and recalling that Patricia Potter book. Remember, all I could see in my mind's eye was a plain blue cover whenever I tried to imagine Star Catcher as reality. When I tried to imagine the characters in Heart's Desire, I could see nothing, not black, not white, not purple or green or orange. And that was not because I was looking for some stereotypical "African-American behavior", as the author has assumed.

I was not looking for, as she stated, a heroine to "knock off a liquor store," "smoke crack," or "Be a 'hot mama'." None of the African American women I know are like that. Indeed, they are, as Ms. Jackson and I am, middle class women with the same hopes and dreams. Now, in what middle class neighborhood do women, inexperienced or not, diddle their nipples in plain view of a party, to seduce a man they've never met?

I found that action just plain despicable, and found the hero's actions a few pages later downright nasty - giving oral sex to a woman you assume is a call girl ranks right up there with giving oral sex to someone who hasn't bathed in a week after having ridden a horse escaping the bad guys.

Given that I didn't like these characters after my introduction to them, I waited for the author to sufficiently redeem them. Unfortunately, she didn't, and that is why this book failed for me. But because I also included that "lily white" phrase, which, granted, was not my best turn of phrase, few people focused on that. Indeed, even my following comments questioning whether seeming "lily white" or "oddly colorless" is "a good thing or a bad thing, I can't be sure," and adding, "But if multi-cultural romance means nasty, cookie-cut-out characters who could easily be white, black, Latino, or Asian, I won't be reading any more of them," the damage apparently was done for many.

The first email I received after the review was posted was from a long-time AAR visitor who also happens to be African American. She wrote, in part, "Your review of this book had me LMAO!! See, that's what I like about your reviews - you tell it like it is instead of just saying it was ok and sending us out to buy trash." After she read the accompanying column and the author's posts to my message board, she added she's never read an MC romance because she doesn't "want to read a romance that is marketed toward a specific race of people in the hopes that I will identify more with those characters because they are also black."

Ebonye also wrote that she found peculiar the fact that while she's seen romances where white heroes/heroines fall in love with Native Americans, Asian Americans, and Latin Americans, but never African Americans. Good point, Ebonye - can anyone tell us if there are such romances out there?

Ebonye also stated, "You ask, 'Should a multi-cultural romance be filled with characters who could be any color but are African-American because the author says they are and they have dark skin?' I say, to a certain extent, why not? For instance, if I were to write an AA romance, I wouldn't want it marketed to only AA readers. I would want it to be read by as many people as possible, so I would not be going out of my way to create characters that only AA's can identify with. The reason for this is because if it is marketed as an AA romance, the readership will be limited from the very beginning."

As for the author's public comments about the book, Ebonye wrote that if she were reading an AA romance, she wouldn't be looking for "characters all steeped in AA culture." But she vehemently added that:

"I didn't see a thing wrong with the ending of your review where you talked about 'lily- white'. I knew exactly what you were talking about so it didn't bother me in the least and it still doesn't. I think what you were probably looking for were the subtleties that do set the culture apart like the fact that we do listen to different types of music, speak differently to one another, the way we interact is definitely a bit different at times and so even though I can't explain it to you, I really do understand what you're talking about and what you're getting at."

After I had heard from Ebonye, I didn't know what to expect, and was shocked to receive hate mail from a number of people. My message board was filled with a variety of comments, ranging from readers who didn't see anything wrong with what I had written to those saying I must be a racist to have written the review, the column, and its addendum. This was a typical response, "Hey, maybe she'll read another AA Romance and enjoy it. But, she's not going to find any characters that are on AFDC, with 5 children, all with different fathers, or anything else that would constitute the characters as AA." Another poster called me a "one-woman lynch mob."

I had a dinner date with an old friend who is also African American when all this was going on, and told her I had been called a racist, bigot, Rush Limbaugh wanna-be, etc. When she stopped laughing, she asked to read the book in question. I gave it to her the next time we visited, and when she called to talk about it, she told me she never got past those opening pages, the very same ones that bothered me so much.

So, what is it we want from a Multi-Cultural romance? That, as usual, depends on the reader. For me, I want a book to have characters I can love. That's a given. I want a book to be well-written enough that I can see them in my mind. Part of that, for me, is an anchoring process. Remember The Cosby Show? The characters were upper-middle-class African Americans. Cliff loved spicy Cuban and Jamaican food. Claire loved African American art. Small things, really, but enough to help anchor those characters for me. To paraphrase a Supreme Court Justice, "I know a good one when I read it." Or, to state it as one reader did, "Culture is the small, subtle things like music, art, food, the way we speak with one another, interact with one another, etc. The books are called 'multi-cultural' so what is so wrong about expecting to see another culture when picking up a book labeled 'Multi-cultural'?"

What about others? Well, AAR contributor Beverly stated that, for her, medieval romances are MC romances because the culture of medieval England is very far removed from modern U.S. culture. Other readers wrote in to say that an MC romance should be a romance where the lead characters are from different cultures - perhaps one black, the other white, or some other ethnic combination.

Karen said that judging all MC romance by one bad MC romance wouldn't be fair. She's right, of course, and I followed the recommendations of many of you who said the same thing and read Topaz by Beverly Jenkins. I found Topaz to be enjoyable, mostly because I fell in love with the hero, found both the hero and heroine likeable, and, yes, learned something of historic black culture in the process. I still would like to have a listing of actual titles by authors such as Jenkins and Angela Benson so that we may start a Special Titles Listing of ethnic romance. Here is the list as it stands:

  • Topaz, Indigo, Vivid, and Night Song by Beverly Jenkins
  • The Way Home and The Nicest Guy in America by Angela Benson
  • Rhapsody, Seduction, For the Love of You, and Body & Soul by Felicia Mason
  • Shadows on the Bayou by Patricia Vaughn
  • Nowhere to Run and Everlastin' Love by Gay G. Gunn
  • Tonight & Forever, Whispered Promises, and Eternally Yours by Brenda Jackson
  • Silver Love and Home Fires by Layle Giusto
  • Home Sweet Home and Careless Whispers by Rochelle Alers

Karen added, "I disagree with part of what Laurie said about African-American romances. I don't think that African-American authors should have to write about characters that have a particular 'black' experience, any more than white authors feel restricted in writing about one kind of 'white' experience."

Maudeen, who used to complain about The Romance Reader's reviews but not finds them far more tasteful than those here at AAR, wrote, "As one who just recently reviewed six African American romances in my capacity as a reviewer for (the online bookseller) Amazon.com I can say that in general I was very pleased with the books I read. In one, the characters could, for the most part, have been white other than the description of their skin color and hair texture. That said, I have several AA friends who live in mostly white communities and, other than their skin color and hair texture, could be white. You are making a big assumption on the basis of only reading one book. AA women vary as much as their white counterparts, it's simply not fair to think that AA characters are going to fit in some stereotypical mold."

TJ, of Asian-American descent, added her views to the melting pot, and wrote that while nobody experiences anything the same way, her existence is shaped in part by her ethnicity. What she wants in an MC romance, are characters which "shouldn't be substitutable in terms of race. Say I wrote a book about Japanese characters, but when it wouldn't matter at all if I just said the characters are Chinese or upper-class white American or Latino, then I, as an ethnic/multicultural writer, failed.

"I don't really think Laurie assumed that there's only one experience for each racial or ethnic group, but that the race of characters could have been anything including white and it wouldn't matter a bit to the book. Or at least that's the impression I got from reading her review/column.

"I think what it comes down to is reader expectations. When I read ethnic/multicultural books, I don't want a character who could have been white. I think that kinda defeats the purpose of reading a MULTIcultural books. I know some ethnics groups are very much Americanized, but it's not always true, and why read MULTIcultural books featuring ethnic characters if they could have been white? I could be reading a book featuring white characters. Just like the label ROMANCE makes readers to expect a HEA ending, the label MULTICULTURAL seems to make readers, at least this one, to expect some kind of MULTIcultural contents."

Perhaps the best comments came from Elaine, who put it in a different perspective when she said the problem lies with term Multicultural. She is one of many who wrote in saying that publishers have used this as a marketing tool when it is insufficient. Calling a book an MC romance just because it was written by a non-white author and features non-white characters, she wrote, is problematical because so many expect an MC romance to be steeped in different cultures. Why not, as Beverly Jenkins publisher did, avoid the label altogether? Topaz was labelled historical romance. Could disappointment be avoided if a color-neutral book set in modern times by an AA author and peopled with AA characters was simply called a contemporary romance?

There are a variety of readers out there of a variety of ethnicities and racial backgrounds, and there is no one definition of what an MC romance is or should be. Apparently it makes many people very uncomfortable to even question in this arena, and it is very easy to put labels on those who make the attempt. I'm not sure that opening up this discussion again will do anything except create the same type of message board rubbernecking that occurred last time out, but we'll see.

Reviews and Reviewers:
One thing that grew out of the discussion was a much wider discussion of reviews. When I wrote for The Romance Reader, we were attacked constantly by those who felt our reviews were out of line. Apparently I've continued that legacy here at AAR; our reviews have been called tasteless, graceless, and now racist. Clearly they are not for everybody, but the number of readers discovering them are coming back for more.

If you know before you read a review that it received a "D" or "F", and you don't like negative reviews, why read it? I personally read reviews for the information, the honesty, and the entertainment value. I read reviews if they are well-written, regardless of what is being reviewed. For instance, I don't go to many movies anymore, but I always read the movie reviews in Entertainment Weekly. They are honest, informative, and always entertaining, whether they are giving kudos to a film or shredding it to bits. I don't mind them doing that, even when it's a film I've loved; after all, it's just an opinion.

Ty Burr is the video reviewer for EW, and occasionally writes movie reviews as well. His magazine has a circulation in the millions, and I was lucky enough to snag a few minutes with him recently to talk about reviews. Before we get into that, however, I want to share with you a review that EW rated "F" not so very long ago. I think it's important to reiterate what reviews are like in the non-romance world where Romantic Times rules.

Here are the highlights from an F-rated review from Owen Gleiberman of The Odd Couple II:

"They're ancient, decrepit, toothless--not just weary but ready for the grave. Who, Oscar (Walter Matthau) and Felix (Jack Lemmon), the aging crank-case bachelors of Neil Simon's The Odd Couple II (Paramount)? No, I'm talking about Simon's jokes. . . Simon doesn't seem to realize that he's rehashing every cliche from every tired buddy movie that ever starred someone like Martin Lawrence. . . By the time (Oscar delivers a punch-line) we're 1,200 miles ahead of that joke. . . the fact that Simon now has them cracking wise about fat calories and bladder control just makes the whole thing reek of desperation. Oscar and Felix were like two goitered old ninnies kvetching at each other in a retirement home even when they were middle-aged. Now that they're literally grumpy old men, you just want them to shut up."

And here are some choice comments from a very recent C- review of The Rainmaker, according to Ty Burr: After referring to the movie as "lifelessly presented," he states, "there isn't a moment in Rainmaker that isn't made of pure Hollywood plastic," and then goes on to say the movie "holds the audience in contempt. . . That this lumbering white elephant comes from the director of The Godfather is most painful of all. In Peter Biskind's new book Easy Riders, Raging Bulls, Margot Kidder recalls that meeting Coppola in the late '60s was 'as close to God as one could get.' Rainmaker makes as good a case as any that God is dead."

With that in mind, here is my brief Q&A with Ty:

LLB: What is EW's "official" definition of a review and a reviewer's responsibility?

Ty Burr: There is no official definition that I'm aware of. But it's fair to say that there is a split between a reported story and a review. One is journalism;. the other is opinion. One takes journalistic and "people" skills: interviewing, research, background, nosiness, etc. Reviews need more writerly, essayistic skills: clarity, grammar, humor, knowledge of the field covered. It's been my experience that most successful magazine writers excel in one area or the other; rarely is one person good at both. There are those who are - and they are prized by editors. As to a reviewer's responsibility, again, there's no official brief. But as I see my job it's to cover both the service angle (i.e., is the movie, book, CD worth your money and why?) and the larger pop-cultural angle (i.e., where does the movie, etc, fit in the larger picture - of the creators' work, the genre as a whole, the marketplace, etc etc). And to do it clearly, cleverly (but not too cleverly), and fairly. Since it is opinion, it has to reflect that this is, in fact, one writer's point of view - I have no use for those readers who think that a movie critic should "be objective". There's no such thing, really. What is important is being honest about your subjectivity - your likes and dislikes - and also being knowledgeable, so it's more than just a rant.


LLB: Now in your own words - what is it you do as a reviewer at EW?

Ty Burr: I'm the video reviewer. I review films when they come to tape, some months after they've been in theaters. While the films may have lost some PR heat, it's actually a good time to review them, since you can ignore or analyze the hype, discuss how a film did with audiences and why, relate the film to the director's or actor's body of work. It can really offer a whole new spin on a film. I also am third-string movie critic, filling in when Owen and Lisa are busy or away. Different, harder set of skills here, since you're seeing a film before it has been defined by the critical/audience marketplace. That's where one's inherent taste (good or bad) and knowledge of movies (and, hopefully, real life) come in handy; you're flying comparatively blind.


LLB: How could anyone be accused of writing an unfair, biased, and unobjective review when they've not read/seen what's being reviewed?

Ty Burr: Excuse me? You're asking your readers to behave in a logical, rational manner? You should see some of the letters I get...

I will say that I try not to be unduly, personally cruel to the creators, but it's also, at bottom, not my job to consider their feelings. I have to judge the movie as it stands, as a finished product, and while I have to take into account what the filmmakers wanted it to be, I don't feel it necessary to consider their personal lives - unless it impinges for better or worse on the work.

Also, I think it's different when it comes to books, since there you have one, sole author and often someone who is trying to express their feelings. So you really do have to take intent and effect into account, more so than with film, which is more collaborative.

I guess what I'm saying is that I do try to practice "responsible reviewing" - judging the work rather than the person or people who made it. And, yeah, sometimes I've given in to the impulse to be snide if it'll get a laugh. But I hate myself in the morning.

At the same time, yes, I have passed on reviewing something because I felt too emotionally inflamed about it. Couldn't get the proper critical distance. Hasn't happened often, but once or twice.


LLB: How do you feel about ratings/grades? I know I always check the grades in EW's reviews before reading the reviews, and at my site, the grades are seen on the index page before the reader decides to read the reviews. Do you find grades useful as a reviewer, and, how did you get away with not giving a grade to Starship Troopers?

Ty Burr: Grades are a necessary evil here; after eight years at EW, I've gotten used to them. They serve the service angle more than they serve informed criticism, of course. But they're really just a sort of McReview rather than the real thing. And it wasn't a problem with Starship Troopers, as long as I backed it up. We're given a pretty wide latitude here, thank god.

I tried to follow-up with Ty on some of the points he made, such as what he meant by being "emotionally inflamed" and in which instances he's hated himself in the morning, but he was unavailable for further comment. Given his C- review excerpted above, I would guess that what seems on the low end of snide for the mainstream world of reviewing would be very snide to most romance readers.

I've talked before about my beliefs about reviews (starting with Issue #12 of this column), and also "practice what I preach" - my reviews editor and all the reviewers at AAR write honest and informative reviews that are also entertaining. There is a world of romance reader out there who indeed does not want anything negative said about any book or author in the genre - those readers probably shouldn't visit this site. Those are the readers who believe that if a publisher published a book, it's somehow redeemable. The doctor who graduated at the bottom of his class is still an M.D. - but I'd rather go to the doctor who did his rotation at Johns Hopkins. Those are the readers who think a reviewer should not review a book she didn't like. Those are the readers who think the author's feelings must be considered when writing a review. Those are the readers who can call a review biased when they've not even read the book in question.

I think those readers are mistaken. The genre will never gain the respect it deserves if books and authors aren't judged on the same standards that exist in the mainstream. We all know that not all of the 150 releases each month is a gem. So why not just be open about it instead of hiding behind euphemism?

Enough preaching. Here are some comments about reviewing that came through the message board:

Juliet: I'm amazed to hear that people actually wrote saying that you shouldn't review a book if you didn't like it. That's ridiculous! the reviewer has a responsibility to tell us what (s)he thinks of the book and to tell us why. The reader should be able to find out from the review what elements of the book disturbed or delighted the reviewer. It is understood that this is just one person's opinion, that other reviewers probably differ, and that the reader must form her own judgment. It is not the role of the reviewer to promote books. I like to try out new authors and new areas of fiction, but that doesn't mean I want to spend my precious time and money on poorly written, badly plotted, uninvolving or traumatically disturbing stories. A good review can lead me to a new discovery, provided the reviewer is honest enough that I know that a book that gets a good review has met some clearly defined set of standards.

Karen: I want to read the best books, and since I can't read them all, I depend on reviewers, in part, to help me spend my book budget on books I'll really enjoy. While I think 'encouraging people to try new things' is great, can anyone really afford the time and/or the money to read every book that comes out? If every book gets an A, then how do you pick out the ones that are truly special?

Katherine: I think it's okay for you to review something (whether book, movie or whatever) even if you have a strong (positive or negative) reaction to it. So long as you explain the basis of your review. After all, 'praise' releases aren't much help to the reader. Different readers have different tastes; but so long as those preferences are spelled out in the review, that's fine. And if authors are afraid of strong negative reviews, they shouldn't have their stories published (in the first place) or shouldn't read the reviews (in the second). The bottom-line of a review is to help a reader spend his or her scarce, hard-earned money wisely. It's not a feel-good, smiles-and-sunshine thing about a story that's given away for free; it's an opinionated bull session with tips on book buying. Telling a reviewer not to say anything if a book (in their opinion) stinks, is like telling NASDAQ not to post anything on stocks that are performing poorly.

Heather: This genre will never get any respect if reviews cannot be counted on to be honest. I rely on reviews to make by buying decision when it comes to books, movies, computer programs, cars etc. If reviewers consider the authors, designers etc. feelings there will be no honest reviews about anything.

Adele: I'm a new author myself. My first book will be released next fall and I fully intend to send it to you for review. I've only been on the Internet for about three months so all of this is new to me. I've been writing for several years, have been reading romance since the age of 13 (1976), and the only romance reviews known to me, until I found your site, were those of Romantic Times and others of a similar nature, which, on the whole, I'd always found a little tiresome and repetitive. Not every romance written can be that good. As a writer, I fully understand the heart that goes into every book, every line, every word, the time and effort, the anguish, spending literally hours on just one paragraph to make it as absolutely brilliant as I can. This is why some reviewers are so 'gentle' with their reviews. They understand the labor behind it. But here's my point: I'm going to be a published author. If my books are atrocious enough to get scathing reviews by you and yours, geez, but I want to know that! Sure I'd be heartbroken (for a couple of days) and then I'd get over myself and get to work! How can better myself as a writer if I'm constantly being pampered by my reviewers?"

TJ: I don't see the point of saying that all books are well written because I know all books are not well-written, and many books are pathetic! But do you know what is worse? What is worse is that some mags and reviewers say don't review the damned book if you can't say anything nice! Hellooooo!!!!!! A reviewer can say anything she wants to say about the book as long as she can justify what she says. If the book sucked, well, it sucked, don't tell poor reviewers to lie. What is even worse, however, is that some authors are so sensitive that they cannot take any kind of criticism. I don't hear authors harassing editors for rejecting their books, but I hear authors harassing reviewers for bad reviews."

Another Karen: I have been ordered to stay out of this any further than I am already in it, but I have this need to say something. I was recently quoted as saying if you can't say anything nice, don't say anything. What is the problem with understanding this concept? Let me start by saying, I am a reviewer, as well as an aspiring author. There is no reason to be cruel when reviewing, judging, or criticizing. I think all should be based on being constructive...we learn from our mistakes, unless we lose the desire. I don't begrudge Laurie her opinion, I am only saddened by it's lack of professionalism and objectivity."

Suzanne: I don't believe it is the duty of a critic to temper a review to avoid hurting the authors feelings, as long as the review is an honest one. By that I mean the review should be confined to the subject matter of the book and not become a personal attack on the author. We should keep in mind that reviews are merely the opinions of their authors, having no more rightness or authority than anyone else's. It seems to me that many people take a critical opinion of a book as a personal affront, as though they were themselves the book's authors. When I read a review, I keep in mind that everyone's taste is different, that what I might consider has great merit, others think is trash."

It's Time for the Message Board!
I had hoped to bring you a wonderful segment as written by AAR Reviewer Ellen Micheletti, but this column has gone on and on - that's what happens when there are 128 posts to a message board in two week's time! I had also hoped to start a new segment, a positive one, on favorite plots and/or premises in romance and/or fiction in general. For instance, I love romances where the hero and heroine are shipwrecked on a deserted isle (check back soon for my review of a terrific little romance featuring a deserted isle by Merline Lovelace). I love fiction that is based on college friendships over time, which is why I continue to buy Rona Jaffe and Anne Rivers Siddon even though both these authors seem very inconsistent to me. For instance, I didn't much care for Jaffe's latest, Five Women, but very much enjoyed Siddons' Up Island (look for my review soon).

While there isn't enough time to further discuss this now, I hope you will find time to post about it to the message board. Here are the topics to consider:
Favorite plots and/or premises in romance or fiction such as deserted islands, and the spinning out of college relationships. We may try for a Romance Top Ten
Have you read books which should have been good but which failed to capture your imagination? What do you think about Clive Barker's comments, and my own interpretation of them? Where does the author's responsibility end and the reader's begin, and vice versa?
Do you know of any roomances where the love relationship is between an AA character and a white character? Do you have any titles to add to our begining list of MC or ethnic romances? Can you add to the discussion in general?
Reviews - did anything from my brief interview with Ty Burr strike your fancy or bother you? What do you think about ratings in conjunction with reviews? What publications do you trust for reviews? Anything more about the reviews segment? Do you think the Internet has, in some ways, made honest criticism more difficult because authors and readers interact on nearly a daily basis?

Until next time, TTFN, Laurie Likes Books

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