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03 August 2010

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My sister loves her, for reasons that kind of escape me. My sister also used to give me Danielle Steel books for Christmas, though, so make of that what you will.

That being said, I can see the appeal of formulaic books. I think I read a fair amount of challenging material, but I have a few series that are not especially great (and never really were) but I enjoy each book as it comes then quickly forget. Palate cleansers, perhaps? Mmmm, literary sorbet. My sorbet comes in the mystery flavor, not romance.

It does bother me that these are all that some people read. Snob? Moi?

Have you read "Beyond Heaving Bosoms: The Smart Bitches' Guide to Romance Novels" yet? The funniest apologia for romance books I've ever read, written by two of the most amusing book bloggers I've come across. It reminded me of why I used to love romance novels, and inspired me to pick up a few recently.

Rachael,
Did you read the Steel books your sister gave you? (I actually think I remember liking the Danielle Steel books I've read better than this Roberts one.)

It's not really formulaic that bothers me, I was just surprised at how kind of "clunky" Roberts's prose was. I read probably just as much romance as I do any other kind of fiction, and this is the first book where I felt like it was just plodding along. It surprised me. For being kind of a book snob myself, I'm not bothered when people read only romance--there's certainly enough authors and titles to keep them busy. I always felt bad for romance readers who felt bad about what they were reading or who felt like they couldn't read in public places because of their book covers, as a matter of fact: read what you want, and to hell with what other people think, I say.

Although I do snicker at people I see reading Thomas Friedman books. :) Okay, and James Patterson.

I've not yet read "Beyond Heaving Bosoms" but have been meaning to. Or maybe I'll just find another spicier romance than this one, just for fun.

I have nothing against romance, but I had the same problem with Roberts's prose that you did (to the extent that I couldn't actually make it through a whole book). Steel's prose is awful, too, but it's more fascinatingly awful. I read two of her books, and they took me a long time primarily because I'd stop every page or two to try to parse one of her sentences. Roberts's, as you say, are MadLib style -- not really interesting enough to diagram.

For our local genre study I read Danielle Steele and the thing that most amazed me was the list of "other books by this author". Who buys this crap? I'm supposed to read a Nora Roberts by the end of the week too. I've just been putting it off because I know how awful it will be. Just saying.

I love a good romance novel - and I read lots of them. But I've never read Nora Roberts. I guess I'll have to read one now just to see if it's as bad as I expect. I used to read Danielle Steel, but quit reading after Thurston House which was probably 1985, becuase they all started sounding the same.

CR, I did read several Steel books. They were ok, but I couldn't stand the "plug and play" nature of the plots/characters--take two beautiful people, add one or more beautiful locations, divide by (horrible tragedy) = grand romance. Laura-- you nailed it when you called her prose fascinating awful. It's not quite bad enough to make you want to read it out loud and laugh, but...it's close.

I think Nora Roberts is a bit like Janet Evanovich: the writing started out ok (while never being particularly good), and devolved as she gained in popularity.

If you want a good steamy historical romance in the modern tradition (mutual seduction), try 9 Rules to Break When Romancing a Rake. Very fun, very steamy. Also, any of the Eloisa James romances--she's a lit professor at one of the Ivies, and she's a flipping riot! I saw her at ALA a few years ago and HUGELY enjoyed both her thoughts on romances and the book that her publisher gave away.

Ugh...Nora Roberts!? I tried one of hers in college, didn't come remotely close to finishing it, and swore her off forever.

Please try romance again, and if I may add my favorite books to recommend: The Duke and I by Julia Quinn or Goddess of the Hunt by Tessa Dare. They are also funny historical romances, and they feature nearly identical plots! I still loved both books, so much so, that I am working on the authors' backlists now.

Nora Roberts is a great writer not because of her incredible prose (I have an M.A. in Literature...I know what incredible prose is) but because of the way she writes about people. I've read all her books. ALL. It's the characters that draw me in and keep me there until the end. Even Mac and friends from Vision in White. She writes about people that you'd love to be friends with or would even like to be like. If I might suggest Northern Lights or Carolina Moon. Much better.

Laura,
Yes, something about this book in particular wasn't for me. As noted, I've read romance, and sometimes, the more obviously cheesy it is, the better. I remember enjoying the hell out of several Sidney Sheldon novels in high school. Maybe I will try another Danielle again, too, it's been ages.

Melanie,
Do let us know what you think of Roberts. I read some romance but it tends to be more of the historical or erotic variety--not much of the contemporary stuff. So I'd like to hear from someone who knows the genre better!

Rachael,
Tee hee, good for you on the Steels. It almost seems like lately she's been trying to morph into more of the "women's fiction" milieu, which wouldn't do much for me. Perhaps I'll go back and try some of her older stuff.

Huh, Janet Evanovich. That's an interesting comparison. Do you think most Roberts readers also like Evanovich and vice versa? I read that first Evanovich Stephanie Plum novel and was so creeped out by the bad guy threatening to rape her I couldn't read any more. They were always touted to me as such hilarious books but I couldn't find anything funny about it at all.

And thanks for the Rake suggestion--you know I'm totally going to check out anything with "rake" in the title. Haven't read any Eloisa yet, but I do like Lisa Kleypas and I LOVE Elizabeth Hoyt.

Lizzy,
Thank you for the suggestions too! I do like Julia Quinn but haven't yet tried Tessa Dare.

Beret,
I'm glad you like Nora. You, not me, are clearly in the majority, if her sales numbers are any indication. You've also helped clear up that much of her appeal may come from her characters--which, having read only one of her books, and a later one at that, I'm not really qualified to comment on. (It probably didn't help that this book was about wedding planning, and I think wedding planning is the biggest scam perpetrated on women and consumers in the last few decades.) But I will look into Northern Lights--thank you for the suggestions.

OK I read about 50 pages of "Montana Sky" by Nora Roberts last night. Ugh! Near the beginning there was a paragraph which included the characters "Bess" "Willma" and "the three sisters". The next paragraph started with 'she'. Who the heck was the 'she' Roberts was referring to? I had to re-read three times to figure it out. This is a long book; I don't have time to do that every time NR makes a grammatical error. This book gets the 50-page hook. I've read enough to know what it's like and I'm dumping it.

Oh my, Donna, I will not be trying "Montana Sky" then. Good on you for making the 50 page call--when I want out of a book I'll often employ "College Reading" (it's how I got through college, after all): first chapter, last paragraph of subsequent chapters, last chapter. Didn't make for great grades but it did get me through.

You said the NR was part of a genre study? What type of romance do they term her? Straight "contemporary"? Been finding any other romance you DO like?

Wow, I just went on my Goodreads page to see if I could find a good title for you, and I realized that NONE of her books are really that good. And I have read almost all of them. I will strongly recommend that you check the copywrite page, because many of the books out now are actually repackaged Silhouette or Harlequin romances from the 80's, that I probably LOVED back then, but are pretty cringe-inducing now.

Now I'm worried that if I go back and visit an old Jude Deveraux book, I'll feel the same thing. Good Lord? What's happening to me? I think I'm growing up!

Marmota,
Oh, I don't think books always have to be good to be enjoyed. I was just a little surprised the Roberts wasn't better, because I'd heard so much about how she wasn't only commercially successful, she was also quite a "good" writer. I don't hear that as much about someone like, say, James Patterson.

Hm, never read Jude Deveraux; maybe she's next. I do freely admit I've read and enjoyed books by LaVyrle Spencer and Sidney Sheldon, and I don't know that they're any "better," really, than Nora. It's all very subjective. I'll also admit to wanting to re-read some Sweet Valley High books, which I blew through in high school, so I'm clearly not all that picky. :)

p.s. don't grow up, just find different romances.

I think it's the stories. A good story will capture a lot of readers even if the prose doesn't. But there are so many novels out there with both!! Unfortunately, they probably take longer to write.

Nora Roberts was one of the first romance writers I read as a teenager and, while I am not very enamored with her books, she will always hold a special place in my heart for introducing me to the genre. I read Montana Sky first (which I still love). I continue to get her newest books from the library and I very much enjoyed some of her recent paranormal stuff. But still, I find that the same three female characters that I loved in Montana Sky keep making a reappearance, with a slight make-over, in all of her books. I never feel like I am meeting a new person in her books any more. I've recently discovered Victoria Dahl (talk about Steamy!) and am a raving fan of Lisa Kleypas.

Sarah,
Yes, and I think a lot of people like her characters too. The "story" bit would probably make sense, as I don't often need a real compelling one to get into a book, preferring more eccentric character development. (And, I'll admit it, spicier make-out scenes!)

Jessi:
We all have a soft spot for authors we first read at formative ages (whatever those ages might have been) and that's a great thing. Mr. CR tells me often that fantasy writer David Eddings is derivative of Tolkien, but I don't care, because I read them when I was little and thought they were awesome (and Tolkien bored me to tears).

If I ever get round to it I'll try one of Nora's paranormal, JD Robb, or even Montana Sky stuff. She's certainly written enough that I could find a little variety! And--I love Lisa Kleypas too! And now I'm definitely going to have to look into Victoria Dahl.

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