Books are cheaper than heroin, but they DO add up....

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Tuesday, November 8, 2011

Prey by Linda Howard

For my day job (because, you know, this blogging thing isn't QUITE full-time for me yet), we throw around a concept called "the wheel of retailing" and make blanket assertions about how ALL retailers are subject to the wheel*.   It seems unlikely that all retailers follow the same pattern, but enough, noticeable, national retailers have followed these steps that we feel comfortable making sweeping claims about ALL retailers. 

*Retailers often start as discount-price retailers in order to make a name for themselves, but as they expand in product selection and geographic presence, they become full-price retailers.  This leaves an opening for new retailers to break into the market with discount prices.

In my spare time (because, you know, I haven't found a way to get paid for my reading yet), I've noticed a disconcerting concept that I'll call "the wheel of romance".  I'm not going to make a blanket assertion about ALL romance authors being subject to the wheel**.  I know that all romance authors don't follow the same pattern, but enough, noticeable, New York Times bestsellers (e.g. Iris Johansen, Catherine Coulter, Elizabeth Lowell) have followed these steps that I feel comfortable raising the point.

**Romance authors often start out (well, duh) writing romance to make a name for themselves, but as their sales expand in volume and geographic presence, the writing becomes less about two characters getting together and more merely telling a tale.  This leaves an opening in my library as I get annoyed with romance writers failing to write romance.  (Oddly, at this point, the prices of these authors' books have traveled a wheel of retailing pattern, too.)

I raise this point not merely to make a tenuous connection between my day job and this blog, but because I've found another author, Linda Howard, who seems subject to the wheel of romance.  Linda Howard has written some seriously hot and seriously engaging books that I really, really liked (e.g. After the Night, Dream  Man, Mackenzie's Mountain).  Prey did not earn the engaging and hot label.  I actually skimmed ahead quite a bit; most times I consider skimming an unpardonable sin.  However, when your readers expect a romance, it is poor form to force them through 200 pages of a 300+ page book to find the second scene where the two main characters interact.  How am I supposed to root for them to get together if they're never together? Seriously poor form.  Skimming was then allowed.

Also, if you've made your name in the romance genre, the ending is presumed.  There will be a happily-ever-after, so it's hard to build up to a suspenseful ending if your readers are thinking "hurry up resolve the whole man-eating black bear and murderous embezzling money launderer subplots so we can get to the GOOD stuff".  That's right.  There's a murderous embezzling money launderer AND a man-eating black bear in this book, and I wanted them both to go away.  In reality, Howard's book have been trending this way for several years, but most of them still managed to be interesting and compelling.  In particular, Up Close and Dangerous was much more a survival novel than a romance, but at least the two main character where stuck in the survival situation together.  In Prey, the survival pieces are fairly solitary.  And solitary is not a good word for a romance novelist.

As a matter of fact, this may be the solitary Linda Howard book on my Nook for the near future.  I'll probably take a pass on her next book and look for someone to fill the hole in my library--someone who is at the early stages of the wheel of romance.

Where do you like your books to be on the wheel of romance?  Heavy on the suspense or just hot and heavy?  Is this not your "wheel" at all?
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