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Thursday, April 5, 2012

Celebrity in Death by J.D. Robb

Subtitle: The Blog Post Wherein I Insist That TV Writers Should Read JD Robb

Earlier this week, Sarah and I had a conversation that went a little something like this :

And this and this:

In that conversation I repeated something I said in this blog post, and it's something I'm just going to holler right now.


There's this myth about the "Moonlighting effect" that suggests that allowing two main characters to become successfully romantically involved will be the death of a show.  I HATE it when people trot out this tired excuse for why romantic or sexual tension should never be resolved. (Honestly, it's best that you're not reading this over my shoulder.  The sound of my grinding teeth would horrify you.)

First, let's address the Moonlighting myth. Yes, the show's popularity dramatically declined after Maddie and David got together. Was that the fault of a happy couple?  How the hell would we know?  We never really saw them as a happy couple.  Because of outside commitments by the actors, the new lovers were rarely in a scene together the entire season after they became a couple.  The show was ending anyway.  Both actors (Cybil Shephard and Bruce Willis) were using their Moonlighting acclaim to land other, bigger gigs.

Second, did you read those screen shots? At some point, your characters start acting like imbeciles just to avoid hooking up.  That makes them lack credibility and likability.  I find it hard to believe that's effect the writers of Castle are going for.

Which brings us back to the book at hand, Celebrity in Death by J.D. Robb (aka Nora Roberts). Like Moonlighting and Castle, J.D. Robb books center on solving a mystery.  This is the 36th-ish story about the life and solved crimes Lieutenant Eve Dallas, a New York homicide detective who lives some time in our future.  Dallas had a very rough childhood, but through her own grit and determination became an upright citizen and stellar cop.  She's rough around the edges, but dedicated.  Over the course of these 30-some-odd books, she meets, falls in love with and marries Roarke, an Irish street rat turned gajillionaire entrepreneur.  Both of them had every excuse to turn out poorly.  Neither did.  Celebrity in Death, like every other book in this series, involves at least one homicide case that Eve must resolve.  This one's kinda fun because it references an earlier case of Eve's that became fodder for a best-selling true crime book and, eventually, screenplay.  This time an actress is killed at a party Eve and Roarke attend.  Solving this crime, and the subsequent related crimes, involves a deep background of secrets and power plays.
A fun mystery WITH romance

There's a certain formula to the crime-solving portions of these books just like there is to an episode of CSI  or  Law & Order.  What drives the stories and makes them real page-turners is the development of Eve's relationships (her friendships as well as her marriage).  Eve and Roarke grow throughout the series.

So, does the growth of that relationship cause the J.D. Robb books to suffer from the Moonlighting effect?  Let's see. Celebrity in Death was released at the end of February. It's currently listed as #26 for Kindle mysteries, #113 in the Kindle sales overall, #10 in mystery sales and #74 overall sales.  That's right. The 36th-ish book in a series is one of the top ten best selling mystery novels IN HARDCOVER.  Don't you think the writers of Castle or Bones would kill for the equivalent in television ratings? So, no Moonlighting effect for Eve Dallas.

So there.

To recap, television writers should read J.D. Robb books and so should you. Pin It


  1. Oh, we just watched that Castle last night on DVR, and I was so mad, too. And, well, you know that I love Eve & Roarke. So I wholeheartedly agree with everything you say. Shocker. ;)

    1. I am, indeed, shocked. ;) But pleased with our agreement.

  2. Being both a Castle fan, and a true J.D. Robb In Death addict, I loved this blog. I never thought about the Beckett/Castle pairing in these terms, but you're absolutely right--why don't they make it work? Certainly there was enough interesting stuff as Eve and Roarke settled into their relationship; hard to believe the Castle writers couldn't do the same.

  3. So, I was watching "Castle" with my husband of twenty-two years, and at the end of the episode he turned to me and said, "Ugh. That's so stupid. I understand why they do it, but really, do they have to?"

    To which I replied, "You know, by the end of the third J.D. Robb book Eve and Roarke were married, and they still have an awesome relationship. There's no reason Castle and Beckett can't get together."

    I kid you not! Now, I haven't read beyond book four in that series, but I can say from personal experience that long-term relationships can still be intriquing, maddening, sexy, and fun. So there, lazy Castle writers. Read some J.D. Robb.

    1. Ahh, Megan. Great minds do think alike!

      I just suggested yesterday that anyone who thinks that relationships don't have tension has never dated the same person for longer than six weeks. :)