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Wednesday, February 06, 2008:
MaryKate on "When a Good Author Goes Bad"
Last week, my pal Kati came up with the idea of "switching" blogs, so today she posted something from me, and I'm posting something from her. I adore Kati; she's smart, funny, gives great recs, and is an all-around cool person to know. I just wish she read much slower. Then again, she wishes I watched more t.v., so I guess we're even *g*
Kati: I’ve known Stacy a little over two years. We met at Michelle Buonfiglio’s Romance: Buy the Book blog because of our mutual love of romance novels. We share a lot of the same tastes, and generally have the same reactions to most books. We, for the most part, have strong feelings about authors like Lisa Kleypas and Suzanne Brockmann (although Stace loves her a little more than me), we loves us some blue collar heroes, we love the alpha hero, and we despise weak and stupid heroines.

Every once in a while as a romance reader, I read a book by an author I love that is a clunker. This happened to me recently with Laura Lee Guhrke’s "The Wicked Ways of a Duke". Guhrke is a sure thing for me. Prior to this book, I’ve never read a book by her that I didn’t love and isn’t on my keeper shelf. Sure, she uses some conventions that make romance readers crazy, and yes, there was some hoopla over "The Marriage Bed". But me? I love her. She writes consistently likeable heroines and compelling heroes.

"The Wicked Ways of a Duke" didn’t work for me because it employs the one romance convention guaranteed to make me throw a book at the wall…romance by deceit. I have a very hard time with any hero acting as one thing, but really being something else. In the case of this book, he pretended to fall in love with the heroine because he was a fortune hunter. Unforgivable? No, many books feature this premise. But for me, it went on too long, and since we as readers were in on it from the start, it created a kind of knot of tension in my stomach as I read. I felt more and more sorry for the heroine as she fell in love with this man who really bore little resemblance to who he really was. Did she get her vengeance? Umm, sort of. But in the end, she lied to him as well, and to me, two wrongs don’t make a right.

Anyway, there was much gnashing of teeth at my house as I persevered, sure that somehow Laura Lee Guhrke would pull the story out. She’d either have the hero grovel enough to satisfy me. Or, she’d somehow tie up the issue in a way that would make the resolution believable. Alas, no, the book ended and I stomped off to my computer, shot an email to a friend of mine who reads a lot of romance complaining bitterly about the book, and I tossed the book directly into the give away bag.

Has the experience turned me off of Laura Lee Guhrke? No. I still love "Guilty Pleasures" with a passion. It’s a total comfort re-read for me (I love ugly duckling stories, and this one is a masterpiece). Will I buy her again? Yes. Once. After that, she becomes an author I look for at the Used Bookstore. But if that happens, I’ll be sad about it and regret it. She’s written some wonderful romances that I adore. But hey, $8.00 only goes so far these days, and I am unwilling to spend money on authors who consistently disappoint me.

What about you? What books were you disappointed in?
When a beloved author "steps off the path" what do you do?
Do you never buy their books again?
Do you give them one more chance?

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  1. Cute idea - changing blogs. Let's see - to answer your questions. For the most part when an author steps off the path I will give them another couple of chance. An example is Lorraine Heath. I loved her Westerns and was VERY disappointed when she moved her setting to England. However I still gave her a chance and read three of her England set books. but I didn't think they were the same at all so (very sadly) I dropped her. If she ever goes back to Westerns though I will be first in line.
    On the other hand for a different loved author it only took one book. Suzanne Brockman used to be an autobuy author. Then I read The Defiant Hero and loathed the heroine Meg so much I threw the book - first and only time I've done that with a book. I still bought the next two - but couldn't read them once I read somewhere that of all her heroines, Ms. Brockman related most to Meg. Haven't been able to read her since then.
    Long answer isn't it? *g*

  2. Kati, Kati, Kati. Hmmm...I can't remember eeeeeeevvvverrrr having this conversation with you before! Oh, wait. Perhaps once or three billion times!

    You know I'm into the whole "psychodynamic" thing, so I'm always gonna ask a reader: was it really the book that was bad? Or was it a romantic or emotional dynamic that turned you off to the book? Did it touch on something in your own life that annoys or scares, or pisses you off? And if you can separate out that stuff, was the book itself "bad?" No plot? Sloppily written?

    My pointing this out all the time has more to do with the way people talk about the books they "hate" to other people. We all have things we want in the person we'll accept book recommendations from. I want more information when someone tells me a book is "bad," especially when I know there are many who may like that book. I want to know I can trust that the person giving me info about the book has separated out their own "junk" from their opinion about the book.

    Being disappointed in an author, like you talk about, kristie, is another story. You really gave Heath several more tries (!), and simply don't dig the England setting. But you're not saying, "she sucks! her books suck!" Just, hey, I like her westerns and would buy em again." When I talk w/marketing folks, I always mention how romance readers usually will give their faves several tries after they've been disappointed by a book that isn't the author's best. I find that remarkable).

    As for me? I just keep trying and trying. Even when I actually have to go out and PAY for the books. (I knew what you were thinking, Kati)! What makes me stop reading an author for a while? Maybe this happens to you: someone I like, but who's not an "autobuy" slips off my radar because some new talent is rising whom I wanna check out. And, like everybody else, I have a certain amt earmarked for entertainment purchases. Unlike you, Kati, it doesn't equal one third of the Gross National Product. :)

  3. Yes, Michelle, you *were* the good friend I bitched to when I finished this book. It's funny because it does seem like every once in a while I read a clunker for me.

    And yes, I probably should be more forgiving, and in some cases (JR Ward) I feel like I've at least given the author multiple chances. But man! I get SO disappointed when I read a book by a beloved author that doesn't work for me.

  4. I actually like The Wicked Ways of the Duke. A nice fluffy read after reading some intense sexual angst blah blah.

    My ultimate good author going bad is of course Julie Garwood. Also Elizabeth Lowell. What is up with all these mysteries?
    Also, I agree with Kristie that Lorraine Heath has gone off my auto buy list and Catherine Andersen.
    I hope that Linda Howard doesn't because her last few books for me have been disappointments.

    Kudos to the switching blogs! Maybe you will start a trend *G*

  5. Oooh! Julie Garwood is a *good* one, Kate! I haven't read her last three, I think.

    Also, Judith McNaught. It's funny she pretty much created the old school genre, and yet her books (even her new ones) seem so dated now. And yet, I love her like I love Nutella! LOL!

    The ultimate for me is JR Ward. I've pretty much hated her last two, and yet you better believe I'll buy Phury. I just can't get over the fact that the first three were most excellent, so I hold out hope with each subsequent book that she'll somehow pull herself and her sprawling mythology together. So, yes, I'll be dishing out $9.00 for Phury, but I'd imagine it will stop there, because I can't imagine I'll spend $15 on Rhev in HC. (Especially because I *know* you'll be buying it, Kate and I can't get the salient points from you!)

  6. It is all about Rehv come 2009. And I will even shell out for the HC.
    I have when a series goes from paperback to HC. They did that with the In Death series by JD Robb and of course after 28 books, I can't wait till it comes out in paperback and must get the HC.

    Ward just announced that Phury's will be the most pages she has written in the series, so you'll get your 9 dollars worth :)

  7. Hey, Kati!! What's a girl like you doing in a classy place like this? :D (I've always wanted to say that)

    Ah, when a good author goes bad. I've always wondered how that happens. Is it lack of ideas? Is it a change in my tastes? Is it that she was rushed by her readers to get another one out too quickly?
    I know I'm inpatient and am always crying that I want books more than once or twice a year without thinking of the author that has to create the story.

    To all authors out there; I'M SORRY!!!!!

    I am loathe to name names but have been disappointed by a few authors I used to auto buy. It's sad really. I never say never but there are so many up and coming authors that once disappointed (unless it's a series) I seldom go back.

  8. Hey, Kati!! What's a girl like you doing in a classy place like this?

    Bringing the level of discourse down, Jules! It's what I do! :wink:

  9. I don’t think I’ve been reading long enough :o) I’ve never really found a book that totally puts me off. Well ok one but that’s just because it wasn’t my cup of tea. I know the writing was good and there are lots that love the book but it just didn’t do it for me. I can’t bring myself to get rid of it either because it’s signed by the Author as a B-day gift. I mean how do you get rid of a book like that? Sorry moving on…

    Michelle I love the points that you made about why someone doesn’t like a book, and how they really should think on it before they nock it to others.

    I’ve only read really good authors so far and don’t even really browse the book shelf to look for new ones anymore because I get more req’s from you ladies than I can handle :o) not that I’m complaining keep them comin LOL

  10. Hi MaryKate! Hi Stacy! :)

    I'm still fairly new on the scene of romance reads, but two "good authors gone bad" that come to mind for me are Sherrilyn Kenyon and JR Ward. (I'm a big paranormal romance reader). I think the overall quality of Kenyon's writing, specifically in the Dark/Dream Hunter series, has seriously declined with the last several books. As far as Ward goes... I loved her first three Black Dagger Brotherhood books more than you can imagine, and I wanted so so so badly to love Lover Revealed, and Lover Unbound, but I think way too many liberties were taken with the rules of her world and the quality of character development (especially with V and Jane), was seriously lacking. But..... I know I'll still buy her BDB books because I have so much vested into the world and characters that I just won't be able to abstain. Even if I'm continuously disappointed from here on in... I just HAVE to know what happens.

    ... and I'll buy Ash's book, too! (Kenyon)

    Yes... that is a big 'S' on my forehead. S for sucker. :)

  11. Yes... that is a big 'S' on my forehead. S for sucker.

    Me too, Christine. Me too. I'll buy Acheron and I'll buy Phury.

    I just can't get over the idea that Ward will somehow go back to her Lover Awakened brilliance.

    Hope springs eternal.

  12. You guys have listed some of the authors on my list. Even my absolute favorite ones have managed to disappoint me on occasion, and I think it's because each time, the stakes are higher. I have to be realistic about that. I tend to be more forgiving to old favorites than new discoveries, as witnessed by the 2 books I've returned for a refund in the last year. And yeah, I'll be buying Ward's and Kenyon's next release.

  13. Thanks everyone for a wonderful day, and thank YOU Stacy for having me visit!

  14. Well dang I was going to buy this book b/c I love, love, love the author but now I might just borrow it... As far as authors that turn me off now is Laurell K Hamilton I gave her too many times to make me believe and now I just borrow them from my friend who hasn't given up hope!

  15. I guess, for me, it depends on the author and whether I read their "good" or "bad" stuff first and how bad, exactly, the book is.

    With SEP for example: had I read Honey Moon or Dream a Little Dream before the Chicago Star Series or Lady Be Good I would have never spent another cent on her books ACKKK.

    Then, there are authors who I used to automatically buy and always loved like JMcNaught who I wont buy anymore b/c I've been really disappointed everything she's written after -and including- Remember When.

    Susan Wigg's Charm School and S. Brokmann Hot Target (er, I think. Some sort of whiny cop called Ringo Sam and this really really nasty heroine) were so bad I doubt if I'll ever read them again.

    I read one Laura Lee Gurhke Something Kiss (a secretary and an earl?). Well, whatever. The book started off wonderfully: great characters, witty dialogue, engaging story. Then, I dunno, it just went all wrong!

    I'll give Guilty Pleasures a chance; it sounds good and from what I read of hers she has the potential to write a great book.

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