So let me give you the background. As long as we’ve been together soulmate and I have two rules: Every night we’re apart we talk at eleven at night. That’s eleven for whoever is earliest, and sometimes when it’s hard to connect (think Australia or China) it might be every other night. The other is if we can possibly be together, Friday nights are sacred. So we were planning to be together last Friday night, but mother nature intervened (no, not THAT way). A foot of snow – snowed in, snowed out. We couldn’t be together. So I started reading Debbie Macomber’s new book, “An Engagement in Seattle.” I picked it up the same time I bought Nora Roberts’ new one. (More on that later).
Being somewhat frustrated already I didn’t want to “Read Like A Writer” (A good book, by the way) – I wanted to just read for enjoyment. So I started in. I’ve been reading two books lately that are excellent for my genre – Passionate Ink, by Angela Knight, and the Complete Idiot’s Guide to Writing Erotic Romance (which is much better than it sounds) by Alison Kent. So even though I wasn’t consciously doing it, I was following the subtle building of sexual tension in Debbie’s book, marveling at the excellent use of Goals, Manipulation, and Conflict. I thought it was almost text book – for the first time I was following a lot of stuff I’ve read about, and it really added to my enjoyment of the book even though that wasn’t what I intended.
I’ve been in editing mode for the last several months, and I was even able to giggle when I came across an obvious typo – unfortunately it was the kind of thing that just pulls you out of the book until you figure out what she really meant. (Note to self: Don’t do that) But I kept on going. For one hundred and forty nine pages I loved gentle kisses, sensuous touches, and subtle innuendo. I’d like to quote what came next…
“He removed her bra and panties.
Then his own clothes came off…
Afterward neither spoke.”
What? Dot-dot-dot? After that long teasing beginning? What is this, Mama Mia? (which we’ve all seen seven times and know all the words to, right?). Angela constantly refers to a reader getting frustrated with our work and throwing the book across the room. I’d never read something that made me feel that way. Until now. I literally haven’t picked it up since. I’m not mentioning this to bash the book. In many ways it’s a beautiful read. That’s not the point. For me personally, it was an object lesson. Do NOT disappoint your reader.
This is a New York Times top 10 best-seller. Unless I’ve got her confused with someone else I think she has described coitus considerably less succinctly before. Then I looked at the stuff in the beginning of the book you always skip over. Turns out the two stories were written nineteen years ago – she and her editor decided to blow the dust off and send them out. A lot of girls must have bought the book to make it to the NYT list.
Ok, so maybe it makes sense. Maybe nineteen years has made a lot of difference in our expectations. Or… does that mean that there are a lot of disappointed readers out there? Or does that mean that mainstream romance just became slightly less explicit? Or does it mean anything? Can’t help but wonder. Let me know what you think.