Wednesday, March 12, 2008

Another Day, Another Wallbanger

It's not often that I read a book that's so bad, I want to drop it in my driveway and drive over it a few times out of sheer spite over good money and precious time wasted. As a writer, I have a healthy respect for every author's creative spirit and enough sense to know that what doesn't appeal to me may be someone else's Best Thing Ever. If I don't like a given book, I generally dismiss it with the philosophical thought that while it may be competent, it's just not my cup of tea.

But the book I just finished ... it boggles the mind how it didn't get the stuffing edited out of it or at least make some unsuspecting copyeditor completely lose her mind. It's books like this that make me wonder if I should just give up on the whole idea of trying to tell people that romance novels don't necessarily equal trash/fluff/incompetent drivel.

Here's my damage: We all know that conflict is the heart of a good story. Star Wars wouldn't have been the best science fiction adventure of all time without the evil empire. The Lord of the Rings would have been a bore without Sauron and his minions breathing down Frodo's neck much of the time. When Harry Met Sally wouldn't be one of the most beloved romantic comedies ever if Harry and Sally had had the maturity and sense right from the beginning to know that they were meant for each other.

So this anonymous book ... it had no conflict. Basically (and I'm changing around details to protect the scribbler's identity), the heroine's ex-fiance is an ex because she found out he'd been cheating on her. She and her ex used to be good friends with the hero of the story, but once she discovered about the cheating, she realized that the hero must've known about it and didn't tell her. So, she dumped him as a friend at the same time that she dumped her fiance.

So starting in chapter one, through the machinations of a well-meaning friend, the heroine and hero are being forced to work together for the first time since she told him to take a flying leap off her universe many moons ago. We have a fairly decent romantic conflict--she's angry that the hero kept the humiliating knowledge of her fiance's cheating from her and almost let her get married to the jerk when they were supposed to have been friends, and he probably feels a little weird about the idea of getting involved with his old friend's ex.

Then WHY, at the end of chapter one, did the author decide to sweep the entire conflict to the side and forge on without any sort of sensible obstacle to speak of? The H&H had a conversation that went something like this.

Heroine: "I hate you. You lied to me and let my ex humiliate me. We were friends, and you should have told me he was cheating."

Hero: "I didn't know he was cheating. I found out when you did."

Heroine: "Really?"

Hero: "Really."

Heroine: OK, I believe you, but I'm going to hate you anyway."

Hero: "But, but ... I don't get it. I didn't KNOW! I HATE that guy now!"

Heroine: "I've spent too much time hating you to go back now, you stupid dummyhead."

In other words, at the end of chapter one, what was a pretty decent if not earth-shattering conflict morphs into the following exercise in lameness: She's spent so much energy hating the hero, she refuses to let it all go to waste. And he admits that he's no longer in touch with the ex-fiance, so ... he really has no reason not to get involved with the heroine except that she's determined to get in touch with her inner middle-schooler and loathe him "just 'cause."

Scintillating.

I wonder if my local used bookstore will take a book with wall dents and tire marks on the cover?

On the other hand, an author I just discovered and am loving so much I can't stand it is Sharon Cullars. I picked up her book The Object of Love based solely on word of mouth and the fact that her first book, Again--the one that wasn't available at my local store--is a reincarnation romance, and I love those. If I'd just been browsing the shelves, I probably wouldn't have picked up Cullars' book at all because it's a steamy Brava, and--as you might have guessed by what I write--I prefer the kind of romance novels that have dead bodies and a good car chase or two. But again, she's been getting really good word of mouth, which is often enough to steer me out of my light-reading comfort zone. Turns out that word of mouth is well-deserved: I'm only a little over halfway through Object, and I'm entranced by the story's emotional punch, the leap-off-the-page characters, and the paranormal twist Cullars threw in to keep things exciting and unique. I'm reading slowly, not just because of the day job and the preschoolers and the writing cut into my leisure time, but because there's only two of her books out right now, and I'm going to be sad when I finish the second and have to wait for the next one.

Also read A Thousand Splendid Suns recently, and it opened a whole new window on the world for me--specifically to Afghanistan before, during, and after the Taliban. I think everyone in the western world who assumes every Iraqi and Afghani is a terrorist should read Khaled Hosseini's book. Because it shows how no matter where we are, what our religion is, if we're not extremist wingnuts, we all love the same, and suffer when exposed to corruption and violence, and wish for the same basic things for our children and for the world as a whole.

Wow, end of lecture (guess I'm feeling grumpy today). Read anything amazing lately?

6 comments:

Cathy in AK said...

"Stupid dummyhead"? Did one your your kids write that? : ) You need to hang with more grown-ups, my friend.

I've been duped by supposedly best selling authors giving me a book full of...well, you know. That's so frustrating. I go by word of mouth more often than not these days.

But since I've been reading yours and Jody Wallace's "A Spell for Susannah" (a fab fairy tale for adults), I have only been reading good stories, thank God. : )

Before those I read a Money Shot by Christa Faust and Slammerkin by Emma Donoghue (go look at my blog post from a couple weeks ago on bad girls). Both very good, if a tad graphic.

Tracy Montoya said...

OK, the author didn't actually write "stupid dummyhead," but it seemed appropriate to the general maturity level of that sucktastic "conflict."

I did read your post, but I had to run away before I was compelled to buy more books. I have a disease! I'll take another look tomorrow (gotta go get the kids now). The Wallace book sounds really good!

Kim said...

Of course I'm DYING to know who wrote the horrible book (but that's just me LOL). And I think I already told you how much I LOVED Twighlight, New Moon, and Eclipse by Stephenie Meyer. (the fourth and final one in the series comes out in August). Talk about conflict--and you know I'm so not a vampire girl--but I literally could not put these books down. I know they're young adult books, but they are some of the best romances I have ever read.
Kim

Tracy Montoya said...

I need to start those, Kim. THey sound amazing!

Amy Jandrey said...

I HATE books like that...

"I hate you!" she screams.
"I love you. Kiss me," he says.
"Yes!" she sighs.

I just haven't had much luck finding stuff lately that's kept my attention. I've only read two lately that were good--Cherry Adair's White Heat and JD Robb's Strangers in Death. Even the Blaze haven't kept my interest much. I'm beginning to wonder if it's the market and what the editors are putting out here or if it's just me.

Tracy Montoya said...

Hey, Amy! Sorry it took me forever to acknowledge your comment--I suck. I never really got into the In Death series, although judging by the love it gets from other people, there's probably something wrong with me.... : )

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Tracy Montoya writes romantic suspense for Harlequin Intrigue.

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