J. Kathleen Cheney (j_cheney) wrote,
J. Kathleen Cheney
j_cheney

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Guilty Pleasure: or Why Do I Keep Buying Those Books?

Patrice Sarath (author of Red Gold Bridge, Gordath Wood, and numerous short works) and I exchanged some books earlier this year as a part of our mutual quest to understand that beast called Romance.

The books I sent her were part of the "Drake Sisters" series by Christine Feehan, and we've been discussing them off-line, fascinated by certain aspects of them.

This series has baffled me for some time. Why? Well, because I don't particularly like them…..yet I keep buying the next one.

A little backstory: I generally don't pick up books by authors with whom I'm not familiar, but I will pick up anthologies of romance stories to sample authors that way. I ran across the first installment (a novella rather than a novel) in the series….and was hooked. I purchased the second novel, and although I kept finding things about the book I didn't like*, I realized I wanted to purchase the next one….in fact, I ended up purchasing every last one of the series.

So why did this happen? What did this author do to hook me in?


The main thing for me was the ancillary characters. There's a strong tradition in romance of writing in secondary characters who will later get a book of their own…which sucks the reader into buying the entire series.

In fact, except for the last couple of books, the secondary characters were the main draw for me. They were often more interesting** than the primary characters. The odd thing to me was that when those same character became the primaries, they were often…well, not so interesting. I observed to Patrice that when two characters of whom we had seen only hints became the primaries, they abruptly seemed to turn into the Alpha Male and his Alpha Bitch (forgive the language, but that is the proper term, I think). They became a bit…clichéd. And sometimes disappointing…

So what is the point of this? Well, somehow this author has managed to hook me, not through her line but through her secondary (football terminology). That says a lot for the interest level she managed to create in characters who weren't the focus of the story.

And I suspect that it says that I should be trying to do the same. That my secondary characters should have a life of their own…the sort that entices people to write fanfic about them. I suppose that's the main lesson I've taken from this series.
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*I didn't care for many aspects of these novels, or the author's writing style…but she is a million-seller, which indicates that those things don't matter to millions of other readers.

**I wonder if this is what provokes people to write fanfic about characters other than the hero of any series. I don't do fanfic myself, but I often find secondary characters more interesting than any of the leads.
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To read Patrice's comments on this, stop over by her blog.
Tags: romance
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