My choosing experiments

In my last post I mentioned doing some experimenting in ways to choose books. The first of these came from seeing the same books recommended in forums over and over. Some of these perennials are books I’ve read and about which I agree. For instance, The Outsider is truly a classic western romance and deserves to pop up regularly. Some of the others I disagree with pretty sharply because I know they’re the old rape romances (hero as rapist) that I despise.

There are some others, though, that I haven’t read and decided I should, so I started a list and looked them up on Amazon. Unfortunately a lot aren’t available for Kindle, and some are so overpriced I’m not biting (sadly IMO Penelope Williamson’s books for Kindle are an egregious example of overpriced digital versions of older books). However, I did find a few, and the one I’m going to use as an example now is Broken Wing by Judith James.

Keep in mind I’m only using it as an example of what has happened when I’ve deviated from my usual way of picking books by hearing about them, investigating the story description, and deciding yay or nay for myself. This is a book I got for my Kindle strictly because it was recommended so often in reader forums (and, okay, because I like the title). In fact right now there is a thread on the Amazon Romance forum titled something like The Best Romance Book Ever and this book has been mentioned by 3 out of 16 people so far. Where I usually saw it was in threads asking for recommendations of really emotional reads of books full of “angst.”

So what happened? I’d agree with everyone who says the book is well written and full of angst, but in truth I probably only really read something like the beginning 10-20% and after that began skimming and then skipping and finally, skimmed the last part and got the ending. The problem for me? I didn’t believe one single, solitary premise or plot point. The story was unrealistic to the point of silly to me, which pretty much kept me from feeling any angst or anything but “oh, for Pete’s sake!” So if I were an organized reader who kept track of who recommends what and got a feel for who I did and didn’t agree with, this method would probably work, but I’m kind of slap happy in that regard and have never kept lists of books read, summaries or anything like that. This book is only one of several failures along these lines I’ve had, so for me accepting someone else’s opinion on faith isn’t going to work.

I think in this particular book I was also affected by the fact that the first physical description of the hero was a turn off. I had that happen in a Lorraine Heath book that was a great story in every other way. Usually I’m pretty good at changing things I don’t like in my mind, but occasionally it doesn’t work and I get stuck with something that I just don’t find attractive and that’s that. The description of red fuzz on Jamie’s butt in Outlander had the same effect on me, just put him absolutely and positively outside the hero realm, although admittedly he wasn’t in it at that time. As a writer it’s kind of discouraging to know you can come up with what you think is a good story and one detail like that can lose a reader, but I know it happens for me, and from the reviews I read, I’m not the only one.

So I’m marking this experiment as a failure.

Did You See? Until June 15th Amazon has 600 books listed as Sunshine Deals, older books that are for sale in Kindle format at prices from $.99 to $2.99. They are broken down by category, and there aren’t that many romances, so it’s easy to skim the list. I only saw a couple I might investigate further, but I did see a couple. And I saw several I’ve bought in the past and will have to restrain myself to keep from checking to see how much I paid for them back when. 🙂


12 Responses to My choosing experiments

  1. McD says:

    Hey Ellen, thanks for the link to Sunshine Deals. I’ve checked out some SAMPLES. And may download a few of them. Like you, I love a bargain.

    I actually didn’t mind Broken Wing. For me it was a little uneven. But it was a debut novel and I think her pacing in her following novels has improved.

    The thing I’ve noticed in some forums though, is that the same books keep getting mentioned over and over. There are plenty of great books out there besides The Outsider and Broken Wing.

  2. Brandi says:

    I think I may have commented in a similar thread and said Eyes of Silver was one of mine. And Broken Wing is on my wish list for the same reason but have been on the fence about it. So many people have said it is great…hmmm…it may have to sit on the let for a while.

  3. McD – Remember I was only using those as examples, not as examples I consider the most egregious, just ones that came to mind. I think I’ve mentioned before that while I really liked The Outsider, I thought the whole dramatic bit at the end was over the top. It didn’t spoil things, but it made me think it was the author kind of pushing her position on a certain hot political topic by putting something I didn’t buy in the story. Then again I was wondering today if there is a single book I’ve ever read that I finished without thinking there was something that could have been changed, emphasized, or de-emphasized and made it better. I’ll have to ponder on that a bit.

    Brandi – The purpose of my whole discussion about this is to show how different we all are, so don’t let the way Broken Wing affected me stop you from giving it a try. Obviously a lot of people feel differently than I do. Just as a generalization, I’d say I’m more of a stickler for realism than most romance readers, but even saying that – what one person can buy in a historical romance another may not. Obviously from the reader reviews, I didn’t sell a lot of people on the family conflict in Eyes, and that’s the way these things work. It is nice to hear that one of my books is on your “list.” Thanks. ~Ellen

  4. McD says:

    Ellen you’re absolutely right. One person’s favourte is another’s wall-banger.

    I also love realism and accuracy, but there has to be a limit somewhere. Afterall, this is romantic fiction! And I have yet to meet any male that comes close in the real world to some of my favourite heroes.

  5. Oh, yes, I’m not saying romance should be like historical fiction. In fact, even with real romance in history like say, John and Abigail Adams, it isn’t exactly blood stirring to read about it.

    You’re right about real males vs. romance heroes too for the most part. Yesterday as I was driving I went under a walkway where people getting off light rail cars were crossing the highway to get to the parking lot where their cars were. The walkway is enclosed in glass. So a large flow of people were visible, and for some reason I started thinking about just that and looked at every guy walking by and kept thinking, nope, nope, not that one, nope.

    Of course the same can be said of females and from what I saw at writer conferences (and see in the mirror), most definitely about romance authors.

    However…, I will confess that once upon a time when I worked for a big law firm, a new lawyer came on. He had physically the effect on me that our romance heroines often experience. The reaction was so strong and so embarrassing I’d keep my eyes down and not look at him when he was close. I also had that urge to get snipey to make him stay far away. Since I was staff, and he was an attorney, of course, behavior was circumscribed in any event.

    In the end, though, the outcome was very different than our romance heroines. For them, that attraction overcomes everything. For me, once the guy was around enough I found out he was a jerk. The minute I realized that, the physical attraction disappeared and became only a memory.

    ~ Ellen

  6. McD says:

    “I also had that urge to get snipey”
    Ha, that is so funny Ellen! I must admit that I haven’t ever had that reaction. More just staring with mouth open. But can’t remember the last time that happened!

    “I found out he was a jerk”
    Yeah, or he smokes. Total deal-breaker. Or has a voice like Donald Duck. Just no.

  7. mesadallas says:

    Ellen, when I was 18 my first job was as a receptionist. I had almost the same experience you had with a new salesman but in my case the guy wasn’t a jerk he turned out to be gay.Talk about hitting a brick wall going 60.

  8. Now you’re making me laugh – and remember. There was a time in my life when I (and every female friend I had) was convinced that all good looking men were gay. ~Ellen

  9. mesadallas says:

    Not all good looking guys to be sure, but I guess it depends on where you are looking.

    I did a lot of theatre work in my younger days and my mother was a model in hers so I can tell you that about 3/4 of those dreamy male models, aren’t interested in women.

  10. At the time I believed in the all good looking guys are… theory, I was heavily into the horse show world. I suspect if I had been into rodeo, things would have looked different. ~Ellen

  11. mesadallas says:

    Now you’re making me laugh. My dad and uncles were bronc busters and bull riders so I know cowboys.

    I can just imagine the looks on their faces if they ever intended the gay rodeo- which there is nowadays.Can’t help but wonder what the barrel racing event would be like.

  12. mesadallas says:

    sorry! I meant “attended”; not “intended.”

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