Sunday, February 15, 2009

Categories, my love-hate relationship

As some of you may know, I am not a big fan of category romances. Theoretically, they sound great. A format that provides the reader with heat, romance and a HEA in a shorter, quicker read. Pressed for time? Busy professional and personal life? No problem! Pick up a category and you get all that you need in a tidy little package.

More often than not I finish one of these slim novels and feel cheated. Two dementional characters, insufficient development of emotion to connect the hero and heroine. This is not the authors fault. I often think, "If only they had the chance to turn this into a full-length novel..." So much potential, so few pages.

This is my issue. I know that. I have a very strong bias. I started to worry that it was keeping me from reading some lovely stories. To make sure that wasn't the case I decided to take a chance on a few new releases. Since I had heard some positive hubub about the Blaze line I decided to take a shot at those.

The first book was Coming Undone by Stephanie Tyler.

“I want you to start by running your tongue slowly around my ear…”

Oh no!

Surfer – make that ex-surfer – Carly Winters can’t believe she accidentally faxed an erotic letter to…a secure military line? Now Navy SEAL Jonathan “Hunt” Huntington is at her door, fax in hand, asking her how the fantasy ends.

Talk about fate…
Because Carly’s parents think Hunt is her new boyfriend, and Carly does need a wedding date ASAP. Hunt’s ready to play – only on one condition. Carly’s got to teach him to hang ten. Problem is, it’s been a while since Carly’s career-ending accident and she’s terrified of anything aqua. But with Hunt, letting go just may make her fantasy a reality!
Oh baby! HAWT! This book lives up to the Blaze idea. Hot, steamy sex with a good, solid romance. Carly and Hunt are fully developed three dementional characters. I liked them both. Really liked them. Carly's fear of the water was realistic and well written. She was tough, yet vulnerable. Hunt was simply fantastic. He didn't let Carly back down. He challenged heremotionally and sexually. There was an additional story line that gave the book even more emotional depth. If all categories were like this I would be buying them by the truck load.

Since my first foray into the Blaze line was such a success I picked up In a Bind by Stephanie Bond.

Soon to be married flight attendant Zoe Smythe is on her last flight to Australia when she opens the fantasies letter she wrote 10 years earlier. The erotic words she wrote about being bound while making love stir a dormant desire. And the hunky Aussie in first class is only too willing to make her fantasies come true…

I should have know when I read the first sentence of the backflap that I was going to have a problem. "Soon to be married..." The heroine is getting married in one month. The hero is not her fiance. DEAL BREAKER. I mentioned this in an earlier post. It is not official: this book was DNF. I just couldn't do it. I have very strong feelings about fidelity and marriage. What the characters did was cheating. I was simply unable to continue reading.

I need to be honest and say that I didn't have a problem with the writing. What I read was well written. The objection to the plot eclipsed my enjoyment of the writing. I wish that wasn't true.

So here I am, still unsure about categories. One great, one anger inducing. I think I need your help. Which categories have you read that you would recommend?


She_Reads said...

I always look at these 'quickie' books and yet I never can bring myself to buy because I worry that it'll be bad... but then I think there MUST be some super good/hot ones that I'm missing out on. (sigh)

Thanks for sharing the ones you read- that first one sounds like a real winner and yeah, the second one a deal breaker indeed

KMont said...

I haven't read many categories yet, but the first two were pretty much duds for me. The third though was very, very nice. And hot. It was a Blaze too. "Anything For You" by Sarah Mayberry. It was the same length as the previous two categories, but it packed a whole lot more in there; I almost felt like I'd read a full length contemporary.

I never really gave categories much thought till I'd begun blogging - you know how it is, they're all over the place and a lot of readers just love them. I am starting to think they're like any other romance genre - some stinkers, some good ones.

Tracy said...

I've read some pretty strong reactions to In A Bind that had me staying far, far away from it. The infidelity things is strong for me too...she was in a committed relationship. Big no-no.

Christine at The Happily Ever After has read a couple of Blazes recently. She has some good reviews on her site that you might like.

And yeah, I'm always wanting more book at the end too. I usually don't read them. That's why I joined the Year of the Category challenge just so I can get through some of the ones I have! lol

naida said...

I dont read many Harlequin category books, but I do like historicals.

Bev(QB) said...

I've read some Silhouette Nocturnes that were pretty good. But the problem with shorter paranormals is that no author can fully explore everything that they could in a full length paranormal. So I've found that the world building isn't as thorough and the sex scenes are pretty much skimmed over.

However, I seem to have been lucky because the few I've read have concentrated on developing the characters within an enjoyable story line (Michele Hauf, Vivi Anna). But do at least those aspects well, and you still get a thumbs up from me.

Holly said...

I have a hard time with some of the category lines, too. If done well they're perfect for quick reads. Some of my favorite authors, Jill Shalvis (for Blaze), Karen Templeton (Silhouette Special Edition) and Lucy Monroe (Harlequin Presents) are very skilled at writing deep, well done romances with a short word count.

Other times the word count really hurts the story.

Having said that...

I hardly think it's fair to judge the entire line b/c one plot device didn't work for you. I've seen plenty of "wo/man cheats" in full length novels, too, and I hate them no matter what.

I think you should pick up another book that has a plot device you enjoy and decide from there.

Anonymous said...

love blaze and spice books

Katie Reus said...

I LOVED Coming Undone. That's why I was vera vera surprised when I read your earlier post and realized who the author was (In a Bind). I'm still in shock over that.

Anyway, moving on...for the most part I love Blaze, Intrigue, & Nocturnes. Linda Howard and Linda Winstead Jones were part of a three book series for Nocturne (Raintree) that I really enjoyed and Bonnie Vanak is another Nocturne author I'm coming to LOVE. I'm picky about the Blaze authors I read, but Jill Shalvis is a favorite :)