by Susan Sey
I'm feeling quick & sassy today so I'm going to do a list blog. Yay! I'll admit I was inspired by Suz's awesome post yesterday about secondary characters. It got me thinking about things that'll set a book apart for me, really make it stand out in my mind.
Therefore, without further ado, I give you Susan's List of Things I Like in Novels but Rarely See Anymore. Enjoy!
1) Villains who aren't.
Aren't what, you ask? Aren't actually villains. Aren't evil. I love it when the bad guy is just really smart, really rich, really well motivated and wants--no, needs--the opposite of what my hero & heroine want/need. I love it when I don't have to hate the bad guy. In fact, I kinda like to like my bad guy if that makes any sense. Alan Rickman's Sheriff of Nottingham comes to mind. (Can I get an amen? As God is my witness, he was the only reason to sit through that whole movie, unless it was to drink every time Kevin Costner's accent went wonky.)
2) Generous internal monologue and gracious pacing.
Not that I don't enjoy a rip-snorting thriller, but I'm 3/4 of the way through Mary Balogh's "First Comes...." series about the Huxtable family & I'm struck time & again by how well she paints her characters' internal lives. As writers these days we're told time & again to pick up the pace, keep the action rolling, get out of our characters' heads. But Ms. Balogh has been treating me to something else entirely. She gives us a whole lot of people thinking, reflecting, pondering and brooding, & somehow I never feel anxious to get on with it. I find myself savoring her characters' slow tumble into love. That's skill, ladies & gentlemen, & something modern publishing doesn't put out a lot of anymore. So here's my shout out to you, Ms. Balogh. Keep it coming.
3) Grownup heroines.
This is not to say that most heroines are TSTL (that's Too Stupid To Live, for the acronym challenged among us.) Just that romance novels are all about growth, & if you're going to finish up as a mature, well-rounded individual with a decent shot at a HEA (that's Happy Ever After), you have to start, well, somewhere else, right? Which means when books open, the heroine has some work to do. Which means it's sometimes difficult not to have her doing, well, immature things & making bad choices. But last year at Nationals, I found WICKED BECOMES YOU by Meredith Duran in my goodie bag, & I gobbled this book up like kids gobble Easter candy. I rarely write to authors to express my profound admiration but I dropped Ms. Duran an email to tell her how very much I cherished her smart, grown-up heroine who admitted when she was wrong, acknowledged her shortcomings & made every effort to live an authentic life, right from the very start. And in a historical, no less, where female characters can get away with a certain sheltered innocence due to gender roles. That one book made me a fan for life.
So how about you? What sets a book apart for you? What makes it really stick in your mind & in your heart so you'll remember it years from now? And just to sweeten the pot, I'm going to give one lucky commenter an autographed copy of Tamara Hogan's TASTE ME, a debut novel I just read which showcases a fantastic example of a villain-who- isn't. It's a treat, I promise!