Books of the Week:
- Radiance and Eidolon, Grace Draven
- Survive the Night, Katie Ruggle
- Judgment Road, Christine Feehan
- Bitter Spirits, Jenn Bennett
- A Bollywood Affair, Sonali Dev
Yes, all romances this time! Though some of them are more romantic than others, and they all have a twist that makes them interesting.
I’d never heard of Grace Draven until I bought Radiance. I was so enchanted with it that I wrote her a fan email, and then I bought its sequel, Eidolon, as quickly as I could. These are simply great books. The protagonists are matched politically to satisfy their kingdoms. They’re throwaways; the second son, the niece who’s not in line for anything. But they’re royalty. The relationship of Ildiko and Brishen is built from mutual respect. They are of different races, and start out thinking the other is hideous, but gradually their mutual support and good sense leads to mutual attraction and then to love. But Brishen’s mother is a horror, and tries to kill Ildiko. The trade agreements between the two races hang in the balance as Brishen tries to rule his own little corner of the kingdom, protect his wife, and learn her ways as she learns his. I read Radiance as quickly as I could, and then gulped down Eidolon, in which Brishen’s mother’s evil almost brings down both races.
I’ve been a fan of Katie Ruggle’s since I first picked up one of her books, so I was pretty excited to get Survive the Night. Monroe, the little Colorado town that is the center of the action, is lucky to have so many single Rocky Mountain K9 Unit officers, because attractive (but mysterious) women keep showing up. It’s all part of a larger picture, so it might be better to start with the first one, Run to Ground. I love Ruggle’s characters, who have distinct charm and character. And if you like the K9 Unit series, you can go back to read the Rocky Mountain Search and Rescue books! It’s win-win.
Christine Feehan has written many, many books, as any romance reader knows. Judgment Road may be her most challenging. The male protagonist is seriously warped and twisted by a ghastly upbringing. The woman he falls in love with, Anya, hardly knows what to make of this motorcycle gang member. Forming a relationship with him is very difficult, and understanding his needs is even harder. There are moments I found this book hard to read, and I disagreed violently with some of Anya’s decisions. But Feehan has been ambitious enough to paint this very complicated picture, and I thought about this book long after I finished it.
Jenn Bennett’s Bitter Spirits was unusual and fun. Bootlegger Winter Magnusson needs to be exorcised, and he tracks down Aida Palmer, a medium, to do the job. First he’s fascinated by Aida’s freckles, then by Aida herself. Aida’s been making her own living for years, and she’s no pushover. But Winter, huge and scarred, appeals to Aida, and not just as a client. These two independent people were made for each other.
One of the worst things about being a book-buying addict is that occasionally books I really want to read get buried at the back of a shelf. This was the case with Sonali Dev’s A Bollywood Affair. Mili has been married since she was four, but she hasn’t seen her husband since the betrothal. She is, however, legally married, and her grandmother encourages Mili to wait for the day her husband (an Indian army fighter pilot) will come for her. Poor Mili! She has no idea what her grandmother is doing behind her back, but she is independent enough to get a student visa for the US, where she will study sociology (I think. That’s really not important in the book.). Mili’s grandmother is sending legal demands to the groom, who has believed the marriage to be legally dissolved and has married his dream girl, now pregnant. Terrified that his child may be declared illegitimate, he sends his brother, movie director Samir Rathod, to America to induce Mili to sign papers nullifying the marriage. But somehow when he meets Mili, who is goodhearted and hard working . . . Samir decides on an indirect approach. This is a delightful book about a culture of which I was ignorant.
At almost every speaking engagement, I get asked, “What do you do about writer’s block?” That seems to be a thing everyone thinks they know about writers. They get blocked. But there are different kinds of blockage, I’ve discovered over the years.
My standard answer is, “I come to a standstill when I’ve taken a wrong turn in the narrative. I go back to the pages where the trouble began, and I try to figure out the wrong turn and correct it. Then the narrative begins flowing again.”
This is the truth, and it almost always works. Here are a couple of instances where it didn’t. When I was writing a Lily Bard book, long ago, I realized I was writing it in the wrong person. That was a slap in the face. I was over halfway through the book, and very reluctantly I became sure Lily’s story had to be in the first person, no matter how painful that became. I groaned to myself a couple of days, and then I began the arduous task of recasting the story. I was right, though I wasn’t happy about it.
I’ve experienced the second instance now. I’ve begun the second book about Gunnie Rose, a very young woman who is a gun-for-hire in an alternate America of about 1938. Lizbeth Rose is a great character to work with, and it’s a pleasure to connect with her. There’s a secondary character I like a lot, too. But when I began Book Two, he was not part of the story. I wrote about seventy pages, and it was moving along. There was a goal, there was action, there were new and interesting characters. But there was a sort of limpness to it. Suddenly, the secondary character arrived on the scene, and the book popped into life. I was relieved. I was sure I’d done the right thing.
But now I’m second-guessing myself. The secondary character appearing again changes the focus of the books. Is this good? Is this bad? Am I changing the nature of the book by introducing him again? I have finally worried myself to an alarmingly long standstill. LONG.
So I’ve asked my agent and my long-suffering beta readers (Toni and Dana) to give me their opinions if they have time. I don’t always act on the feedback I get from trusted readers, but I always appreciate a different perspective even if I decide to follow my initial instinct.
This is the kind of writer’s block that just stymies me. Thank goodness it’s the rarest kind, and dead halts of this length are really unusual. I don’t feel like myself when I’m not working. I hope by the time you read this, I’m back with ideas and enthusiasm.