Sunday, May 27, 2012

Flipping Nora!

Just got back from a trip (see below) and wanted to report my reading. I've tried "Queen Nora's" books a couple times before, once as Nora Roberts and once as J.D. Robb. Couldn't get past the first chapter or two on either.

For some reason I recently put out a call about a Nora recommendation, and discovered that people—or at least the ones who responded to me—thought her Chesapeake Bay series was her best. The best of that, people said, was the first volume, Sea Swept.

Said volume has been sitting on my TBR pile, frowning at me for some time now. I finally determined to face it, come what may, and used it as my traveling book for flying to Tennessee. (Couldn't use my Kindle because the electronics gag order kicks in when things get scariest.)

And I loved it! I noted the head hopping—kept to a minimum—and some passive sentences. But I also tried to notice the exacting word choices, the volume turned up on full for what others would write as ordinary circumstances. She molds her characters expertly and there's an honesty in her writing that I've found only (so far) in SEP, Julia Quinn, Lois McMaster Bujold, and Jenny Crusie.

So when I finished that book and faced another set of flights, I couldn't see myself reading Robert McKee's nonfiction Story. Instead I went to a bookstore and found Vision in White, which is vol. 1 of Nora's "Brides" quartet.

An added perk was the free bookmark I got with the book: that advertising Dr. Sanjay Gupta's House Call CNN TV series. Stick it behind the cover, and suddenly our headless bride smiles out at us.

I dislike the headless torsos on romance novels. Perhaps it comes from a rule we used to have at Adam & Eve, in which such were prohibited because they depersonalized the model and made them into an object. Objectifying was a no-no in those days.

I understand that this technique in romance is to make the main character more identifiable to the reader. Theoretically they could look just like the reader, or be the very image of their fantasy, like Joan Wilder's blurry Jesse cover images leave a lot to be filled in by the reader. But in looking at this cover I know that I am not a slender, youthful, stylish blonde. (Note: the heroine of this book is a rather skinny, short-haired redhead anyway.) I do not resonate in any way with this cover and in fact am a bit repulsed by the headlessness. So thank you, Dr. Gupta!

Vision in White is also excellent. It too teaches us about what its lead characters do for a living. In Sea Swept, we learned how to design a boat. Here, we learn how to do a wedding shoot and then process the photos with Photoshop. It's a very satisfying character story as well, but while I've ordered vols. 2 & 3 of the Chesapeake Bay series to see how the overarching plot works out, I'm not going to read vols. 2 & 3 of this series. But I will order vol. 4, Happily Ever After, which should be Parker's story. I want to see how she'll break away from her tight schedules.

Have you ever had second thoughts about an author? I can recall trying The Curse of Chalion THREE times before something clicked and I could not put it down!

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