Romance has long been accused of suffering from a general sameness: same characters, same plots, same endings. That is an arguable point, but looking at the new release table laden with vampires, werewolves, and erotica, and then more vampires, werewolves, and erotica, readers might think the effort put into the argument is wasted. The market is rather striking for its current homogeneity, so much so that titles offering the least bit of variation stand out. Jodi Thomas’ new release, Texas Rain, is immediately intriguing for that very reason. The story doesn’t have a paranormal element. Nor does it feature characters who define themselves by the quick, easy sex they have, or the quick, easy sex they want to have. In fact, there isn’t any sex, to speak of, in the book. Texas Rain is a pre-Civil War-set-Western and different enough in both approach and content that, at first blush, it seems like a revolution might be brewing on the new release table.
Long running, single protagonist series might be one of the most difficult things to pull off in fiction. On one end of the spectrum there are Robert Parker’s Spenser books where Spenser never ages, never evolves, he just keeps solving those crimes. The sameness and lack of growth quickly become frustrating. And on the other end is Diana Gabaldon’s Outlander series where the characters do move forward and change and in the process loose that precious something that made the reader want more of them. Through four books in the Hollows series, Kim Harrison has neatly avoided these divergent issues with a layered heroine, Rachel Morgan, who is equal parts kick-butt and vulnerable and inhabits a universe that is strife-rich in design and richer still by Rachel’s actions.
As previously noted, I have read, sometimes voraciously, romance since, well, my whole life. Yet, I managed, somehow, to avoid all of the big names of the genre. As I’ve rectified my omissions, I’ve discovered some great authors, puzzled over the success of others, and wondered what was the big deal about some. You know, the authors who are okay but not great, write nice stories but nothing that rises above the crowd, have a certain something but not enough to make you seek out more.
Thus we come to Linda Lael Miller. I won her title Daniel’s Bride through a Paperback Reader contest. Or rather, I won the privilege of reading and reviewing Daniel’s Bride through a Paperback Reader contest – my idea, which should teach me something. Hey, I thought, I like new stuff. I make macaroni and cheese with chipotle cheddar.
Wendy: At present, the romance section of bookstores teems with contemporaries so hot they might combust, paranormals that stretch the imagination to its furthest reaches, and Regencies that have finally arrived at a genetic bottleneck of population destroying proportions. There was a time, not too long ago, when heroes were more likely to push cattle than fear sunlight and frontier heroines did what they could to further peaceful relations with Native Americans (ok, Cassie Edwards never stopped writing that book). Lately, whispers and rumors have abounded that the long dead western would once again rise to the forefront. There’s some difficulty in imagining tales of westward expansion exciting a romance community that is more demanding and sophisticated now than it was when westerns were last well-liked. It would seem that if westerns are to make the predicted comeback they’ll need to do so on a fresh horse.
HelenKay: In contemporary romance novels a hero often holds a law enforcement job. Whether he works for the DEA, CIA, FBI, police or any branch of the military, many times the hero is honest, strong and carrying a gun. Like its contemporary counterpart, the historical hero is often based on a factual job – The Pinkerton Man. Allan Pinkerton, considered the first private detective and a man of the utmost integrity, ran the Pinkerton Detective Agency. He sent his men out across the country to solve crimes, hunt down the bad guys and sometimes take on the unfavorable role of squashing union activities. The Most Wonderful Time Of The Year focuses on one of these upstanding men. One who is lying to protect his cover.