Do You Buy and Read Books by the Series?

December 15, 2011

While I was cheating on my Twitter diet, I read a post about paranormal romance series vs. contemporary romance series and the zest with which readers follow them. (Does that make sense? It might be afternoon, but it’s dark and dreary here, and I’m not sure my brain is working.)

I don’t usually interject my thoughts into scholarly debates about the romance genre (others are so much more qualified to do so), and this time was no exception. I didn’t even follow the link to read further, but the general question stuck with me:

Why are paranormal romance series readers more enthusiastic, more faithful, more rabid (not meaning this in a bad way at all!) than contemporary romance series readers? (This is TOTALLY paraphrased.)

I’m a contemporary romance reader. Twilight is the only paranormal anything I’ve ever read. (Yep, I didn’t even read Harry Potter.) Oh wait, that’s a lie. I read Mary Janice Davidson’s Undead & Unwed (vampire H&H) and the next three or so books in that series until I lost interest. But that’s irrelevant. Where I was going here was that as a decades old lover of contemporary romances, I have a clear idea of why I read what I read. What I read has included a few series (Nora Roberts’ Bride Quartet and…is that the only series I’ve read? Think. Think. Think. Shoot. Really? I mean I’ve read books in series, but I don’t usually follow through with all the books in a series. Ah ha! Jaci Burton’s Play-By-Play series should be the next complete series I read, since I’m two down and intend to read the third when it’s released.) But as you can see, being part of a series isn’t a selling point to me. I’m one of those haphazard contemporary romance series followers.

So what does this mean? (Lord, I just sounded like the Double Rainbow Guy in my head.)

I read mostly to feel, not to escape. Not that escape is a bad thing. On the contrary, there have been times in my life when escape was exactly what I wanted. I wanted to be transported. I wanted to be dumped into this world where nothing remotely like my own life lurked. I wanted to get lost for as long as possible and know that I could return when I wanted—when I needed—to. To satisfy all of those needs, a strong, paranormal series would’ve done the trick (and maybe that’s why/when I started reading Undead & Unwed).

Today, I read for a quick fix, a quick rush, and I read for a reminder that love is the reason I’m here, my husband is here and my children are here. I read, feel and then move on with a bigger smile, targeting my husband, because damn it if I’m not entitled to loving my hero the way any romance heroine loves hers. If the first book in a series delivers on this quick rush, then I’ll read the next. But the first book has to deliver big for me to be motivated to search out the next book.

I buy and read every book as a single-title, because I’m in a hurry. I want to get the goods, feel the rush of a happy ending and move on with my real life. The next time I’m power buying at the Apple bookstore (grab and go…this works…this works…baseball hero? Sold!), I won’t even remember to search for the next book in a series unless the first book hit me so hard I can’t let go (and sometimes I’m hit hard in an odd way…like when I read my first erotic romance between the cracks of my fingers…and I went back for more).

I’m not sure any of this contributes anything to the original Twitter conversation that sparked my thinking, but I find it interesting as a writer who has both standalone single titles and series titles in her repertoire. I enjoy writing both, and since I’m first and foremost a reader, I need to keep in mind that more contemporary romance readers may be like me—not automatically gravitate toward a series.

What does this mean (by now you should’ve watched the video so you can read with proper inflection)?

Strong characters drive a strong plot. In any given book in any genre, the main character is the focus. A character who readers can’t get enough of transcends whether a book stands alone or is part of a series. (Honestly, in my limited series exposure, I have yet to come across a character I loved as much in secondary books as I did in the primary book.)

We get hung up on the perfect place, the perfect plot, the perfect secondary characters (especially if we’re hoping for series potential), and in the meantime our H&H could be suffering. The result is a good book, but not the great book that keeps this contemporary romance reader coming back for more.

Elley

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3 Responses to “Do You Buy and Read Books by the Series?”

  1. Tilly Slaton Says:

    I love this post! I do buy and read books by the series. I find a new author. There are 5 books in the series … A week later I have read and reviewed them all and smile to myself as I venture off to another author.

    Fantastic post … I love reading what others thing 🙂

  2. Tilly Slaton Says:

    My favorite series that just rock my world are:

    Most of Christine Feehan’s work – Dark, Leopard, Ghostwalker… Her magic or element series just bleh didn’t do it for me.

    I was sucked into the Dark-Hunter series by Sherrilyn Kenyon although midway through I found her stories seriously lacking imagination and action … I guess perhaps she ran out of good ideas? I try not to be negative about author’s work .. But there you have it heh

    Janet Evanovich’s (Not romance .. but hilarious comedy / clumsy bounty hunter) Stephanie Plum series

    Karen Marie Moning’s Fever series was absolutely brilliantly amazing!

    Laurell Hamilton’s Anita Blake series is AWESOME, although .. I think it’s become a bit absurd and there needs to be a leash on the sex aspect (I don’t mind sexual content at all .. rock on but this series has become a bit ridiculous .. Not that it will stop me from buying every book the day it is released heh)

    Patricia Briggs has two series that I love love love .. Mercy Thompson which is a werewolf based / fae series and then a branch off on that is the Alpha and Omega werewolf series

    J.R. Ward totally rocks my world with her Black Dagger Brotherhood series. She also has another one with the seven deadly sins which .. Yuck .. the imagination and stories are brilliant but not my thing at all

    And lastly! .. The J.D. Robb In Death series … Completely different work than what I am used to reading but I can’t get enough 🙂

    Do you have any series recommendations for me?

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