I am back on the blog after an unintentional hiatus this summer. I didn’t actually intend to take a writing vacation (either here or on various works-in-progress) from June until after Labor Day. It just sort of happened. The lack of a set schedule, the demands of children out of school, and the call of the beach all conspired so that I wrote not one word of useful prose for weeks (okay, months). This caused me some discomfort, for what writer is truly content when not writing? But I assuaged my guilt and grumpiness with an orgy of reading, which I will share with you below.
What follows is a bibliographic representation of my reading summer, both from the perspective of a writer and the perspective of a reader. I chose books somewhat at random, but all were well within the parameter of “entertaining” versus “scholarly.” These were the chocolate ice cream cones of the summer’s literary possibilities instead of the broccoli and kale (not that I don’t like broccoli and kale…but you get the drift).
So, in no particular order…
Jill Shalvis, Lucky in Love (Grand Central, 22 May 2012), At Last (Grand Central, 26 June 2012), and Forever and a Day (Grand Central, 31 July 2012)
Shalvis is one of my favorite romance writers. She cleverly released three books this summer, setting up a trio of women to each find love with a hunky man in their fictional Lucky Harbor, a quirky small town in Washington state. I found all three books to be a fun, sexy, and heartwarming combination of worthy characters and intriguing situations, but my favorite was At Last. The middle book in the trio features laid back forest ranger Matt Bower and snarky tough girl Amy Michaels. I do have a soft spot for forest rangers.
Favorite scene/line: Matt has to administer first aid after Amy gets a nasty scratch on her behind after falling down a ravine in the middle of the night. Matt gets a reluctant Amy to drop trou so he can clean the wound but his subsequent reaction to her lovely form is priceless. An excerpt:
“I thought you said you did this a lot.”
“Yeah. I do. But apparently not with anyone I’m wildly attracted to.”
This caused certain reactions in her body that were best not experienced in mixed company. “It’s just panties,” she finally whispered.
“And they’re really great panties,” Matt agreed. “But it’s not the panties, Amy. It’s you.”
Writing tip #1—What do your characters DO? Don’t be afraid to let men be men and women be women. In a romance, a yummy hero who thinks like a guy makes the journey worthwhile. Shalvis’s male characters are MEN. They have manly jobs and do manly things, to include failing to communicate with the heroine at critical moments and occasionally acting all over-protective and alpha, which only makes them more appealing and real. We women are hard-wired to like this. Trust me.
Susan Wiggs, Fireside (Mira, reprint, 26 June 2012), Marrying Daisy Bellamy (Mira, 25 January 2011), The You I Never Knew (Grand Central, reissue, 1 March 2011)
I picked up Fireside at the drugstore when waiting for my daughter’s antibiotic, prescribed for a bad case of swimmer’s ear. I had never read a Susan Wiggs book before, despite her regular appearance on the best-seller and romance favorites lists. It made me wonder if that’s a typical way for a reader to be introduced to a new (to her) writer—in a drugstore/airport/Wal-mart/grocery checkout? In any case, with her larger cast of characters, Wiggs’s books venture away from a classic romance set-up and more into women’s fiction, but the line is very subtle indeed. In Fireside and The You I Never Knew, Wiggs pulled me in with a finely wrought setting (again a small town) and background (baseball and ranching, respectively); and wonderful secondary characters, particularly teen-aged Cody in The You I Never Knew and Daisy Bellamy in Fireside. And apparently I am not the only reader who clamored for Daisy to have a book of her own, according to Wiggs’s website. Marrying Daisy Bellamy was the breakout of the three for me because it was about what happens when you achieve your heart’s desire, and it is suddenly and tragically taken away. In other words, a test of character.
Favorite scene/line: Daisy is a wedding photographer, and the weddings she takes pictures of bring out little nuggets of wisdom throughout the book. This woven theme gives the book continuity, even through flashbacks, and setting and POV changes. These nuggets are really the author’s worldview, but the reader sees them (lyrical and heartfelt) from the eyes of the point of view characters. A sample:
The flaws were what made a wedding special and memorable…Every event, no matter how carefully planned, had its imperfections…
These were the things that made life interesting. As a single mother, Daisy had learned to appreciate the unplanned. Some of her life’s sweetest moments came when she least expected them—the clutch of her son’s tiny hands, anchoring her to earth with a power greater than gravity. Some of the most awful moments too—a train pulling out of the station, leaving her behind, along with her dreams—but she tried not to dwell on that.
Writing tip #2—What is your character’s HEART’S DESIRE? Show us and then don’t let her have it right away, or let her have it but take it away later. Wiggs introduced Daisy and the two men who love her, Julian and Logan, in earlier books, but in Marrying Daisy Bellamy, she presents Daisy with the one thing she wants most in the world. Will she get it? We are rooting for her because we know the stakes for Daisy, but we don’t want it to be too easy either.
To be continued…
Yeah, I really did do a lot of reading. Stay tuned for my thoughts on books I read this summer by Lisa Kleypas, Jo Beverley, Pamela Morsi, and Nicholas Sparks.
What about you? Did you read anything good this summer? Maybe something involving 50 shades…? Did any of your goals get sidetracked by the summer routine? What did YOU do this summer?