Monday, May 16, 2011

Is It Just a Bad Book?

I’m in the middle of reading a new romantic suspense novel that comes out soon and is written by an author I’ve read occasionally over the years. The premise sounded quite good — the hero lost his first wife to tragedy and is now a single dad trying to help his young daughter, and the heroine, who has her own issues, is related to characters in one of the author’s previous books — so I was eager to give it a try.

I'm more than halfway through the book and I’m really wondering if I should continue. The writing is repetitive and preachy —  dialogue exchanges between various characters seem more like they are designed to give readers an education in whatever topic is relevant to the story at that point. The same words and phrases are used so often it's hard to tell which character is speaking since they all mimic each other. Also, lots of nonessential information is repeated over and over again, it feels like the author is beating readers on the head with it.

For instance, early on in the book, the characters are bemoaning the fact that most people don’t feel a sense of community anymore. That they no longer look out for their neighbors. Why does the author, through her characters' discussion, keep harping on how people don’t care about their friends and neighbors? Apparently the only place where neighbors watch out for neighbors is in the town where the book is set.

Later when the hero and heroine are discussing a potential new drug treatment to help some of the characters deal with their fears, the exchange sounded so unrealistic, it seemed more like a promotional brochure for the drug than a natural discussion between the characters.

Other problems concerned the heroine’s connections to secondary characters — like the cousin who appears out of nowhere in the middle of the book and yet conveniently lives right nearby. (For the first half the book I thought she was making a break from everyone she knew.)

Additionally, the heroine's backstory is that she was attacked and was in coma at some point. The heroine is very concerned that no one in town find out about it, but as a reader, I understand why she thought her job would be in jeopardy if people knew. Also, as this was a big part of the heroine's backstory, the scene where she does tell the hero is surprisingly brief. Even if this event happened in a previous book by the author, no one should have assumed everyone reading this new book would know the details.

There are many more examples that I could give, but won't.

So the question I have as I ponder whether to finish the book is this, who is ultimately responsible for the problems with this book? It seems to me that someone should have been able to point out that a woman in her eighties probably wouldn’t greet another woman by saying “Hey!” Likewise, when both the hero and heroine say “Listen” as a transition in one scene, with a paragraph or two of each other, shouldn’t a red flag have gone up?
I am not blaming the editors, as I know editors are extremely hard workers, I just wonder what happened in this particular case. Why this book  — which really did have a great premise — just seemed to fall through the cracks.

So tell me, when you come across a problem in a book, be it in characterization, dialogue or action, what do you do? Keep reading or move on?

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