(Warning: There are spoilers below the fold!)
Anne: Amy, I’d never clobber you. I was afraid you’d clobber me, in fact.
Amy: I’m way too much of a panty-waist for that.
Anne: I did clobber “Ranger Daddy,” though.
Amy: So I see. I gave it a fairly deep clobbering (for me), too.
Anne: Yes, I am impressed by how much you panned it.
Anne: I don’t think I’ve seen such a severe slamming since that Pagan-whatever-it-was.
Amy: I kinda feel bad for not warning you that the premise of the Harlequin AR series is not what you might expect.
Anne: No, that’s not so bad. I was surprised by the super-traditional values, but explicitness is not what I am looking for in a romance novel at all. Just chemistry between the characters. In fact, a lot of the slow-burns to relationships satisfy me more than anything that is too . . . fast.
Anne: It’s just–I didn’t believe in these characters at all. They were not at all real.
Anne: (to me)
Amy: Yeah, but the picket-fences-as-romantic goal is pretty far afield, for you. But yeah, the big trouble here was that we had a whole herd of cardboard people.
Anne: I am sure there are books in this line that would satisfy me.
Anne: At least enough not to be frustrated.
Anne: To tell the truth, it is the clunky writing more than the conservative agenda that really got to me.
Anne: LOL, indeed, most Regencies are pretty “picket fences” when you come down to it.
Amy: yeah, Winters just had this….you said “expository”…style, that just seemed unreal, and contributed to the shallowness of the characters.
Amy: You expect a certain amount of shallowness from side characters, but even those were worse than usual.
Anne: I couldn’t tell them apart, except for little Nicky, who was insufferable and unbelievable, too.
Amy: Yah. Hate to say it, but the two most interesting characters were Nicky, and that dog that Jeff was dog-sitting.
Anne: LOL, what did you like about the dog?
Anne: And I think that is about the meanest thing I have ever heard you say about a book.
Amy: I’m not a dog person, generally; as you know, we have cats here at my chateau. I prefer dogs that do something useful; “working dogs”, they call them in the West, and this one was a working dog–knew how to do something useful.
Anne: Ah yes!
Anne: Hero-dog beats out hero-ranger in Amy’s heart.
Amy: Which, of course, we’re told about. A lot.
Anne: Did you get the feeling that Winters was filling the required word-count?
Amy: Oh, definitely.
Amy: There were too many minor conflicts going on.
Anne: I mean, you know something is bad when you start thinking your own fanfiction is better.
Anne: Wait- what minor conflicts?
Anne: I don’t remember any minor conflicts?!
Anne: I only remember the wooden dialogue and the fact that Gabi and Jeff never do anything.
Amy: You had her ex. And his ex. And the storm. And the motorcycle crash. And her trip back to LA…any one or even two of these could have been turned into big plot drivers, but they weren’t.
Anne: Oh, yeah, that stuff.
Anne: I forgot that.
Amy: She just kept putting in a new wierd twist, and then they overcame it. Ta-Dah. On to the next..
Anne: Well–I for one can’t get over the idea that Gabi’s lawyer would give a total stranger all kinds of details about her case and location–especially when her ex is an angry, violent, stalking, armed maniac.
Amy: Yeah, that shows a clear lack of good research. The attorney could be disbarred in nothing flat for that.
Anne: Well, I am at least grateful that again we picked up on similar problems.
Anne: Again, I am much harder on the writing style, but you pick up on all the same slightly problematic themes.
Amy: I’ve been bracing myself for the question you haven’t asked yet.
Anne: I’m wracking my brain trying to think what question that might be.
Amy: “What on earth were you thinking?”
Anne: Well, I assumed you were thinking that it looked like a promising book.
Anne: That’s what I think when I recommend one.
Anne: I had the advantage with Passion to Protect, since I had already read it when I said we should tag-team it.
Amy: Well, yeah. When we got the idea for Tag Team Tuesday, we both picked one. I had a stack on my desk, and that was on the top of the pile, and the back-cover blurb looked like it might be interesting.
Anne: Perhaps you were looking for something westerny but not too westerny?
Amy: Yeah, I do have a lot of Westerny ones.
Anne: Well, the sad truth is authors of series romance have to turn out a LOT of books, fast.
Anne: Some are really, really good at it and have such impeccable knowledge that they write hits over and over.
Anne: Some–maybe–just don’t have the resources to pull off a five or six book per year deal.
Amy: It’s not just writers, of course. The entire process must move at light speed, from writing, to editing, to printing and production…occasionally a real stinker slips through.
Anne: When I write, I can write maybe 1500 words in a day. If I’m really into it, 3000. And they need to be edited and reedited and reconsidered and beta-read.
Anne: And this one is a real stinker.
Anne: Though somehow it wasn’t quite bad enough for either of us to rate it “couldn’t finish it.”
Amy: Any last minute thoughts, before we put this one to bed?
Anne: What’s with all the recent “abusive-rampaging-ex” stories?
Anne: “Ripped from the Headlines” syndrome?
Anne: A convenient way to manufacture conflict?
Amy: Maybe so. I’ve seen a lot of those in the last couple of years’ worth of Harlequin releases, across all lines.
Anne: It’s worth considering. I wonder what is in the psychology of readers right now that they want to buy that–over and over.
Anne: Anyway, I think my final thought is a great regret that I can’t think of anything nice to say about Ranger Daddy.
Anne: I want to end on a positive note.
Anne: Can you do it?
Amy: This was our first Harlequin AR review–I had higher hopes for it. The positive is, erm…it gets better. I’ll find us some good ones. I promise!