Book Review: Queen of Swords

Book: Queen of Swords

Author: Katee Roberts

Recommendation: Worth a Read

QueenofSwords

Not sure I’m any more qualified than the next person to leave a review, but I’ll try to give it a shot with a book I recently finished.

No-Spoilers

All in, this sci-fi romance was a decent read.

World-Building

The world-building is spectacular. Seriously, this is by far the best part of the book. The world, the religions, the people. The aliens are truly alien. For example, I love how you can tell one alien’s feelings from how his fur shifts. These are not humans with pointed ears.

The author uses a Tarot deck throughout, and she seems to have really studied up on it. I also love how the force acting through the cars is simply the Lady. You decide if she’s a goddess or Lady Luck.

Sanctify makes a fabulous villain, and the torture techniques they use to “purify” are truly gruesome. Seriously bad villain.

 

Hero and Heroine

The hero and heroine have chemistry. The steamy scenes aren’t memorable, but they’re pretty good.

He’s been through hell and back, though he’s still clearly your protective alpha male. I liked him much more than I thought I would.

The heroine is not a damsel in distress. She is strong, competent, and feisty. Hellcat is used to describe her. More than this, I like the fact she’s comfortable with her sexuality, knows what she wants, and takes it.

 

Story

The plot intrigued me once we got over some plot holes large enough to drive car through trying to get the characters in a situation where they’re stuck together, but I was ready for the author to get on with it around the three-quarter mark. I felt like some of the middle was go-nowhere-filler as we ramped up for the climactic showdown between the hero and his half-brother.

The writing is a bit clumsy at points, particularly in the beginning as the author sets up the entire story line and gets the hero and heroine stuck being together. Sadly, this extends to the smack-upside-the-head way that the author introduces that the heroine is pregnant. Other parts, such as the heroine being able to hack a com terminal, should have been discussed before she actually hacks it.

This is all the more strange as other times the author makes a big deal out of things like sharp sticks being used in the heroine’s hair that never have any purpose.

I was disappointed with the end. I was expecting so much more. The big climactic ending. The heroine and hero standing up and defeating impossible odds together. While we got a happily-ever-after, I didn’t feel that fist pump moment when the hero and heroine win.

As a matter-of-fact, I was really disappointed with how easy the whole ending was and how little the heroine figured into it. I still don’t understand why the hero didn’t do what he did years ago and end the threat his brother posed back then.

The ending also left certain things unresolved. Either the author didn’t tie up loose ends, or she left them loose for the next book in the series. That seriously irritates me. Still, this is a romance, so the hero and heroine do get together.

 

 

 

 

Book Review: North of Need

Book: North of Need

Author: Laura Kaye

Status: Did Not Finish (DNF)

NorthofNeed

I normally wouldn’t post this, but as Ms. Kaye is already a NYT bestselling author, I’m not really hurting her any by not liking a book. I found the book from a very popular romance blog, and they liked it, so it could just be me that didn’t care for it.

I was looking for a nice Christmas romance to distract me from a rough patch at work. I so wanted to love this book as the premise sounded cool. I got to the 40% mark on my Kindle and decided I was done.

The premise is cool, but the author didn’t do it justice.

I figured it would be worth discussing what made me stop reading. Perhaps it won’t bother you, and you’ll love the book.

There were really three things that made me stop:

1.  Unrealistic Characters – The characters, frankly, were unrealistic. The heroine was a widow, and her grief was real and raw. I bought that. At no point did I really buy her connection to the hero. This is a romance novel, and that’s a must for me.

I gotta tell you, the heroine got over her fear and terror of a strange man far too quickly.  The author needed to work for this and didn’t. Seriously, if I give a stranger sanctuary in my house from a snow storm, then find him sleeping on my bedroom floor, holding my hand when I wake up, my response is not going to be to find it comforting.

The hero was already in love with the heroine before they met. Sure, the author has reasons for this, but I’d way have rather he fell in love with her on his own. Especially as I found those reasons a little creepy.

 

2. Where’s the Plot? – At the 40% point, there is absolutely no reason for the characters not to be together. The author has already given away all of the cool mystery surrounding the plot. Which was cool, but the execution of explaining it to us the reader was awful. Rather than dumping it on our laps through exposition, this could’ve been unfolded slowly through the story, used to add tension and drama as the characters come together.

Instead, we’re literally told why the hero loves her and why he agreed to this “mission”. We know the heroine lusts for the hero. Only thing keeping them apart is maybe her grief for her lost husband, but as we get direct permission from the great beyond by the 40% mark that the dead husband is okay with it, things seem resolved to me.

 

3. Weak Writing – After unbelievable characters and a missing plot, the prose itself follows suit. We have abrupt transitions, no real scene setting, and no real pacing. Not surprising, I suppose, as there isn’t much of plot.

 

All in, the only thing that might recommend this book is if you are actually a widow or widower. Perhaps then things will mean more to you. While the story is definitely a tear-jerker around the heroine being widowed and all she’s going through, I just can’t get through the rest of it to finish. As far as I’m concerned, we already have a happily-ever-after at the 40% mark, and that saves me from having to read the rest of it.

66% Done

I cleared 40,000 words on my latest WIP.

celebrate

And yes, this is approximately 66% for me. As a romance writer, I like my works to come in around 70-80k words. I write a very bare bone first draft, so I leave myself space to go back and add in more during revisions. Things like scents and sounds to help the reader feel closer to the action. More description…or description at all.

My beta reader has nailed me for the number of sensory deprivation rooms I have in my early drafts. I’m much better about finding it and correcting it myself now, but that still means more words.

So, why am I celebrating the 66% mark? Am I that desperate for recognition? Maybe a little, but that’s not the point.

Why is the 66% mark important to me? Because at this point, I’ve conquered the dreaded middle.

I’m a pantser when I write. Yes, I’ve tried outlines.

outlining

Outlines simply don’t work for me. I’ve given up trying for the moment, and I’ve given myself over to letting the characters show me what’s going to happen.

I know where the story starts. I know how it ends. What I don’t know is the middle. How are they going to get there? It’s this middle part that teaches me a lot about the characters, what deeper internal motivators they have, their hopes, fears, etc.

The beginning, that’s really their face to the world. Their mask. To get them to reveal more, I have to throw some things at them. See how they react.

By the end of the story, well, you know me. There is going to be a happily-ever-after (HEA). That’s a given.

Sometimes, getting the characters to come clean in the middle is really hard. Either they have a lot to hide, or I am trying to author-plot and not let things evolve on their own. Me not stepping back and giving the characters agency is usually the issue, but sometimes the obstacles I throw at them are not significant to get them to come clean on their real internal struggles.

Does this mean a lot of revision later? You betcha.

firstdraft

Now that you know the characters better, you have to push all you’ve learned back to the beginning of the story. Let who they are peek around the corners of who they want you to believe they are. It requires changes to the beginning, and as I rewrite and delve deeper, it frequently requires a change in the ending as well. And lots more tinkering throughout.

But that’s revision. That’s later. Right now, it’s all about getting the electrons on the screen in a pattern that resembles words. Most of which will change later.

But if I can get through the middle, I have a really good shot of finishing the book. The end usually writes faster than any other part as we barrel towards the climactic resolution and our happily-ever-after.

Of course, I will probably have to rewrite the ending. The one novel I’ve polished and am querying had four different endings before I was happy.

Still, here’s hoping I can get that last 20,000 words and have another first draft waiting to be revised.

Happily-Ever-After According to Science

Why do some marriages work and others don’t? Why do some people stay in a bad marriage, while others will leave a relatively good marriage?

mar1
I hated Romeo and Juliet anyway.

Some will say love. Romance. Soul mates. On the more mundane and practical side, people will say shared interests, beliefs and goals.

As a romance writer and reader, you often see the story end at the point where the characters are married and are now expected to live happily-ever-after. Or, maybe this particular trope is one where they’re forced to marry because of plot reasons, but by the end of the story, they confess their love for each other and then live happily-ever-after.

Either way, we end with the characters in love and ready for their happily-ever-after ending.

In the real world, more marriage will end in divorce than be successful. At least in America they will.

Yeah, not very romance-writer of me to mention that, I know. But, if I want to give my characters a believable happily-ever-after, I need to understand what leads to that happily-ever-after. What makes some marriages work?

mar2
No, no, no, no, no!

 

Well, science has an explanation on why some marriages work and some don’t. It’s called Interdependence Theory.

Interdependence Theory states the following.

Rewards – there are rewards from marriage (or any social interaction). These can range from companionship to physical intimacy. Interdependence theory has defined them as the following:

  • Emotional – Positive and negative feelings in a relationship. These are especially important in a close relationship. Ah, here we’re getting to where love comes into play. See, you knew I was a romance writer!
  • Social – Or how you appear to others. Does being seen with a super model make you feel better about yourself? What about with a stripper? What other social repercussions are there from the relationship? Perhaps you have to attend a lot of operas, and you love opera. But what if you hate opera?
  • Instrumental – These rewards are achieved when a partner is proficient at handling tasks. Like mowing the lawn, building the kids a tree fort, or doing the laundry without anyone getting stuck with pink socks (true story).

Costs – there are costs to a relationship as well. Basically, for all of the different types of rewards (emotional, social or instrumental), there is a corresponding cost. So, just like there are emotional, social and instrumental rewards, there are emotional, social, and instrumental costs. Makes sense.

So, DH putting up with my annoying habit of leaving my shoes by the sofa where I kick them off every night would be an example of an instrumental cost my husband has to pay regardless of how many times I’ve promised I’d be better about it. Or going to the annual corporate party for my employer would be a social cost. Sorry honey!

Rewards Minus Costs  Should Be Positive – Yeah, not very romantic, is it? Sounds more like I’m building a profit and loss statement than writing a romance novel.

Yes, I’m sure I’m a romance writer. But science is seldom romantic.

However unpleasant it may sound, research has shown that humans keep a record, whether consciously or not, of the net value of a relationship to us. So, you’re in a “profitable” relationship if the rewards outweigh the costs. But, this still isn’t enough to keep people in a relationship. They have to be making “enough” profit. Kind of like when you invest in your 401(k) account. You only have so much money, so you want to select the investments that will net you the most profit for the time you have them invested.

Comparison / Opportunity Cost – Once someone has tallied up their total relationship rewards and costs, they will either consciously or subconsciously review their other options. Even if they are net positive, in their account isn’t earning as much as they think it should, they are more likely to end the relationship and look for another. This may explain all of the Hollywood break-ups.

 

Okay, so now that we know this, how can we apply the science to making a romance novel earn its happily-ever-after?

mar3
Not the response I’m looking for, though I may have said it about a romance novel or three.

 

I want my happily-ever-afters to be believable. So, here are a couple of ways I can use the Interdependence Theory to make it believable:

1.No Alpha-Holes – A strong male lead could provide a lot of rewards on the instrumental level. He gets stuff done. But even if a heroine loves him, the emotional and social costs of dealing with him are going to be extremely high. Toning him back so he’s still an alpha without being a jerk would help a lot.

2. No Porcelain Dolls – Both characters in the romance have to be active. If either can basically be put on the shelf while the other does all the heavy lifting, you’re going to have a relationship with very high instrumental costs. No matter how much you love someone, if they can’t figure out how to open the refrigerator and get themselves a soda, you’re going to get pretty ticked at them after a while.

3. Opposites Might Not Attract – The whole wallflower with a super outgoing character trope might not end well. If the wallflower really doesn’t like much social interaction, but the extrovert loves it, there is going to be a high social cost to the relationship. Unless, of course, one or the other is the way they are to mask their true personality. The extrovert who actually hates all the parties etc.

 

What do you think? Does interdependence theory hold water in your book? Think it’s bunk? If so why or why not? Any other way that it could be used in writing to give believable happily-ever-afters?