Thursday, June 11, 2009

Why A Book Works

When I was selecting my books for the DIK Library, I chose my favorites. Those books that I return to over and over to re-read. Kate blogged at her place yesterday about Comfort Reads. I have a ton of them. But it got me to thinking about why it is that book works for me.

1- The hero. I'm a hero girl. I'd say 95% of the books on my keeper shelves are there because I have a thing for the hero. Generally speaking, I like my heroes alpha. Strong, autocratic, determined, a leader of men. Could be because I come from a father who is most of those things. But I need a hero who is a strong guy, but who has that soft gooey inside that he shows to those he loves. My latest hero crush is Jack Travis from Lisa Kleypas's Smooth Talking Stranger (damn you, Tracy!). Everything about Jack screams "alpha male." And yet, he's a caregiver, he wants to take care of everything that goes wrong for the heroine. He's dominant, but also evolved. It's a heady combination, I'll tell you. Jack is easily my favorite hero of 2009 so far.

2- The heroine. I have to like the heroine. I have to understand her motivations. I don't necessarily need to become girlfriends with her, but I have to understand where she's coming from. If she behaves like a ditz or a ninny, I can't stand her. If she's a poseur hoyden, it turns me off. I like a heroine with backbone. My all time favorite heroine is Lady Jessica Trent from Loretta Chase's Lord of Scoundrels. Possessed of a serious backbone, a terrific sense of humor, and a fiery temper, I absolutely adore her!

3- The connection. I have to believe the connection between the h/h. I have to believe that they'd fall in love. There have been several books that I've read where at the end I've thought, "No way does she deserve him!" (Or vice versa). If one of them has wronged the other, I have to believe the apology that follows. I've read books where I've thought, "Oh, you're SO not sorry!" Anyway, the point is, I have to believe that these two people are meant to be together. There was a recent movie that came out starring Jennifer Garner called Catch and Release. I walked out of that movie pissed because she'd PICKED THE WRONG GUY! Not good, friends. If the readers don't believe the connection, you've failed as an author.

4- The writing. Boy, nothing will pull me out of a story more than an anachronistic phrase, bad grammar, or poorly written dialog. I'll forgive a full host of issues with a book if the writing is good. An example would be Anna Campbell's Claiming the Courtesan. I found this book very difficult to read on many, many levels. But the writings was so superb. Some of the best prose I've read in ages. I finished that book, where the story so disturbed me, when I would have tossed it into the give-away bog immediately, because the writing was just so good. Her followup to CTC was outstanding and one of my favorite books from a couple of years ago, Untouched.

There it is, I don't think that I'm particularly tough when it comes to reading. I fully understand that when you read as much as I do, very often books aren't going to "do it" for you. But I don't think that liking the characters, believing their connection, and using good grammar are too much to ask.

Or maybe it is.

What about you? Why do your favorite books work for you? What makes you connect to a book or character?


KT Grant said...

Everything you have mentioned is what makes a book a comfort read for me. When all three of these things come together perfectly, that book will stay on my shelves for years.

Tracy said...

I'd have to agree with you Kati...those are all things that have to work for me as well.

I think for me though the connection is key. Yes, the h/h personalities are huge parts of the book, obviously, but if there's no connection between them that is thoroughly believable then it doesn't matter how much I loved the hero or heroine it wouldn't be a keeper for me.

Kytaira said...

You pretty much summed it up for me as well. I would add that I usually don't reread the entire book on a comfort read. I skip to my favorite scenes. In Dark Desire (Feehan), I love the beginning when Shea finds Jacques.

Kris said...

Like you, Kati, I have to have a connection with both the story and the characters for it to be a reread or a comfort read.

If the connection has really worked, I tend to 'forgive' a lot of things like typos grammar, POV switches, some inconsistencies, etc. However, this is only in so far that these issues are not so overwhelming that they completely throw me out of the story or off my engagement with it. Does that make sense??

Book Boor said...

OMG, your reference to Catch and Release was spot on. I had the same reaction to that movie. I sat there thinking they missed the whole point.

Marg said...

I think I am about 95% hero kind of reader too!

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