Tuesday, August 24, 2010

Kissing Cousins

I'm a broad-spectrum reader. If I like an author's style, there are very few genres/subgenres I won't follow them into, but I'm coming to understand that this makes me something of an anomaly among readers.

The other day I was chatting with a friend about a mutual friend's complete and unswerving addiction to vampires. If a book doesn't have a vampire - even a book by an author she knows she loves - she won't touch it. Her tastes are very strict. I know other readers who are equally devoted to British Regency romance, shape-shifters, or small-town contemporaries. They don't want to be broken out of their favorite shell.

In the interest of broadening horizons, I started thinking about the books I would recommend as a baby-step away from those familiar favorites - which led to a long and involved thought-bender about the relationships between various romance subgenres - the siblings & cousins of romance. Like a happily ever after family tree.

Consider this: Are paranormal romantic comedies more closely related to dark, atmospheric paranormal romance or fun and flirty contemporary romance? I'd be more inclined to put Michelle Rowen next to Jennifer Crusie than JR Ward. What about romantic suspense? Surely a serial killer books has more in common with a really dark vampire book than a flirty, cozy mystery.

Are the relationships necessarily drawn along the genre lines? I say that I read eclectically, but that isn't really true. I don't like characters saturated in angst or plots heavy on the evil & death - so I veer away from darker romantic suspense and darker paranormal alike.

What about links drawn by theme or character type? Do Alpha male books drag you across genre lines (by your hair)? Is a secret baby book in category romance a kissing cousin to a secret baby who will save the world from the apocalypse in futuristic? Or are they just too dissimilar?

Where do the lines get drawn? How would you describe your Happily Ever After family tree?


Kris said...

I don't think I really have an opinion on this one because like you I read a lot of different genres. I'm currently reading a contemp romance...finished a supense last night, and reading a historical horror on my kindle LOL!

I tend to get bored if I read the same genre constantly so it's good to branch out.

Vivant said...

I read and love many genres and routinely follow authors I like when they genre-hop. But I've recently had a few experiences that put that to the test.

I enjoy Katie MacAlister's books. I tend to read whatever she puts out and have fun with it. Then several weeks ago I picked up her steampunk offering, Steamed. I struggled through the first 50 pages or so, thinking it would grab me at some point, but finally gave up and tossed it into my "take to Half Price Books" pile. It wasn't the genre - I've read other steampunk offerings that I loved. I just found this one unreadable.

Similarly, I read three books by Anne Stuart and had a distinctly different reaction to the historicals vs. the contemporary. I liked her newest historical (Ruthless) very much, so I read one of her contemporaries. I was surprised to find that I actively disliked it. Like the historical, it was very well written, but the contemporary hero was so cold and remorseless that I had a lot of trouble caring about him. The hero in the historical was also dark, with a difficult past, but he had enough humanity and humor that I cared about him and was totally engaged in the story. As a test, I read one of Stuart's older historicals and liked it. As with the MacAlister book, it wasn't that I don't like the contemporary's genre. I read dark action/suspense thrillers by Allison Brennan, Linda Howard, Iris Johansen and others, and like them.

These experiences raised new doubts in my mind about following an author across genres. I will absolutely continue to read across a wide range of genres. But I will start doing some judicious sampling before buying up an author's entire cross-genre backlist.

Kali said...

I'm a book whore. I'll read just about anything. I try not to let genre be a deciding factor for me since I've found that I don't always agree with the genre label some books get (IE Ms. LK Hamilton).

I do get very peeved if I'm not handed a shiny Happily Ever After though.