What’s on my Kindle

Some things I’ve been reading lately:

Wolf Hall by Hilary Mantel
This is for the March Big Fat Book Readalong. I’m at 38% and thoroughly enjoying it. If you (like me) have had a copy sitting on your shelf for years, pick it up! Or do what I did and get a digital copy. So much easier to carry around and track progress.

Satisfaction by Sarah Mayberry
I enjoyed this quite a lot. Miss Bates has a good review of it (and see my comment for my own view).

Nine Rules to Break When Romancing a Rake by Sarah MacLean
I’ve been in a group read of this with several twitter friends. I’m glad to have read it but I don’t think MacLean is really for me. I don’t mind suspending disbelief, but this one was off the scale O_o.

For His Eyes Only by Liz Fielding
This was lovely, even if the set-up was pretty implausible. Sculptor meet estate agent. Beautiful houses, beautiful art, beautiful romance.

Much Ado about Sweet Nothing by Alison May
Cleverly done modern telling of Much Ado about Nothing. She even managed to make me enjoy a book written in multiple first person present tense POVs. Warning: there is a somewhat ambiguous ending for one of the romantic storylines. The other is proper HEA.

What about you? Read anything good lately?

What’s occurring*

New places to buy!

I have been wrestling with the arcane Google Play interface and finally worked out how to get my books up for sale there. At the moment, you can buy the Oil Tycoon and Her Sexy Sheikh, All I Want for Christmas, Table for One, The Tycoon’s Convenient Wife, and Ros Clarke Romances. I’ll be putting the rest up in the next few weeks.

New books to buy!
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Island Fling, a short story set mostly on a remote Scottish island, is now available to pre-order at Barnes and Noble. It will be on sale there and all the normal places on March 24th.

An Unsuitable Husband, the sexy French footballer book, will be on sale in April. I’ve had my first peek at the cover and whew, it is HOT.

New projects on the go

I’m revising the sheikh story to submit later this month and then I shall be starting something new, hooray! I think it’s going to be a boss/secretary story. Female boss, male PA. It’s going to be a lot of fun. Kind of like an old school Presents, with a little bit of role-reversal and trope subversion, which is my favourite kind of book to write.

New reading challenge
The Vacuous Minx decided that March was the month for reading Big Fat Books and invited others to join her. I’m reading Wolf Hall which has been sitting on my bookshelf for years, while I guiltily avoided catching its eye. But I have stumped up for a kindle version and jumped in. It is wonderful. I think I will be finished long before the end of March. Have you got a Big Fat Book you’d like to read and need a little extra motivation? Why not join us?

*The BBC are getting rid of BBC3. That is not what this post is about.

What’s been on my summer kindle

It’s been a while since I’ve done one of these and I have been reading up a storm. Here are some of the highlights:

The Ruin of a Rogue by Miranda Neville

I do love a bad boy turning good and this is a classic example of the trope. I loved Marcus and Anne and almost everything about their story. Perhaps not quite my favourite Neville but certainly in my top three.

Against the Tide by Elizabeth Camden

Probably the best Christian romance novel I’ve read. It’s about opium smuggling in 19th century America, so it gets bonus points for the unusual setting. The heroine is terrific, but the hero wasn’t the easiest to warm to. There are some issues with the ending, I think, but on the whole I enjoyed this a lot.

Road to Rouen by Ben Hatch

Family travelogue. Amusing in parts. Mostly the lesson is: don’t take your family on a road trip around France.

The Story Guy by Mary Ann Rivers

Everything which is to be said about this has already been said four times over. I liked it but didn’t love it.

Imprisoned by a Vow by Annie West

M&B Modern. I like Annie West’s books a lot and this was her at her best, I think. I don’t remember reading a heroine like Leila before.

The Secret Thoughts of an Unlikely Convert by Rosaria Champagne Butterfield

People had been recommending this to me for months and eventually someone just gave it to me and told me to read it, so I did. And loved it. A feminist lesbian professor at Syracuse University describes the trainwreck of her conversion to Christianity. Brutally honest and astonishingly frank, she reflects on her history in insightful and challenging ways. Also, I am now thinking of changing my name to Ros Champagne Clarke. Seriously, isn’t that so cool?

What have you been reading lately? Anything you’d recommend?

Reader, I Married Him.

I am not, in general, a fan of books written in the first person. In fact, I was dismissive of them all until Liz reminded me earlier this week of Jane Eyre. Which has made me think a bit more about what in particular I dislike about some first person narratives and why others work for me.

The problem of voice
If a book is written in the first person, then it only has one voice (yes, I know, some books alternate, but let’s keep things simple for the moment), and that voice belongs to a character. Usually the main character. That means I’d better like the character and the voice if I’m going to spend a whole book with her. Some characters just aren’t likeable enough for me to enjoy that, whereas perhaps if their voice only came in dialogue, or even filtered a bit through a third person close narrative, they might be okay. The Kristan Higgins book I tried (Too Good To Be True) didn’t work for me for this reason.

The problem of perspective
This can be a problem for any book told only from one point of view, whether it uses first or third person. You only get one view of events and one perspective on their consequences. In a romance I find this problematic because unless the author is extremely skilled, I only get to see one of the characters falling in love. This was a problem for me in The Story Guy by Mary Ann Rivers.

I am not your therapist
Sometimes a book written in the first person can read like the character is unburdening herself to her therapist. Everything is about the character and her responses and feelings and the inside of her head are examined in tedious detail and often in emotionally manipulative ways. I hate this kind of book with a passion. If I wanted to be a therapist, I would become one. Pushing the Limits by Katie McGarry felt like this while I was reading it.

Over-identification
Mostly, I like to be told a story rather than expected to live through it. First person narrative, for me, often puts me into the action. I am the ‘I’ when I’m reading. It’s exhausting and emotionally draining, and I don’t enjoy that kind of reading experience. Third person allows me to keep the book at a safe distance.

So, here’s my advice if you’re thinking about writing your book in first person:

Work hard at making your character someone who is easy to spend time with. Give her the most attractive and compelling voice you can, since there’s nothing to dilute it for the reader.

Work hard to show other points of view when they are needed for the sake of the story. Show us when your narrator gets things wrong. Give other characters plenty of chance to speak. Help the narrator to understand what they are thinking and feeling so that the reader can too.

Remember that you are still telling a story. Edit your characters thoughts and feelings. We don’t need every last drop of internal angst. Do not EVER give her an inner goddess.

And mostly, my biggest tip is reconsider. If you can possibly find a way of telling it in the third person, do it. Use first person if you have to, and only if you have to.

Also, and here’s a tip from Charlotte Bronte, first person does not have to mean present tense.

Heroine week!

It’s Heroine Week all week over at Romance around the Corner, and Brie has got some great guest posts lined up. My rant about Fanny Price is coming later this week, but today she’s got posts from Sarah Mayberry and Stephanie Doyle on everyday heroines and the heroine’s point of view.

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I love the idea of a week celebrating romance heroines. So often discussion focuses on heroes – how tall, dark and handsome they really have to be, how tortured, scarred or emotionally closed off they can be, and how much readers do or don’t fancy them. Which is all well and good. I like a great hero as much as the next person, but I LOVE a great heroine.

For me that means a woman I can respect and like, but most importantly, a woman I am rooting for. The romances I love most are the ones where the heroines triumph. They get the awesome guy they deserve. They get the respect they’ve earned. They get their dreams come true. I don’t love a story with a ‘diminished heroine’. I don’t want her to have to abandon her dreams or settle for less than the best. I want her to grasp hold of her life and be the best person she can be. I want her hero to challenge her, admire her, adore her and take on the world for her. But I also want her to rise to the challenge and take on the world for him. I want her life to be better in every respect for loving and being loved.

I’m Ros, and I’m addicted to heroines.
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But I’m okay with that.

Why I want readers, not fans

Readers: read books.
Fans: collect swag, queue up for book signings, want to know about the private life of the author.

Readers: like or dislike books.
Fans: defend an author and her books to the death.

Readers: sometimes review books if they want to.
Fans: squee incoherently and give five stars indiscriminately.

Readers: sometimes talk about books with their friends.
Fans: stalk the internet looking for comments that are anything short of over-the-top praise, to rally the troops and harass the reviewer.

Readers: buy books to read.
Fans: do anything they can to get an early copy or a review copy, so they can laud it over their fellow fans.

Readers: are interested in books, not authors.
Fans: think they are in the author’s inner circle.

Readers: do not become stalkers, go on pilgrimages, harass authors for autographs.
Fans: sometimes do.

Readers: can distinguish an author from her books.
Fans: are not so clear about the difference.

I would like people to read my books. I am always happy when they like them, but completely understand when not everyone does. I’m happy when anyone wants to talk about my books and I don’t ever want someone to feel threatened if they have something negative to say. I don’t really need an army of new friends and I definitely don’t need crowds of fans intruding into my life. I would much prefer to be gathering new readers than making fans.

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