Thursday, November 15, 2012

I AM reading

First of all, thank you very much for the good wishes – I’m sure Liz and I will cheer each other on tomorrow at the Festival of Romance Awards, and we’ll post pics afterwards whatever happens!

Autumn - great time for reading!
Now on Monday Anna was saying “I wanna read!”, whereas at the moment I can definitely say “I AM reading!”  And how!  In the last week alone, I read six books, (although some of them were fairly short).  Autumn is a great time to curl up with a book, but the reason for me is not that I’ve gone on an autumnal reading "bender" (if there is such a thing) or taken time out.  It’s just that I help organise a literary award and this time of year the long list is more or less finalised.  And as the organiser, I sometimes have to talk about the award and the books that end up on the shortlist.  Which means – I have to read them so I know what I’m talking about.  Good excuse, right?

It is in no way a hardship reading these particular books as they’re all romance and, having ended up on the long list, great stories.  But it’s made me think about WHY these particular books have done better than the other entries.  What is it about them that gives them page turning quality; what keeps the reader hooked?

There are all the usual reasons of course - first of all (and most obvious), there has to be a great love story, one that stays in your mind long after you finish reading.  The chemistry between the hero and heroine has to be amazing throughout, even if they themselves don’t notice it to begin with perhaps (or they try not to).  The dialogue has to be just right – a sassy heroine and a hero with a sense of humour is always good and makes for some interesting conversations.  And the conflict between them must be believable.  In some cases it’s the fact that the story is unusual which makes it stand out, or if it’s not, the plot has been given a new twist and made to feel original.  The writing has to be just right too – fast moving and entertaining in an effortless way.

All this makes for a great story potentially.

But ... we’re all different and what we look for in a novel may vary wildly, as the readers for the award demonstrate every year.  What one person finds wonderful, another says is utter rubbish.  Thankfully, each book gets read several times and the ones where all the readers agree come out on top.  Those are the ones I’m reading at the moment.  

For me, personally, the thing that always makes or breaks a book is the hero.  If I don’t fall in love with the hero, the story is doomed.  I don’t really care what he looks like (although hotties are always welcome of course :) ), but he has to be charismatic.  He has to charm me (and the heroine) in every way.  Then, and only then, will I consider the book a winner or keeper for my shelf.

What makes a book a keeper for you?

Please come back on Sunday/Monday to hear from Liz – she might have photos from the Festival of Romance!


  1. I agree - the hero / heroine must stick in the mind. Also a rich and fabulous setting always stays with me. I like to feel I've visited a different part of the world (Pat Conroy, Susan Howatch, Rosamunde Pilcher, Anne Rivers Siddons etc etc etc). And, a keeper must linger, in a good way. Every once in a while. it pops back into your head, claiming a re-read.

  2. Yes, that's true Gina - it's great to re-read favourites every now and again :)