M. K. Theodoratus, Fantasy Writer, blogs about the books she reads--mostly fantasy and mystery authors whose books catch her eye and keep her interest. Nothing so formal as a book review, just chats about what she liked. Theodoratus also mutters about her own writing progress or ... lack of it.


Monday, June 15, 2015

Do Characters with Sad Songs Gain More Avid Readers?

    'Twas a dreary time last week as I skimmed through a couple books trying to stay awake after the news. Then, when grocery shopping, I picked up Mary Balogh's new Survivor's Club mass paperback -- Only A Promise. Balogh is an author with tons of books to her credit and loads of readers who write glowing, well-deserved reviews.

   No, I'm not green with envy. I line up with the fans to buy her books, though not in hardback because they're priced way beyond my wallet's reach. Yeah, Only a Promise gave my blahs a jolt.

   Of course, I decided to sample a chapter when we got home. It turned into three. [Good thing they were short ones. I would have never gotten up to the computer to clean my emails.] The real reading session came that night. I set out to read a third of the book and ended up reading two-thirds by the time my back and thumbs gave out.

   Can't believe I read into the wee hours when I usually quit before midnight. Then, I finished the book off after lunch the next day. Granted Balogh knows the Regency period and gives just enough detail to nail her settings so I don't groan at the factual clinkers.  But the thing's a straight-forward romance!

   The hook is in the details. Balogh's characters make her books shine. She always manages to give an added twist that wrings the stale out of the romance cliches. In the Survivor Club's case, her focus is on PSTD as well as two wounded souls finding each other. Oh, Regencies have maimed heroes by the thousands, even sweet young things recoiling from their scars. The deepest hurts in Balogh's books, even among the most privileged, are the psychological ones.

   The writing manuals give authors many ways to create a three-dimensional character. Balogh extends those techniques to her secondary characters, who show complexities that contradict each other. But her forte is the different psychological traumas she creates for the "people" in her books. The reader benefits when supposedly minor characters appear in another book as the star.

   But what caught my attention most firmly in Only a Promise was the context she uses  for the "love" in her romance. A quote: "There was no euphoria and never would be. She was not in love. There were no stars in her eyes." I also like her sex scenes which act as a bridge between her two protagonists.

Balogh has a talent for mixing and matching ideas so that the story lines in her books seem fresh and original, a stellar feat in the romance genre. Highly recommended. See more an except and more reviews on

    Sometimes, I find reading the newspapers frightening. But I also discover some interesting stuff, like in the 14 June 15 New York Times Book Review section. Actor/author/etc., Judd Apatrow is quoted in their author bit: "I have actually convinced myself that buying books is the same as reading."

   I haven't progressed that far. But. I did find two paperbacks, still in the store book bag, under a piece of furniture. Dystopia writers can find some interesting ideas among the various reviews in the same issue. I found them just plain scary.

My Writing Rut

    Strange things happen when I'm petting Wiggles, my muse. The other cat, Shadow, isn't the friendly type. Of course, Pillar isn't particularly friendly either, but she sometimes does surprising things. Like kissing Nate back at the end of On the Run. How's that for a spoiler? Yeah, I'm finally going to write about a character in a romantic relationship. But it won't be a romance since Nate appears to late in the book to influence the plot's arc.

   Anyway, I wrote 400 words of an ending [after the great battle] Sunday morning, even before I opened my daily comics.

*Patting myself on the back.*

Oh, I'm planning to get another snippet from the beginning of On the Run up on my website.
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