Tuesday, January 25, 2011

Two Rogues and an Angel

Lately I’ve been thinking about the complexities of writing a series of novels. Many of my favorite authors have several different series out at once, and I always wonder how they can keep all the details straight. The obvious answer is good editing, but for a really good series to be successful, the author has to consider her different audiences. Once a series has begun, the subsequent novels have to be accessible and enticing to new and returning readers. Ideally, a reader could pick up any novel in the series and not get lost if she hadn’t read the previous books. But there must be a balancing act, because you can only provide so much background information from the earlier books without boring the heck out of fans who have followed every book faithfully. Here are a few comments on three series with recently released installments that I’ve enjoyed. Two are Regency romances, while the third is a paranormal, but each author takes a slightly different approach to how she ties the series together.

In Regency romance, I’ve noticed that many series seem to focus on families, with each family member being featured in a separate novel. As a reader, this is a lot of fun, because if you’ve followed the series from the beginning, you enjoy seeing the returning cast of characters. Sabrina Jeffries’ The Hellions of Halstead Hall series does precisely that, and the third book, How to Woo a Reluctant Lady, has just been released.  Ms. Jeffries’ series focuses on an aristocratic family of five siblings whose parents’ deaths years earlier have led to outrageous behavior on the part of the now-grown children. In frustration, their grandmother decrees that if all five do not marry within a year, she won’t leave them any of her money. In this third installment, our heroine, Lady Minerva, is a writer of gothic novels who (gasp!) publishes under her own name. The hero, Giles Masters, is a friend of her older brothers and appears to be a complete scoundrel. He is actually a spy for the Home Office. Unfortunately for Giles, he broke Minerva’s heart when she was 19, and he’s been the villain in all her published novels since. How to Woo a Reluctant Lady is a great deal of fun, not least of all because Ms. Jeffries has featured a writer as her heroine and pokes fun at readers who see themselves (erroneously at times) in the different characters.

Elizabeth Hoyt’s Notorious Pleasures, the second book in her Maiden Lane series, has also just been released. Unlike Ms. Jeffries’ novel, the characters in the series are connected by a home for orphans, rather than by blood. This second entry focuses on Lady Hero Batten, who helps fund the orphanage. Lady Hero is the sister of a Duke, and her behavior is strictly all that it should be, until she meets the hero, Griffin Remmington, Lord Reading. He is actually the brother of her fiancé, so their subsequent romance is quite the scandal. Ms. Hoyt has long been a favorite of mine, and her books stand out among the crowd of Regency romance. Her writing is outstanding, and before each chapter she includes a part of a fairy tale that replicates the themes of the novel. Her secondary characters are intriguing, and she does an amazing job of balancing the reader’s interest in the supporting characters while not taking away from the principle story.

Unlike most Regency romance, series in paranormal romance tend to follow Ms. Hoyt’s example rather than that of Ms. Jeffries. Each novel in Nalini Singh’s paranormal Guild Hunter series is connected through the hero and heroine, rather than familial ties.  This approach has certain advantages which I enjoy as a reader, mainly that it allows for deeper character development from novel to novel. Archangel’s Consort is the third book in Ms. Singh’s Guild Hunter series, and it’s a pleasure to read.  In this world, angels are powerful beings that rule the world and create vampires to serve them. Humans can petition to be Made into a vampire, but once Made, must serve the angels for 100 years. The Guild is a group of human bounty hunters who track down vampires who’ve skipped out on their contracts. Elena Devereaux is the best of the Guild Hunters, and in the first novel of the series, she met and fell in love with the Archangel ruling New York, Raphael. What makes Archangel’s Consort so enjoyable is the deepening relationship between the two. Raphael is a powerful immortal who has fallen for a hunter, and Elena is a warrior who fights to remain herself while dealing with a growing romance.

Part of the pleasure of reading a series of romances is looking forward to future installments. After reading the three novels mentioned above, I’ll be very excited to see what awaits us in the next novels of each of the series.

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