A Mystery ?!!?!

I was on vacation last week and so didn’t do any writing at all–but I did do a lot of thinking. Before leaving town, I wrote a chapter in which my main characters arrive at a country house for the weekend. There are about a dozen people at the house, and so I had to introduce each of them and make each distinctive enough that the reader wouldn’t get confused. I was pretty happy with how that scene turned out.

While on vacation, I kept thinking about what would happen next, and it seemed, with all these quirky people gathered for the weekend, that it was time for a murder. What!? I said to myself. I’m not writing a mystery! There is NOT to be a murder at this country house! I fought this for several days, but finally gave in and thought, OK, if there were to be a murder, who would be killed? It was easy to answer, because one of the characters (who I’d imagined to be a very nice person) had turned out to be rather nasty. I realized that if this were to be a mystery, my heroine Olivia would be the detective and I would need to adjust her character a bit. With these changes, I realized I liked the new Olivia much more than the old Olivia.

So, I guess I’m writing a mystery. Funny how these things turn out. I wonder if historical mysteries sell better than literary historical fiction….

Reviewing Books

I’m not a book snob. I like to read just about every genre and I can enjoy sleazy romances as much as great literature as much as wacky sci-fi. Even with the books I don’t enjoy, I can usually find things good about them and understand why others would want to read them.

These qualities make me, I think, a good book reviewer. I review books for the Historical Novels Society. I’ve enjoyed reading many of the books I’ve been sent; others I didn’t really like myself, but it was easy to see the qualities that others would enjoy and write about those aspects. In fact, a book I didn’t like very much was recently given a starred review by HNR because I was so positive about certain aspects of the book.

I hate writing bad reviews. I think that there is a reader for every book, and my review should clearly explain who would enjoy the book, and (perhaps less clearly) who would not enjoy the book. Also, I hate to hurt a person’s feelings. Every author spent a lot of hard work creating his/her story, and I want to be able to applaud some aspect of the writing.

That said, I’m blogging today because I finished a book this morning that I think is irredeemably bad. And I’m SO ANGRY about it. There is nothing good about this book. The writing is clunky and awkward and repetitive and awful. The characters are flat and unrealistic and unlikeable. It’s supposed to be a romance, but there is practically no romance and when romance does happen it is embarrassing. It’s also a war story, but there is little to no action.

I’ll admit the plot was a good idea–I asked to review the book based on the storyline, so perhaps this is an audience appeal. But I can’t imagine anyone reading beyond that first chapter. I had to, because I had to review it. What I really can’t understand is how this got published.


Again, I’m not a book snob. I like almost everything. But this book was garbage. Utterly bad.