We were discussing “good bad books” on the blog last week, and while I understand the premise, I have difficulty labeling any book as good or bad. Yeah, after reading a few million books over the years, I have a definite opinion on what kind of books I don’t like, but they aren’t necessarily bad books. I just don’t like them. Many of them are bestsellers—I’m missing that Dan Brown gene, too. Can one call a bestseller bad? So there are books I like to read and books I don’t. And then there are the wallbangers.
Since I write romance, I like books that end happily. Yes, I’ve read the Russian classics and I was edified and experienced catharsis, and I didn’t fling them at the wall just because they inevitably ended messily. But unless I expect someone to interrogate me about a book, I prefer one that entertains me—and that requires a happy ending. I want the mystery solved, the treasure found, the rightful queen on her throne, and I want happily ever after, or HEA as we call it in romance.
But even if justice is served and all’s well that ends well, a book can still end up pitched against the wall if the story lacks logic. Or I may never find out if there’s a HEA because the hero and heroine spend so much time drooling over gorgeous anatomies that they don’t realize they’ll kill each other should they ever be stupid enough to marry. Or one character or another is so perversely blind, stubborn, or thick-headed that they persist in believing an obviously wrong assumption despite all evidence to the contrary. So I guess, for me, books have to have some degree of intelligence or they’re candidates for dinging a hole in my plaster.
And this is coming from someone who has written a book about a heroine so seemingly blind and thick-headed that the copyeditor called her a nincompoop. I kid you not. But if that poor copyeditor had kept on reading, he would have discovered the heroine actually was almost blind. She wasn’t being stupid when she set aside letters. She couldn’t read them. So I can accept thickheaded characters if they’re that way for a reason.
In THIS MAGIC MOMENT, which we’re adding to the catalog this week, I have a heroine who could easily be called Too Stupid To Live, or TSTL in romance-speak. Christina goes on hair-brained escapades that would have most normal people locked away in a strait jacket. Christina is also a rich, privileged daughter of an aristocrat, with the ability to speak to ghosts and read auras. Rich and privileged means people never tell her no, so she’s spoiled, but she’s not dumb. She knows who she can trust by reading their auras, and she has her ghosts around to protect her. So while she may seem TSTL, she’s just more talented and courageous than most. So even arrogance has its place.
At what point does a book become a wall-banger for you? Can you stick with a TSTL character if the rest of the story leads you to believe that the character will improve? Or is it all about the action and pacing?