Wednesday, March 25, 2015

Writing Wednesday: Reading like a Writer

My mother-in-law once lent me a book by Francine Prose entitled Reading Like a Writer, and while I'm not sure I returned it to her, I also don't really remember much of the advice. Honestly, I took it as a jab, because the book's author examines classic works by great authors to show why these works have endured. Where I write romance and YA, I thought she was dissing my choice of genres.

But her point is sound. Some writing resonates more deeply with readers than others. Not every reader likes the same literary material, but in every genre there are stand out best sellers who connect with readers. Think of Nora Roberts, for instance, and you get my point.

What I have come to realize lately, is that every writer can improve their own writing by examining not what worked for Franz Kafka or Virginia Woolf exactly, but by looking at best selling authors in their own genres and seeing why those works resonate with readers.

I've expanded my book reviews to include not only new, debut and indie authors, but also some of the genre best sellers, to try and figure out what attracts loyal readers to their stories and writing. What makes a great romance novel? Now, this is not to say that there aren't a slew of wonderful writers and books that don't have "best seller" attached to their names. I've personally read and reviewed lots. However, I figure I also need to read more widely from the authors who've "made it."

The first example I chose after this epiphany was from Bella Andre, a master of the modern contemporary romance. Forget 50 Shades and pick up one of Andre's many steamy tales. She has real plots, fully fleshed out secondary characters,  main characters that leave you panting for more and enough steamy sex to make Christian Grey beg for a time out.

The Look of Love, by Bella Andre
Published June 2011

About the Book:
Chloe Peterson is having a bad night. A really bad night. The large bruise on her cheek can attest to that. And when her car skids off the side of a wet country road straight into a ditch, she's convinced even the gorgeous guy who rescues her in the middle of the rain storm must be too good to be true. Or is he?

As a successful photographer who frequently travels around the world, Chase Sullivan has his pick of beautiful women, and whenever he's home in San Francisco, one of his seven siblings is usually up for causing a little fun trouble. Chase thinks his life is great just as it is--until the night he finds Chloe and her totaled car on the side of the road in Napa Valley. Not only has he never met anyone so lovely, both inside and out, but he quickly realizes she has much bigger problems than her damaged car. Soon, he is willing to move mountains to love--and protect--her, but will she let him?

Chloe vows never to make the mistake of trusting a man again. Only, with every loving look Chase gives her--and every sinfully sweet caress--as the attraction between them sparks and sizzles, she can't help but wonder if she's met the only exception. And although Chase didn't realize his life was going to change forever in an instant, amazingly, he isn't the least bit interested in fighting that change. Instead, he's gearing up for a different fight altogether...for Chloe's heart.

This is the first book in her Sullivan family series, and the only issue I had with it was the first chapter tries way too hard to introduce every single one of the eight siblings and set up their storyline for the future. It became a little bit of name soup and I almost drowned in it before our current hero left the family gathering.

Chase Sullivan is a successful photographer and something of a playboy, but lately he's been feeling the itch for something more. Chloe Peterson is an abused woman going through a nasty divorce who longs for nothing more than her freedom. Sparks fly when Chase helps her out of her car trouble and convinces her to stay in Napa with him for a few days while he does a photo shoot at his brothers vineyard.  Neither of them can deny the electric chemistry arcing between them, but they both resist for their own reasons... Until they can't resist any longer and tumble into steam-your-e reader sex, going from zero to eighty in seconds.

This was my first Bella Andre book, and I know understand why she is such a legend in the romance business. She makes it all look and sound easy with well written characters you care about and hot sex scenes that make you blush while turning pages as fast as possible. If you can get passed the first chapter, you're in for a treat. If you like this sort of thing. Me? I might be reading some more...

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