I’ve noticed a trend on the books I read and Goodreads: some of the books I love (as in 5 stars) average about 3 ½.
I’ve wondered if it’s just me. Do I have tastes that are slightly skewed from main stream? While in many cases, yes, yes, yes I do, in this case I’m not so sure.
The books I mainly read are adult contemporary romances. I love these stories. I write these stories. At the end of the day, these stories follow a formula. There are bars surrounding what can and cannot be done. Writers can and do stray from the formula in many ways. But in order to fit the genre they can’t stray too far.
This, ultimately, is why I feel the 3 ½ star curse exists. How many marriage of convenience stories can one read before…yawn…3 stars? How many bad boys with a heart of gold (okay, maybe this one can live on)? How many commitment phobic men now willing to lay it on the line for a woman he’s known (at least romantically) two weeks?
Eventually, these stories start to blend together. There are exceptions and authors are always looking for a different twist, a different spin. Something, anything to stick out from the pack and breathe new life into a fun, but overused, concept.
Without insulting anyone in the genre I love to read and write, I’m going to place the blame on the same end at the same time. Going back to my mention above: marriage of convenience. If this is a trope a reader likes, this is a trope the reader is going to reach for. Even if she/he has read one too many, it still sparks the interest. So the book is purchased, the sales hold the marriage of convenience trope is working. Publishers want more, writers write more, and the shelves continue to hold them until the bubble bursts.
In the meantime, more books receive 3 ½ stars. Not because the book is bad. No, because the reader is burnt out. The reader wants something new, something fresh, and the bars of the genre are too rigid.
I’ve done this in reverse. Years ago I needed more than the confines of the genre. I stopped reading. I wrote the story the way I wanted it written. Now I’m backtracking, because what my head thinks works may not be reality. I’m writing my first ever novel intending it to be completely genre. And I’m loving it. I’m putting my own spin on it, but paying attention to the key details: limited sub characters, steam, something pulling the characters apart until the last second (okay, I’m struggling with this part, I’m too much of a HEA girl).
And someone will one day give me 3 stars (and less) for the way my novel matches up to others in the genre. Don’t get me wrong, people should assign whatever stars they see fit. I personally hate seeing books I love not getting the same love from others.
Either I’m right and it’s the tiresome reusing inside the genre. Or my tastes really are off the beaten path. It’s pretty here, the flowers haven’t been trampled yet.