Thanksgiving weekend is the time to spend with family, to relish the shared moments and history of your lives, while celebrating the future.
Sure, if you have a normal family. Me, not so much.
Most of us join the Dysfunctional Family Circus, a time where most everyone is tense and Things Get Said and Things Don’t Get Said.
Family issues led me to thinking about the current popularity of connected Regency books, usually through siblings. Mary Balogh wrote about six siblings in her Slightly series, and she did a fantastic job of delineating the differences between all six. Julia Quinn‘s Bridgerton series focuses on eight siblings, all of whom eventually find their HEA. Eloisa James has just released the second book in her Four Sisters series, and in her first book of the series, she did a remarkable job of distinguishing the sisters from each other.
And, of course, for every sibling series I cite, there are zillions more residing in books out there–readers like to read connected books, and making the connection through siblings make a shared history possible, and limit the essential backstory so the author can concentrate on the romance at hand.
I have to admit, even though I love reading these connected series, I just can’t wrap my head around the fact that every single sibling is happy in love. Think about your own family; is everyone blissful in their relationship? If you say yes, you are an unusual person (and I envy you!). When I think about the connected series in toto, I have to say the idea of that many pleased siblings makes me faintly nauseated.
And yes, I am an only child. Why do you ask?
The connected series I tend to believe more are those where the bonds are of friendship, not blood. Friends have to stretch and grow in their relationships, and their respective dynamics can make for fascinating reading.
Mary Jo Putney‘s Fallen Angels, Lynn Kerstan‘s Black Phoenix Brotherhood, and Jo Beverley‘s Company of Rogues are good examples.
So what do you think about connected series? Do you like it when siblings find love, each in their own books? Or, like me, do you try to ignore the other books as you’re reading the one, keeping a Kantian a priori attitude about your book of choice?
I don’t much care if books are in a series or single — though it is frustrating to read a book you think is a stand-alone, only to find that it doesn’t make much sense on its own (which occasionally happens, though not usually in romance.)
One series I really liked — Elena Greene’s series which started with THE INCORRIGIBLE LADY CATHERINE. They were friends, not sisters, so they were very different, and the books were also very different from each other.
Has anyone ever read a sequel to a romance? They’ve never been common (and they may basically not exist anymore) because they’re so anti-romance. I read one that I can think of — Joan Smith’s REPRISE, which was a sequel to her grand IMPRUDENT LADY. Same characters, same romance, same issues (partly), except the understanding you thought the characters had reached at the end of the first book is shredded!
My bookaholic friend Heather, who worked in a used bookstore when she was a teenager and therefore read every romance then in existence (or so it sometimes seems) once read a sequel to a romance in which the hero of book 1 has been killed off, the heroine needs to have a new romance with a new guy! Ack! Talk about violating the happy-ever-after promise to the reader!
Ack is right, Cara! I heard about a romance sequel of sorts (though can’t recall the title), where the heroine of book 2 was the daughter of the couple in book 1. But her parents in book 2 had been captured and hanged as pirates!!! If I had read and liked book 1, I would have been furious to read book 2. 🙂
I don’t mind series, as a rule. (I’ve even written some connected books of my own, I just couldn’t help it). It’s kind of nice to see what happens to characters I’ve enjoyed meeting. (the Balogh Slightly series was fun, as was Elena’s!) What I don’t like so much is when a series has about 30 books in it and it gets unwieldy and confusing. And those cutesy, happy-family wrap-up scenes that so often come in at the last book. You know, where dozens of blissful couples hold hands and cherubic children frolic around them. It always makes me think of my own family gatherings, where there is always someone not speaking to someone else, and sometimes people burst out crying or throw the salt shaker across the room. And the kids scream and yell and roll in the mud. Quite a contrast. 🙂
Aw, thanks for the kind words on my Three Disgraces, Cara!
I have to admit the series that usually work best for me are those where the characters are friends. Friends who’ve been through something rough together, like war, or dealing with the cliques and bullies of a boarding school. It’s not just the bonding; I think experiences like that make heroic characters seek something better their lives.
As far as family series, I have to admit my husband’s and my family gatherings are a lot more like what Amanda describes. OTOH my husband and I are trying for greater harmony in our own nuclear family (and so far our kids really do get along well) and I’ve got one good friend whose family is the most functional I know of. She and many of her siblings have made good marriages. OTOH their real-life romances aren’t the stuff of novels. Let’s face it, there’s not enough conflict in a steady progression from dating to commitment to parenthood.
That’s what seems tricky to me in those big family series. Where do the problems come from, and then how can they get wrapped up so very neatly for so many? But sometimes the individual stories are good enough to be worth a little suspension of disbelief.
Re romance sequels, I’ve heard of them but don’t suspect they would work any more than many movie sequels do.
Can I just say that family dynamics are DRIVING ME CRAZY?
Okay, I’ll just say that.
You can say it, Megan, and know you are being heard with TOTAL EMPATHY. Hang in there.