Sunday, June 12, 2005

Take The Romance Novel Challenge!

Many of you who visit this blog regularly have never read an inspirational romance novel. Some have never read any romance novels. I know that because you've told me so.

Don't get me wrong--I love the diversity of my blog-readers. But I also have a weird sense of fun, so I'm going to challenge you holdouts to read a romance novel.

C'mon, just one. It won't kill you.

Yes, I know. You'd rather be tied up and made to listen to Vogon poetry than read a romance novel (or be seen reading one). But unlike Vogon poetry, romance novels are loved by an awful lot of people. And if you have never bothered to wonder why, maybe it's time you did. After all, over half of all softcover fiction sold in the U.S. is romance.

So here's a new game, kids. I'm calling it The Romance Novel Challenge. I'm going to list a few fiction genres and romance subgenres that I have studiously avoided reading. Anyone who is willing to read a romance novel (or an inspirational romance novel if you've never read one of those) for the very first time (and you're on your honor here--please don't lie to me) can choose one book or author from my "never gonna read that junk" list and make me try it.

I'll read my assigned books and then come back here and recount my agony in lurid detail. Or maybe I'll admit to having been surprised and delighted by your selections.

I'm not big on rules, but we're going to need a few for this game, so here they are:
1. If you have never read a romance novel by a contemporary author, you may take the Challenge. You need not, but are encouraged to tell us which romance novel you have chosen to read.

2. If you don't qualify under the first rule, you may still be able to play. If you have never read an inspirational romance, you may take the Challenge by reading one. Again, I'd love to know the book and author you've chosen, but you don't have to spill any details if you're really that embarassed about the whole thing.

3. Those who have read inspirational romance can't play, but they may suggest romance novels and authors and are very welcome strongly encouraged to heckle the players.

4. The Challenge will end when I can't take it anymore.

Okay? Let's get started. Right off the top of my head (which means this is by no means a comprehensive list), here are some of the things I've never read:

Stephen King novels. Honestly. I haven't even seen any of the movies made from his books. The movie trailers for stuff like Carrie and Pet Semetery saved me from wasting money at the bookstore. I've read King's nonfiction book, On Writing, and loved it. But tell me which of his horror novels I "must" read. Or pick another horror author. I've never read anything in that genre. Ick.

Scottish romances. I love Celtic music, so I know all about Bonnie Prince Charlie and the Jacobites and such. But if you want to hear me squeal, order me to read one of those Fabio-in-a-kilt books.

Paranormal romances. What's appealing about a toothy guy who wants to drink your blood? Or some warrior dude who wants to drag you back with him to the days before indoor plumbing? I sincerely hope nobody expects me to read one of those books.

Novels set during the Civil War or any war after that. Apart from Gone With the Wind (which wouldn't count, anyway, because it's not by a contemporary author) I've never read one. But how bad can they be? I probably wouldn't suffer all that much if you made me read one. Unless one of you sadists out there assigned a book or author you knew to be awful.

Graphic novels. Sure, I chewed Bazooka bubblegum and read Archie comic books when I was twelve. But I've never read a graphic novel. Please don't make me. Oooh! They look so stupid!

My husband's favorite, the slash-and-dash novels. You know the books I mean--the ones where somebody gets offed in the first chapter and then some brilliant but underappreciated lawyer tries to get the accused freed by finding the real killer. My hunk o' burnin' love is particularly fond of Lisa Scottaline books. If you want me to read one of those, I could probably find one in the wicker basket on his side of our bed. But I really hope you won't make me look.
Ready to accept The Romance Novel Challenge? Tell me that you're reading a romance novel (or an inspirational romance) for the very first time. Then pick a book or author from one of the groups listed above and order me to read it. I'll sigh and grumble and then make an honest effort to find the book.

I'd ask you to be gentle, but I'm not stupid enough to believe you'll miss an opportunity to see me squirm. But, please--no obscure authors or out-of-print books. If I can't find your recommended read at my town's (pretty doggone good) library or at Booksfree, I'm not promising to scour five different bookstores for it or to drop thirty bucks on an order. Thanks for understanding.

For those of you who will be taking the plunge and reading an inspirational romance novel, here's a good one that got fantastic reviews and actually won a couple of big-deal awards.*

*Oh, come on. You had to know I wasn't going to miss an opportunity to plug my own book.

Sunday, 8:05 PM

Jeepers, did a bunch of you rush over to Amazon this afternoon and buy my book? I was just over there looking for another series romance book and was very surprised to see that mine is #2 right now on the list of hot sellers (#1 being a Nora Roberts book, natch). Gotta be a mistake. Nothing means anything on Amazon. Tomorrow it'll probably be back at ASR 300,000 like it was last week. But it gave me a little thrill there for a second. Whee.


Mikesell said...

I just checked the stack of books the missus finished recently and among them are Nora's Heaven and Earth and Face the Fire, as well as Jude Deveraux's The Enchanted Land.

You may pick my fate as I'm assigning you SK's The Shining. (If the group agrees you've chosen the "most merciful" of the three, you may read Misery instead.)

If none of those three are going to strengthen your argument that Romance Fiction won't kill me, I'll see what else I can find.

--Chris (dFm)

Anonymous said...

SWEET. As they say in Iron Chef, "The heat will be on!" I've been meaning to try inspies for months and months, and this is as good an excuse as any.

So I'll get to your book, Brenda, after my one-month romance novel break. I know, pretty lame how long I'm going to take before I read it, but I'm starting to burn out on romance novels in general.

Brenda Coulter said...

Chris, I haven't read the three romances you mentioned, but those authors represent the genre pretty well, so just close your eyes and pick one.

Since The Shining is 704 pages, I'll take Misery for 352, Alex. It's only fair, since I may end up promising to read all sorts of awful books duing this Challenge, and I can't take too much time away from the one I'm supposed to be writing.

Uh...not that I'm writing an awful book....

Frankly, Candy, I'm relieved that you're not taking up the Challenge right now. I bet you would have made me read Chuck Palahniuk's new book.

Mikesell said...

Okay. Have fun with Steve and his take on Romance Writers (hah! tricked you into it). Misery is among my favorites of his.

Since the two Nora books are parts 2 & 3 of a Trilogy, I'll go with Jude.

--Chris (dFm)

Anonymous said...

Oh no, my choice would've been to make you read a graphic novel. Maybe The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen. Or the Sandman series by Neil Gaiman. Or Ghost World by Daniel Clowes. I'll decide when I pick up your book. MWAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHA.

Nicole said...

Oh no, you need to read the unabridged version of The Stand. Only Stephen King I could ever finish.

kstar said...

Brenda, I love this! I've never read inspirational romance though I've read a sampling of almost every other subgenre. So I will read an inspirational.

I've read all SK's books and I'd like to recommend Bag of Bones because the characters are terrific and it's one of my favorite King books. It's also not as scary as Misery or The Shining.
Thanks for the challenge. I'm looking forward to a new reading experience.

Anonymous said...

Hmm...I stumbled over via a series of blog-links.

I choose Outlander, by Diana Gabaldon, which could fall under either Paranormal Romance or Scottish Romance on your list. So I get a double whammy here!

But in return, I'll not only read your recommended novel, I'll buy it. Deal?

I am not looking forward to this. My mother reads inspirational romance, and you cannot believe how much the idea turns me off. On the other hand, Outlander is several hundred pages, so you're probably getting the short stick here. But I'm hoping you'll love it (um, the book, not the stick).

Brenda Coulter said...

Chris. I cannot believe I fell for that trick. You, sir, are no gentleman. And I'm beginning to have my doubts about your being a scholar. I mean, come on. Horror novels?

Um, Nicole, you must have missed the part where I carefully avoid making any promises to finish the books. I also did not say I wouldn't close my eyes during the really scary parts.

kstar, I will accept your challenge. I couldn't find Bag of Bones to borrow, so I had to buy it online. If I really, really hate it, you are going to owe me $9.87.

Are you going to tell us what you are reading? Hmm?

All this talk about Stephen King and graphic novels is making me very uncomfortable. Doesn't anyone want me to read one of those Fabio-in-a-kilt books?

Brenda Coulter said...

Katrina, I have just put Outlander at the top of my Booksfree reading list. I've heard a lot of people rave about that book, so maybe I'll like it.

Even though my inspirational romance novel is short (250 pages) I don't want you to read that one since you appear predisposed to hate inspies and I'd rather you despised some other author. ;-)

I just popped over to Amazon to see what the bestselling inspirational romance novel is at this moment. How about reading Francine Rivers' Redeeming Love? It's had 269 reviews on Amazon and has managed to retain a 5-star rating, so I'm guessing it doesn't stink.

Anonymous said...


How could I hate you when you are obviously so charming and delightful, and funny too?

But all right. I'll buy them both, and if I absolutely despise Francine's book, I'll just give my mother both of them without reading yours. That way I can keep enjoying your blog, and I can tell people what a lovely person and clever writer you are, just based on this. ;-)

Brenda Coulter said...

That's right, Katrina-my-new-best-friend; you just keep on thinking that way.

When people tell me they're reading my book, I always say, "If you like it, please tell everyone you know. And if you don't like it, please keep that to yourself."

Neal said...

Actually Brenda, I think the trick about Misery may backfire on Chris. If I was to take up your challenge, this is the book I'd give you because (1) it's short for a SK, and (2) you may just enjoy it. It's less SK's take on Romance Writers, and more his take on the _readers_ of Romance Writers, and given that the book contains large excerpts from a romance book you may get your own revenge and get the chance to critique SK's romance writing to us all.

Brenda Coulter said...

Actually Brenda, I think the trick about Misery may backfire on Chris.

Thank you, Neal, for giving me that bit of hope to cling to. ;-) The book is on order.

~michelle pendergrass said...

Since Chris (dFm) has suggested two great books and you've picked the one I least like, I'm looking forward to the results.

I'd have you read "The Green Mile" and for the scare factor "Salem's Lot" or It. Another very good book is Riverwatch by Joseph Nassise.

"On Writing" was excellent, though if you don't know him and can't hear him talking to you, I'd say that there's a LOT that you missed.

I've never read a romance. I'd prefer inspirational romance if I were to read one. I tried to read a Nora Roberts and my girlfriend swears by her work, I just haven't been able to do it.

So I'll tell you what, pick a good inspirational romance, or give me a choice of a couple and I'll read it. (Hey Chris, are you buying or am I this time? Might need a double) LOL.

Mikesell said...


I chose those two books because I thought Brenda actually might like them, not because I wanted to cause her distress (if I'd wanted to do that she could've gotten away with the novella "The Library Policeman" in Four Past Midnight -- talk about ooky).

I think the Jack Torrance's character development in The Shining was well-handled (as opposed to the deterioration of character in the Nicholson movie). I like the writer struggles in both books. I like the meta-fiction in Misery.

Then again, I didn't want to let her completely off the hook with something "gentle" like The Girl Who Loved Tom Gordon, which even sounds like a Romance.

--Chris (dFm)

Brenda Coulter said...

Michelle, since I'm already committed to reading two Stephen King books, I have just ordered Riverwatch.

People, that's three horror novels. I'm probably going to come out of this little experiment all warped. (Candy's graphic novels are starting to look really good to me!)

Back to Michelle--I'm recommending Deborah Raney's A Nest of Sparrows for you. I've been wanting to read it, myself, but I suppose it will have to wait a while. If that book doesn't look good to you, maybe you could read mine. It's nice and short.

~michelle pendergrass said...


I'll tell you what...I just ordered both books. Since you're reading 3 horror novels, I'll read the two you suggested for me.

"Riverwatch" will scare you. I don't know if it will make you a fan of horror (I'm nodding my way. I'm betting you won't finish this one), but as a horror fanatic, I really liked it.


I chose "The Green Mile" because she might like that one over any of SK's others. That one (in my opinion) shows off his *good* side. "It" and "Salem's Lot" are creepy. I think she'll get into Misery, it just wasn't one of my favorites.

I didn't read "The Girl Who Loved Tom Gordon" sounded like a romance, so I couldn't read it. I also didn't read the Dark Tower series.

Mikesell said...

The Green Mile is good. Lots of SK is good. It is my favorite, Misery runs second -- but that's just me.

Tom Gordon isn't a romance and has a lot of the spiritual accessibility of Green Mile.

--Chris (dFm)

Anonymous said...

Poor Brenda---gonna overdose on horror! I don't qualify for the challenge (I've read romances, hundreds and hundreds of em), but I just felt like commenting. :)

I used to read Stephen King religiously from CARRIE through some years after. Liked CARRIE and SALEM'S LOT. Loved THE STAND and THE SHINING. Didn't like CUJO or CHRISTINE and some of his early short stories made me gag, literally gag from the grossness. Some of his later short stories are really, really so well done.I enjoy his writing style.I'd have to say THE STAND was my fave of the earlier novels. (Couldn't get into the DARK TOWER books.)

Scottish: I wish someone had recommended Brockway's McLairen's Isle trilogy (one of the books, anyway). I remember those as being fun. OR...better yet... Julie Garwood's THE SECRET (my all-time favorite Scottish romance). You now that cliche, "I laughed. I cried." Well, that's THE SECRET. (And THE BRIDE,too.)

OUTLANDER is just sooooo long. Brenda is gonna get all cross-eyed. But Jamie Fraser made me just want to marry the guy. He's a doll., didn't much like Claire. (Shrug). And Brenda is going to gross out big time at the horrible events toward the end of the novel. She really will!

Slash-em/Dash-em---Do the Lincoln Rhyme novels fit in there? Cause I adore those, fast-paced, brilliant protagonist, a bit of romance, disgustingly warped criminals. What's not to like? Someone should recommend those if they qualify so Brenda can get a respite--hah!-- from horror. :D And there's always the Hannibal Lecter books.

Horror--THE ASSOCIATION and THE WALKING by Bentley Little both scared the bejeezus outta me. He does lousy endings (somehow, he always goes way over the top), but the, the guy does terrifying build-ups. He doesn't much like Christians, either (he always adds some knock).

I also can't stand Civil War era novels. Ick. IckyIckIck. BUT...Lorraine Heath had a lovely, lovely, lovely novel post-war with a hero to weep for: ALWAYS TO REMEMBER. That's a good one.

Paranormal Romance: Oh, come on, ANGEL proved vampires can be heroic, tortured and romantic! I remember enjoying a series one, LOVE BITES by M. St. George (Maggie Osborne). Happy Ending, natch. Haven't read a single werewolf one I enjoyed (but then, only read part of two). Ahhhhhhhhh, lemme see, also liked the series one with a selkie hero by Anne Stuart (A DARK AND STORMY NIGHT). :) IMMINENT THUNDER by Rachel Lee had an intense hero. I forget a lot about the plot, but the hero was memorable. And I read one with a genie that was great Kaufman??? Something with "wish" in the title. Anne Stuart also did of my fave series paranormals.

Graphic Novels: Oh, definitely make her read SANDMAN. :D heh Neil Gaiman actually CAN write. Or the graphic stories (aka comic books) by HARLAN ELLISON (The Dream Corridor). TErrific art and the genius short story talent of Mr. Ellison. Yeah, yeah.

Okay, I shaddup with the books now.


Anonymous said...

A comment on

Girl, if FINDING HOPE is still above half a million after two years, you're doing well. I've seen series novels not do much better than a million three months out!

I checked you just now: #43,898. For a 2 year old series Love Inspired, that's dang lovely. Bask, baby, bask.

My hubby's textbook is at #30,733. For a specialty book that's a gazillion pages long and originally priced at 50 bucks and out three months, not bad. But yeah, the fluctuations are wild. Up and down. :)


Brenda Coulter said...

What have I done to attract all of these horror fans to my blog? You people are sickos--you know that, don't you? ;-)

Now. Let's see if I have this straight. Here's what I currently have on order from and

Misery, Stephen King. Suggested by Chris Mikesell, who will be reading a Nora Roberts book.

Bag of Bones, Stephen King. Suggested by kstar, who has ordered two Francine Rivers books in case she can't stand one of them. I'll be interested to learn what she thinks of A Voice in the Wind or An Echo in the Darkness.

Outlander, Diana Gabaldon. Suggested by Katrina Stonoff. These comments have been coming fast and furious, so I'm a little confused about what she's promised to read.

Riverwatch, Joseph Nassise. Suggested by Michelle Pendergrass, who will be reading Deborah Raney's inspirational romance, A Nest of Sparrows.

If I've made any mistakes on this list, please let me know. I'll start reading as soon as the first book hits my mailbox, and I plan to post book reports here on the blog.

Now. Does anybody else want to take the Challenge?

Brenda Coulter said...

Mir, nobody really knows what the Amazon numbers mean. I'd love to "bask", but I suspect the Amazon Sales Rank is a mighty thin and weak sunbeam.

Mikesell said...

I'm reading a Jude Deveraux (Enchanted Land), not a Nora. But, what with Romance writers being interchangeable, I can see how you'd make that mistake.

I'm running now ... by the time you see this message I'll be far, far away.

--Chris (dFm)

Brenda Coulter said...

Oh, you'd better run, you rascal!

~michelle pendergrass said...


I'm also reading your book, Brenda. ;)

Kate said...

Dolores Claiborne is a King book that doesn't have the usual sort of horror...

Brenda Coulter said...

I don't suppose you could have spoken up any sooner, Kate?

Well, never mind. They probably would have insisted that I read the "horrible" books, anyway. ;-)

Joseph said...

Hi Brenda,

Joe Nassise here, author of RIVERWATCH. Since you were kind enough to pick up one of my books, I thought I'd return the favor. Anything in particular you might recommend?


"The Vatican has a secret weapon. His name is Cade." - HERETIC, coming October 1st from Pocket Books.

Brenda Coulter said...

Oh, wow. I logged on this morning to post my impressions of Riverwatch, and was stunned to see the author had commented here. Joe, thanks so much for visiting. Please pop over and read my post about Riverwatch.

Anonymous said...

Katrina was reading Redeeming Love, by Francine Rivers. You generously gave me an out, so I could keep enjoying your blog even if I hated the book I was assigned.

I didn't hate it. In fact, I liked it. If you're interested in seeing the struggle I went through to admit this, you can read it here.

So, now I'm going to go ahead and read Finding Hope anyway. And I expect to enjoy it.

Thanks. This was fun!