In my last book review, I mentioned how I ended up angry, tossing and turning, instead of sleeping, after finishing the book. I want to expand on my reaction.
As I mention in the review, I was drawn to the book initially by its cover. As a warm-blooded, heterosexual female, with an affinity for all things Scottish ever since I was introduced to Jamie Fraser via Drums of Autumn, and very quickly afterward every Outlander series book I could get my hands on, I couldn’t not be sucked in by the cover. And that is part of what annoyed me when I got to the end of Surrender to the Highlander.
If there’s one thing I’ve learned through research into Indie publishing and publishing in general, it’s that book covers matter. Titles matter. They provide the first impression, the first glimpse–clue–to what’s inside the book. A hunky half-naked Scot to which the title suggests one must surrender… I’m expecting a traditional, if Scots-themed, Romance. Protagonists meet or are forced together; emotional and maybe physical chaos ensues; they fall in love; overcome obstacles and Antagonists to that love; enjoy a HEA. At the end of a Romance, there must be a HEA. A, close the book with a happy-sigh, oh that’s so wonderful, ending. I didn’t get that from Surrender to the Highlander, because I closed the book thinking only of the murderer’s revelations. And the heroine’s response. I know I read the final bit between the hero and heroine, but it’s not what I remember. That added to my irritation. And reinforced for me, my decision to opt for a more Women’s Fiction-styled cover for my book.
My novel, My Dear One, also touches on delicate subjects–sexual violence, unwanted pregnancy, forced adoption–and I don’t want readers to pick it up expecting a traditional–pure–Romance. It is a romance. It’s also women’s fiction. Inspired by my mother’s real-life experience. More along the lines of something you might expect from a Diana Gabaldon, or Sara Donati (Sara Donati’s, Into The Wilderness, is what my former agent likened My Dear One to, though I can’t say that would still be true, as I’ve revised and shortened the story considerably since she last read it).
Of course, my reaction to Surrender to the Highlander is just that, my reaction. I’ve read other people’s reviews of the story, and many, many people liked it. Made no mention of the sensitive subject matter revealed at the end. For them, expectation and experience balanced. And that’s the other thing to remember.
No matter what inspires them, novels are works of fiction. My Dear One is a work of fiction. It manifested from my imagination as Surrender to the Highlander did from Lynsay Sands’s creative heart. That is not to say that the content isn’t real, that the feelings and experiences of the characters aren’t real in any dimension. They absolutely are. Unless an author is writing Sci-Fi/Fantasy, either through research, third-party sharing, or personal experience, they’re developing characters, settings, emotions, events and experiences from real-life events and experiences. And some readers, due to personal experience, may take offense to the content, or theme.
Readers choose books based first on covers, titles, and then cover blurbs with hopes of either experiencing something they’ve never experienced (and likely never will experience–I read everything Robert Ludlum and James Herriot because there was a time I wanted to be both International Spy, and Veterinarian; an International Spy-Vet ;)), or to relive a favorite emotion or experience (falling hopelessly, and irrevocably, in love–Romance, anyone?) and when those expectations fall short, Readers feel ripped off.
With that in mind, I offer this caution: My Dear One is both Romance and Women’s Fiction. It touches–not overtly graphic–on sensitive subjects. There’s a childbirth scene. Sorry, no sex scenes.
If you’re a fan of Diana Gabaldon, or Sara Donati/Rosina Lippi, Jodi Picoult, Kate Quinn, or Linda Lael Miller (horses and ranching) you might like this book. I really I hope you do. If you want to stay up-to-date on its release, sign up for my newsletter, top right of the page.
You can’t make the Duchess of Windsor into Rebecca of Sunnybrook Farm. The facts of life are very stubborn things. ~Cleveland Amory