Friday, April 02, 2010

PCA Romance Panel 3: Nora Roberts: Food, Community, and Voice

Jessica's notes about this session are now available. The presenters were Tessa Kostelc, Glinda Hall, and An Goris.

Jessica's notes about An's paper mention the
Connected book format –which had been new in early 1990s, shift in genre and its publication practices

Genre of romance seems at first resistant to connected series, since each novel has a definitive ending [...] Roberts’ first use of connected books format was in 1985, 4 books about MacGregor siblings for Silhouette.
In fact, Mills & Boon had already published Mary Burchell's Warrender series, which began in 1965 with A Song Begins. Connected romances can also be found in the oeuvre of Georgette Heyer who is, of course, a highly influential figure in the genre and one of whom Nora Roberts is very well aware: Roberts has written that "Georgette Heyer has given me such great pleasure over the years in my reading, and rereading, of her stories. [...] I have Georgette Heyer's books in every room of my house." (i). As mentioned at
Although Heyer didn't really write 'series', there are a few books that are linked by common characters. These are These Old Shades [1926] with Léonie and Justin parenting Dominic in Devil's Cub [1932] and Dominic and Mary are the grand-parents of Barbara in An Infamous Army [1937]. [...] In addition, the characters from Regency Buck [1935] are also featured in An Infamous Army. [...] her first novel, The Black Moth [1921] was revisited in These Old Shades. As Hodge says in the bio, "Devil Andover from The Black Moth has suffered a sea change into the wicked Duke of Avon (known as Satanas to his friends)."
An Infamous Army thus creates a cross-over between the books about two separate families.

Jessica added that "Sarah Frantz asks the first question, noting that it was in fact Sam and Alyssa, Suzanne Brockman’s characters, who first began their courtship in a book in which they don’t have their HEA." This made me think of Anthony Trollope's Barsetshire and Palliser novels. They're not strictly romances, but they do contain plenty of romance elements because Trollope apparently believed that "a novel can hardly be made interesting or successful without love" (Polhemus 383). Trollope's two series do eventually cross over, and in Phineas Finn in the Palliser series we can find Phineas beginning a romantic relationship that eventually concludes in Phineas Redux.

Can anyone else think of more examples of
  • early romance series
  • cross-overs between series
  • characters whose courtships begin in one book in a series and end in a later one?


  1. A romance arc over several books: Dorothy L. Sayers writes about Lord Peter Wimsey and Harriet Vane, starting with "Strong Poison", continuing with "Have His Carcase", "Gaudy Night", and "Busman's Honeymoon".

  2. Another arc over several books: Dorothy Dunnet's Lymond series.

  3. Betsy, I wonder if the Wimsey/Vane novels might be particularly interesting to contrast with Roberts' (writing as J. D. Robb) Eve Dallas/Roarke series, because both series have a romance arc, as you say, and each novel focuses on the solving of a crime (at least, I think they do, but I have to admit to not having read them). There's a bit of a gender reversal, in that Eve is the detective, but the gender of the richer person in the relationship is the same.

    And now that I've Googled, I can see that I'm certainly not the first person to think that there might be interesting parallels:

    Readers interested the romantic relationship between detective and murder suspect will find a parallel in the works of an earlier master of the detective novel, Dorothy Sayers. In Sayers' Lord Peter Wimsey series, Lord Peter meets Harriet Vane after her conviction for the murder of her lover in Strong Poison (1930). (Carol Thomas)

    Tumperkin, I've just thought of another series (which I also haven't read), and it turns out that its author, Roberta Gellis, "loathed Lymond." That quote comes from an interview at AAR, which is introduced like this:

    Many of today's most-read authors of historical romance (including Teresa Medeiros and Marsha Canham) point to Roberta Gellis as a major influence upon their writing, and legions of readers fell in love with her ground-breaking series The Roselynde Chronicles.

    In the Chronicles one character has more than one partner, and she meets her second one in an earlier book that the one in which she gets her HEA with him. I'm trying to avoid spoilers, but there's a review which describes it all here. The first in the series was published in 1978.

  4. I love mysteries and had heard of Dorothy L. Sayers (apparently the middle initial was very important to her), so I finally picked up one of her books -- "Five Read Herrings", and read it. More or less typical 30's british mystery -- everyone's polite, and adults ride bicycles, and the plot is a rube goldberg contraption, and the people don't seem plausible. Normally, that would be enough to put me off her, but I had also picked up "Gaudy Nights", so I read that with low expectations.

    I fell totally in love with her language, and her characters, and her human interactions, and the honesty and struggle it takes for two independent, intelligent people to bring up and work out their issues. Plus good feminist stuff on working women vs stay-at-home mothers.

    So, I read everything of hers I could get from the library, and started collecting her later books, because she evolved into such a marvelous writer. I still don't really care for the mystery plots, but I don't care -- I just adore her voice.

    So, this is a recommendation -- read "Gaudy Nights".

  5. Your example of Trollope made me wonder about other 19th century series, but I can't know any well (I think that Charlotte Yonge wrote novels with interconnecting families, but I'm not sure if there are any continuing story arcs/romances as there are in Trollope).

    The examples I could think of are from children's lit. And when I did a very cursory search for critical/theoretical work on "series" fiction (because this subject seems worth thinking more about), almost all the hits were from children's lit--one exception was a book by the Victorianist Laurie Langbauer, who is now working on . . . children's lit. My examples: the Betsy/Tacy books by Maud Hart Lovelace and the Anne of Green Gables and Emily of New Moon books by L. M. Montgomery. All have romances for the protagonists that develop over several books (actually, Harry Potter would be a more recent example, though romance is less prevalent a plot). Lovelace's books, in particular, "age up" with the readers. The first few in the series are very much for young children, while the last, in which Betsy marries, is what we'd think of today as YA.

    I'd bet a lot of North American romance readers and writers have read Anne, in particular (I know I did, over and over), so I wonder if that's an influence on the "romance across a series" arc.* I expect reading in other genres--and enjoying romance arcs in a series like Sayers'--is another.

    *Montgomery is cited as an inspiration by a lot of Canadian women writers (Alice Munro and Margaret Atwood have both written forewords to editions of her books).

  6. "So, this is a recommendation -- read "Gaudy Nights"."

    I have read bits of it, but the trouble I had with it was that the characters were so intelligent and well educated that they made me feel a bit stupid. I had a similar problem with Dorothy Dunnett's Niccolo and Lymond series, though with them it was more that the characters were so devious I couldn't work out what was really happening. Perhaps I'm just too gullible to really enjoy reading mysteries? I never feel I have any chance of working out who did it.

    Elizabeth, your mention of L. M. Montgomery and children's books reminded me of Louisa M. Alcott's Little Women books, in which characters recur. Another one, this time one in which, like in the Anne of Green Gables series, there's a main character who grows up over the course of the series, is Susan Coolidge's Katy series (I know I've read What Katy Did, I can't remember if I read What Katy Did at School but I definitely remember the romance in What Katy Did Next. I see from Wikipedia that there were two more books in the series. And although they're autobiographical, the Laura Ingalls Wilder books are similar, as Laura grows up over the course of the series and eventually marries.

  7. Continuing characters in mystery novels are not unusual, surely, and though there's not always a romance, the shift in concept from side-kick (Holmes and Watson) to romantic partner isn't huge. I wonder which was the first.

    Christie's Tommy and Tuppence (1922) are already married at the beginning, aren't they, as well as being too, too, jolly old bean for my taste.

    Nick and Nora in The Thin Man (1934) were also married. I wonder if the social rules of the time would have made it difficult for a "nice young girl" to spend so much time alone with a man.

    In romance, I think quite a lot of group/family series written today weave developing relationships through.

    These series often take place over a short period of time, so it's only natural that encounters in one book lead to a relationship in another. And that bonds break and are made with others.


  8. "characters whose courtships begin in one book in a series and end in a later one?"

    Loads! Especially in category romances during the 1980s when there was a trend to 'hook' readers to buy the following "sequel".
    I remember the one with heroine's best friend getting into a romance with hero's brother and just before the book ended, heroine and hero received a call that a plane - that the best friend and the brother were on - went down. The following book revolved around the survival after the crash.
    Incidentally, another romance developed during this sequel - between two crash survivors (a passenger and a pilot) - which was developed in the following (3rd) book that revolved around the 3rd couple arguing whether their relationship was due to the bridge suspension effect (falling in love due to fear of dying). I never finished the third book (accidentally left it on a bus), which still kills me because I can't remember the author's name (during early days of being a rom reader, I didn't note authors' names or book titles).
    All were published during late 1980s, though, and definitely by M&B. Silhouette Sensations, probably. I believe all three were set in Australia or New Zealand.

  9. "Continuing characters in mystery novels are not unusual, surely"

    We do seem to be coming up with quite a lot of examples from mysteries, and from children's fiction. The romance genre is rather good at absorbing ideas from other genres, so it wouldn't surprise me if it turned out that the idea of writing a connected series of romance novels (whether with connected characters, or with characters whose character/relationship arc extends over more than one book) owes a lot to the influence of other genres. Heyer certainly wrote both romances and mysteries, and created series in both genres.

    We haven't mentioned historical fiction involving real characters from history, but Eleanor Hibbert (writing under various pseudonyms, including Jean Plaidy) produced series with lots of romantic elements and continuing characters.

    I'm still not sure we've discovered the first romance series in which "each novel has a definitive ending" and in which there are also connections between the books but certainly Heyer's and Mary Burchell's are earlier than Roberts'.

    And as for romance series, in which most/all of the books contain a couple getting their HEA, but which also contain longer character arcs for other characters, so that some couple's courtships extend over more than one book, I still think the Trollope is a reasonable candidate, and so are the Rosalynde chronicles.

  10. "I can't remember the author's name"

    Maili, that's very, very tantalising. In fact, I think it creates a romance reader's version of the "bridge suspension effect." This version involves the feeling that interesting books are suspended from a bridge, just above the reader's head and always slightly out of reach.

  11. I am wandering off from the original topic, which was the continuation of a romance arc over more than one book in a series, but this discussion has really piqued my interest in the appeal of series (for readers, for writers, for publishers--both literary and economic considerations clearly come into play here). Several rather disjointed thoughts:

    Series seem to have been a feature of some genres more or less from their "inception"--19th century children's lit is full of them, in mystery there is Poe and Conan Doyle. In a number of the cases cited here (including Alcott and Montgomery as well as Conan Doyle) this work was done at least in part out of a need for money, and the author didn't regard it as serious (both Montgomery, in the case of Anne, and Conan Doyle felt tied to those series long after they wanted to be rid of them, and the quality of later works often shows that). If people like something and want "more of the same" a series is a money-maker (and marketing departments deliberately build anticipation for the next book. I think that mystery publishers often want a new writer to have completed more than one novel before signing them--they're pretty much always series). I don't want to say romance is written only to make money, but reader-reviewer's frequent comments on "obvious sequel-baiting" in romance novels means we're all aware that there's an element of financial calculation in a series.

    I'd note here that Trollope was notorious in his time for his professional attitude to his writing and his prolific output (he got up early and wrote a set number of words a day, and like many romance novelists had a day job). Many of his critics thought that diminished his art--and people like the prolific Nora Roberts get the same kind of criticism. Perhaps in writing series Trollope was making some of the same kinds of professional calculations contemporary series writers do.

    On the other hand, more positively, Trollope wanted to give a picture of "The Way We Live Now" and the larger canvas of a series allowed him to do that. The few contemporary "literary" examples of series fiction I can think of (Doris Lessing, A. S. Byatt, Richard Ford) have similar concerns with giving a picture of an era or a character's development over a long period of time. That desire for a bigger picture is arguably part of genre series fiction too--a whole social world emerges, a set of interlocking characters, so the central couple is part of a network of family and friends, and you get a glimpse in later works in the series of what the HEA looks like, how a couple's relationship evolves past the end of "their" book. It seems to me that extended world-building is key in paranormal/UF, though that's not something I've read a lot of.

    When it comes to children's lit, there's another purpose to formulaic early reader series: they help kids learn to read. So something like Magic Tree House (Laura, you may not know this--same characters and plot patterns over many, many books) or Rainbow Magic (British series popular in NA too) is excruciating for parents to read aloud because of the repetition (e.g. almost identical prologue in every book), BUT that helps kids who are just mastering all the codes of language and fiction because so much is familiar in a new book. Although adult series fiction is far less formulaic, I wonder how much the comfort of familiarity plays into our enjoyment of series (if we do enjoy them).

  12. I had a quick chat with An a bit ago and I think I got thsi totally wrong. So, please keep having the interesting discussion about when and where series romance began but please forget for now what I said about An Goris!

    She will be round the clarify when she get a minute.

    You know how I have a disclaimer on all of my posts that I am fallible? You now have proof!

    Yours in chagrin,


  13. I would like to briefly comment on this conversation with some clarification and additions.

    First of all, I'm really happy to see that the topic of the paper - the connected books format in popular romance - sparks some debate. This topic is central to my PhD study on Nora Roberts, authorship and genre so I think it's really great that people are apparently interested in discussing it. Thank you to Jessica for posting the blog comments on the paper and to Laura for commenting on them, since both these actions made it possible for the topic to reach people beyond the paper's immediate audience at the conference in Saint Louis.

    Since I am a professional Nora Roberts scholar - i.e. I am employed full time as a PhD student writing a PhD dissertation on this topic - I do feel that if the ideas I presented in the paper are put on the web with my name attached to them (and therefore available to whomever cares to google me/Nora Roberts scholarship) that it is important to me this is done with as much nuance as I tried to put into a 9 page / 20 minute paper. Since, as I told Jessica earlier in a brief conversation today, I feel that her summary might have (understandably) lacked some of the nuance I hope I put into the paper, I'd like to clarify some matters. This is not to say that that clarification is necessarily relevant to the topic of the discussion as it has developed here (I am not vain enough to think this is about me; it's about the ideas), so please feel free to continue that discussion regardless of these comments. But I'd like, for the record, to clarify some matters.

    As I said in my paper, I am absolutely aware that Nora Roberts is NOT the first author to use the connected books format in the popular romance genre. In fact, Roberts specifically told me in an interview she was not. My claim in the paper is that Robert is ONE of the authors who played a role in the POPULARISATION of the format in the genre during the 1990s (compared to the end of the 1970s/early 1980s, when the format was relatively rare in the genre, it is very popular today.) My sources for this claim are first a personal interview by Roberts and second interviews with romance industry insiders Leslie Gelbman and Isabel Swift (amongst others), reprinted in the Nora Roberts Companion. My own research of the genre and Nora Roberts corroborates these statements, which is precisely what the paper is about.
    I am also aware that the connected books format is an old form, which has not only been used in the romance genre before Roberts, but which was and remains very common in other (both older and contemporary) literature. I noted in the introduction that this is precisely one of the, to me, puzzling points: that a format so common in (popular) literature was not used by the romance genre. I then suggested there might be at least two reasons for that: the generic definitive ending (cf Pamela Regis' study) and the generic publication practices developed in the 20th century by Mills & Boon, Harlequin and Silhouette (sources for this are, amongst others, studies by Grescoe, McAleer and Capelle).
    The paper went on to sketch (necessarily briefly since this was a time-restrained conference paper) the development of Roberts' particular use of the format over the course of her career (since my dissertation is about the development of Roberts as an author in relation to genre) and specifically my (historical) analysis of Roberts' particular use of the concept in several ways. I ended the paper by placing this development in Roberts' oeuvre in the wider dynamics of the genre of the increasing importance of the individual romance author.

  14. Finally, in the half hour Q&A which ensued following this (3 paper) panel I immediately agreed with Sarah Frantz' comment regarding Susanne Brockman and explained that although I had thought of Brockman's use of the format, I had eventually decided not to include it in my paper because this paper (and my research) is in the first place about the development of Nora Roberts as an author. Since there is only so much one can bring up in a 20 minute presentation without completely confusing their audience and since I firmly believe in using strict corpus-selection criteria, I decided against bringing up Brockman. In a published version of this paper I would, however, find it paramount to include such an observation.

    I hope and think these clarifications address some of the aspects I felt might have been represented somewhat too briefly in the blog post. I am perfectly happy to further discuss this here and/or to send the paper to people who ask for it. At least, under the understanding that this is an unpublished, not-peer-reviewed, work-in-progress version of a larger and far more complicated set of ideas I am addressing in my dissertation proper.

    Finally, I'd like to end this set of posts by briefly addressing the blogging of conferences. I have read both Jessica's and Laura's posts on this and am aware of the questions and issues they raised. Let me add my own perspective. I think, generally, that blogging conferences is a good thing. Like I said in the beginning of this post, it makes (part of) the content and discussion available to people who are not able to attend. Certainly in an online community as vibrant as the romance one (both scholarly and otherwise), I think this is mostly a good thing. It also provides exposure to academics - someone googling "nora roberts" and "academic" might come across this post and see that I am one of the few Roberts scholars; that helps me professionally. So, there are major advantages to blogging conferences.
    I do, however, also feel that the blog format is limited and cannot be (or is not, in the vast majority of cases) as nuanced as academic conference presentations tend to be. As Jessica reports herself, moreover, blogging conferences is hard work and nuance might be lost simply for brevities' sake. Moreover, conference presentations are a very specific medium of academic conversation: a face-to-face, highly time-constrained presentation. Many scholars I know feel that both the oral presentation and the time-constraints (15-20 minutes) force us to reduce some of the complexity/nuance of the argument because there is simply only so much information one can get across in 20 minutes. Often, presenters will remark on this either at the beginning, the end or during the Q&A following their presentations. In that way, the author's own awareness of those kinds of limits of the paper are part of the larger conversation at the conference surrounding the paper. Moreover, the Q&A offers both presenter and audience an immediate place to interactively discuss the paper, a discussion which becomes part of the "conference version" of the paper. I know that technically this is also possible on the web/blog, but it is different if only because it is not a face-to-face, real-time discussion. Finally, many of the papers at a conference like the PCA's romance area take place in a larger, 3 day conversation amongst the dedicated group of scholars, the majority of whom not only attend every session, but talk to each other during breaks, lunch, dinner and indeed late into the night. As some of us remarked at dinner tonight, in a close-knit area like the PCA's romance area, larger scholarly conversations are formed in the course of the 3 days. Conversations which start with formal presentations, but often do not end there.

  15. (last part)
    Our presence at the conference gives presenters a chance to take part in those conversations and place our own paper/research in the bigger picture that is emerging. Often (though not necessarily), that kind of interaction and "networking" is very much part of the impressions one has of other scholars and the impression one makes on other scholars. All of those processes are, to me, very much a part of the conference experience (and indeed, the joy of them). That's not to say that the paper proper should not meet the academic standards one reaches for - it should. I presented these ideas and I stand behind them, regardless of the context in which I know they were first presented. If I wasn't sure of the research, I would choose not to present it. But, at the same time, I do feel that one of the important ways in which conference papers (certainly of conferences which, like PCA, do not publish proceedings) differ from formally published academic work is the interactive, real-time context in which they are delivered. It is simply very difficult, if not impossible, to recreate that context online. Although, from my perspective, that should not put a stop to the blogging of conferences, I do hope these considerations can be part of the conversations taking places on blogs like this one.

  16. "this discussion has really piqued my interest in the appeal of series (for readers, for writers, for publishers--both literary and economic considerations clearly come into play here)."

    Elizabeth, one other thing that came to mind for me, in response to your comments about series, was that in romance there's sometimes a sense that the lovers are unique/special, either individually (he's the most attractive man she's ever seen, he's the most successful man ever, he's the most alpha man in his social circle, she's the most attractive woman he's ever seen etc) or in terms of their relationship (this comes through in comments spoken by characters who say things like "I feel no-one else can ever have felt like this" or "You've made me the happiest man in the world").

    A series full of blissfully happy, super-successful, super-attractive lovers, however, rather spoils the impression of uniqueness.

    Obviously not every romance puts that kind of focus on uniqueness, but I don't think it's uncommon. I think it might be more of a problem in series where the characters are, in fact, less unique (in terms of how common they are in the genre as a whole), and where their supposed uniqueness in fact depends on the author telling us about it, rather than showing it. In books with somewhat unusual or quirky or otherwise very well-drawn characters, in which the relationship is clearly shown to be the right one for these two individuals because their personality quirks fit well together, their happiness wouldn't in any sense detract from the glow of another couple's happiness.

  17. "I immediately agreed with Sarah Frantz' comment regarding Susanne Brockman"

    Assuming that Jessica correctly reported what Sarah said, though, from what Maili has written, it seems that Brockmann might not be the first author to have written about lovers with an arc that continues over more than one book, within a series that gives at least one couple an HEA in each book.

    "that kind of interaction and "networking" is very much part of the impressions one has of other scholars and the impression one makes on other scholars. All of those processes are, to me, very much a part of the conference experience (and indeed, the joy of them)."

    I entirely take your point that a quick summary of a paper presented at a conference is unlikely to be able to convey all the nuances of that paper and is even less likely to reflect the discussions which have taken place in the course of the conference.

    "the Q&A offers both presenter and audience an immediate place to interactively discuss the paper, a discussion which becomes part of the "conference version" of the paper. I know that technically this is also possible on the web/blog, but it is different if only because it is not a face-to-face, real-time discussion."

    Not everyone enjoys conferences, or is able to attend them (for a variety of reasons) and those of us who can't attend can, I think, "network" online. In fact, Pamela Regis and Jane Litte were discussing the strength of the online romance community, many of whose members have never met in person. In that sense, I do think that individual blog posts can be rather similar to conference papers, inasmuch as the regular commenters at a blog are the audience who ask questions about the original post, leading to further clarifications, interesting digressions which open up new avenues for research etc.

  18. I really enjoyed hearing An's paper at the conference and I look forward to hearing about and reading the next iteration. What is interesting about NR's connected books is that they were brought out very close together, which is different from the Warrender saga and the Heyers. Clearly there was a publishing decision to do it this way (as An emphasized), which certainly seems to have set the stage for today's connected romances.

    Like Laura, I immediately thought of Trollope's two series, but I also thought of Angela Thirkell's Barsetshire books. They were not marketed as romances, but each book featured a courtship plot, and many times the couple knew each other in preceding books, so the arc of the romance could spread over several novels. I've always been a bit surprised that Thirkell isn't better known to romance readers. The series features connections within a community rather than a focus on a single family, but for those of us who enjoy Jo Beverley's "worlds", there's a lot to like. They are contemporary to the time they are written, of course, which is the 1930s to the early 1960s.

  19. "I've always been a bit surprised that Thirkell isn't better known to romance readers."

    I'd never heard of her, but I've just put High Rising on reserve at my local library. Luckily they do have a copy, despite the fact that, according to the UK Angela Thirkell Society, "Her books have for the most part been out of print and poorly stocked in libraries for some years, except in the USA, where nearly all of them have been republished in paperback." I suppose that's yet another intriguing difference between the US and UK.

    It's interesting that "She set most of her novels in Anthony Trollope's Barsetshire" (Wikipedia) and also followed him in including lots of romantic relationships, and particularly ones in which, as you say, "many times the couple knew each other in preceding books, so the arc of the romance could spread over several novels." I'm now wondering if the BBC's extremely long-running radio drama, The Archers, set in "Borsetshire" also owes something to Trollope. Having Googled, I'm still not certain because I couldn't find anything about it at the BBC's website, but whoever put together this website about Anthony Trollope thinks it did:

    Radio 4's setting for The Archers, Borsetshire with its county town of Borchester, is based on Trollope's imaginary county Barsetshire and its cathedral city of Barchester.

  20. Sunita, I thought of Thirkell too. I've read one, ages ago. I expect they are/were in print in the US because of their "Masterpiece Theater" appeal.

    Laura, your point about uniqueness is really interesting. My first thought was that that undermines the fantasy to some extent (suggesting that the couple is not unique or as ideal as they/the reader might think). But then I wondered if an author who presents a linked series of "uniquely" happy lovers-very unique, as my students would say--is saying something about the nature of love. To THAT couple, their love is perfect, they are the happiest ever, but that isn't presented as something unattainable to the reader (only THIS unique couple can have that), because in the context of the series, such a love is shown to be possible for many couples, each of whom may believe they are uniquely happy. I think another trope in these series is the hero or heroine of a book thinking/fearing at the beginning that they will never be able to find a love like their friends, brothers, sisters, etc. And then being proved wrong. So the couple from a previous series can also become a model for new characters (and maybe readers) to emulate.

    Finally, I understand An's concerns, but think most people would realize that a very short summary of a paper isn't going to represent it all or entirely accurately. So comments are more ideas sparked off by the summary than critiques of the paper. This made me glad that I teach at a community college and am no longer trying to publish or go to conferences, because I can say whatever dumb stuff I want--NOT meaning to say An is dumb or her concern is unfounded--on the internet and not worry that it will affect my career. But then, I have not been using my full name, either, so maybe I do. It's Liz McCausland.

  21. "Finally, I understand An's concerns, but think most people would realize that a very short summary of a paper isn't going to represent it all or entirely accurately. So comments are more ideas sparked off by the summary than critiques of the paper."

    I agree with you, Elizabeth. I believe most people are aware of the difference between the paper and a blog summary and I'm really happy with all the ideas and comments the topic of the paper is sparking. I've been fascinated by the connected books for years both as a reader and a scholar and I'm really thrilled that so many people are apparently also interested in discussing this format :)

    Sunita, thanks for your kind comments. I'm happy you found the paper interesting.

  22. But then I wondered if an author who presents a linked series of "uniquely" happy lovers-very unique, as my students would say--is saying something about the nature of love. To THAT couple, their love is perfect, they are the happiest ever, but that isn't presented as something unattainable to the reader

    Yes, I see what you mean, and it could indeed be one of the attractions of a series.

    I think I was slightly mixing two things, and one of them is the idea of the love being unique, and the other is that the characters are often portrayed as being somehow outstanding. So, for example, if the hero of Book 1 is depicted as the sexiest man in Regency London, inevitably any succeeding heroes must be less-sexy men in London.

    Jessica had a theory about one way that characters in series were differentiated from each other. She suggested that authors often make each character a different "type" (so presumably each one can be an outstanding example of his "type"):

    Have you ever noticed that in romance series featuring male siblings, you can often find the same character types? This seems true regardless of subgenre. This isn’t a comment about quality, by the way. Sometimes, these characters are done really well, so that they stand out regardless of how similar they are “on paper” to others in the genre (they’re not really “stock” characters at all), but other times, they read like the author is following romance writing by the numbers.

  23. First of all, what I think An's paper made very clear is that Roberts' series books were some of the first (I make no claims about absoluteness) to be connected paratextually in ways that Heyers', for example, never were. That is, the covers themselves connected the books. Infamous Army rarely says on the cover that it's in the "These Old Shades" world, or anything like that.

    Second, I'd like some more discussion about the "love stories starting in one book and ending in another" phenomenon. I think what made Brockmann so unique is that almost from the very first, she would have secondary characters with unsuccessful romances in her category romances, so it's something she carried to her Troubleshooter books from her category books. But most importantly, she influenced the genre as a whole in this direction. I still don't have any firm examples of either category books or mainstream books that were marketed as a series that had a pair of characters get together, express love, break up, and only find true and lasting love with each other books later. I'd love to hear them.

  24. Marketing directions and the look of book covers are both business decisions, and therefore not generally made by the author.

    So, is the concept of a series of books with a related story arc an artistic decision, or a business decision?