Mixing Genres or Strong in Multiple Areas

One of the things that makes me do some thinking when I write on this blog is that I am not entirely certain of why I like the things I like. This is especially interesting when I encounter a story that I do not enjoy, and yet that I think is well written. Something in my occasionally logical brain is offended at the realization that my enjoyment doesn’t fully follow my more technical appraisal.

Now it may simply be that I have not done enough serious looking at the literature that I read. If I study it more closely I may do a better job of determining why I like certain things but not others. At the moment I believe that characterization impacts my appreciation of a story much more than plot. I have read some stories in which I thought the plot was not all that good, but yet I enjoyed it because of the quality of portrayal of the characters.

But what I have noticed over the last few weeks is that I truly like stories that are very strong in more than one area. I could call it mixing genres, but these are truly properly fitted into a single genre; they just offer elements of another.

For example, I like military fiction. I like military history as well, but military fiction is fun. I also like science fiction. But some of my favorite science fiction writers are folks who do a good job combining good military writing and science fiction, such as David Weber and David Drake.

In recent reading suggested by my wife, I read Nora Roberts’ books Sacred Sins and Brazen Virtue. Normally I dislike romance, but the mixture of elements of mystery and a small amount of suspense made that reading workable.

I’m not trying to get technical here–not that I could in this area–I’m just looking at what I like. I’m also not trying to be prescriptive. It’s not that such stories are better; I just enjoy them more.

Book: Sacred Sins

My wife introduced me to J. D. Robb, and I have been enjoying Eve Dallas ever since. Occasionally she and I exchange books, though to be honest, our reading lists don’t overlap all that much, either in fiction or in non-fiction. A few days ago she handed me a couple of Nora Roberts books (I’m sure most readers know that Nora Roberts writes also as J. D. Robb), and said she thought Roberts was warming up for the Dallas books with these.

The first I read was Sacred Sins, which I have just finished. I will read the next book which she also gave me. I don’t like these as well as the J. D. Robb books, and a little look at the types of things I do read would probably tell you why. I’m not long on books with a great deal of characterization, and romance normally has to be kept to a minimum.

At the same time, this book would make an excellent place to discuss the difference between a mystery, and a romance that has some mystery in it. I think this is a romance with a touch of mystery. The male lead character is a homicide detective, and thus it is natural that police procedure and investigation would be involved. But Roberts doesn’t dwell as much on crime scene issues and the investigation as she does when writing about Eve Dallas, for example.

The female lead is a psychiatrist, contracted to provide a profile of a serial killer. There <em>is</em> action of the normal crime type, but the <em>real action comes between those two characters, whose nature, background, and training makes them see things differently. They are nonetheless attracted to one another. As someone married to a woman with a very different personality than mine, I can empathize.

I was surprised by the quality of the portrayal of the thinking of the characters throughout. I was also surprised by the ending, though I thought of it a few pages before it happened and then dismissed it as impossible. As soon as I had done that, it happened. So much for my guessing abilities. I’ll blame it on the romantic nature of the book, and the unsystematic presentation of evidence, and go on.

I’m not going to make a habit of reading romances, but if I were to do so, this would be the kind I’d go for. I rate this a 4.