Sunday, August 24, 2014

A genre to avoid

Mystery/romance. Or romance/mystery. I'm not sure just what to call a genre that crosses Harlequins with what is supposed to be a thriller, but apparently it's a genre that is Carla Neggers's forte. Too bad she is, at best, a thoroughly mediocre writer.

I just finished a book called Cold Pursuit. It's apparently the first in a trilogy of books about a female Secret Service agent and her love interest, a former Special Forces soldier. I assume it's a trilogy because the L'Anse Public Library tries to label books that are part of a series, and when I plucked this gem off the shelf it had a number 1 label on the spine. The next two books on the shelf were marked 2 and 3 so it's probably safe to assume that agent Jo Harper and ex-Sgt. Cameron will continue to have hot and steamy sex while investigating a suspected ring of international assassins that for some bizarre reason are apparently based in rural Vermont. 

You know, I am continually being surprised by the places that I find lady porn. What I can't help but think of as the Jean Auel model keeps popping up all over the place. I call it the Jean Auel model because, so far as I can recall, Clan of the Cave Bear is the first place I encountered the formula: a certain number of pages of narrative to move the plot forward, then a couple pages of hot hetero sex, then back to so many pages of narrative, more hot hetero sex scenes, all tastefully written but making it pretty damn clear what was happening, then more narrative. It took awhile to get going in the first book in the series, but after that it was pretty much guaranteed that every 70 pages or so Jondalar was going down on Ayla. Apparently Cro-Magnans were big making women happy with lots of cunnilingus, "worshipping the goddess" so to speak, because Ayla seemed to be on the receiving end a lot more than Jondalar was. Auel really knew how to tap into women's fantasies.

Anyway, since then the lady porn has evolved. It's gone from being tasteful and intermittent in fiction targeting women to being basically the whole book (e.g., 50 Shades of Gray). It's also gone from euphemistic to blunt (in the Outlander series Claire Beacham wraps her hand around Jamie Fraser's cock and describes the organ in affectionate detail; she doesn't just admire his manhood). Cold Pursuit falls kind in the middle on the descriptive scale -- lots of "plunging" that makes intercourse sound a lot like trying to fix a stopped up sink drain -- which could be one reason it felt so much like a Harlequin.

Now, I know that there are a lot of "mysteries" out there that fall into mutant genres, too. Janet Evanovich's books all mix romance, mystery, and humor. J. D. Robb (aka Nora Roberts) mixes romance, mystery, and science fiction. Laurel K. Hamilton mixes horror, romance, and mystery, although the biggest mystery with her Anita Blake series is why Anita is still capable of walking after banging half the population of the western hemisphere. Some are more readable than others. So why have I singled out Neggers? I have no clue. Maybe it's because after I finished the book I found myself thinking, well, there went another 90 minutes of my life I'll never get back.  Maybe it was because the attempt to blend two different themes (romance and mystery) was so clumsily done.It felt like she wrote two separate books and then did some cutting and pasting to merge the two. And maybe it's because it's Sunday morning, I'm  bored, and I don't feel like doing anything more productive than whine about mediocre books.  

It's a mystery.


  1. " lots of "plunging" that makes intercourse sound a lot like trying to fix a stopped up sink drain"


  2. I wish our library labeled series by publication.
    the Ol'Buzzard

  3. I like the numbering, although it's inconsistent. It must depend on who was working when new books came in because some series are numbered and some aren't.

  4. My Grandma used to read those romance novels. I was horrified when I found out what was in them!

  5. My grandma said if they didn't have steamy sex in them they wasn't worth reading.


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