Warning! If you are a die-hard fan of romance novels, you may not like what I have to say. I am about to disagree with thousands of readers who have made millions for two authors, Nora Roberts and Janet Evanovich. So, if any hint of criticism of these two ladies sends you hunting for bear, stop reading now. Just fair warning.
Nora Roberts, aka J.D. Robb, aka Jill March, aka Sarah Hardesty is without argument one of the best-selling writers of the past twenty years. She was the first author inducted into the Romance Writers of America Hall of Fame. Her books have spent a total of 861 weeks on The New York Times Bestsellers List. She is nothing, if not prolific; publishing at least 124 novels and counting. Her awards are numerous, Golden Medallion, RITA Awards, and The Quill Award. Time even named her one of their 100 Most Influential People in 2007. And still, Nora devotes eight hours a day to her craft. It’s safe to say she is well-read and loved by thousands of readers. But from here on out, we are probably going to disagree.
Does all this automatically make her work quality literature? In my opinion, no. Have I lost any of you yet? First, let me confess that until about two years ago I read EVERYTHING she published. I had a collection of her work that would rival some libraries. Did I enjoy her books? Yes, but taking a closer look at the complete body of her work I am reminded of a banana-spilt sundae. They are delicious and a treat. But a steady diet of them is not healthy and makes your stomach turn at the sight of another one. They don’t change. And neither do Ms Roberts’ novels.
For example, her “In Death…” books are all the same plot and story line. Eve Dallas is involved in a murder with her handsome and rich husband at her side. He usually owns the property in which the crime takes place. A few minor characters come and go, but at the end Eve solves the case and gets the “bad guy.” Granted it’s a winning scenario, but it rarely varies. Again, I ask does that make them great literature?
Ms Roberts’ other novels are usually trilogies. Most of the time, they take place in Ireland or the characters are somehow involved with Celtic traditions or magic. Same difference. Remember the banana-spilt sundae? Certainly fun to consume occasionally, but are they quality writing?
For any of you still listening, the second popular writer in my sights is Janet Evanovich. As of 2011, there have been eighteen Stephanie Plum novels. Beginning with “One for the Money”, she has continued the exact same story line on and on and on. Come on now, pick one! Morelli or Ranger, make up your mind. Yes, I have read most of her novels, too. I think I gave up at around book ten. I pose the question again; does popularity and millions in sales make great literature?
I have to say; no I don’t think either women are great writers. Amusing and delicious but just like the sundae, they should be consumed in moderation. There are so many wonderful and talented, yet unknown writers that deserve our attention and our money. All I’m saying is that readers should vary their reading diets. Lay off the sundaes for a while and try some meat and potatoes.