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Several writers provide “go to” therapy when I am feeling down, or when my own writing hits a glitch and I want to get away from it for a while. But if a work by one of these fails to lift me out of the slump (of either kind!), I am hugely—profoundly—monumentally disappointed. And this happened to me recently. 😦

No, I am not naming names. Suffice it to say that this is a writer who has written dozens of books and I have enjoyed almost all of them. But not this one. And this was neither an early work nor her latest offering. (Yes, it was a female writer and yes, it was a romance novel.)

Let me make perfectly clear that the writing itself lived up to the author’s usual excellence. (Sheer professionalism can make up for many a fault.) The sentences flowed nicely. Details were chosen carefully, giving the reader adequate grounding in setting. The basic premise of the story could have worked very well.

So, what, then, did I find so off-putting? This very experienced writer fell down in areas that one is more likely to see in the works of a newbie.

The characters—even the hero and heroine—were merely “stock figures.” You know: those that scream to the reader “I am an irresistible hero/heroine of a romance.” Perfect people—he, big and handsome and masterful and immediately able to solve every problem; she, not only tiny and beautiful and (of course) “feisty,” but also so damned knowledgeable and quick-thinking that she could have resolved all those issues all by herself but for the fact that the story (or an editor?) required lusty male-female sex scenes. The minor characters, which included a bitchy old dowager and a requisite set of villains, were simply clichés.

The story itself was weak. From the beginning (the very entrance of the hero!) the story is so dependent on coincidence that it challenges even the most willing reader’s ability to suspend disbelief. The resolutions to all the problems that beset the h/h come far too easily—and too often from outside themselves (fairy godmother figures sweep in to save the day).

Finally, in a manner typical of many less able writers, this one fails to provide a sense of “value” to many of the descriptions. The reader is often distracted by extensive (albeit well-written) passages about things or incidents that are not important enough in the story to warrant that much attention. When everything is of equal importance, nothing gets special attention. In other words: the pacing is off.

Will I read any more by this writer? Of course I will. Anyone can have an “off day” now and then.