I have a confession – I used to listen to book series out of order.
I have always loved romance novels. The progression is well enough known, from the YA books with a bit of smooching, to the vanilla romances with a bit of fondling, to the novels were all know our grandmothers kept hidden in their bedside tables. Along the way, I was deeply involved in the world of fan fiction, and found my fair share of romantic and scintillating stories online, as was the right of any twelve year old coming of age in the digital world.
My love affair with romance tapered a little, however, when college started. I was reading my school books, working two jobs and commuting – in addition to regularly going out and exploring the city. I continued to read, but the social nature of, first dorm living, and then apartment life, meant I was far more likely to watch Doctor Who on Netflix while drinking cheap wine.
It wasn’t until I discovered audio books, that romance novels, in all their splendor, reentered my life. School was a two mile walk down a beautiful city street. My second job was a hike from my apartment, and conveniently located nowhere near public transit. Never one to turn down a good walk, I began trekking, bolstered by my latest treasure downloaded from the library.
Perhaps I was distracted. Perhaps, I was simply ignorant. All I know was that in those years of walking – and I was putting on miles, I never once listened to a book series in order. It is a momentous regret of mine, because romance book series are unlike any other book series around.
This truth is particularly evident to me with a series that I hold dear to my heart – the books that I might very well attribute to my desire to pursue a career in writing romance: The Desperate Duchess Series by, you guessed it, Eloisa James. I remember quite distinctly reading the story of Jemma and Elijah in This Duchess of Mine, book five in the series, mind – then the rest followed in a willy nilly succession until I had somehow, quite accidently, read them all.
I would like to believe myself somewhat redeemed by having read number six at the last, and dutifully following with the recent, second generation stories of Three Weeks with Lady X and Four Nights With the Duke.
But what a waste.
The greatest glory of romance novels, in my opinion, and the truth behind why the sensual scenes are always so delicious, is the buildup. UST – Unresolved sexual tension, is the great spice of romance. Give me anticipation. Give me so much anticipation that I’m nearly at my wits end. I want it to build and build and build with almost but not quites and the moment was losts until I am positively incapable of doing anything but reading my damned book and damn it all to hell, that is exactly what I am going to do.
By book five I should be positively enthralled by a couple’s antics. I should be furious at Husband X for ignoring Wife Y. I should be frustrated with Wife Y for never once admitting she wanted a reunion with Husband X. I should have four books ahead of me to build that tension.
Take for instance another great Eloisa series, ( I confess, I’m finally getting around to reading all of her books,) The Essex Sisters. This one I only heard one story out of order – Kiss Me, Annabel, book 2. Otherwise, I was left to anticipate eldest sister, Tess’s, tale and grow more excited for the romance of their guardian Rafe. By book four, which I recently devoured in matter of two days, I was so excited for the familiar characters to confess their undying love and adoration that I felt as though they were people in my life that I knew personally. They were my friends, making it all the more exciting to see them wed.
The series format is also fantastic fun to write. It allows the author to create secondary characters that will later be allowed their own stage, and gives far more freedom when creating the world in which the story takes place. Even the minor details between the current Eloisa story I’m reading, Fool For Love, and the Essex Sister Series, such as the name of an unrequited love who ends up getting a book of her own, helps to create a full and interesting and dynamic universe that stretches the pages of more than one book, more than one series, to the highest value it can.
It’s possible I’m alone in lumping such praise onto something that is neither new nor unique. Series, as a format, have been around for ages. But the Romance Novel Series is a genre all its own. Unlike most others, to read a series in order is least valuable because of its storyline. It is because of everything else, the build up, the character development, the expanding and understanding of the world in which these characters live. UST rules all, I’m afraid.
Have I made an unforgivable mistake in accidently reading books out of order? It would far worse, I assure you, if I’d happened on the third book in The Outlander series first, or something of the kind. But I do feel that the romance series should be praised, and respected. After all, the longer the build up, the greater the reward.
Images selected from EloisaJames.Com