Wednesday, March 31, 2010

Nora Breaks The Rules!


Once upon a time, when I was a newbie writer entering a butt-load of contests, I got this comment back on one of my manuscripts....

"Watch head-hopping! Who do you think you are? Nora Roberts?"

I was miffed. First of all, this was a snarky comment, and not 'constructive criticism.' Second of all, the paragraph receiving this comment was entirely written in one character's POV, and therefore not an example of head-hopping. However, I found the whole Nora-angle fascinating. Since I had never read a Nora Roberts book, I was curious. Who exactly was this Nora person and why was she allowed to break the rules when I wasn't?

After a weekend of pushing, pleading and prodding by several Quirky Ladies, I decided to jump on the Nora Roberts bandwagon. So far, I have inhaled Jewels of the Sun and Tears of the Moon, #1 and #2 of the Irish trilogy. Here is what I have discovered so far about Nora Roberts...

1) She changes POVs faster than Lady Gaga changes outfits at an awards ceremony. Seriously. One sentence: heroine thinking mushy thoughts about the hero. Next sentence: hero thinking some ridiculously romantic thing about the heroine. Me: Don't care, I am loving this book and want to move to Ireland.

2) Remember that rule about starting the novel with action? Nora obviously did not get that memo. These novels are started with faery lore and back story. Beautifully, emotionally written and with gorgeous description. Diagnosis: Kicks literary ass!

3) Rule #783: Must make characters likable or readers will hate your guts. Nora: Screw that! One heroine is a boring, self-doubting divorcee, one is a masculine, short tempered Irish gal, and one of the heroes is a lazy ass. Somehow Nora makes all of this work. Astonishing!

4) If you don't have a strong central conflict, your book will suck. Nora: No honey, all you need is romance.

So, here's my take on these books. Jewels of the Sun was absolutely wonderful for one simple reason. It is one of the most romantic books I've ever read. Aidan is a hunkalicious Irish hero from heaven above. The way he talks is so gorgeous and romantic, I was swooning as I read the dialogue. Swooning, people, swooning! Even though the heroine was a dud at the beginning of the story, it was sweet to see her blossom and learn to love herself. Roberts paints an incredibly lovely portrait of Ireland and the faery legends. The second book of the trilogy, Shawn's story, was not quite as good or romantic, but I still enjoyed it. My one and only less than stellar observation is that the paranormal aspect is not exactly woven into the story line, but rather plopped on top of it. This feels very much like a contemporary romance that has "paranormal" devices (ghosts, faeries, etc.) thrown in to liven it up a bit. The nuts and bolts of the stories are the relationship between the hero and heroine.

Am I on the Nora bandwagon? Not quite sure, but I am looking forward to reading the third book of the trilogy, Heart of the Sea.

These books have inspired me in more ways than one. I am amazed by her beautiful prose, gorgeous dialogue and romantic characters. I am also thinking that breaking some of the writing rules that have been drilled into my head might not be such a bad idea. Of course, I'm no Nora, as the contest judge rudely reminded me. But maybe someday....

Grade for Jewels of the Sun: A
Grade for Tears of the Moon: B+

Prepping for Book #3,
Penelope

15 comments:

Michelle Picard said...

I suppose I may have to jump on the Nora bandwagon. I wasn't at the conference to be pressured into Noraland, but I'm willing to try, if I can only find the time.

Penelope said...

We missed you at conference, Michelle! I would def. recommend Jewels of the Sun. I think you would like it, but I'm not sure if either of us will become hard core Nora fans.

Smokinhotbooks said...

I heart Nora she was my first romance author I read. Montana Sky is hands down my favorite, to this day I re-read it.

Julie at Outlandish Dreaming said...

I still have yet to read anything by her, I just keep thinking I'm not going to like her stuff, but you're making re-think it now. I still have loads of books I want to read, but I'll probably get to her eventually...

Penelope said...

Hey Smokin--I will put Montana Sky on my TBR list...thanks!

Julie...I really think you would like Jewels....It is very romantic!

Lydia Storm said...

I'm not a fan of all those silly rules. One I really can't stand is the no "ly" words. Somehow the use of adverbs is considered Bad Writing. Why? If adverbs are good enough for Tolstoy, Austen and the Bronte sisters, they're good enough for me.

Oh, and Nora uses them too!

Penelope said...

Hi Lydia! I agree...I personally LOVE adverbs...and adjectives....and exclamation points!!!!!!!

heidenkind said...

It sounds like you're liking her to me!

Isabel Roman said...

Haha, your post cracked me up. I used to be a Nora fan, devoured all her stuff, but had to stop. Her characters started to all sound alike, drove me batty.

As for the rules, I totally disagree with the no adverb rule! They exist to enhance the verb. Same with adjectives and nouns.

Penelope said...

Hi Heidenkind! I just finished the third book of the trilogy and I didn't like it too much. Didn't like the beginning (the characters make a business-like contract about their sex life....yuck!) and didn't like the end....it was too rushed. One second, the heroine is throwing things at the hero, 2 pages later they are professing their love for each other. The End. Not too good.

Penelope said...

Hi Isabel. I'm not in a rush to read any more right at this moment since I didn't love the last book of the trilogy.

I agree about adverbs. They are my friends!

Nicola O. said...

Heeee. I've been on the Nora bandwagon for way longer than Blogspot has been around, and way longer than I've been paying attention to any dumb old rules.

If she's breaking rules, they might not have been there when she started.

I've heard it said that NR uses just a few character blueprints, and then embellishes. That may be true, but damn, the woman is magic when it comes to making characters leap off the page. I'm not sure it's something that can be analyzed.

At least that's what I think!

Penelope said...

Hi Nicola! I agree with you about her characters...whether I like them or not, they seem very real, which is the ultimate goal for an author.

Kat henry doran said...

I have so enjoyed reading comments about Nora Roberts' books. I've been on her bandwagon for years. Some I've loved; some I've adored; some I've loathed. Really really loathed.
A couple I spent mega bucks on to purchase the audio books to listen to the flavor of the south which she infused so well into a few of her stories [Carolina Moon and Carnal Innocence].
The recent bride stories and the book about the black puma or some other wild cat? no no no no.
The Ardmore trilogy bored me to tears--but the Born in ___ trilogy is so good, I reread it at least once a year. I even believe Nora traveled to Syracuse NY when she needed to find the perfect person on whom to pattern the bitchy neurotic mother. She chose my mother and did her to a T.
She may break the rules, but she makes it work. Don't give up, Penny.
Kat Henry Doran

Penelope said...

Kat, thanks for this great comment. I will add the Born In--trilogy to my list. Maybe I'll try those next!