Saturday, March 23, 2013

1 Star + 2 Stars Does Not Equal 5 Stars

I lately joined Goodreads, (check me out!) and I am loving using their electronic book shelf to build my tbr list and also mark off what I’ve already read. What’s stymieing me? The ratings. 1-5 stars should be simple enough, right? 

5 = I’d recommend it to everyone, I loved it
4 = I really enjoyed it but it wasn’t perfect
3 = Passable, it was a good time, but I wouldn’t go out of my way to recommend it
2 = You’d have to be bad for me to give you this 2, I’d warn people off of your books and want my money back
1 = Holy shit, you are giving books a bad name. I wish I’d never met you.

See, here’s my problem. I need a different set of rankings for each genre, and I can’t be the only one who feels this way. Let’s talk my two favorites, Romance versus Spec Fic. (ie fantasy and sci fi) (also note: I write and love both genres)

Now, for me, what makes a good romance is sizzling romantic/sexual tension, not just sex sex sex. In fact if they never even get to the sex part, I’m fine with that. But when their eyes meet and they have that, “I feel like I’m going to die if I don’t have you, but I can’t” moment, I swoon. That’s the good stuff. The anticipation, the warring. But I digress.

Romances, as we know, are constrained a bit more by formula than SF is. There pretty much HAS to be a HEA (happily ever after), the main characters are going to be the Hero and Heroine who fall in love, they’re going to fight against it before they give in, and so on. This type of story can be done intricately, uniquely, beautifully, breath-takingly, originally and artfully. Formula doesn’t mean bad. It just means…restrictive.

I’ll be honest. The first book I ever came up with was Sworn Sword, a high fantasy novel. The first book I ever wrote was Dishonorable Intentions, a historical romance. Why? I found writing within the structure of a romance just (and don’t hate me for this) easier. I could give the whole “easy to do, hard to do well” argument and so on, but you know I love romance, so you can assume I have nothing but respect for it.

Let me be very honest here, it’s easier to plot a romance, and because the main focus of the story HAS to be on the romance, the rest of the plot is by necessity, simpler.

Where am I going with this, you ask? The rankings.

For me (and I think this has to be true of others) a romance novel that’s a 5 just isn’t the same as an epic fantasy that’s a 5. There’s just so much more to an epic fantasy novel. Character development, plotting, themes, world building…it’s no contest. And there’s nothing wrong with that.  As much as I hate the saying, “it is what it is” is valid here.

I’ll happily give great romance novels like Sealed with a Curse by Cecy Robson a 5 on Goodreads, but I wish I could say “5 for a romance” so people don’t think I think it’s on par with Melanie Rawn’s Dragon Prince, which is a 5 million for fantasy. (Is 5 million stars a valid ranking? It should be.)

 How do you feel about giving 5’s in one genre vs another?


  1. You make a good point, but it has to be assumed that you're taking genres into consideration when ranking them too. I mean, I don't read mystery novels, so when I sort through 5 star recommendations, I filter out mystery because -- even though I'm sure they're awesome -- I'm not interested. They're still good books, I'm sure, but just not for me.

    Point is, if you feel a book is a 5 "in romance," just give the damned thing a 5 already.

  2. Why is it that in the history of writing have so many authors committed suicide?