- Humor. Not slapstick or stupid or even usually overt. Just the kind that makes you snort surprised laughter then look around and see if anyone heard you. Nora Roberts is classic at this. So are Robyn Carr, Muriel Jensen, Kristan Higgins, Julie James, and a huge et cetera. When I find an author who can do this well, I will read her forever.
- Emotion. Not contrived. Not in every scene. Just delicious. Heartwarming. The kind I think about and go back and read again and again. When I read paper books, I dog-ear the page where it happens.
- A turn of phrase that makes me back up and read it again because it delights me so much. I think we all write these sometimes, when in a perfect moment on a lucky day, the words will just fall in line and lie in wait to charm a reader. If you try too hard, the phrase twists and has bumps in it, but when you have that lucky moment, it's...sublime.
- Flawed heroes and heroines. Mary Balogh's Survivors' Club series is as good as it gets with these, but I also just like heroines with two left feet and heroes who are scared of snakes--even garter snakes.
- Ensemble casts that I want to sit on the front porch with after sundown. We can watch lightening bugs and slap mosquitoes and laugh together in the sweet night air.
- Good writing.
Then there's the other side of the proverbial coin. I always give at least one chapter and try for three before giving up, but there is the occasional "did she really write that?" thing that will make me give it up within the first few paragraphs.
- Bratty heroine.
- Hero who's surprised when a woman doesn't lust after him because, of course, they all do.
- Un-flawed heroes and heroines. I can't put myself in the shoes of a heroine who is perfect, nor could I ever make happy or be happy with a hero who was, and when I read a book, in the heroine's shoes is where I want to be.
- Poor editing. Typos exist. Grammar errors exist. Personally, I have an ongoing war with the apostrophe in its...or it's. But if the errors persist, and if they are consistently things we should have all learned in elementary school--your and you're, for instance, or the whole lay and lie circus, after a little while I can't read them anymore.
- Stereotypes. Bad cops who eat doughnuts. Waitresses who smack their gum and flirt with men while ignoring the women said men are with. People from small towns who use poor grammar and have bad teeth simply because they are people from small towns. People from large cities who are rude and condescending simply because they are people from large cities. People from rural areas who are stupid. We're not--not that I would ever take that personally.
- Inaccuracies that should have been caught. I have no doubt I've done some of these myself. I hope my own readers aren't as picky as I was when I was unable to get past an author referring to Indiana University (IU) as The University of Indiana throughout a book she placed there.
- A grudge that's been held since first grade even though in their heart of hearts they've always loved only each other.
- Villains with no redeeming qualities. Because, honestly, if the ex-husband was that much of a creep, why did she love him in the first place?
Have a great week!
After finishing this post, I happened onto another post about much the same thing. I thought it was interesting, so am including the link to Bad Menagerie here.