JR Ward and Susan Elizabeth Phillips, are on my favorite author list for much the same reason (please note that SEP is adult contemporary romance, which I do not represent). They have what I call "The Psychological Screw You" factor. Not so much "screw you" as in the reader, but in terms of character development and plot. If you've ever read a SEP novel, while laughing out loud every other scene, you'll realize that she's great at creating this amazing characters then throwing them down a cliff. The joy of reading about these characters comes when you watch them try to climb back up the cliff. She throws everything into it, too: family drama, past loves, financial ruin, reputation, jobs. Throughout the journey, you become close with the characters. Plus there is a lot of tension and frustration (and the sex scenes aren't there for the sake of being there; they are a result of the characters--not plot devices).
Now, JR Ward does similar things to her characters as well. Each character is so psychologically twisted that they have a hard time being in civilized company. Part of this is a result from the character's self--by that I mean a product of them being vampire (or a mix: vampire/celestial offspring, vampire/demon sucker, vampire/beast). All of them are dealing with scars from their past. Again, as I mentioned above with SEP's novels, the sex in Ward's novels are not plot devices or included for the sake of inclusion. Each scene is a product of the characters and sometimes act as a therapy tool.
(One of the main reasons I mention sex, is that it's one of the biggest mistakes a new writer can make in their ms, and one of the biggest reasons I'll reject a paranormal romance. If I see anything throbbing in the first two pages, it's usually a red flag. It must be done well and, as I said above, as a result of character development.)
Have you noticed that I haven't really talked about plot? It's all about character development. So whoever says that literary novels are all about character development, and commercial novels are only about plot, are dead wrong.
The point of this post, besides paying homage to two fantastic authors and their creations, is to show what I'm looking for when it comes to Paranormal Romance. If anything is going to be throbbing, there better be a good reason for it.
I just read Match Me If You Can by Susan Elizabeth Phillips, which is not something I would typically read but it was recommended to me. I prepared myself to be underwhelmed but I really liked it. You're right that her characters are well-crafted. Even though I could see where the plot was going, I enjoyed the journey. I was surprised to like the book so much because I don't like romance. Everyone is right though, she's the standard for great contemporary romance.
SEP is amazing--and that's what I love about her books, too. She regularly takes characters lower than I've ever seen anyone else do it. To the point that you wonder why they're not contemplating ending it all. But they're spunky and they never quit. They dust themselves off, build a ladder, and climb back out, laughing (when not crying) all the way. Brilliant.
I am completely addicted to JR Ward. She draws you into a scene so completely I freak if someone enters the room...like I've been caught with one of the characters.
Hopefully Wrath. Still my fav out of all of them.
I would never have thought to comapare the two but you nailed them. They are my standard along with the great Nora Roberts and Jennifer Crusie. Their characters aren't written, they're flesh and blood. I especially love This Little Heart of Mine. That plunges Molly into a pit of despair but handles it brilliantly. Amazing.
I'll have to check these authors out. And I guess since I don't write paranormal romance you don't have to worry about any early throbbing in my MS. =)
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