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Linda Hilton

Reader, Writer, Merciless Reviewer and Incurable Romantic


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Currently reading

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Henry Fielding
Progress: 7 %
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Reading progress update: I've read 46 out of 236 pages.

Breaking the Rules - Kitty Wilson

I'm actually a bit further than page 46, but I needed to update with links to all the prior updates anyway.














Chapter Six starts with four pages of Rosy's hangover.  Four pages.  No dialogue, nothing but Rosy imagining what she'd do with 70 days in bed, because she'd heard NASA used that to train astronauts??  Or something.


Then gorgeous Matt comes over.


Now, here's the question.  Matt surmises that she's home because he's heard noises from in the house.  BUT, her friend Lynne's husband Dave walked Rosy home the night before because she was too drunk to drive.  So where is Rosy's car?  Does Matt think it's in the garage?  Does she even have a garage?


These are the questions and issues that would have been raised in virtually any critique group I was in over the past 35 years.  The writer is always free to ignore the comments and suggestions offered in a detailed analysis, but she does so at her peril.


At almost 20 percent through this book, I don't really know what's going on, and I really don't care.  All I'm seeing are the problems.  Who cares that Rosy lies in bed with a hangover and fantasizes about weaving tapestries?  How does that further the story, which should be her relationship with Matt?  The book's description says that there's going to be a conflict over the closing of the school, but at this point, the reader hasn't really even been introduced to the school or Rosy's position in it. 


When a writer has to look at her work through the eyes of a critical reader, she can focus better on the meat of the story and flesh it out.  I know that's some kind of horribly mixed metaphor, and if I had a critique group for this review, I'd probably go back and improve it.  That's the point of a detailed critique.


A review of a finished work isn't the same thing.  "I loved the characters" isn't the same as "What the hell does Rosy look like?  What's she wearing?  What kind of car does she drive?"  Instead of telling the reader that Rosy doesn't handle liquor very well, show the reader how Lynne persuades her to drink just one more glass, and Rosy explains to Lynne how devastating the encounter with Simon was and lets Lynne talk her into one more glass and then one more.


So back to the text.


Matt shows up at her house to return the plate on which she had gifted him a cake.  He's hot for her, and we already know she's hot for him, except for The Rule.  Sadly, there's no romantic conflict being built.  Other than Rosy's self-imposed local celibacy, there's nothing keeping the two of them from having a nice little romance.


Romance stories need both internal and external conflict.  There have to be personal reasons why the two lovers can't get together as well as outside reasons.  If you think back to your favorite -- or even not so favorite -- romance novels, you can see how the internal and external forces keep the lovers apart and how they work to overcome those obstacles to achieve their HEA.


The movie version of Practical Magic illustrates this very well. Sally Owens (Sandra Bullock) wants to deny her witchiness and be normal.  She struggles to find normal, non-witchy happiness, only to be blocked when her husband is killed due to a family curse and she's forced to return to live with her two witchy aunts. 


When her sister Gillian (Nicole Kidman) gets mixed up in witchcraft and murder, Sally is forced to help out using the same witchcraft she wants to renounce.  Unfortunately, it brings into her life lawman Gary Hallett (Aidan Quinn), someone she thinks she can really fall in love with and have that "normal" happiness she so craves. . . .if not for the curse.


As Sally struggles with her internal fears and Gary ponders falling in love with a woman who may be an accessory to murder, Gillian's witchy meddling comes back to haunt them all -- pun of course intended.  The external and internal conflicts have to be resolved for the HEA.


It's not uncommon for a romance novel to rely on The Big Misunderstanding ("Big Miz") to sustain the external conflict between the would-be lovers.  There's some of this in Breaking the Rules in that Rosy thinks famous model Angelina is Matt's girlfriend.  But this kind of misunderstanding is far too easily resolved -- even though I haven't got that far in the book to find out if it is or not -- so that if it's not resolved, it becomes a contrivance and eyes tend to roll.


Coincidences and contrivances can work, but they have to be handled very delicately.  There's a hint of slapstick in this book that's not coming off very well, and if the author can't handle that -- or if the slapstick impression is unintentional -- then I have my doubts  anything else will be handled well.


This is not an author-published book.  There is some publishing apparatus at work, but I'm not seeing the results that I personally would have expected from competent editing.  It's possible that Canelo Publishing doesn't have competent editors who are familiar with the conventions of romance fiction.  Maybe they only have line editors and proofreaders.  It's also possible that they don't have anyone on staff who is even familiar with romance fiction.


Why would they do that?  Because there are a lot of people, especially men and especially men in the business/tech world, who think romance is for women, women will read anything they can get their hands on, anyone can write a romance, and therefore no professional expertise is needed to make lots of money off the dumb women.  The founders of Canelo Publishing are all men.  The company appears to have no presence on Twitter.    Twitter account has been located, but I'm still having bad feelings about this.