Thu
May 26 2011 10:30am

No Longer a Guilty Pleasure: Why I Don’t Read Laurell K. Hamilton

Narcissus in Chains by Laurell K. Hamilton“In fact, so much of the description is repeated, I think she has a macro for a lot of stuff. Like hit F3 every time you say 'Nathaniel' and 'violet eyes floor length auburn hair dancer only wearing shorts' just appears.“

Ahhhh, Laurell K. Hamilton. I remember when I first picked up Guilty Pleasures, which was my senior year of college. I read the first three books back to back;  I hadn’t seen anything like it, and I loved everything about it. I loved the urban Midwestern landscape, the kick-ass heroine, the sexy and mysterious (yet strangely settled in the Midwest?) vampire, it was all good.  For me, it was all good until around October 2001, which was when Narcissus in Chains came out.

Obsidian Butterfly by Laurell K. HamiltonAt the time I couldn’t have marked that as the definitive breakup point, but like most breakups, it’s pretty clear when I look back on it. For many, Obsidian Butterfly, the book before it, was the beginning of the end. That one is actually one of my favorites in the series. I’ve read it recently, and even though a little of the initial gloss has worn off, I still like it quite a bit. All the things I originally loved about the series are there: plot, forward character movement (even if there is precious little Jean-Claude in the book) and fresh, witty writing. Whatever happened between Obsidian Butterfly and Narcissus is a mystery to me, but it changed everything.

Of course, there has been a lot of speculation about what happened. I love gossip as much (more…) than the next reader, but I find all the LKH marriage/divorce/”issues” speculation mostly ridiculous; look, everyone has issues, right? It’s pretty much what makes us human. If you’re a human writing books, I’m sure some of your “issues” show up in the text. Whether it is the hot guy who bagged an author’s groceries (not a euphemism) who magically ends up being the inspiration for the hero of their next book, or an author’s political leanings (or non-leanings), a city they loved/hated/longed to visit, or even their bitchy sister-in-law/mother-in-law/cousin/grandma who turns up as a character who happens to be the victim of an unfortunate, yet hilarious, accident…. Issues, right? Yet, when talking about LKH, it is always her “issues” that are the cause of her downfall. Considering how reliably she hits the bestseller lists, perhaps she’s not the one with issues. We, as readers, can’t diagnose what caused an author to change style, we can only try and explain why the books don’t work for us, right? So, with that….

I was reading Flirt, one of her mini books, and I hit upon exactly what it was about the more recent books that turned me off: Apologetic Anita. Oh, I know, she says she’s all unapologetic about her “lifestyle” and this that, and the other, but she isn’t. She spend half the book in apologetic tone mode about her living situation, her “boyfriends,” her “friends” she has sex with; her “metaphysical” situation and everything else. Enough, already.

The Anita Blake in the first nine books was tough. The book 10 and counting Anita Blake just tells everyone how tough she is, but I don’t see it. All I see is a heroine every girl wishes she was, and every guy wants to fuck, who whines about how complicated her life is. And, just in case you don’t understand all the complications, she takes the time to explain them to you…..a lot. All the while she is protesting that she can’t take on any more men in her life. Yet, by the end of the book, she’s taken on another.

Many people complain about the sex in the Anita Blake books, but it isn’t the sex that bothers me. It’s how whiny she is about the sex that gets on my nerves. Hey, you’re a succubus. Suck it up. ☺ Anita Blake is a succubus with self hatred issues, is anything less attractive than that?

It’s like she’s trying so hard to say it’s everyone ELSE’s problem if they have a problem with her lifestyle, that she doesn’t realize the only one with the problem is her. Reading book after book about how she is forced to have multiple sex partners, all with their own unique purpose, and how she loves these, and likes those, and can’t stand being with just one guy…..your life is so hard. Wait….I meant difficult. If you truly want to live your own lifestyle, and don’t care what others think about it, why do you spend so much time explaining it to me? Get on with the story!

Story? Yes, there used to be stories in the books! Big Bads, fight scenes, amazingly intricate wardrobe descriptions that made me laugh, a fascinating cat and mouse game between her and Jean-Claude that continued long after they had sex….a lot of book. Now? Not so much. The dialogue seems stilted and repetitive. Very few of the characters have unique personalities. The characters that do have “distinct” characteristics, often move between “flirty and childlike” and “flirty and serious” and “flirty and might be a bad guy so beware”. To be honest, the books remind me of a more naked version of Evanovich’s Stephanie Plum series. No growth in the characters, things inserted because they’re expected, and a new twist on an old sex scene with a were-animal not yet seen.

When I checked out Flirt, I was hoping I’d like it enough to also read Bullet, which I got at the same time. But after the longest restaurant scene in the history of vinyl booths,I knew that I wouldn’t even bother to crack the cover of Bullet. Whether her issues or mine, the Anita Blake thrill is gone for me. But if people pick up these new books and feel the way I felt when I first read Guilty Pleasures, then I’m happy.


 

Robin Bradford is a lawyer and a librarian. You can check her out on Twitter @tuphlos, On Unpaged, or on the new blog Collection Reflection

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25 comments
Wendy Lewis
1. wsl0612
I don't recall which book I read last, but one of the reasons I quit reading was because EVERY being she was FORCED to have sex with was really hot & sexy. Seems to me if she was FORCED against her will to have sex there'd be a few unpleasant ones in there. Too much Mary Sue LOL!
Darlynne
2. Darlynne
What I never understood was how one character could be that spell-bindingly/blindingly attractive to so many other characters. The idea of One Woman to Sex Them All made no sense. As I type this, I realize it's the sheer size of that ego--Anita's or LKH's, doesn't matter--that finally drove me away.
missy king
3. CMmm8
Thank you for putting into words exactly why I stopped reading her. I loved the books and own the first 10 or more books. I kept hopeing the poor me chapters would end and they never did. I'm sad because I loved LKH, but now the early series is just a fond memory of what was.
Carmen Pinzon
4. bungluna
While I'm still firmly on the LOVE AB camp, I agree with you that her constant apologia is getting on my nerves.

I always thought that LKH was writing a series about a girl becoming a monster. Now I don't know exactly what AB's turning into, but I like watching the transformation. I do wish she would just relax and enjoy the ride.
Darlynne
5. HelgaGrace
Narcissus in Chains is exactly the point at which I broke up with LKH as well, although I continued with the other series for a while longer. I'm all for a book with sex in it, but when the sex gets kind of boring, and there isn't anything else of substance...
Robin Bradford
6. RobinBradford
Yes! @helgagrace! I think that's what I wish I would have said (but didn't think of it!) the sex in the books is boring to me.

But the sex really isn't the problem. If it was, I could skim it like others seem to do.

@Darlynne One Woman to Sex Them All will make me laugh all day! Thanks for that.

I actually didn't hate Skin Trade. I gave it 4 out of 5 stars on GoodReads! That review makes me laugh now.

And the beginning quote should have had some kind of attribution, but I forgot. It's from my friend Amy, and it made me laugh so hard I had to revise what I'd already sent to Megan so I could add it.
Amber McMichael
7. buriedbybooks
That is exactly the same point that I broke up with LKH. I tried, I really tried, to read the later books, but was icked out by the sex to plot ratio, the whiny Anita, and the utter lack of kick ass action that made the earlier books so wonderful.
Darlynne
8. TigMode
You and I share a brain......my feelings exactly.

I have a friend who won't read any of the "paranormal" I recommend to her (Larissa Ione, Kresley Cole, Lara Adrian, Chrostine Feehan, for example) because LKH's AB books (her first of the genre and only)
that went bad so damaged her in terms of the genre that she won't even try it again!
Leah Dean
9. the_lsd_effect
I have to agree with you on the fact this has begun to seem like the Stephanie Plum series, which I got to number 10 and just got plain bored. I have only read to The Harlequin, which I'm about to begin, because no matter how bad this train wreck gets I can't stop looking at it. I love Laurell's books, and especially the Merry Gentry series, now that I could defintely read some more of with no boredom. I haven't gave up on Anita yet, and I probably won't because it is still interesting enough to keep on enjoying, and it is one of my "Guilty Pleasures" I can afford to indulge in soon. On another note though, I am still lovin the True Blood series, and enjoying the tv version as well :)
@TigMode~ Are the other authors you mentioned as (or at all) erotic as Laurell? Just curious.
Robin Bradford
10. RobinBradford
@TigMode Awwww! I'm sorry to hear that about your friend. There are some very good, very entertaining authors writing paranormals (Lara Adrian is one of my faves) and I'd hate someone to miss out because of a bad experience with one author.

@the_lsd_effect I couldn't get in to Merry. I think it was the lack of Jean-Claude that did me in. :-) Seriously, though, I couldn't tell the boys apart. But, by that time, I was already falling out of love with LKH so it could be that I just didn't try very hard. (ha ha. Hard. Get it?)
Darlynne
11. Cheyanne
Agree with you all the way PLUS how can anyone make so much sex so boring? It's like the fear of gurls being with other gurls even though boy-on-boy is fine? I don't care--just think it's weird. Plus I miss RELATIONSHIPS. Like with Asher. Or caring about peeps she's constantly boinking. If I pay hardback prices I want some CONTENT darn it! Or I take my $$$ elswhere. xxoocf
Jennifer Carpenter
12. mcroxmysox
I just miss Anita's badass attitude. She was my favorite book character EVER until she got all whiney and lost her tough edge. The action is no longer there in the books. Bloody Bones is my favorite one. If she could write like that again, I'd be so overwhelmingly happy. I own all of the Anita Blake books, but I've given away a few of them. I cracked open Bullet, but I didn't even get halfway through it. I thought that she was starting to write a little more like her old self when I read Skin Trade, but then Flirt came out and disappointed me once again. Poop.
Darlynne
13. Kerith
I agree fully with Robin. In the beginning I loved Anita and her badassiness, she did not problem being who she was. Then things changed, and she began to question herself. I felt like I was being preached as the series went on, and more so right before a sex scene. By the time they got around to the sex I had a headache. I forget which book, but Anita was going to have a threesome with Jason and another one of her boyfriends, but first I had to read pages of her guilt and his guilt and why it was wrong for them to feel guilty, and then I was not in the mood. I usually can't wait for the lovin' scenes but with Anita she can turn a threesome with two hot guys into a very boring, painful annoying scene. How is that even possible?

The Merry series, which should have been a series for LKH to feel free to express her ideals of free love and multiply partners, felt like she had to define her point. If people are reading your books their are ok with the lifestyle you are writing about. I love Frost/Merry/Doyle as a threesome, but their relationship stopped growing. It is like LKH is afraid for Anita and Merry to get close to anyone. It is sad.
Darlynne
14. Kerith
@the_lsd_effect

I like both Larissa Ione and Kresley Cole. They are erotic but there is no multiply partners. I love Kresley Cole, becuase they are erotic, dark, and funny. IAD is still my favorite series. I haven't read the others Tig posted, so I am not sure how erotic they are, but I have heard good things about them. BDB series by JR Ward is also another great erotic paranormal romance.

If you are looking for very erotic, you can try Lora Leigh's the Breed series (there is some backdoor play) and Joey W. Hill ( multiply partners and backdoor play).
Darlynne
15. Wildwitch
Sadly I agree with you. I lost interest when it was repetitive sex, several partners, LOOOOOng scenes, and Anita Blake turned into a wimp! I loved the idea of a Succubus but that wasn't supposed to be the entire core of the books when she turned into a Succubus. She turned into a wimp and I have a hundred Authors I can read who write great sex, great scenes, great fight action and MOVE THE STORY ON!

Sadly, I thank you and hope LKH realizes why she has lost so many fans. But remember to check out so many new and upcoming Authors!
April Cabrera
16. Squeaks1977
I love LKH but I have to agree I'm sick of the apologies and the characters having issues. I first loved Richard when he was introduced now I think he is a whiny baby. Though I have to admit in the last few books he really stepped up and that made me like him a little bit again. I have already ordered hit list so we'll see if it gets better. I won't stop reading because I am still addicted to LKH but I even noticed with the Merry Gentry it has slowed too. I really hope she gets out of the rut because I love the characters and really hope they come back.
Darlynne
17. omnireader
This is why I like this newsletter so much---it makes me laugh and cheer! I too gave up on Anita about the same time, with Narcissus in Chains. I kept looking for the story and couldn't find it anywhere! Thanks for saying it all so well.
Darlynne
18. Wendy1967
I started reading Anita Blake stories in 2005, LKH basically kept me sane in the last 6 yrs of surgeries, doctors, physical therapy sessions. I am and always will be a Anita Blake groupie, I will buy every book that LKH writes, whether Anita or Merry...these books got me thru the hardest time of my life. they also spiced up My hubby and i, in the romance department. lol. Ms. Hamilton, you have made my darkest times full of fantasy and adventure, please keep your imagination flowing and your writings being printed. Oh and my 65 yr old mother loves Anita/Jean Claude/ nathaniel/asher and many more. she quit reading long ago due to vision problems, but in large print and using a magnifying glass...she has found a new enjoyment of reading. thank you for giving my mother back her zest for reading. WE WILL AWAIT FOR ANY AND ALL STORIES YOU WRITE .
Darlynne
19. Adia
Oh, goodness - you just put down every issue I have with AB:VH post-OB and far better than I could. I agree with everything you said, and really - it needs to be said.
Darlynne
20. Shark with Lasers
I agree with a lot of the assessments made in this post. I, too, loved Obsidian Butterfly. Taking Anita out of the festering drama in St. Louis seemed to bring back her spark. And I, too, read Narcissus in Chains and thought, "what the frilly heck is this?" The epilogues in AB books used to whet my appetite for the next book, but the one in NiC read like really, really bad fanfic. I tried to read Cerulean Sins in spite of that, but the thrill, it was gone. I agree that the descriptions have grown repetitive - it would be a necessary evil if there were new fans picking up the books in the middle of the series, but at this point I suspect most readers have picked up the back catalog, or else they'd be totally lost trying to figure out some of the relationships. And the supporting characters are now so numerous that they would completely blend into each other if it weren't for those repetitive descriptions. Didn't the AB verse used to be a dangerous verse in which anyone could die at any time? I can't believe I'm about to suggest this, but how about clearing up that cast list with a nice massacre? If the Mother of All Darkness is such a massive threat, she needs to prove it with a body count. I'm just sayin'. So, I totally agree that the AB verse has been somewhat Disney-fied, in that the threatening atmosphere among the supe-owned clubs of St. Louis seems more like Pleasure Island circa 2007 these days. I don't think it's Anita apologia that's bugging me about her character development, though. For me, it's that she's gone from a perspective of Fight the Power to Head Poobah of the Power. I identified more strongly with her when she was outraged by extreme disparities of power, and a protector of the unfortunate. Now she defends extreme disparities of power, and screw the unfortunate (or screws, as the case may be). That's just not as appealing to me, as a reader. I want to read about a hero, not a CEO.
JESSE
21. FURY85
wow, i am acually kinda dissapointed by these reviews. AB is "growing" up in the books. so yes, there will be some, ok alot, of apoligies. because she is tired of dealing with the drama that her life has thrusted at her. i understand that you may grow out of a book, but that dosnt mean that it becomes a bad book. i have read her since i was i believe 20 years old. and i love every single one of her books. i am now almost 26, and i will contiue reader her books long after she stops writing them. her books take me away from the real world, and that is what books are suppose to do. im not bashing any ones opnion about her books. im just surprised that people feel this way about her.
Teresa Nielsen Hayden
22. tnh
Fury, most non-business-related disagreements between adults boil down to "You're not me!" Different readers have different tastes. That's just how it goes.
April Cabrera
23. Squeaks1977
@ Fury85... I understand that it sounds like a lot of bashing but to be honest it's more of disappointment. We miss the old Anita. Now don't get me wrong I will still buy all of Laurell's works. I'm just hoping that the books get back to how they were for me and that was at the end of the book I would let out a big sigh and couldn't wait for the next one. Hell Laurell couldn't write them fast enough for me but now when I finish a book I can't believe that was it. I haven't read Hit List yet but I do intend to buy it. Like I said before I think most of us are missing Anita's kick butt now ask questions later attitude and it has come down to either mushy or cocky. I think I can say this for a lot of Laurell's readers and that is we miss the old Anita.

@Shark....THAT'S HYSTERICAL but I do somewhat agree. Anita's list is growing so much that it seems like you need the run on descriptions of everyone because you forget which one this is now. LOL I do miss when I knew the characters just by the name and had in my mind the image already of what they looked like. Each book seems to be bringing in new ones every single time..too much to keep track of is all I'm saying. :-)
Kassy Smith
24. raz
oh how i agree. i love Laurell K Hamiltons books, i Love Anita and Merry, and all the people inbetween but.... enough is enough. i found this series when i was in middle school... and well i fell in love with it, the bad ass, sexy, vampire hunter.... hell yes! i have read all of her books and frankly after NIC its all the same thing, 93% sex ( so discriptive that its boaring), 6% emotional bullsh*t, and 1% plot. What?

Where did the people go? WHERE IS ANITA! how come they are all like her little minions who want to do nothing but please her... it dosent happen like that, and its soooo unrealistic its just annoying! Maybe thats why Richard stayed away he wanted to retain a personality! i mean come on, Jean Claude has disapeared into this mushy nasty that can no longer claim the title of vampire, incubus or not. Asher is Asher... (he dosent count) But what about all the other people? The Micha in NIC, and Micha is no longer there i thought he was a Dominant? shouldent he have a more i dont know spunky role? instead he faded out untill he's a minor charecter... infact ALL of the people are now minor charecters. even Nathaniel.

who has 25 orgasms a day? it that even possibal? there is no way that a body could produce that much lube, every day... several times a day its why hookers and prostitutes carry the stuff around. and screaming and convulsing during sex? what? okay once or twice i could get but every single time without fail, that sounds more like a medical condition than an erotica.

Speaking of Erotica, the books are just like porn now. I have nothing against the occasional sex scene, i dont mind descriptions, crazy kinky stuff, threesomes whatever, but the story is gone... theres no plot anymore its just random crap thrown onto paper. And even when SOME of the good stuff comes back, like when Anita and Edward are working with a swat team against the Father of light ( Father of Day?... something like that...) it turns into a sex scene? Come on! you can do better than that!

And to top it off she's a wuss now! she CRIED because cops called her a monster? the F*** is that? The Anita i know would never do that! to make it worse, Edward is going down too! i can get the family stuff okay i dont really like it but whatever but if Edward saw anita crying like a baby in an ally he would slap the stupid out of her! infact she cries at like, everything now. i could really get into the first books when tears were forced out of her, i could sympathise, near feel her pain, but now i just skip the pages of chick flick and bad porn to get to the action but by the time i have i've got like 30 pages that i just paid 20 bucks for! if the next book isnt 90% better im considering myself a former fan.

sorry for vulgar language
Darlynne
25. Meri....1981
I completely agree with Raz, for me at least NIC with Blake and SD with Gentry were the last books I've bought. I re-read the first 6-7 books in each series when I wanna revisit the characters I love, but that is all. I won't put out any more money until the quality of her books is restored! Down with repeat filler...
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