Tue
Mar 6 2012 3:00pm

Breather Books: Lover Enshrined, Dead in the Family, Drink Deep, and More!

Lover Enshrined by J.R. WardI was late to the party with the Black Dagger Brotherhood. Six of the books had already been released when I started the series. This was in the days when a title like Dark Lover would have me going all Zsadist and cocking a brow.  The perk here was I devoured those first books. I read the first four in a week—aand then I hit book six Lover Enshrined and my pace came to a near stand-still.

How could a series with so much momentum and sexual energy become that? A series known for now-that’s-impressive sex scenes had a hero who was celibate and a heroine who’d rather stay in her room and play with toothpicks. If the first four books hadn’t been so damn good I might have called it quits. I pushed my way through Phury and Cormia’s story because I trusted J.R. Ward had more badass books in her back pocket. She did.

And that makes Lover Enshrined a breather book. Ward used the oddball hero and heroine’s story to tie up loose ends, start new plot threads — Qhuay!—and generally transition the series into a new tone.

She’s not the only one who needs a breather book to keep her series going.

A Perfect Blood by Kim HarrisonThe highly-anticipated, tenth Hollows novel A Perfect Blood was recently released. I wanted to love that book. I did. All the pieces were there. Rachel, Jenks, Ivy and Trent being open and honest. And the book fell flat. Rachel doesn’t behave in ways we’d expect after the big growth of the previous book, Pale Demon. She laments the past and tries to reconcile a future.

Unlike the previous books by Kim Harrison, I wasn’t able to read A Perfect Blood in a single sitting. The fun was sucked out the journey by the disconnect, and instead I could only push through in small pieces. I won’t give up on Rachel Morgan. Oh, no. But this book was getting people, emotions and drama out of the way with (I hope) the purpose of staging new complications and a return to the Ever After.

Harrison isn’t the only one to get ten books in and take a break. Charlaine Harris did the same thing with her Sookie Stackhouse novel Dead in the Family. The case here was more Harris throwing references to supernatural political tension and dangling tons of plot starters and not taking them anywhere in the book. Instead, we had a few short plots hobbled together to make a book with lots of teasers to make us stick with it. Dead Reckoning, the follow-up, was better enough to tell me book 10 was a breather and we’re amping to a big finale for Sookie.

Drink Deep by Chloe NeillSometimes it’s not that the whole book lacks a plot, but that the ending just ties up everything in a quick bow and pronounces ta-da! I’m talking about Chloe Neill and the are-you-kidding-me ending to Drink Deep. Heroine Merit made emotional progress throughout 90 percent of the novel. We’d been waiting for one event to happen, but it just never did. Then suddenly everything happened in a handful of pages and everything was all better and totally confusing.

Like with my groan-inducing experience of Lover Enshrined, I told myself Chloe Neill can make it better. When she returns with Biting Cold, I’ll read it, because Drink Deep had to be a pause after the mass chaos of the earlier book Hard Bitten. J.R. Ward pulled it off bringing me back into the BDB world with her sixth book, and my fingers are crossed the same will be true for book six of the Chicagoland Vampires series.

What keeps a “meh” book from being ending up in your did-not-finish pile? Hit the comments to lament with the group on the books you’ve slogged through because the next one had to be better. Because, I do feel your pain.

(Also, ten bucks says someone says Anita Blake.)


 

While Chelsea Mueller runs Vampire Book Club, she won’t turn down a sexy werewolf, demon or faerie. (Her husband often reminds her that she’s taken.)

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14 comments
Lege Artis
1. LegeArtis
Ok, I didn't like Storm Born from Thea Harrison, but first book was so good and I "stormed" through this one. It was right thing to do, 'cause Serpent's Kiss was much better.
I almost gave all my hope after Lover Enshrined, for me it went downhill after Zsadist'book- I was having trouble with Butch's and V's stories and Phury infuriated me. But that glimpse of Rehv made me stick to it and it was good decision. Great post, Chelsea!
Chelsea Mueller
2. ChelseaMueller
@Lege Artis - Thanks. It's funny you say that about Rehv. I had no interest in him. Almost skipped his book. Then I finally read Lover Avenged and now he's my second favorite (behind Zsadist).
Carmen Pinzon
3. bungluna
What is it about Storm's Heart? I rather liked it.

I've had problems with books in series that pulled me out of them. Some, like Sookie and Rachel, reeled me back with the next installment. Others just lost me forever. I imagine it's hard for a writer to keep the momentum going indefinitely.
Lege Artis
4. LegeArtis
@Chelsea That chapter when Rehv goes to perform his monthly duty was great; when I tried to imagine that live albino scorpions that princess wears as earrings I knew Ward hooked me up .
@bungluna It's Storm's Heart, I apologize for my mistake. It took me long time to finish this book, I couldn't warm up for heroine at all. There aren't much books with thunderbirds heroes and I expected more, 'cause Dragon Bound blew me away.
Carmen Pinzon
5. bungluna
I liked Tricks. She was shallow and flighty, which is rare for a UF heroine.
Kerrin Brittain
6. Kerrin
Luckily, I didn't get that feeling so much with the BDB books.
I wasn't so much into the para romance stuff but after 3 years of nagging me, a friend convinced me to read Dark Lover last year & I was totally hooked. Of course, by that time there was 8 books so I wasn't really stuck in that meh phase because my friends had already told me they got better. I didn't have that problem at all with some of the others that my friends did - I've got a soft spot for both Rehv & V - so Lover Enshrined is the only one that took me longer than a couple of days to demolish.

I do get that feeling a lot though with the YA series that have a ton of books like the Morganville Vampire ones. Books 5 & 8 were like that for me but I got sucked in again because I enjoyed the following ones.

And here comes the $10 ......
My mother (who reads everything I do) would for sure put Anita Blake @ the top of her list. She handed Hit List back to me unread saying 'I've had enough of that, it's all the same'. They lost her about 6 books ago now (she kept reading, hoping they improved & became more crime driven). Her philosophy is that when the sex scenes all sound like repeats of what's been done, it's time to wrap it up & move onto something else lol Not to mention when you can't remember which character is what because there's so many floating around. I can see her point & I'm almost there myself. I might have stopped reading then already if every few books Edward didn't pop up & keep things interesting.
MKJDobson
7. Rose In RoseBear
@Kerrin: If I had started the BDB books with a straight read of Dark Lover instead of a reverse read of Lover Avenged, I probably would have hung on for Butch's story, but I don't know if I would have such a soft spot in my heart for V and Jane, or for Rehv. And, yeah, that Sympath Princess was a trip. You just know Rehv is a good guy by the way Trez takes care of him after he does his duty.
MKJDobson
8. Rose In RoseBear
In J. D. Robb's In Death series, there have been several "breather" books --- of course, there have been 44 novels and short stories in the series, so not every one can be Great And Meaningful Expressions Of Character Advancement.

Sometimes, the In Death breather is a simple murder mystery. Witness In Death is one of these. The murders are personal, the main victim needed to be dead, and even though there's a great chase scene, with people getting hurt, the murderer didn't have anything to do with it.

Other times, the In Death breather is a necessary break after a really hard-hitting book. The latest, Celebrity In Death, is frothy --- no recurring characters in danger, no hiss-and-scratch between Eve and anyone else --- and a great big relief after the emotional wringer of the preceding novels, Treachery In Death and New York To Dallas.

And, sometimes, the breather books just aren't all that good. I don't particularly like either half of the gimmicky Remember When. Nasty-for-no-reason villian, author-as-potential-victim, and everyone seemed rather one-dimensional.

I wonder if she plans books like Celebrity, to allow the reader to level out ...?
Christy D
9. Christy D
Thanks for sharing. I really learned something. Now, I can look at Phury's story differently. I guess I never thought about breather books. I have read a few series like this. One of them being the Carpathian Series by Christine Feehan.
Chelsea Mueller
10. ChelseaMueller
@Kerrin - I think any long-running series -- as many YA become *looks at House of Night* -- has breather books. I wish it weren't true, but it definitely happens.

Oh, and thanks for the $10 post. I knew someone would need to call out Anita. I haven't read all the books just up through Narcissis in Chains, so I hate to call it out myself.

@Rose in RoseBear - Do you think J.D. Robb's breather books are lacking, though, or are you OK with them not moving the characters forward and just giving you a nice little mystery?

@Christy D - Thanks!
Sandi Logsted
11. sandlog
@Kerrin-- When it comes to Anita Blake, couldn't have said it better myself.
Christy D
12. pm
Oh goodness, I truly thought the same thing about Anita as @Kerrin and her mom - if I can't keep straight which guy she is having sex with in any one chapter, or any one page more accurately.....And those early love scenes with Jean Claude were so "Ooo la la"! LOL
For me Bloodlines was a "breather" book, but I really kind of welcomed it. It was just nice to be back, catching up with old friends again.
Nicole Noffsinger
13. nikkitrueblue@hotmail.com
I was so excited to get Phury's book especially after I had read Lover Awakened but I was so deflated when I finished reading it. Phury, I thought got the shaft in his own book. It was as if the primary focus was not Phury and Cormia but all the other minor players.
MKJDobson
14. Rose In RoseBear
@Chelsea: The In Death breather books aren't all lacking. I don't mind an occasional straight-up murder mystery --- Witness In Death was a pretty good book, and so is Celebrity.

What I do mind is a gimmicky, half-azzed two-part book like Remember When. The events in meatiest part of the book take place decades before Eve was born, and the characters you meet in the earlier story barely show up in Eve's part of the novel. Eve's part was a jumped-up short story, pulled and distorted out of all reasonable shape into a Part Two of a full novel. Feh.
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