Climbing into a character’s mind is a big perk to being an avid reader, part of the escape we so often get as readers of romance and genre fiction.
Often in romance we get to flit from the hero’s to heroine’s point of view, and it’s nice. It’s engaging to understand where the hero is coming from when he’s being a complete dick to the heroine. We like knowing what she’s hiding when she refuses to see the obvious adoration the guy has for her.
But—oh, c’mon you knew it was coming—the more points of view in a novel, the more we can get pulled out of the story itself. Punting the reader between five or six characters can lead to distraction, whiplash and unending cliffhangers.
The more subplots and secondary character accounts added into a novel, the more frustrated I get. The prime example here is the Black Dagger Brotherhood series by J.R. Ward. I love these books. Seriously. The men. The women. Even the goofy spellings. But upon a re-read, nearly every person I know skims or skips the ancillary points of view.
Anytime Ward kicks us over to the Lessening Society’s safe house and the power struggles with the Omega, I’m out. I’m more likely to skim with Lash involved, but still, I’d rather spend my time reading about the main hero and heroine of the novel.
Plus, the books are extraordinarily long. If we’re doing a re-read, I’m cutting out the unnecessary parts and getting to the falling-in-love part. Hey, I’m a romance reader. No shame here.
It’s not that those sections are poorly written or the characterizations are lacking. It’s just that it’s a distraction from the core of the story. While I understand the Lessers influence the Black Dagger Brotherhood world, I just don’t care about their inner workings. I spend those sections thinking: Why aren’t we with Zsadist/Rehvenge/Vishous/Wrath/etc.?
It’s not always immediately clear how the varied plots in multiple POV novels connect. When a book pulls me in too many direction I just want to swat down those POV that feel extraneous. It can be enough to make me quit reading.
The rich world building in Lia Habel’s Dearly, Departed was the kind of writing that sings to me. The world is both lush and dark, the premise (good zombies?) fresh and the romance potential was high. Still, after six tries, I was only able to make it through half of the more than 400 pages. The story shifts between characters who, at least at the time, aren’t interacting.
Each time it shifted away from the heroine or her possible love interest, I groaned. The other scenes were well-written, but just as I would get invested in the main characters, I’d be ripped away from them. To deal with other characters. That didn’t matter near as much.
The constant whiplash made it impossible for me to connect with any character on the deep level I need to be pulled through a novel.
That said, I’ve been known to make exceptions to my distaste for four or more POV in a novel. Namely, the House of Comarré series by Kristen Painter.
Painter does the shift to the subplots and the secondary characters like the others, but it’s always clear how they interact. More importantly, she carefully uses the secondary ones as a way to create mid-book cliffhangers. Basically, she sticks them in just the right places that you’ll be unable to put the book down for a dinner break. Sneaky lady.
What about you? If you love multiple POV novels, give me some recommendations in the comments. Convince me to brave them! (Or, you know, lament with me and boost my ego by saying “Chelsea, you are totally correct here!” Either way.)
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.) Bother her on Twitter - @ChelseaVBC — she likes it.