Series can encompass a variety of different things. As a kid growing up, I loved the teenage mystery series—Trixie Belden, Donna Parker, the Hardy Boys, Encyclopedia Brown, heck, even the horribly dated Bobbsey Twins. Nancy Drew was the one exception. Never could stand her. These books followed the same characters through a variety of adventures, hopefully learning a little something with each episode. I graduated to Agatha Christie’s Miss Marple and the Mrs. Pollifax books when I was a little older, and those are much the same, except with adult characters and situations. Then I discovered fantasy and science fiction. The Narnia books, Lord of the Rings, Robert Aspirin’s Myth Adventures, and so many more. Still the same concept though—same main characters, different stories.
But in romance, series usually don’t work that way. For a romance to be a romance, you have to take two (or sometimes more) characters from not being together, to their happily-ever-after. That’s pretty final. Although I have read a few great books where the romance continues to grow and evolve in a second book, (Jayne Ann Krentz has a couple good examples of this) that’s about the limit if each story is really a romance. So a series takes a different turn. Usually it’s a common world, town, family, or group (a Navy Seals team, perhaps) that have overlapping stories. Each book of the series features a different character finding that HEA. So each book as a unique hero and a unique heroine. One of the great features of this kind of series is that you get to peek at the HEA of earlier couples. It can be kind of like catching up with old friends.
From a reader’s standpoint, I love series. I love seeing that couple A is still together a few years later, maybe with children, or still helping to save the world. I still have the first romance series I ever collected, Roberta Gellis’ fabulous Roselynde Chronicles. She broke a rule in this series, too. The first two books had the same heroine. Yep. Her first HEA wasn’t so ever-after. Husband number one was much older and died while she was still in her 30’s, leaving her to remarry a man much closer to her own age. I’m not sure you could get away with that in today’s market, but as Ms. Gellis was one of the founders of the historical romance genre as we know it, she did. I had the chance to meet her at last year’s RT convention, and practically genuflected at her feet.
Series have problems though. They can go on way too long. Then they run the risk of being repetitive or jumping the shark. There are a couple of very big names that I used to run right out and buy on release day. Now I get them from the library if I bother at all. I totally respect author Linda Howard who said she wasn’t writing any more books in her MacKenzie (sp?) family series, because she didn’t want to have to kill off the parents. Sometimes, you just have to let go. And who knows? If she hadn’t, we might not have had all the NEW wonderfulness she’s written since.
As an author, I am learning about the pitfalls of series. Writing the last of any series is hard. There’s always a lot I’d written in that can’t be changed, so I have to write around things I might have changed if they hadn’t been set in stone by previous books. I have to really work to make the final heroine different from the others—can’t have them all blending together. Even names are a bigger challenge. But sales-wise, there’s a definite plus. When a new book comes out, sales do spike again for previous books in the series. And when you’ve written a character who’s just too cool to say goodbye to, it’s nice to be able to give them their own HEA. Right now I’m writing the last (planned) book in my Urban Arcana series from Carina Press, the first of which, Motor City Fae, introduced a whole new world, with elves and werewolves and wizards in Detroit. Motor City Witch was number two, and book 3 Motor City Wolf, comes out in August. I’ve pasted the blurb below. Right now I’m writing Motor City Mage, which wraps up the story arc and is scheduled to be released in March 2012. It is hard to say goodbye to old friends.
So yes, I’d have to say I’m in favor of the series concept, both as an author and as a reader. But if I ever drag one out to the point of absurdity, will somebody please let me know?
Right now, I'd really love to hear your thoughts about series in romance. Long ones? Short ones? None at all? Can a series go on for too long, or do you keep loving it no matter what?
Meanwhile, here's the blurb from Motor City Wolf, just to whet your appetite.
Urban Arcana Book 3
By Cindy Spencer Pape
Coming to Carina Press, August 29, 2011
Preorder link: http://bit.ly/nv0Tlm
Less than a year ago, Fianna Meadows was a pampered noble in the Faerie court. Then she was exiled, turned mortal and forced to work for a living—in a werewolf bar in Detroit, no less! Still, Fianna has to admit her new life isn't so bad...particularly when it comes to Greg Novak, the bar's sexy owner.
For Greg, keeping his hands off Fianna has been a challenge. But his sense of honor won't let him get involved with a woman put in his care, even if Fianna is eager to explore her new feelings of lust. Resisting the temptation to claim her gets even harder when Greg's grandfather, the region's Alpha, orders him to marry and Fianna agrees to pretend to be his chosen mate.
Fighting his attraction to Fianna isn't Greg's only problem. Someone is killing werewolves and attacking other paranormal beings in Detroit. He vows to do whatever it takes protect both his pack and Fianna—even if that means giving her up...