Let me start by saying that I appreciate every review or rating that readers give me. But, as an author, there are times when a comment in a review really twists my gut. Sometimes it’s in disappointment, sometimes it’s in frustration or sometimes it’s just downright fury.
I pour my heart and soul into every book. I work hard to make it publish-able, but I know I make mistakes. We all do, because we’re human. But, honestly, some reviewers forget that. They make hurtful, personal comments. And, quite honestly, yes – they hurt – but I can get over them, because this person doesn’t know me or anything about me. They simply read a book they didn’t like.
The ones that really stick in my throat are the lazy reviews. The ones that couldn’t be bothered to actually be kind or constructive. The ones that make assumptions about my characters and put labels on them that don’t deserve to be there.
What are they?
This sets my teeth on edge. Why? Because the first book in my M/M series, Decadent, has numerously been labelled Insta-Love for one reason – the two MC’s are emotionally committed to making a relationship work, after meeting each other. To me, this is chemistry. Apparently, to the reviewers that use this term, it’s Insta-Love. Meaning that my two MC’s have fallen madly in love with each other, as if at first sight.
Now…excuse me for being dense…but when is that a bad thing? Since when has love-at-first-sight been wrong or unbelievable or something to sneer at? It happens in real life, so why can’t it happen in a book?
But that’s not the problem. No. The problem is that it’s not Insta-Love. Insta-chemistry? Yes! Insta-connection or Insta-Attraction? Yes to both. But since when has becoming attracted to someone been deemed as love? That would mean I was in love with Gerard Butler and Chris Pratt. But I’m not. They’re hot and amazing actors, but I don’t know them. I’ve never met them, so how can that be love?
In the story, Lachlan and Cormag both have baggage that prevent them from thinking, accepting and even using the L-word, so how does that classify as Insta-Love?
In Decadent, Lachlan is an 18-year-old who meets Cormag when he’s as low as he could get. They have a spark, they have things in common and they talk. For hours. They get drunk, which loosens all those inhibitions that might stop either of them from saying things they might not normally say to a stranger. They open up to each other and chemistry becomes a connection. They decide to see how it might go, if they dated.
Since when has that been Insta-Love?
Is it just me? Am I one of only a handful in the world that don’t see this as Insta-Love? No. Other reviewers have actually thanked me for portraying this relationship. One reader actually told me that this entire book made them cry, because it reminded them of their relationship with their husband. Because everything that Lachlan and Cormag share, emotionally – including the instant connection with each other – is exactly what this reader shares with their husband, since the first day they met.
I find that beautiful. Apparently, others find it something to complain about. I’m not exaggerating either. Go read some reviews and you’ll see that some have actually confessed to giving this book a lower rating, because of what they read as Insta-Love.
Not reading a series in order.
I don’t know how anyone can do it, or why they would. A series is a series for a reason. All the characters and their lives intertwine. So when you say you didn’t read the first two books and are disappointed with how book three made no sense, I can tell you why in just six words: You Didn’t Read Them In Order!
Issue #3? This one makes me sad and angry at the same time.
Yup, it all boils down to one word. One action that seems to dominate and separate opinion, especially in the M/M genre. I hear, all the time, readers talking about and asking for more books that focus more on the plot and story than the sex. Yet, when they come across one, what’s the number one complaint in their review? Not enough sex. But, when you write a book with more sex (there are probably a total of 3 full sex scenes and 1-2 foreplay scenes in The Cellist) it’s branded as porn. There is no middle ground and that’s where it gets frustrating for authors.
I’m not kidding. Go ahead and re-read the reviews for Decadent (and The Cellist – to see the flip side) and nearly every single one will mention how long it takes for Lachlan and Cormag to do the dirty.
So, I thought I’d address this issue head on and explain why this is paramount to the plot. Because – news flash – the reasons they have for not knocking boots from page one are littered throughout the plot based novel. Here’s a list:
A) Lachlan is only 18 and not everyone is an early bloomer in that department. Some of my RL friends started about 14, some didn’t start until 21. Why does there have to be a time limit to when two people feel comfortable enough to have sex?
B) Lachlan is also an 18-yo virgin because he has trust issues and has never wanted to have sex with another person before. (Then, early on, certain events justify his trust issues!)
C) Cormag has a history of falling for the ‘bad boys‘, who have only ever wanted him for sex. He, quite understandably, wants something different this time.
D) Lachlan confesses that he thought he was asexual, before this new relationship opened his eyes to being pansexual. That’s a mind-bender right there, as if he needed more to add to his “let’s not rush this” pile.
E) Lachlan has spent his entire life believing he’s straight, so it takes a lot for him to even date a man, never mind progress into the experimenting they do together, throughout the book. Yes, he trusts his instincts and it’s emotionally intense off the bat, but not physically.
F) Cormag’s insecurities about his own self-worth crop up and cause an almost-break-up halfway through the book. Why would they jump into sex, after that? Cormag has some deep-seated issues that Lachlan needs to explore, before he can know how to properly reassure him and get closer on a physical level.
G) They barely know each other. The entire book is about how they get to know each other. I didn’t know sex was some sort of magical cure for not knowing someone.
H) They’re both serious commitment guys, with baggage, which is clearly stated and implied in multiple ways, throughout events and thoughts. Why does sex need to be the answer/solution to that?
Don’t get me wrong. I know that waiting a year into a relationship to have sex is considered weird or wrong by some people, but I address that. Heck, most of Lachlan’s friends comment on it, throughout the story. But the difference is that they get it. They know that Lachlan has never been the gung-ho physical guy of their group of friends. He’s the nerdy, focused-on-his-education guy, who barely dated. It’s normal for him to be the one who puts emotional connection before the physical. It’s perfectly right for him to put Cormag’s emotional stability before whatever need or desire he has for sex.
If you’ve read Decadent – any of them – and you think any of the plots are Insta-Love then please tell me why. Having that label put on my work without ever being given an explanation, other than – they made a serious commitment really quickly – is disheartening and confusing. They take a chance on each other. They take a risk in life, often for the first time, and date someone, to see how it might work out. There is never, in any of the books, the certainty that this will work, that this person is the one, after just a few days/meetings. There is only the chance, the hope and even the need for this person to be so much more than anyone else has ever been.
So, please, if you read Insta-Love, tell me why. If you can make a valid argument, the “accusation” (as it is often portrayed, in reviews) won’t hurt so much.
And, if you read a book out of the series order, let me know why. I don’t understand it and I can’t see how it will benefit you, as a reader, to delve into an established world, without any concept of what has passed before. None of my books, in the Decadent series, are stand-alone. Every book refers to people, actions and expressions that have occurred in previous books. It makes no sense to read them out of order.
However you take this post, please know that all I’m looking for are answers. I need to understand why these points keep being mentioned to authors, in reviews, in such a negative light.
Why are limited sex scenes frowned upon, often by the same people who asked for them? What is the point of reading a series out of order and what does it offer you, as a reader? Why should sex by the centrepiece of a story? And what is it about Insta-Love or an instant connection between characters that lowers your ratings or makes you speak of it as though it’s something to be shunned, in the literary world?