It probably won’t surprise you to learn that I read a lot of historical romance novels. I love the genre, of course, and have ever since my big sister introduced me to the delights of Georgette Heyer when I was just a tween. And there are so many historical romance writers to love, monster talents like Loretta Chase, Teresa Medeiros, and Eloisa James, not to mention all the newer talent like Anna Campbell and Meredith Duran. Their books are marvelous reads and, as a writer, I always learn from them.
But sometimes, as both a writer and reader, I need to break out of the box. It’s important to cross-pollinate ideas and themes – to not get stuck in the rut of doing the same thing over and over again. I do that by reading other romance sub-genres, other types of fiction, and lots of history. In doing so, I become a better writer and, I think, a more thoughtful person.
Two new-to-me authors that I’ve just discovered are Kelly Hunter and Meljean Brook. I recently read a book by Hunter called Red-Hot Renegade, put out by Mills and Boon.
Hunter is really, really good. Her writing is smart, sexy, and well-crafted, with surprising turns of phrase that, as an author, had me seething with appreciative envy. Her characters are engaging and sympathetic, and the emotion is intensely and movingly portrayed. This book is category length, but Hunter packs a big punch into a shorter book.
Meljean Brook’s The Iron Duke made it onto many best book lists of 2010, and rightly so. It’s a phenomenally creative story that took the Steampunk genre by storm. One of the things that first attracted me to the book was the riff on the Duke of Wellington’s nickname, the Iron Duke. When Wellington was Prime Minister, he went through a period of extreme unpopularity. His house was the target of window-smashers, which compelled him to have iron shutters installed to protect the glass. In the case of Brook’s hero, the Iron Duke actually has iron in his bones. That’s just one of the many cool details in the hugely imaginative and thought-provoking alternate reality that Brook creates. If someone were to lock me in a dungeon and force me to name the best book I read last year, it would probably have to be The Iron Duke. It’s that smart, that thoughtful, and that damn enjoyable.
So, anybody else read something outside her usual box, lately? Discovered any new-to-you authors that you want to share?
9 thoughts on “Breaking Out Of The Box”
I have GOT to get Meljean Brook’s book! I read a novella of hers that was a prequel to The Iron Duke and fell in love with her style, though I must admit, I still haven’t quite figured out Steampunk! Like you, I often find absolute gems when I read outside my comfort zone. It all comes down to good writing and the ability to tell a story–if it sucks me in, it really doesn’t matter what genre or sub-genre it is. A good story is a good story. Period.
Kate, the first thing I read of Meljean’s was that novella you mention. Never read Steampunk, didn’t know what the heck it was. But I was so captured by her writing that I had to get The Iron Duke. I find it hard to even talk about that book, because it does so many brilliant things on so many levels.
That was my feeling after the novella. I just ordered THE IRON DUKE. Now I have to convince husband to build more bookshelves…
Or maybe we need to get e-readers! I think I’ll be breaking down fairly soon and buying one.
I’m not ready for an ereader yet (though I had one years ago–remember, I started out as an epublished author in 1998!) I love the way books feel and smell…
IRON DUKE was also my favorite book of the year.
We are scary alike in so many scary ways!
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