A funny thing happens when one takes a break from reading for a period of time. A favorite author’s backlist can multiply like rabbits, especially when we’re talking about the romance genre. At least nowadays.
Case in point, a couple of weeks ago, I go out to eat with my children and on the way home we stop do some shopping. Oddly enough, or not, we all three end up in the book aisle at about the same time and start jokingly picking out books for each other. Then things took a turn into the very funny when I pick up a new book by Stephanie Laurens, take one look at the back description and realize it’s a Cynster spin-off but I have no idea who the heck the main character is. So I turn to the family tree at the beginning of the book for help and promptly squawk “She’s writing about the grandkids now?”
Only it gets worse. As I study the squiggly mess the family tree has become, I realize that the main character isn’t a grandkid. Near as I can make out, she might’ve been some elicit product of a liaison between two of the male cousins…
Nah, I know that can’t be right. For a variety of reasons.
At which point, I’m trying to keep from cracking up laughing in the middle of the grocery store with both Mark and Amy looking over my shoulder to “help” figure it out. Eventually, the light bulb goes off as I realize the heroine is the youngest Cynster cousin and baby sister of Gabriel and Lucifer, the two male cousins in question. Naturally, she isn’t the last unmarried cousin – I’m sure Laurens will find others hiding in the rafters – but this book is still the 18th Cynster novel. Not counting passing connections to the Bastion Club or the Black Cobra Quartet, two more series by the same author.
At which point I go from laughing to muttering under my breath about there being a time and place for some things to come to an end and my two sidekicks chime in with comparisons to their favorite authors. Which are actually no comparisons really. Mark is a diehard fan of the Robert Jordan’s fantasy Wheel of Time epic story arc series with 15 books total, counting the last one that isn’t out yet, except that almost each and every one of those would make three or four regular romances in length. So I don’t think I want to go there. I gave up after reading about nine of those, they were so exhausting to finish. Amy, on the other hand, is in love with J. D. Robb’s In Death episodic futuristic police procedurals. She’s read up to #31 out 35 books, not counting the anthologies. Put like that, I can see why neither one of them understand why I’m resistant to a romance “series” going on so long.
Sigh. More on that later.
Anyway, then we turn to the other shelves and what do we immediately see but “Explosive Eighteen”, Janet Evanovich’s latest Stephanie Plum series. I got to about #7 before giving up on that group and Amy got to #11 before she took them completely away from me, the same way she had originally absconded with the first three In Death books. On the other side of the aisle, I spy a book by one of my sister’s favorite author’s, Sue Grafton, called “M is for Malice” and show it to them, only to find out later that Grafton’s already up to V in her Kinsey Millhone/Alphabet mystery series. Sheesh. Right about then we also discover the latest paperback in Christine Feehan’s romance Dark Series called Dark Peril, #21out of 22, and Mark pounces. That’s another series I started but somehow seemed to have lost to my kids, more or less, in this case to both of them, although Mark is more passionate about it even though it’s paranormal romance, oddly enough.
Come to think of it, The Wheel of Time books started out as Christmas presents to Amy many years ago when there were only a couple of books but somehow made their way into Mark’s room later and never returned. I think it had something to do with them being so very loooonnnngggg…. and pure fantasy.
Oh, yeah, what was the point to this post?
You know, I’m not really sure. Except to wonder when we stopped having connected series in the romance genre with only a small handful of books in them. Or just a couple of spin-offs here and there. When did we as readers start needing to maintain a database just keep the books in each individual series straight – and in the right order – because the family tree or network or community map for each is too big or falls off the side of the book page?
Hey, don’t get me wrong. Long backlists are great, but don’t ya think a family tree that won’t fit on the book page is getting a tad ridiculous? Have any of you actually tried to figure out Christine Feehan’s family tree connections without getting a migraine?
But, anyway, I’m thinking sometime in the 1990s is when the spin-off craze truly took hold in romances but even at that point they were still manageable. By manageable, at least from this reader’s standpoint I mean that an author would write a set of books – anywhere from three to around six or seven – and then would stop. Completely. And move on. Somewhere between then and now, things have gotten totally out-of-control. Anyone got any ideas as to when we lost it? Or how?
And is it a good or bad thing for the romance genre?
I ask that last because you know what really gets me and makes the title of this post seem so ironic is that I can also remember thinking at some point in a galaxy far, far away that it would be neat if someday a romance author wrote connected books about multiple generations. Which in all probably someone already has and I just don’t ‘t know about it, but this also leads me to mention, just in passing, mind you, my recent attempts to unravel the convoluted mess that the Jayne Ann Krentz/Amanda Quick/Jayne Castle universe of romance spin-offs in three distinct time periods has become when I wasn’t paying attention just so I can decide what books I’ve missed. Yikes!
See, I can also remember when Krentz never did connected books at all! Okay, maybe one sequel out of, what? Fifty? Or more?
What in the world was I thinking?
Of course, in the back of my head this tiny, but persistent, voice keeps whispering “romance fandoms” because that sure seems like where we’re headed but that I think is a post for another day.