Posted in: Julia Spencer Fleming, Romanceland random ramblings
So I’ve been reading Julia Spencer-Fleming’s rather marvellous Millers Kill books, and I have to say, I absolutely adore them. Thanks to Sarah Tanner of Monkey Bear Reviews and Keishon, AvidBookReader, for recommending the series to me.
The heroine is a newly ordained female priest called Clare Fergusson, and the hero, Russ Van Alstyne, the police chief of Millers Kill, a little town in upstate New York that never seems to see much sunshine.
In The Bleak Midwinter is the first book, and our first encounter with Clare, an ex-army helicopter pilot, who’s moved into Millers Kill, as the new priest of St Albans, the local Episcopal church.
When Clare finds a new-born baby abandoned on the steps of the church, the search for the baby’s mother brings her in contact with Russ Van Alstyne, Millers Kill chief of police, and the man who’s destined to test her strength of will and make her question her loyalty to God. In Russ, Clare discovers her Mr Right, the man that completes her, and acts as a salve to her soul. The only problem is…he’s married.
Yep, not a book for the romance purist perhaps.
This isn’t really a review, more of a ramble about the fabulousness of the Millers Kill series, and our (romance readers) obsession with keeping the romance genre reality-free.
Infidelity is a huge taboo in romance, one that few romance purists would ever be able to stomach, yet due to Spencer-Fleming’s excellent story-telling and incredible depth of characterisation, I totally found myself desperate for Clare and Russ to be together, even though he had a great wife, who loved him, and who he’d been with for twenty odd years.
It made me wonder why as romance readers, we get so caught up in a whole lot of dos and donts, when surely the emphasis should be on execution?
I can’t think of anything less romantic than infidelity, yet Russ and Clare’s story forced me to re-examine my preconceptions about what should and shouldn’t be included in romance books. (Erm, rape and incest are still non-negotiable)
Whenever some egg-head from the New York Times, or some other ‘respectable’ literary reviewer disses readers of romance as sad women who live with ten cats, and spend their day living in a fantasy world, one of our favourite form of defence is to wax lyrical about how romance readers are more likely to read outside the genre.
Considering all the rules within romance, I wonder how true this really is?
Oh I’m aware that here in Blogland, there are readers who venture outside the genre, but I wonder how many average rom readers actually regularly read non-fiction books for pleasure. Or sci-fi books, or crime books? Books where really bad things happen to the hero/heroine and they don’t actually get over it?
Personally, I read two genres, romance and mysteries/crime books, and that’s it. Of course I do happen to read auto-bios, but that’s mostly because I’m a nosy bitch. I don’t do sci-fi, I don’t do general non-fiction and literary books usually bore me to tears. Hmmm, does that make me shallow?
SarahT twittered that she’d been afraid of recommending the Millers Kill books to romance readers because she was afraid that they would have a negative reaction to the plot device, but as it happens she found that quite a few rom readers love the books. Which begs the question again, why do we spend so much time worrying about what is and isn’t romance, especially when it seems that the books that push the envelope are the ones that tend to resonate with us the most?
Anyway, JSF’s Millers Kill books are ace, and I don’t have a problem recommending them to anybody who wants to read well written mysteries with two fantastic protagonists who have enough chemistry between them to light up the 02 Arena.