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I read a book a while ago that I absolutely hated, I mean, honestly, I have never hated a book so much in my life. Usually, when I read a really bad book, I shrug my shoulders and move on to the next one hoping that it will be better, but in this case, I could not possibly let this go without comment, so I sent an e-mail to the author of this book. Most of you will read this e-mail, and gasp in horror, it was very harsh, and I don’t doubt that the recipient of this e-mail, probably went into a psychotic episode shortly after they received it, I know I would have, had it been directed at me. The following is an excerpt from the e-mail that I wrote:

Dear Ms Author

“I recently read your book “Book1”, and I would like to congratulate you on writing, what for me personally, had to be the worst book I’ve read in over ten years. I like to think of myself as someone who is completely open minded about different genres in books, but I have to say, even I was at a loss to find something positive to say about this story. If your aim for the story was to shock, you certainly achieved that, in spades.

This book was written as a romance, and I for one fail to see how you could classify this story as such. Even the happy ever after tidbit at the end was completely unconvincing, and felt rushed. The entire book seemed to be completely anti-female, and I must admit, I was amazed that this story was ever published as a romance, and more so that it was written by another woman. You seemed to have ignored the whole premise of a romance, which in it’s most basic form is boy meets girls, boy and girl have issues that they must deal with and they fall in love, and live happily ever after. “Book1”, in no way came close to fulfilling any of those requirements.

The heroine was tortured, beaten and subjected to intolerable cruelty during most of the book, and she actually didn’t get to meet her hero until near the end of the book. During the first half of the book, the reader is asked to believe that the heroine actually enjoys this treatment, when in fact, at the beginning of the book, you created a heroine that would not have tolerated such cruelty. She obviously went through rigorous training in order to be the perfect sub, but I must say, I was completely unconvinced by the change in personality. You then validated my scepticism, and contradicted the premise of the book by giving her an ending whereby the heroine gets her revenge on the people who ran this operation (this is the same heroine whom you had tried to convince us enjoyed being treated no better than an animal at the hands of these same people)

I felt that you had run out of ideas and of word count by the time this book ended. In all fairness, I tried to get a second opinion on this book by looking for reviews, on the popular review sites, but I was unable to find more than one review, and I believe that review was done by a fellow author, so I was in no way convinced. I then asked other people who had read this book what their opinion was on it, and let me tell you, as many fans as you may have, there are as many people that would have read this story, and judged the rest of your work on the basis of it.

‘My books don’t aim to be cruel or to torture women’ This was a direct quote from your website, but honestly if that’s the case, you could have fooled me! I even went as far as to read another of your stories that happened to be in an anthology that I had purchased. The story was called “Book 2″, and by the time I’d finished this story, I was convinced that I would never read another Ms Author story ever again.”

No doubt most of you will read the above e-mail and be absolutely horrified that I sent it, but I have to say, I have absolutely no remorse in sending it, I wanted to know why this author had written this book and classified it as a romance, because believe me, it may have been erotica, but it wasn’t a romance by any stretch of the imagination.

Believe it or not, I got a letter back from this author, which impressed me hugely, because let’s face it, many authors would have been too mad to write back, so my hat goes off to this author for bothering to write back (I can imgaine the number of swear words that were deleted when he came to edit this). The following is an excerpt from said author’s e-mail reply:

“Karen: I’ve thought a lot about how to respond to this clearly thoughtful letter. First, I want you to know that I appreciate hearing from my readers — even if they have some critical things to say. My fear in responding is that I might come across as sounding whiny or defensive. (I rejected my first reaction, which was “Oh yeah….? Oh yeah…?”) So at the risk of sounding like I’m being defensive, let me see if I can respond, so that at least you’ll know that I read your email.

“Book1” was my first real novel with “publisher1”. “Book2” was my first short story. I don’t consider either one to be a romance — I really didn’t know what a true romance was back then. They were really more of an erotica, with some romance welded on. I was trying to find my voice, I suppose. I’ve learned quite a bit about what readers expect from “publisher1” stories in the years since. I like to think that my later books, especially “______” or “_____” are much closer to a true romance, although they might have a bit harder edge than romantic readers might expect. I’ve also found an outlet for my strict erotica — selling it to “Publisher2″or “Publisher3” — so that I can stick with romantic erotica for “Publisher1” and not confuse genres — or readers.

I know there are women out there who do harbor some fantasies along those lines. If I had “Book1” to do all over again, I think I would’ve found that middle ground that satisfies those fantasies without going to extremes. And I would’ve strengthed the romance part by introducing the hero much earlier. I state on my website that I don’t degrade women and I suppose those two books violate that philosophy. Perhaps I should give a better warning. My later books I think empower women, even if the characters in them like to be submissive.

I think I was fortunate to have begun with “Publisher1” back when they were first launching in the U.S. I’m sure “Book 1” and “Book2” would’ve been rejected today. I’ve learned a lot from my editors and readers since then. I’m sorry you didn’t like “Book1”, but I hope you don’t give up on me entirely. I think you’ll find my writing has matured since then.

Thanks, Ms Author
My new marketing slogan: “Book1″ – Worst Book in Ten Years! Read it and see if you agree!”

As you can see, Ms Author handled my ultra critical e-mail remarkably well, and gave a detailed and honest account of how this book had come to be. For that alone, I have to admire them, I’m sure you’ll be pleased to know that I sent this author an e-mail telling them as much.
Just in case anybody’s wondering, If I could go back in time, I would still send that e-mail again. The books were truly awful in my opinion.

Barbara Cartland may not be wholly responsible for the way the whole romance genre is perceived, but I don’t think that her brand of romance helped. I think her legacy of bodice rippers and quivering maidens, will forever remain in the psyche of non-romance readers.

As a romance reader growing up, I was pilloried by my peers for reading ‘those’ kind of books. Of course I didn’t help matters by acting ashamed of what I was reading. Sure I read books like, Anne of Green Gables, or even Enid Blyton’s Famous Five books, it didn’t bother me that people knew that I read these kind of books. I was proud to hold them aloft, and let the world see what they were. I knew that I wouldn’t be judged for reading them, whereas my Silhouette Desire offerings, which generally depicted a man and a woman in an amorous clinch on the front cover, were something to be ashamed of as far as I was concerned.

Things have changed since then, but I wonder how many women still hide the cover of their romance books, when in public? I mean really, if you think about it, how many times have you sat on a train and seen somebody actually reading a romance book, with the cover showing so that the other passengers couldn’t help but see it?

I travel by train a lot when I visit London, which from my town is generally a 3 hour journey, and I can honestly say, that I never have. I’ve seen plenty of people reading Tom Clancy and John Grisham-type books, but not ‘obvious’ romance’s. I think that’s really sad, and as long as readers, and authors alike don’t stand up, and say, “yeah, I read/write romance books, so what of it”, we’ll continually have the so-called ‘serious book readers/writers’ looking down their noses at us, even though we all know that romance books account for something like 50% of overall readership.

You know what, I love my hubby, I really do, I mean, I love him so much, I would give him one of my lungs if I had to…. erm well you know, eventually…. erm, if there were no other choices….and if his family were unavailable for a REALLY good reason… and if I didn’t actually have to experience any pain…. lungs… hmmm, ok maybe not my lungs, but certainly a vital part of my body, maybe a kidney…? Erm how many of those do we have…? Anyway, I digress, my whole point is, I would be willing to give up one of my vital organs for him, but when it comes to the channel changer? Are you kidding me? Seemingly I would rather gnaw off my own arm than give that baby up to him!

I can see ya thinking, ‘Hello, give it up already for the sake of world peace’, but the words, hell, freeze, and over, instantly spring to mind, when I think about giving up the power button!
Is this a power thing, or did something go wrong in the womb, that led me to this very point in my life. I can assure you, I was breast fed, so it’s not that. It is definitely puzzling.

Wednesday nights are my best TV nights, what with the fantastically trashy TV offerings such as, Desperate Housewives, The Apprentice (The English Version, which is where I believe the Donald got the initial idea from) America’s Next Top Model (shallow I know, but I still love it) and Will and Grace! Hubby wanted to watch Discovery Wings, I mean, not even just the Discovery Channel, HE WANTED TO WATCH DISCOVERY WINGS! What’s that about? He expected moi to give up DH and Will and Grace, in order to watch flying planes? Ooookay, you know that that wasn’t gonna happen right?

Well folks, you’ll be pleased to know, we came to a compromise. I mean, I would really hate for my marriage to dissolve just because we have different taste in TV, so ya know what, we’re getting Sky Plus! We will now be able to watch Satellite TV upstairs and downstairs, so if there’s something on TV that he really wants to watch, that conflicts with what I want to watch, he now has the option of going upstairs! Talk about compromise huh, now that’s what I’m talkin’ about!
So is it just me, or do you go through this very emotional upheaval too?

Yeah, I know, it’s a little early to be having this conversation, but what the hell, humour me!
Hubby and I have been watching Cosmetic Surgery Live on the TV over the past few days (and I thought Nip/Tuck was gruesome!), it’s been a revelation, to say the least! There was a lady on whose labial lips were,… erm shall we say, less than perfect? In other words, they were hanging out like John Wayne’s saddle bags, I mean they were ugly, but ladies, lets face it, THE VAGINA IS AN UGLY-ASSED PART OF THE BODY!!

Every now and then, for health reasons obviously,(g) I have to check that part of me, and I can never really get over how really nasty it looks (maybe this is just me?), and I’m always grateful that I don’t have to look at it more than once a month. Apparently my labial lips are in great shape, (no, that’s not just the hubby’s diagnosis) they are compact, and nothing hangs, but this is probably because I haven’t had the pleasure of squeezing a melon sized being out of that itty bitty hole.
This begs the question, if you’re nether lips were less than perfect, would you shrug your shoulders and think, well, that’s how God meant it to be, or would you have them surgically improved? Indeed would you consider cosmetic surgery period?