Tuesday, September 2, 2008

Review Of A Review For The Millionaire’s Proposal


Okay here we go. And before I even get started I wanna point out once again that EVERYONE has differing perceptions and they are all ENTIRELY ENTITLED to their opinion. Does that mean we all have to agree with those opinions? Work with me here. Read the line about perceptions and opinions again. Yuh huh? Okay - we’re good to go then. And yes, its gonna be loooonnnggggg…

No really. It is.


Prepare yourself for brutal honesty and a rare peek into my personal life. The latter I don’t tend to go into online and I’m not gonna elaborate on it so no therapy required – you can breathe easy. I’ve long since accepted my own particular version of insanity and the causes of it.

Now I’ve been known to disagree with the odd reviewer before in my early days. I’ve been known to rant. I like to think I’ve got better about jumping down the throats of people who don’t like my books to defend them… yes, welcome to the world of being a writer Trish. Thick skin required. I’ve learned to take the bad with the good a little better than before and like every other writer, if they’re honest about it, I’m selective about my quotes from reviews to show the most positive part them – even if it’s only four words out of 500. We’re in the business of trying to encourage people to read our books after all, and once the book is in a reader’s hands - whether or not they ever pick up another one ever again is up to them. We hope they do. We pray every day that they do. We eat copious amounts of cake while waiting to see if they have when sales figures come out… Mind you, we also leave links to the rest of the review so we’re allowing people to go read the 496 words that said the book sucked like a nine year old lemon…

Hmmm…I might need a second to rethink that one after this blog…

Anyhoos, in general The Millionaire’s Proposal has been very well received. I can put down the cake and step away. I don’t seem to have a nine year old lemon on my hands – so far. Not that I haven’t HAD a nine year old lemon. Trust me. I have books I still cringe at the thought of. Am I telling you which ones? Erm… no… I’d hate to prejudice you and I’m not looking for compliments. Though obviously my cake eating is substantially lessened by them ;) So running on the theory of percentages I was due a review that wasn’t so good. And I got it. In spades. I once headed a blog about a review as ‘It’s Official – I Suck’. This time I didn’t just suck. I crashed, burned, am TSTL in writerly terms and give nine year old lemons A BAD NAME.

Now I should point out that I’ve had five books reviewed by this site to date, by five different reviewers – and they’re a HIGHLY respected site. Two of those books held their head above water. They had some criticisms that were fair and I was just plain old ecstatic they hadn’t thought they sucked (especially since one of them was my first book!). But the last three have consistently sucked to higher and higher levels of lemonishness in their opinion and they’ve made some comments I understood but they’ve also made some that made me blink in wonder at how they read a completely different story to the one I thought I’d written. The argument from many would be that they’re not fans of series romance in general and we suffer harsher critique because of it. I dunno about that. And I’m not in possession of any actual proof, so I’m not even entering that debate. (I'm pretty sure it's libel or slander or something that might cost me money) I do think it’s fair to say they don’t like my writing. Fair enough. And they’re a busy, busy site trying to review dozens upon dozens of books a week FOR FREE so it’s not like they’re not doing a lot for the genre as a whole and their time isn’t PRECIOUS. It’s their frank and honest opinion that keeps authors on their toes and earns them respect. But I won’t be submitting to them again. It’s a waste of their time. It’s a waste of my money posting the book. I hold no grudge. It’s like dating – some relationships work and some don’t and this one plainly doesn’t. We’re just not a good match. And they’re more than capable of being mature enough to understand that isn’t meant in a stamping heels screaming and pouting kinda way.

In the same way they’re thick-skinned enough to take it when I review their review to make my point when it comes to differing perceptions…

Deep breath. Here we go.

The All About Romance review for The Millionaire’s Proposal:

‘Millionaire takes heroine on the trip of her life, traveling the world and showing her unique sights she never would have discovered on her own. As fantasy scenarios go, this one would be right at the top of my list. I've been all over the U.S., but I long for international travel, and thus far my opportunities have been rather thin. Happily, road and travel romances can let you live vicariously. Well, sometimes happily. I loved the premise for The Millionaire's Proposal, but thought the characters left something to be desired.’

This is one of the things I love about AAR reviews. They get straight to the point. Succinct description of the premise, a little about the reviewer we can understand and measure against our own experiences, a statement that everyone can agree with. And then down to the nitty-gritty. No messing around. I already know she hates this book. This is exactly why this site is so respected!

‘Kerry Doyle is about to take the trip of her life. After years of being tied to her family's prestigious Dublin hotel, she's finally put her foot down; she plans to travel the world and see everything she's been missing. On the plane to her first stop (New York), she sits next to a guy who keeps bumping into her. She says something about it, and the two strike up a conversation. His name is Ronan O'Keefe, and he actually writes travel guide books. They flirt, and he offers to show her around New York.’

(I’m now understandably wondering why it took me five thousand words to tell the reader all of that…) All absolutely true – except for the ‘he offers’ part at the end - Kerry asks. Small point, doesn't matter. I now know this person has read my book, not skimmed it or gone by the back blurb or cover and I thank her for taking the time to do that and posting a review. Without people to do this writers wouldn’t have quotes to put on websites to make it look like we know what we’re doing. They supply us with a free service that could cost us money we rarely have when we start out and they read the books because they love to read. Kudos and MAJOR APPRECIATION to reviewers WORLD-WIDE for that. You guys ROCK. I’ve said that MANY TIMES on here but it can NEVER be said enough!

‘Ronan actually has a secret. He is traveling the world too, but it is a farewell tour of sorts, because a rare genetic condition is causing him to gradually lose his sight. He plans to say farewell to all the people and places he loves, while he can still see them. When he meets Kerry, he has an inspiration: She can join him, and he can see everything through her eyes. Not only can she help him get around a bit, but her unique perspective can add something to his guidebooks.’

Yup - though that secret is on the back blurb so it’s not that big a secret before we open the book. But it is to Kerry. Now let’s see; he is, he has, he does. Erm… no. He’s attracted to her but walks away after one day, he can’t stop thinking about her and can’t stop himself from coming back. The ‘inspiration’ is an idea he doesn’t necessary think is a good one but again he can’t seem to stop himself from suggesting it anyway. He then tries to justify it to himself. The man is suffering from a small problem with a river in Egypt. That’s the way I’d thought I’d put it across. This reviewer disagrees. Fair enough. Next time I write a story I need to take that into consideration and see if I can make it clearer without spelling it out. All part of the learning curve…

‘Oh, but there's another issue. Ronan can't actually tell Kerry that he's going blind. Why not, you ask? Mostly because he's a big jerk, but also because the plot requires that his blindness remain a secret.’

Okay. Here’s where I’m starting to do the blinking at the screen thing. It’s not that he can’t it’s that he won’t. You’ve still gotta ask why not though. My answer is gonna be slightly different. He is a big jerk. But he’s a big jerk because he thinks he’s doing the honorable thing (He’s wrong) and no matter what he tells himself, he’s not coping with losing his sight anywhere near as well as he thinks he is (Surprise, surprise). Does the plot require he keep it a secret? Yes, it does. But it does because it’s a HUGE PART of his emotional conflict. Through Kerry he discovers how wrong he is.

Again as a writer I’m now asking myself why that didn’t come across. And I bloody well should be asking too. Because for that not to have come across I’ve failed miserably in what I set out to do. This is where the paranoia sets in. This is where I eat cake till I feel sick, I tell myself it's just one review and force myself to be determined to do better next time. No easy task if you’re in the middle of writing a book that already smells lemony. Whether or not I do better next time out will be in the hands of readers and reviewers. I'm open to being told I suck again. It's author-ly masochism. But that’s the chance every writer on the planet takes. And it’s why at some point ALL of us have to admit we can’t please all of the people all of the time and that some people will understand what we meant and some won’t…everyone has differing perceptions. A reader will either buy us again or they won’t. They have the power of the pocket. Too many of them vote not to spend their hard earned cash on another of my books ever again then my career is over. That’s the writers life. Soft squoodgy imaginative artistic soul that has to create believable happily ever afters pitted against big bad real world where those HEA's are as rare as billionaire’s sitting next to you on a plane. Hence why we eat cake so much

‘As they travel together, he takes care to always get back to the hotel early (because he's completely night blind) or stay at the homes of friends who are in on his secret and who will shield Kerry from the truth. Eventually Ronan and Kerry have sex, but he's determined not to continue their relationship afterwards, because he doesn't want to burden Kerry with a boyfriend/husband who is blind.’

Yup, once again true. This guy is a stubborn lump. He’s falling in love with this woman and yet he’s still determined he’s right when he’s soooo wrong.

‘Here's what I liked about this book: The Travel. Ronan and Kerry share exotic destinations and unique experiences. What fun!’

Thank goodness for that! Cos if I couldn’t get the travel part right when I enjoy it so much myself then I should be stood against a wall and pelted to death with nine year old lemons. I put a lot of personal experience from my traveling into this book and added a heavy smattering of dream locations I’d love to see. If I couldn’t get that passion across to a reader then I’d buy the lemons myself…

‘Here's what I didn't like about this book: Everything else. Ronan is probably the worst part about it. Keeping his secret is selfish, stupid, and unbelievable. But he's a jerk in other ways, too. He tells Kerry what she should pack and when she can shop. He keeps calling her "Kerry, Kerry Doyle" – which made me want to deck him with something heavy. I couldn't imagine why someone would want to be married to a lying, domineering asshole like this.’

Okay, here’s where the reviewer and I start to part company. She didn’t get Ronan at all. Keeping his secret is stupid, I’ll not argue that. Selfish? Selfish is the very last thing he’s aiming for. 'Unbelievable' is another personal perception.

Here’s how I saw it:

This guy has known since childhood that he would lose his sight. He has tried to fill his life with seeing everything he possibly could in the time he had. Just at the very moment he has to face up to the fact his time has run out and he’s going to have to give up a very large portion of the life he loves (and that makes him who he is); he meets a woman he can fall in love with who's about to set out on the very magical journey of discovery he's leaving behind. You tell me he’s gonna do well with that and approach the relationship with common sense and a clear head. Ronan doesn’t. It’s obviously a character trait the reviewer completely doesn't get and that’s her opinion and she’s entitled to it. I can’t change her mind. Other readers have understood it. I understood it when I was writing it. I’d have been as angry as Kerry was at the end when she discovered what he’d done. She pulls him on every single thing he’s got wrong from page 152 to page 156 and again from page 163 to page 173 (by which point he understands he’s an idiot, compromises are being made, she’s forgiving him and they’re moving forwards).

Thing is, now that the reviewer has decided the hero is a schmuck it colors everything else he does. Yes, there is a scene were he’s insisting she downgrade her luggage. I’ve traveled to varying places around the world (for up to a month at a time) and I wish someone would make me do this. I’m getting better at it. Theoretically. But I still carry entirely too much stuff BACK and this year alone I had to unpack my suitcases in airport terminals to get under the baggage allowance not once, not twice but THREE times. I now know to downsize to the bare minimum because I have the experience. Kerry is a first time traveler. Ronan is a seasoned traveler. He knows what’s ahead, she doesn’t. Does he go about encouraging her the right way? Depends on your personal perception… I actually thought it was a funny scene. Does Kerry understand why he’s doing it? Nope she wants to hang on to her stuff even though it’s killing her hauling it everywhere. Did I understand why I was constantly over the weight at three airports? Yes, but I wanted to hang onto my stuff even though it was killing me hauling it everywhere. And when some of my trip was bumpy and I got homesick and upset I wanted to hang onto it twice as hard quite frankly; every bottle of lotion cost me emotionally and the shoes STAYED. Those determined airport people had to bully every ounce off me with steely resolve. So in this book I obviously took my personal experience and my perceptions of travel and a part of my personality and put them all into Kerry. The reviewer didn’t get it, possibly because she hasn’t had the same traveling experiences I have. (Betcha her luggage is NEVER over the weight.) She plainly thought Ronan was a control freak when in my opinion - he was right. But just because a man is right doesn’t mean we women have to agree with him. Kerry disagreed with him and thought she was being bullied but the simple fact is her stuff was like a security blanket to her when everything else was so uncertain and she was thousands of miles away from home doing something completely out of her comfort zone. She was putting up a fight. Even if it involved petulance…

"What the time had done was demonstrate the change in their relationship- yes, his proposition to act as travel guide while journaling her reactions along the way had done that to begin with - but the first leg of their trip had highlighted it in spades. And, honestly, she kinda missed the ease they’d had with each other in New York. Her luggage was almost the last straw…” Page 55.

“Having her stuff with her was a kind of security blanket; he got that.” Page 58.

The when she can shop part? I know exactly where that came from. Ronan made a statement in the book about having shopped with a woman but once in his life and it being a test of a man’s patience. So when Kerry says she’ll have to shop to replace the stuff he’s downsized he tells her its not gonna happen. He’s not gonna let her replace all the stuff she didn’t need in the first place now he’s got her to get rid of it. This was supposed to be a joke women who have shopped with men would understand. I obviously didn’t make that clear enough…So we’ll make a mental note of that one then Trish...

As to the ‘Kerry, Kerry Doyle’. It’s how she first introduces herself and it becomes another running joke as the story progresses. At least that’s how it was meant. Again. A sense of humor is as wide ranging as perceptions after all. But I guess by this point if you’re forcing yourself to read a story about two people you can’t stand because professionalism dictates you keep going - every tiny little annoying thing that might have slid by with people you liked better suddenly becomes the equivalent of fingernails down a blackboard. As a reader I’ve had books I’ve tossed after chapter three. I have the luxury of being able to do that cos there’s no pressure on me to finish it and I don’t then go on and say who they are in a public forum, cos I really can’t do that (combination of ‘been at the other end’ and ‘what comes around’). And yes, there have been things in ones I’ve persisted with that I’ve thought oh COME ON - so fair enough.

‘But Kerry hardly deserves a free pass. She might as well have "doormat" stamped on her forehead. Her family is wealthy, and she has the means to travel, but she waits until her thirties to do so, because her family doesn't want her to leave, even for a minute. She should have told them off years ago. On the plus side, her submissive nature is sure to come in handy in her eventual marriage to Ronan "You'll Pack What I Tell You to Pack" O'Keefe. I guess you could say these two are made for each other, but that doesn't make them any more palatable.’

Here’s where we enter the quagmire of people’s differing perceptions on what constitutes a heroine who is TSTL. (And since I’m pretty much killing all my sales on this book by giving away the entire plot to make a point, I’m gonna hope if nothing else people will try and read it to see what their opinion is.) Kerry is wealthy. She does have the means to travel. She does wait until her thirties to do it, and her family is needy and doesn’t want her off on the other side of the globe when she’s always been there for them before. All absolutely true. She should have told them off years ago. If it was me I would have. Loudly. Submissive nature? Well let’s see what you think. Kerry had her own dreams and plans when she was younger. Then she lost half her family in one fell swoop in a car accident; mother and twin brother (see previous blog post on me and the body count theory/method of murder). Now I’ve lost close family members and I know what grief is like. This you don’t get over in a big hurry. This is a life-altering experience. In times like this a family rallies round and the strongest ones hold the rest of them together or at least bloody well try to. In Kerry’s case she stepped up to the plate and took on a role she had never intended to take on. She gave up her own dreams and plans. She knuckled down and got on with it and learned everything from scratch and then spent years trying to help support her needy family emotionally while burying herself in work. Does that make her appear like a doormat to some people? Maybe it does. But I for one know what it takes to try and conform to the expectations of others while living a life you never planned on having. I gave up writing at twenty and didn’t lift a pen for well over a decade because I was given so much pressure from people who told me it would never amount to anything and I needed to get a life and a job and earn a living. Enough people tell you that you start to believe it; we're good at stomping on dreams when we leave childhood behind sadly. So I became a driven career girl. I did well. For a long time I was head hunted from one job to another. The years rolled by. I met a guy. Got engaged. I was living a complete lie. Then one day I stopped and took a look around me at the life I would have for the next fifty odd years. And I summoned up the courage to walk away from every single thing that made me unhappy and to try for the dream I’d left behind. I sold my first book on my first try. Am I a doormat? Yeah honey, you come try it. Was I a doormat for more years than I care to mention? Yes, as hard as it is for people who have met me now to believe - I was. I really, really was. So the very fact Kerry had the guts to go for something she wanted for herself having lived for so long doing something she’d never asked for in the first place doesn’t make her TSTL. It means she’s STRONG. Does strong mean abrasive and argumentative and a dozen words I can’t put on this blog? I don’t think it has to but then I’m a ‘do unto others’ gal. Funnily enough so is Kerry. In-my-opinion. Not – plainly - in the opinion of this reviewer…

As to ‘I guess you could say these two are made for each other, but that doesn't make them any more palatable.’ Like I said. Opinions and perceptions differ universally. In this persons opinion the characters suck nine year old lemons. Full stop. I quite liked them myself. Ronan is capable of taking some of the weight off the shoulders of a woman who has carried a huge burden for most of her life while encouraging her to reach out and grab hold of her dreams and Kerry is strong enough to help Ronan along the path to the man he'll become when he's no longer able to do all the things that were such a huge part of who he was. I think that's healthy. I think they'll have a good life together. That was the ending I thought I'd written.

‘Since books often get automatic points from me just for exotic and fun settings, you'd think this book would have a real leg up on the competition. And it did, initially. But in the end, a trip's not all that fun if you don't like your traveling companions. And I don't think I'd really want to go anywhere with this pair.’

Oh well. You can’t win em all. And in this particular case, like in so many things in the world with so many different people, we’re gonna have to agree to disagree. This vision of the characters is most certainly not what I was aiming for when I wrote the book; as I hope you can see from yet another long, long, long blog post. There’s no way in hell I’m changing this readers mind, even if she reads this blog. And that’s fine. Seriously. I’m not even eating cake over it. I respect the site and a great many of the books they’ve loved, I’ve loved. But then there are probably just as many books they’ve loved, I’ve hated and they hated that I’ve loved. C’est la vie.

For my quote on the website I can of course put:

“As fantasy scenarios go, this one would be right at the top of my list… I loved the premise for The Millionaire's Proposal…”

And the link would allow my website visitors to read the rest if they so desired ;) It gives me 23 good words out of a possible 648 so for 625 words I still sucked nine year old lemons. But then as I’m a percentages gal I’ll compare the overall review to:

“Kerry and Ronan are perfect for each other and I fell in love with these two characters right from the beginning of the story.” Simply Romance Reviews

And:

“Ms. Wylie struck the right chord with this book, and there really is nothing not to like about it. Not one single, solitary thing." Romance Reader At Heart

And:

“Ronan does not trust himself enough to tell Kerry the truth. He thinks her kindness is a weakness while Kerry thinks kindness is a strength needed in any relationship. Ms. Wylie has written a fun story showing love can overcome any obstacle." Coffee Time Romance

And:

“The Millionaire's Proposal (4.5) is fresh, amusing and charming, and it has a solid core of emotional truth too. A keeper." Romantic Times

And:

“The dramatic conclusion makes this a romance whose insight into love will resonate with anyone who has loved or hopes to love deeply." Merrimon Reviews

And:

“Yes, I was prejudiced and wasn’t expecting much. Imagine then my surprise when I found myself totally blown away by the book–not only enjoying it, but actually giggling and sighing as I read!” Armchair Interviews

And:

“Trish Wyle touches the heart with THE MILLIONAIRE’S PROPOSAL. Creating characters that are easy to empathize with, she plunges them into an adventure of a lifetime.” Romance Junkies

Feel free to visit all the links to search for lemons. Does this mean this reviewer was wrong and I’m right and they should review all my books favorably just because a book did well with so many other people? Nope. It just demonstrates the problem with perceptions. We bring them to the table as readers, as writers, as reviewers, and in every other corner of our lives. It’s why no-one is ever completely right or completely wrong. Me? I’ve buffered the edges of the grey areas with cake. Lots and lots of cake. The. End.

Next up more Modern Heat Q & A’s and hopefully I won’t start another debate…

7 comments:

Natasha Oakley said...

In the UK we have Radio Times magazine with all the TV/Radio programmes coming up for the next week. I know I'm so completely out-of-step with their movie reviewer that if they give a film a 2 I will absolutely LOVE it.

Sooooooooo that makes your AAR review brilliant! Your reviewer didn't get Kerry, tis all. And maybe that's because she has no concept of sacrificial love? I've given up so very many of my dreams for the people important in my life but I think that makes me a strong woman not a weak one. I'll have made different choices to other people, no doubt, but it's part of who I am and that's fine. I'm at peace with that.

Kerry isn't weak either. She's made difficult choices in difficult circumstances and when faced with Ronan's blindness she remains strong. Loving.

Aaaaaaaargh it's a lovely book! Get back to work.

Sue said...

Many is the book I've read, the tv programme I watched and movie I've gone to, that I just didn't get... Funny movies left me stoney faced, the drama of the century left me annoyed by its premis, as for the illiterate author who dared to relieve me of €12 for this pile of xxxx... The list goes on.
But, 6-12 months later I happen upon the movie, tv show, pick up that book by mistake when packing for my holidays (1 book for each pair of shoes works in my world), and suddenly I get it.
I'll admit to not getting the sopranos, life on mars,V for vendetta, citizen Kane the first time around. Obviously I was in another place emotionally when I first tried to connect with them, and later on it just clicked. Only half of any book is the writer in my opinion, the other half is me, the reader and where I am emotionally and how open i am for the writers view point.
So chin up, maybe the reviewer will 'get it' next time.

Heidi said...

Trish, I really take my hat off to you not just for putting this out there, but also for giving such a fair assessment of this review. I find bad reviews, even mediocre reviews very hard to take, probably because I'm fairly new to this, probably because like you I invest a lot of myself into my characters (especially my heroines) and I find it next to impossible to be objective about them.

But the funny thing about it is for ten years I was on the other side, writing film reviews (including editing the film pages for Radio Times... Natasha!) and what Sue says is definitely true. Often as a reviewer you feel you have to either love something or hate it, because inbetween reviews are harder to write and often a bit dull. And as to perceptions, just because you're reviewing something doesn't mean you don't have likes and dislikes and you don't bring your own life experiences, etc to the table. I certainly did when I was a reviewer and I still do when I write. The thing I discovered though, turning from the critiquer to the creator if you like, is that it's much much easier to tear something down than to create it in the first place. By that I don't mean any disrespect to the reviewer here, as you say we need them and she's certainly entitled to her opinion - but I've found that to be true - I find it much, much harder to write category romance than I ever did to write film reviews.

And now I'm going to go and buy your book, because it sounds fantastic.

Janet said...

http://tinyurl.com/57ya6y

Valerie said...

Your are certainly right, Trish, when you say that romance novel and serie romance novel in particular are viewed in a harsher light. I did my Master's Degree on romance novel and it included one Harlequin novel. I was looked at like something of a freak, a risk taker at best. To me good writing is good writing no matter in what format it is published, but that opinion is not all that common in universities...

Anonymous said...

Trish,

Firstly hello again, I attended a workshop that you gave in Dublin, last March. And I thought, in tandem with my writing colleagues I might add, that you were very good. Your presentation was informative, amusing and practical. What more can one ask ... I ask you?

Now, I have just finished reading your book The Millionaire's Proposal and I enjoyed it thoroughly. I found it well written, amusing and I thought you captured a very good sense of place, particularly in Paris and the Musee D'Orsay. And I might add, that I found the two characters, Kerry and Ronan, very credible and likeable to boot! And I liked the little affectionate touch of 'Kerry, Kerry Doyle'

That person, I hesitate to use the word, critic/reviewer ... is most certainly entitled to their opinion. That said, I honestly don't think they got the point!

What amazes me is why you bothered to analyse their comments to such an extent ... they really are not worth it!

Congrats on the book Trish and Keep Writing!

Anon.

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