OMG, who knew a guy could write such a great romance! Oh, yes, there is Nicholas Sparks, but he’s really not romance no matter what he says. After all, fall in love with a character and he’ll kill them off with little notice and very little remorse. No, I’m not bitter: I just don’t do weepy books. I have enough drama and loss in my life already without adding it to my reading. Leigh Greenwood has also been around for years, but his romances are mostly about cowboys and, well, they’re just not my favorite romances. Cowboys, that is. I prefer the “secret agent” type books. Perhaps it’s because I cut my teeth on Candlelight Romances: Yes, that really ages me, but some of my favorite reading was between the covers of a Candlelight Ecstasy I found in a used book store. Some of those authors stuck with me for years and introduced me to a variety of couples I fell in love with. My favorites were always the ones where the hero was part of some mysterious “agency.” Also, having been in Germany during the Cold War and living on a military base, I don't think too fondly of military heroes. I guess they feel just too familiar in real life, in the vein of my feelings about Amish heroes, which we’ll save for another day.
So, imagine my surprise when our book club wanted to read Wait Until Dark by M.L. Buchman. (Sourcebooks Casablanca, February 2013). I generally let the book club pick our call-in guest because it’s an opportunity to get more in-depth information from authors, but we’ve never had a “man” call in before. In fact, our book club is almost exclusively female since (gasp!) we talk about romances, and guys generally don’t show much interest in participating with book clubs that get into the details of what makes a romance novel click or not click. If we were talking about mysteries or thrillers, there could be more interest, but we like our romances so…we are generally a female-centric group.
But the advocate for Buchman persisted. She really really wanted to get Buchman to call in and to talk about his Night Stalkers series.
So, what the heck, I sent a message and it was set: Our March meeting would be all about military romance. Buchman agreed to call in. And as a good moderator, I got one of his books to read. There’s nothing worse than stumbling through an interview blind.
And then I read Wait Until Dark. Actually, I consumed it. Wow, who knew helicopters could be an appropriate setting for a romance. Or that two mechanics, in uniform, would be involved in a story you wouldn’t want to put down. Or that the secondary characters obviously had their own stories but they’d wait nicely until this story was finished? I mean, who KNEW?
In the first chapter, we’re introduced to Connie Davis, a sergeant and flight engineer for a helicopter crew stationed at a secret base in Pakistan (all fiction). On board a flight under fire, she notices a rotor failing. Attention is called to the pilot, also a woman, who manages to save them all in a most ingenious maneuver (at least to this reader). And after this fast-paced opening, it just gets better and better. I really don’t want to say too much, since this is a book best savored by the reader without spoilers.
So yes, I had a great weekend. I whipped through Wait Until Dark, even tried to figure out the parts of helicopter and tractors, then went shopping and bought the first two books in the Night Stalkers series: I Own the Dawn and The Night Is Mine. The first book in the Night Stalkers series introduces two pilots: Emily Beale and Mark Henderson of an elite Army helicopter squadron. Their courtship involves not only conflict of military regulations but past loves. The second book, I Own the Dawn, has another mixed rank couple and is possibly the weaker of the series to date, but it continues to show the characters introduced in the first book.
Although you can read the series out of order, as each book stands on its own, the Night Stalkers is a series you’ll want to read in order or not. I knew the books would be good, but I didn’t realize how good. It’s not a wonder NPR ranked The Night Is Mine as one of the Top Five Romances of 2012. Well deserved. So, I guess I should re-examine my hang-ups about reading romances written by men. Call me stubborn, but I will try another male written romance—it just need lots of recommendations.
How do you handle books you think won’t be interesting? I know readers who say they really don’t read historicals and still have a favorite by Julie Garwood. Or perhaps the “woo woo” isn’t generally for you, but there is a book that was highly recommended and you just had to read to find out what the fuss was about. Does an aberration from your normal favorite reading genres make you try another? Or do you just stick with what’s familiar to you? I’m always curious to hear from other readers.
Sara Reyes is the founder and partner at FreshFiction.com a popular fiction web site for today's reader with new titles, contests, over 50,000 genre fiction author profiles with backlists, and permanently archived reviews, plus all the industry buzz. Fresh Fiction has a biweekly segment (Buy the Book) on WFAA Channel 8 Good Morning Texas to talk about new books not to miss. Believing face-to-face interaction is as important as virtual communities, Fresh Fiction sponsors an annual readers conference, monthly literary events, and book clubs. Follow Sara at @FreshFiction on Twitter or Facebook.com/FreshFiction.