sometimes romance novels are surprisingly well-written. thought-provoking. intelligent. i've read a ton of romance novels in my time, and find that the writers i truly enjoy are really good writers first and foremost.
stephanie laurens is a great writer. her stories are often very intelligent, and at times the writing is truly lyrical. she has developed the long-running cynster series, of which there are about 14 to 15 semi-connected novels. where the men are dominant, protective, fiercely intelligent, hot, and have not only the ability to recognize love, but the ability to recognize that they are in love with the heroine within the first 100 pages of the novel. and the women are independent, headstrong, beautiful, fiercely intelligent, extremely competent, and who struggle to accept love can be freeing with the right man.
every romance writer has a template of sorts. especially the prolific ones. and the only problem with that, is that the more you read their novels, no matter how well-written they are, they start to get kind of boring. i just finished reading where the heart leads and as much as i wanted to like the novel, i found myself wishing that the characters would break out of the mold.
i wanted them to think a little less about their feelings and instead act on them. there's this difficult balance between showing and telling when you are writing a story. spending as much time as we do in both barnaby and penelope's heads takes away some of the romance. and then what is the point of reading the book in the first place?
i think there are highlights and lowlights in every long-running series. as wonderful as it is to catch up with characters you know and love from previous books, there is also the danger of falling into a rut, of repeating yourself accidentally. i think the cynsters are reaching the end of the line. and according to stephanie laurens' website there are 5 cynster females remaining, and hopefully that will close the series out and allow laurens' to shake up her formulas a bit.
in any case, my three favorite books of the series are on a wicked dawn, the perfect lover, a taste of innocence. i think in part because these books do alter the formula a bit. the pairings in these novels act on their emotions, they do a bit more than rationalize and think so much about everything. besides luc, simon, and charlie are all just swoonworthy heroes.
one of the best things about this series is that almost all of the novels stand on their own. and you don't need to read them in order, or even read them all to enjoy the stories. so i recommend reading the descriptions and picking up the ones that interest you the most, and putting aside the ones that don't. maybe pick those up on a rainy day where you have nothing else to read and no plans to go anywhere.