Close Encounters of the Illicit Kind

I completed a romantic comedy novel the other day that I thought was a very satisfying reading experience. I'd read other books by this author, standalone books and even 2-1/4 books in a series before I got bored with the character doing the same stupid stuff over and over. Anyway, I felt this was her best book to date. I went to Amazon to read the reader reviews. Since it was a bestselling author (in the highest sense of the word, not bestselling author the way everybody and their mama is a bestselling author), there were over 200 reviews on Amazon. While this wasn't surprising, I was taken off guard by all the 1, 2, and 3-star reviews. About a third of the readers graded it a 3 or below.

Some readers complained that they'd seen the plotline in a movie. Since I hadn't seen the movie in question, I can't comment on that, other to say that similarities are found all the time in books and movies alike. Others didn't like the ending, which in my opinion they grossly misinterpreted. But the great majority were unhappy with the romantic element of the book, which they didn't like because it was extramarital (although the husband was clearly a control freak and a jerk). And there was no actual adultery involved, just a definite pull in that direction.

Now, I had some cheating going on in my last year's release, Once Upon A Project. Lucky for me, no one said they didn't like the story because of that aspect (and I happen to feel that both of the two lead characters who indulged had good reasons,) so these reviews were of particular interest to me.

So, here's the question: How do you, as a reader, feel about characters who cheat? Does it depend on the genre, serious women's fiction vs. romantic comedy? Is there ever a good reason for it? Or do you feel so strongly against it that you automatically will downgrade a storyline that features married folks (or maybe unmarried folks as well) stepping out on each other?

By the way, if you'd like to know the name of the book and the author, you can e-mail me privately and I'll tell you. No way am I going to publicly identify an author who had an earlier book that I thrown against the wall, no matter how much I liked the book that I just finished!


PatriciaW said...

I'm not surprised by the reviews. Although our politics spread from one end of the spectrum to the other, America is largely a morally, conservative nation. Yes, I know it's hard to tell by our movies, TV, or even reading...unless you dig a little deeper.

For me, I prefer for characters not to have extramarital affairs. As much as I enjoyed Once Upon A Project, that part grated on me a bit. But it worked within the flow of the story and the character had to deal with the consequences of her actions. I don't have a problem with characters being tempted, unless the temptation is just so outrageous that it's unrealistic, because people are tempted all the times, and different people are tempted by different stimuli. It's all about the chosen response, resistance being the response I prefer.

DonnaD said...

I'm dying to know the author and the book!

But as to your question, I'm not a fan of extramarital relations in fiction or real life (so says the 25 year General Hospital fan). In novels, I wouldn't necessarily downgrade the story because of that particular storyline. If it works for the course of the story, I would probably swallow it and move on. But if the affair is just about lust, I'm not with it.

I recently read a book where the main characters engaged in an extramarital affair. At first I was ready to toss it, but as I read through it, I saw that the real story was about the consequences of the affair and the ramifications on their spiritual lives. (It was Christian/inspirational fiction). It turned out to be a really good story with a deeper meaning.

I guess it boils down to the motive of the characters/author.

bettye griffin said...

Patricia, I totally agree with your observations that the cheating within Once Upon A Projectworked within the context of the story. (I do have to clarify that two of the main characters plus a secondary character ended up cheating.)

Donna, you hit the nail on the head when you said it all comes down to the motives. Now, aren't you glad you kept an open mind when reading the inspirational novel?

Ladies, thank you for sharing your thoughts on this topic!