One storyworld: multiple romances


In her essay, ‘The Power of Three: Nora Roberts and Serial Magic’, Christina A. Valeo makes a few comments that caught my eye for their applicability to Nalini Singh’s series…

I particularly like Valeo’s description of the way the multiple romances are introduced to the reader slowly and as secondary plotlines…

While Valeo acknowledges the logistics of the serial romance (i.e., that “creating a series likely helps her [Roberts] maintain her incredible annual output; she writes three or more books, but she builds only one world” (p.230)), Valeo also writes:

“the drop of a name in some early chapter works like a wink to her experienced readers-in-the-know. In The Dream Trilogy, Roberts gives us little more than a name, and a great and allusive one at that: Michael Fury. This childhood friend of Josh Templeton will have to wait two books to romance Josh’s sister Laura: there are literally 720 pages between the first mention of his name in the first book and his reappearance as Laura’s potential/inevitable romance in the last. As such, a series expands on the pleasure of the predictable: we know the happy ending awaits, but the heft of the books in our hands promises many more pages and twists and turns before we and the characters get there.

By the time we do finally read our way to the final books, chapters, and pages of a series, we know Roberts’ serial characters remarkably well: fans and critics alike use words like ‘love’ and ‘linger’ to describe not the characters’ feelings for each other, but the readers’ [-p.231] feelings for characters (see Part Nine of the Companion, or fansites like A Day Without French Fries, for multiple examples). Some of this intensity can be attributed to Roberts’ talent for characterization, as often her stand-alone characters impact readers just as powerfully. However, the series format allows Roberts the room to shift focus and points of view. The characters who play merely colorful, supporting roles in the first book will have their turns as the heroes and heroines of the later books. Because Roberts uses predominantly limited omniscience as her narrative style, readers may glimpse little or nothing of a character’s interiority until her or his story takes center stage. Roberts is, in this way, romancing her readers, letting an initial attraction or affection develop into a stronger bond as we know the characters better, learn about their histories, understand thier motivations.” (pp.230-231)

I particularly like this idea that the series ‘romances’ the romance reader…

I wonder also, though, … do such series imply strongly that there is a romance for everyone, even if your story ‘hasn’t been told’ yet? or is that just too pat?

More of her essay I liked:

“As the scope of a series multiplies the potential twists and turns of a stand-alond story, the magic in a series multiplies the possible complications. The heroines and heroes who literally wiedl greater power have a correspondingly greater impact on the people and places that surround them in their stories.” (p.236)

I think what Valeo says here could be taken deeper and could cross over into analysis of Nalini Singh’s work…

Again… also interesting was Valeo’s brief look at the role of the home in these romances… “Roberts also seems to suggest that even daily routine contains some ‘practical magic’. …The love and care with which Zoe McCourt cleans and decorates the home she shares with her son in The Key Trilogy varies in some substance from the careful placement of crystals or candles by Mia Devlin or Sebastian Donovan, but not much in motivation. Characters’ homes in a magic series are sanctuaries [-p.238] in both metaphorical and literal ways. In The Heart of Wicca, Ellen Cannon Reed explains, ‘Because we see the world with different eyes, we also find magic ineverything else we do, and we can put magic into everything we do. Vacuuming the house can be a magical cleansing of negativity. Cooking can involve blessing the food, and so forth.’ If there can be magic in these simple domestic tasks, Roberts’ stories suggest, the possibility of magic in anyone’s life waits right there next to the possibility of true love.” (pp.237-238) … Singh’s Psy/changeling characters also seem to make a lot of home (it’s part of what makes the Psy and Changeling different)… just a thought…

Ref: Christina A. Valeo  ‘The Power of Three: Nora Roberts and Serial Magic’, pp.229-239 in Ed. Sarah SG Frantz and Eric Murphy Selinger New Approaches to Popular Romance Fiction: critical essays (c2012). McFarland & Company, Inc., Jefferson, North Carolina and London


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