A right (and wrong) reader for every book

I’m slogging my way through Holiday in Death, by J.D. Robb. I purchased the audiobook for this title at a steep discount on Chirp.

I now know that J.D. Robb is a pen name for Nora Roberts. I wish I had known this in advance, as Nora Roberts has never pleased me in the past.

I know: blasphemy to some of you. Nora Roberts is, after all, a bestselling author who has delighted millions of readers over the years. I don’t dispute that.

But she’s also a writer of various flavors of romance, and every book she writes tends to be at least one-half romance novel.

Holiday in Death is no exception. It’s ostensibly a police procedural set in the near future (2058). Like other Nora Roberts titles, the premise of this one intrigued me, but I was underwhelmed by the execution.

Why? Maybe it’s because I’m a heterosexual male. I can only read so many paragraphs about the “beauty” of a male character before I gag, or at least grow bored, and start wanting to skip ahead. But female romance readers eat those details up.

Holiday in Death, sure enough, has all the characteristics of a romance novel. There is more sex than shooting, and the female detectives in the book spend as much time checking out hot guys as they do investigating the serial murderer who is the villain of the story.

The novel’s protagonist is NYPD Lieutenant Eve Dallas. She’s tough and snarky, and I’m fine with that. But far too much space is devoted to her storybook relationship with her unlikely husband, the Irishman named Roarke.

And here we descend into full-blown romance novel territory. Like most romance novel male characters, Roarke is less a human male than a personification of female fantasy. He’s tall, broad-shouldered, and (of course) he’s a self-made business mogul.

Roarke is tanned and well-muscled. (Despite being married and running a business empire, he still finds time to spend hours each day in the gym, one supposes.) And—of course, once again—he has long, Fabio-like hair. (Male pattern baldness does not exist in the universe of women’s romance fiction.)

Holiday in Death presently has a 4.7-star average on Amazon, with 3,885 ratings. Most of Roberts’ books have high ratings. Nora Roberts is not only a bestseller, but a multi-decade bestseller. Her first novel, Irish Thoroughbred, was published in 1981, more than forty years ago. I was barely in junior high then.

My intention here is not to knock Nora Roberts (once again, Nora Roberts is doing just fine.) My objective, rather, is to illustrate a point that many reader-reviewers (and many review-hungry indie writers) often overlook: a reader can simply be a mismatch for a basically good book.

Holiday in Death is a good match for many readers (most of whom are devotees of romance fiction, one imagines). Otherwise, it would not have so many 5-star reviews.

But Holiday in Death is a bad match for a mystery/police procedural reader who is a fan of Michael Connelly, C.J. Box, and John Sandford.

The book is probably a bad match for any heterosexual male. I was definitely ready to quit when I heard the paragraph about how the gorgeous, long-haired Roarke “emptied himself” into Eve Dallas at the climax of some acrobatic lovemaking. Sorry, but I don’t need to read about other dudes ejaculating. And if I did want that much detail about the sex act, I’d go to Pornhub.

For reader-reviewers, the lesson here is: don’t pan a book simply because it doesn’t match your tastes. (I won’t be rating or reviewing Holiday in Death on Amazon or Goodreads, as this is such a clear case of book-reader mismatch.)

For authors, the lesson is: don’t market your book to everyone. Your book is almost certainly not for everyone. Few books, after all, are for everyone. Not even books written by the esteemed Nora Roberts.


**View Nora Roberts’s novels on Amazon**