For the most part, I’ve been fortunate. My story, The Consuming, in the TALES FROM THE MIST anthology has received some pretty good reviews. I’m proud of that story and the very nice things that have been said about it. Things like:
“The Consuming by Rhonda Hopkins is the perfect example of gothic horror…”
“My personal favorites were The Consuming, by Rhonda Hopkins, a great creepy haunting story…”
“The Consuming by Rhonda Hopkins is the literary version of what films like Paranormal Activity tried to be. This has the bumps in the night flying off the page.”
“The Consuming by Rhonda Hopkins had a chilling Hitchcock feel…”
“I’ve got to give kudos to a couple that really sent ice spiders dancing down my spine. Rhonda Hopkins in “The Consuming” places her character (Serena) in one of my favorite subgenres of horror: The haunted house. Naturally, the things that go bump in the night (and also the day) frightened me, but then the real horror of the story arrives.”
So, I’ve been dreading getting a review that wasn’t so great. Realistically, I know not everyone likes everything and not everyone will like everything I write. That’s a given. And recently someone said they don’t like romance, so The Consuming didn’t hold their attention.
Now as far as bad reviews go, that’s not really so terrible. So someone doesn’t like romance and it wasn’t their cup of tea. But hold the phone — that’s where it gets a little confusing for me. Romance? Moi?
I don’t write romance. Okay, I’ve fluctuated on calling one of my upcoming series a “romantic suspense” to a “suspense with romantic elements”. That’s because I don’t think I write romance all that well. I think I write some things well – like suspense and some really reprehensible bad guys (maybe because I’ve had the displeasure of meeting more than my share of those). But romance?
Let’s just say I envy those that write romance and make it look so effortless, like C C MacKenzie, Stacey Joy Netzel, and Nana Malone, who recently made the USA Best-Sellers list (Yea, Nana!) or any of the other WG2E Street Team who write romance.
For those that don’t know the difference – in a romantic suspense, the romance is integral to the story. In a suspense with romantic elements, the romance isn’t so important and could be left out entirely without it really affecting much.
I didn’t set out to write something where romance was a big part of it. In fact, there’s not much at all in the way of a romance in the first novella, PREDATOR, in my Courting Justice series.
However, in the first full length novel ILLUSION OF SAFETY, my characters had a different idea. You see, Tori and Caleb have known each other practically their whole lives. He’s her brother’s best friend.
In chapter three, they sort of threw me for a loop when this happened:
“Oh my God…I thought…” Tears rolled down her cheeks.
Caleb looked around, found what he needed and gently took her hand, leading her down the hall. He pushed open a door and pulled Tori into a single bathroom, locking the door behind them. He took her into his arms and let her cry for a minute until she regained control of her emotions.
“I’m sorry. I didn’t mean to panic like that.” Tori ducked her head so he couldn’t see her face.
“You have every right to be upset. And the panic was just a delayed response. You’ve held it together for over an hour after witnessing something horrendous. Hell. You not only held it together, you got yourself and a little girl to safety. So stop being so hard on yourself.”
Caleb turned the water on and fiddled with knobs until the water was warm but not too hot. He grabbed a towel from the dispenser, wet it and squeezed the water from it.
He motioned toward the sink. “Wash your face so we can go find out how Rebecca is.”
Caleb watched as she removed her purse from across her shoulder and placed it on the door hook.
He scrubbed the right leg of her jeans with the wet towel, removing as much of the coffee stain as he could. Tossing the paper, he studied her in the mirror. Her face was pale but still beautiful. Wait. Beautiful? Where did that come from? He’d known her nearly his whole life. Okay…so he thought she was beautiful. It didn’t mean anything. Right?
Her hair was a mess and it reminded him of what she’d been through. He couldn’t stand it any longer.
His gaze rested on her purse. Crap. He knew it was a nightmare in there. What the hell…I’m going in. He unzipped the bag and was surprised to find what he wanted on top.
Tori turned to throw away the paper towel she’d dried her face and hands with and saw the brush in his hands. Her eyebrow rose. “Have a hair emergency?” she asked.
“No. But you do.” He grinned and handed her the brush.
Not a whole lot of romance there, but there were more little scenes like that leading to a romantic relationship; so you see, I had to find a way to give them what they wanted. But it’s not so easy for me. And if I told you I re-wrote one pivotal chapter in their romance more than twenty times from scratch, it would NOT be an exaggeration. If I told you I re-wrote it more than fifty, it might be, but not by much.
I’m hoping I’ve finally gotten it right. At least Tori and Caleb aren’t yelling at me anymore that it’s lame or that they “wouldn’t do that.” (Dr. Phil, please don’t come knocking on my door. I’m way too busy with my characters at the moment. We have deadlines to meet!)
Now back to The Consuming for a minute – the romance in it is more an “elements” kind of thing. I think anyway. It’s more about the ghosts, the hauntings and the way Serena handles it all. There’s a sexual attraction, which as someone recently pointed out to me, “…doesn’t make it romance. It makes it real.” And I agree with that.
But if I managed to do it well enough that someone referred to it as romance – I guess maybe I’m getting the hang of this thing better than I thought. So, I’m going to take that as a positive instead of a negative.
What about you? Have you ever received a “bad” review that you found good in, instead? Or have you written a not so great review of a book and hoped the author found something positive in your words?
As always, thanks for reading! And may you find romance where you least expect it.