Jude Devereaux's Modern Romances Aren't Really Romance Novels
A look at some of Deveraux's modern romances
Someone was giving away old books, and I picked up a Jude Devereaux one. It was called Forever. I loved it. I couldn’t put it down. I read the whole thing in a few hours. I used to be a big reader of Devereaux when she wrote historical romance novels. One of my favorite books is The Velvet Promise. So I decided to give her present-day novels a chance and read all the books I could find at my local public library. Only problem was none of them struck me as being very romantic. None of them were as good as Forever.
First Impressions got bad reviews, but I decided to make up my own mind about it. I might have liked it but for one thing: Braddon. This guy acted like he owned the heroine two seconds after he met her, and the dope went right along with it. I had to skim through their many scenes because they made me so sick. There was nothing romantic with this duo. A control freak and his willing victim are not romantic. The other leading man, Jared, was great, but the stupid heroine kept going on about how great Braddon was, and it didn’t feel like he got equal time. Maybe in her opinion and Braddon’s he was the greatest but not in mine. Because of Braddon, there was hardly anything romantic about Jared and Eden. She treated him like he was second best to Mr. Pushy. I’ve said this before. Triangles are not romantic, they kill romance. Braddon had more romantic scenes with the heroine than the real love interest did. And although Jared and Eden got together, the scene in the epilogue was kind of lackluster. The story about the FBI thinking Eden knew too much wasn’t too enthralling either. So I’d say the bad readers’ reviews the book got were well deserved. My review of it wouldn’t be too positive, either. The best thing I could say is it was a woman’s journey of having to rebuild her life after the child she devoted her entire life to married and started a life of her own. On that score it worked. On the level of a romance novel it didn’t.
The Mulberry Tree was better, although this romance didn’t have much romance in it, either. Again, we had this whole assumed romance between Lillian and Matt Longacre, but it came more from the townspeople and not Matt. Matt was a great guy and not a obnoxious jerk like Braddon. The manipulative control freak in this story was Lillian’s dead husband, Jimmie. Lillian was what Eden would have become if she’d been stupid enough to marry Braddon. Matt [like Jared in First Impressions] had to compete with Jimmie. Matt was a great guy, but at times Lillian treated him like crap and even started casting him in the role of her control freak dead husband, even though he wasn’t doing any such thing. He was trying to help her, while her precious Jimmie sabotaged her when she wanted to do anything that would take her attention off of him. Devereaux tried to give him an excuse for why he was the way he was, but it still didn’t make Jimmie any more likable than Braddon was.
As I said there wasn’t anything very romantic about this story. Matt and Lillian’s romance took a huge backseat to her wanting to be her own person. If I were asked to categorize this book, I wouldn’t classify it as a romance. Where the book had it over First Impressions is that the back story about The Golden Six. It was so fascinating, that I stayed up all night reading the book to find out what happened to the six boys and what happened the night of August 30. I almost wish the book had been entirely about the six boys that made up The Golden Six and kept Lillian and her drama out of it entirely. It would have made for a great mystery novel.
It was also another woman’s journey tale. Lillian was kept under a man’s thumb since she was a teen. When he was gone she had no skills and no idea how she was going to support herself. He left her no money and a house about to fall down. A lot of women go through the same thing when they get a divorce or are widowed, as they have to struggle to find a new life for themselves. So on those terms it succeeded.
High Tide had what was probably the funniest scene I ever read in a book when the heroine destroyed a mechanical crocodile when she thinks it’s trying to eat the hero’s arm. It was kind of the highlight of the novel. Both the heroine and hero already had significant others and none of their romantic scenes came off as very believable. This time the woman’s journey was building her whole life around her career and when it was gone realizing she didn’t have a real life. The story ends with her having a real life.
The Summer House was more a tale of the friendship between three women who met only once but never forgot each other. When they meet again they’re given a chance to change their unhappy lives by taking a different path in life. I actually thought there was too much book time wasted on the Ellie character who was the least interesting of the three women. The Madison character was the most interesting but she didn’t get as much time devoted to her as the other two. Leslie was the only one who decided to keep her old life, but Alan’s excuse for why he was a jerk to Leslie didn’t really wash. Once again, it wasn’t a very romantic book. It had a side dish of romance but the main story was about these women reaching their 40th birthday and regretting the choices they made in their life.
Devereaux’s modern romances [with the exception of Forever] came off more as women coming of age stories. None of them have the level of romance that my favorite Jude Devereaux historical romance The Velvet Promise does. That’s not to say the stories aren’t good, they’re just not what I would term a romantic novel. A science fiction or horror novel can have a side dish of romance, but they’re not called a romance novel because the main story is about a glass dome being dropped over a town, not two characters having a romance. To be truly considered a romance, the romance has to be the main story and they’re not in most of Devereaux’s modern romances.
I haven’t sampled every Jude Devereaux modern romance, but I’ve read everyone I could find at my local library so I think I can make a fair judgment on the matter. So far it seems that Forever was an anomaly. It had both a story that kept you on the edge of your seat and a good romance. It wasn’t written as a woman’s coming of age novel like the other ones I read.
Devereaux may be running out of steam and may need to take a rest from pumping out one novel after another for awhile. Running out of steam has happened to a few novelists I’m fans of. Julia Quinn used to write books I love, but the last few I’ve read weren’t that great. I recently started reading Stephen King after a long break. His latest novels, Cell and Under The Dome seemed to be classic King. Unlike Dolores Claiborne and Gerald’s Game were. I think the problem is when novelists start putting out books like they’re on an assembly line their creative juices began to wane and the books start becoming less good than they were previously.
Unfortunately, if a novelist is popular, her/his publisher wants them to keep pumping out more and more novels to rake in the dough. When it comes down to writing several not-so-good books versus writing one very good book it might be better if they settled for just writing one good book instead.
Or, she may just be more interested in writing stories about women facing a midlife crisis and how they come through them. There’s nothing wrong with that. However, they should be billed as what they are and not as romance novels.