This might be an odd thing to say, but I’m a fan of criticism. Now let me clarify that—I do mean criticism of the constructive kind.
I certainly don’t want to read a scathing review that can’t (or refuses) to see any redeeming qualities in one of my stories. That’s just going to bring me down and depress me for days on end, without any reward at the end of it.
However, while glowing reviews are lovely and whatnot—great for the ego—if an element of a story isn’t working for a reader, I’d rather know.
I was pretty lucky on the review front when my stories first started getting published. Romantic Times gave me a mixture of 4 and 4.5 star reviews until Book 5, which got a 3. Now a 3 is more than respectable, but I couldn’t help wondering why hadn’t this book garnered a 4 or 4.5? The reviewer said: “The characters are sympathetic enough, but their angst overshadows what little romance there is in their budding relationship.”
The reviewer not only pinpointed my own niggle of unease with that story but she named it—angst overshadowing my story. Yes! She nailed it! What did I learn—to keep backstory as a motivating force for the characters, not to have it front and centre.
Recently I’ve started to ponder a few reviews I’ve been reading on Amazon. Here is a comment from Karen Hunt who loved the books (First Comes Baby… and The Loner’s Guarded Heart) but said “…in all of her stories they end too suddenly and in these two I feel strongly that a prologue and an epilogue were a must and was disappointed to find them missing.” And from Reading Mom about the same two stories, “…both very good, but both ending rather abruptly.” Several readers found the ending to The Secretary’s Secret too quick and opined the fact there wasn’t an epilogue revealing the sex of the baby. :)
All of this led me to go back and read some earlier reviews on Amazon. From Reviewer Aus for The Loner’s Guarded Heart: “The ending was foreshadowed right from the start of the story, but I found it a little rushed and the happily ever after for Josie and Kent too sudden.” Antdew2 on The Secretary’s Secret: “Very disappointed in the ending.”
Now, I have had a couple of “perfect ending” comments (mainly for The Nanny Who Saved Christmas and The Man Who Saw Her Beauty), so I do understand that in a lot of ways this is merely a taste thing—different strokes and all of that.
Do I have a tendency to rush my endings? Believe me, it’s something I’m going to keep an eye on from hereon. I write these stories with the aim of entertaining and delighting my readers. I want to deliver on every level. I want them closing the pages of my books with a happy sigh. If I’m not doing that, then I need to work harder (and smarter). For those of you who might’ve read one or two of my stories, feel free to weigh in with an opinion here too. :) All thoughts will be gratefully received.
So, for the writers among you—have you ever learned something from a review? And for the readers out there (yes, I know that’s all of you)—are you a fan of long, luxurious endings…or do you like it all to wrap up fast. And if I’ve just written a duet, should I write an epilogue to show my 2 couples living the happy-ever-after dream?