how_the_marquess_was_wonI’m happy to say my reading slump may be over, but I’m also now a bit puzzled.

The book that got me out of it is Julie Ann Long’s How the Marquess Was Won.  I read it in a delicious fury over one night and several hours of an afternoon.   I loved the story and the characters, and, as an added bonus for me, the author took aim and scored even higher by delivering on some of my romantic hot buttons.  (A hero who risks making himself look foolish by tearing off to rescue a heroine’s cat?  Now, that’s a man!)

A universally great reading experience, right?  That’s what I thought until I took a look at our review here (grade B) and and another even lower graded review on the Web.  Both reviewers, more familiar than I am with books by Julie Ann Long, found flaws in the book that had eluded me.

I read the author a few years ago and found her a bit disappointing – and, it must be admitted, overly hyped.  Then, considering all the buzz that surrounded What I Did for a Duke, I decided to take a chance on it.  It was absolutely my book of the year.

Simply put, despite her lovely prose, I think what makes Julie Ann Long stand out is her ability to make you feel intimacy between characters.   Because, despite what non-romance readers think, we read romance for far more than sex.

So, why am I so surprised at the less enthusiastic response by other reviewers?  Well, despite the criticism I read elsewhere about a “flat” characterization of a woman who makes her only appearance in this book off the page, the chief criticism seems to be that the story didn’t feature the main families who have appeared in other books in the series.  Fair enough.  As I said, I wasn’t really invested, so that didn’t bother me.  But the real reason I’m so surprised?  I wanted validation that my reading experience had been shared by others.

There are certain types of books that qualify as guilty pleasures.  Do I need validation in those cases?  You bet I don’t.  But do I want it when I feel a book is great?  Absolutely.  But then that begs the question:  Why the heck do I care?

Honestly, I’m not sure.  If I feel a book is great, then that should be enough for me.  I’m confident enough in my own taste that I can withstand the strain even when the prevailing wind is blowing in another direction.  Still, it would be nice…

So, what do you think?  Do you need validation by others of your reading experiences?

– Sandy AAR