maskOkay, so maybe it’s just me who can’t, but I really don’t think so.

It’s hard to remember these days, but the respect and credibility we now take for granted for this online thing we do didn’t come without a battle. When Laurie Gold started All About Romance, online reviewing was still, with the exception of The Romance Reader, made up of sites producing happy-happy-joy-joy reviews.

But Laurie Gold fought.  And fought.  And sometimes she got knocked back on her face and there were certainly missteps along the way, but, for the most part, there is now general acceptance from authors and publishers that honest reader reviews are good for romance.

It wasn’t easy getting here, but it happened.  Welcome to the new world, romance readers!

With that said, the happy-happy-joy-joy review has its place and its audience and those sites are upfront enough about what they are that readers who want a friendly approach are happy and those looking for honest reviews know to avoid them.  No harm, no foul, so I’m not talking here about the softball sites.

Here’s the thing that’s making me increasingly uncomfortable: With Twitter bringing authors and reviewers closer than ever before, a line that used to be hard is now getting blurry.

Day by day you get friendly.  And then friendlier.  And then all of a sudden more matters than just the words in a novel.  That’s only human nature and it’s completely understandable, but it sure as hell can put a dent in the credibility we now enjoy.

I’ve seen the phenomenon more than a few times over the past two or so years.  Someone either very good at writing or very good at social media (or both) becomes the new It Girl, loudly proclaimed at multiple venues as the Greatest Writer Ever.

From my perspective, in several of those cases the accolades (though they were decidedly over the top) were warranted.  In other instances, I just don’t see it. But, that’s just my opinion, and it should be taken as such.

I’m not holding myself up as perfect because I am about the furthest thing from it, but on this issue at least, my hands are clean. Once I’ve gotten friendly with an author I’m careful not to review her again because, as soon as considerations other than the book enter the picture, anyone would be free to legitimately question whether or not I produced a balanced review.  And, even if I thought I could put everything aside but the book, I still don’t do it because the appearance of impropriety is just as questionable.

That’s the way print journalists do it and why should we be held to any lesser standard?

Human nature is what it is and we should all be careful that when we recommend something that we’re doing so based on the words on the page.  That’s all I’m saying.

We’ve yelled and screamed for romance to be taken seriously, and here in our online world, we’ve succeeded.  Romance deserves serious non-softball reviews – something that a few people worked very hard to make publishers and authors willingly accept and readers trust. Let’s just all be careful out there with the trust we’ve been given.

So, what do you think?

– Sandy AAR

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