So as some of you know, I have volunteered to judge gay romance books for the Rainbow Awards this year (I won in 2009 for Out of Position and placed fifth in the Young Adult category for Green Fairy in 2012, but I don’t read for categories in which my books are submitted). Last year I read in the Paranormal Romance category, which included shapeshifter romances (primarily). This year I’m reading the Fantasy Romance category, and the books have been generally better than the ones I read last year. I don’t know if that’s because fantasy attracts better writing or if the books are just better this year, but there’s only been one book that I really didn’t enjoy.
The process of reading to review is a little different from just reading. If I’d picked up these books just to read them, I would’ve been focused mostly on how much I enjoyed the stories (and at least one I wouldn’t have finished). But when reading to review, first off, I have to finish, and second, I have to think about how successful the book was based on what the author intended. There were a couple of these fantasy books that weren’t exactly my cup of tea, but they were enjoyable reads, and based on what the author wanted to accomplish (as best I could tell), they succeeded quite well.
The other thing in reading in a field like this is a tricky line. I like seeing people do different things with stories and situations; something that feels fresh and new will score more points. But that’s not always what romance readers are after. Last year, for instance, the book I liked best finished lowest in the category of the ones I reviewed; the one I thought was most formulaic and least well written finished highest (I don’t think it won but I don’t remember). But you’re reviewing it from your own perspective and experience, too. There are certain biases you’re going to bring to a review, because you can’t help it. At least I know enough to say that if a book has a fox in it portrayed positively–anthro or non–then I’m more inclined to like it, and I can account for that in the review. In my report to the Rainbow Awards, there’s no space for “has a fox,” so I have to discount that when writing my reviews for the books. (There is a space for “quality of writing,” though, which makes me happy.)
So I read these six books and there is one I particularly liked for its worldbuilding and sort of for the characters. It includes a fox, but only very briefly; however it does have a bit of a fairytale feel, with transformations and so on, so it got a bit of a bump in my personal estimation. I had to put that aside, look at what the author was trying to accomplish, regardless of foxes (what a terrible phrase!) and enter my verdict that way.
One of the books I want to recommend to you all and will do that after the votes have been announced.