I’ll confess that unlike some of my colleagues, I believe in reading my reviews. First, I’m incapable of not reading them. That kind of self control is absolutely beyond me. Second and more important, I know I will learn something. I always do, even if I only learn that a particular review site is not worth my attention because the reviewers despise everyone’s books. Usually, however, I learn a great deal more.
Most of the reviews for Fortunate Harbor have been wonderful. Booklist, from the American Library Association, said: “Women’s-fiction favorite Richards uses wit, suspense, and the relatable and extremely touching friendships of her main characters to weave an exciting and mysterious story. . .” Publishers Weekly called the book “A juicy, sprawling beach read with a suspenseful twist.” Thanks, folks. Nice to see these.
There were a few stinkers, too. One informal site called the book a “hot mess.” Interesting choice of words since the book is not “hot” by anybody’s standards, although the weather in Florida certainly is. Someone else said it was so “somber,” she couldn’t recommend it. Yikes, I thought the book was funnier and lighter than my usual.
The most interesting and helpful insight was found among the many other reviews Fortunate Harbor generated. They were, for the most part flattering, but there was a common theme. Many reviewers commented on the length of the novel.
Story length is an issue these days. Publishers worry about paper costs. Booksellers worry about shelf space. And readers worry about their precious leisure time, which seems to be slipping away as work and family responsibilities increase. I commiserate with all. Interestingly the Happiness Key novels are not longer than others I’ve written, in fact they are considerably shorter than some. But they are, for the most part, character studies. And in taking the time to fully develop these women whom I love so much, I slowed the pace. For some readers this made the book seem long. For some fewer, unbearably long.
Interesting. I’ve noticed my blogs are, by general standards, long, as well. Were I a poet, I would write epics. Am I capable of writing shorter works?
Good news for the haiku lovers among us.