Friday, October 15, 2010

Breaking the Contract

Friday. End of a long week. Traveling is remarkably tiring and I have several trips planned for this fall. Family commitments and such. So this Friday is particularly excellent.

It's very, very cool here today, but the sun is shining. After our heavy rain yesterday, it's definitely a blessing. Funny how a rainy day will get you down. A rainy day when you have to go shopping is much worse.

A couple days ago I wrote a post about punchlines and how they could make or break a story or book. Last night I finished a much anticipated book...that not only didn't have much of a punchline, but left the entire story unresolved.

I'm still scratching my head over this book. It took me three days to read it. And after three days (and three hundred fifteen pages) I confess I'm left wondering what the book was about. I thought it was a romance.

Um, no.

I thought it was a mystery.

Sort of.

Based on all the other books I've read by this author, there was a reasonable expectation of a romantic suspenseful story.


Somehow, I feel the author broke the contract she had with the readers. She sort of hints at a romance but never resolves it. Since the couple starts the book in an intimate relationship, it seems a reasonable expectation that they would at least kiss more than once by the end of the book.

Yeah, the mystery is solved, but quite frankly I wasn't terribly involved in that part of the story. The backdrop of a traditional horse race in a small Italian town was interesting, but it was the backdrop--the setting. Or was it?

The result of the race was how the author chose to end the book. What happened to the hero and heroine, you ask?

Nothing. No resolution. No happy ending.

I reached the ending and just couldn't believe that was it. So in addition to a good punchline, the author has to complete the contract they have with the reader. Otherwise, those beautiful word pictures they painted are so much dust. And that's sad.



  1. Oh that annoys me when that happens.

  2. How frustrating! I imagine you felt like you wasted three days...

  3. Certainly, it left me with a bad taste...

  4. Whew. I was getting worried it might be one of mine until we got to the Italian horse-racing.

    I always worry my mysteries aren't 'enough' romance for some readers (and vice versa for mystery readers). But I always try to provide a wrap-up and at least a hint of Happy For Now at the end.

    I remember reading one romance, years ago, that wrapped up everything, very sloppily, in the last chapter. It chugged along for 350 pages, then in 10 pages, all plot lines were resolved. It was so disappointing.

    I later talked to the author at a conference and mentioned that book was 'different' than her others. She was happy to share that she had a 3-book obligation to a publisher, and that was the third book, written under 'duress' (her editor gave her the plot, essentially).

    I nodded like I understood, but I was thinking, "You owe your readers better than to write a lousy book just to spite your publisher."

  5. @JL--No, I can quite happily say I've NEVER been disappointed in one of yours!

    If this has been a straight mystery, that would have been fine. But the blurb and the essential story seemed to be a romance wrapped in a mystery. In that case, there SHOULD have been a concrete resolution for the romance. And there wasn't. Very strange.