I stopped reading the Black Dagger Brotherhood vampire series many years and many books ago. It was one ground-breaking series when it began, with many obsessive fans, but like too many series the author dragged it out for too long.
However, it recently came to my attention again because yet another book was released (the thirteenth full-length entry to the series). And the author did the one thing romance publishers dictate you NEVER do: she killed one of the main characters, in this case the heroine.
I remember the shock and outrage a crime author caused when finishing a serial killer book with the killer murdering the detective. You certainly never end a mystery or crime novel without revealing who did it.
People expect certain things from genre fiction – that’s why it’s called genre fiction. The author’s excuse that the characters made her do it is crazy talk, not a valid excuse. Your characters cannot talk to you – your imagination made them; they’re not actually living in your head!
Up until this point, the books all featured a main couple who had their happy ending. Sometimes those happy endings made use of a deus ex machina: Mary being magically cured of terminal cancer; Jane being killed but returning as a ghost who could take a solid form whenever she needed to.
However, there was always that guarantee! No matter what arguments people make about crossing genres or limiting an author’s creativity, this series became what it was because romance readers were obsessively in love with it, and it was sold to them as a romance series.
On top of that, J.R. Ward wrote a long and fairly offensive blog post on the release day of the book. In it she mocks romance fiction for being boring (she’s sold as a romance writer!), admits she can’t write female characters (the misogyny in her series is right there in front of you as you read), and claims she had no control over what her characters wanted to do.
To tell readers you’ve switched genres after they’ve already bought the book they were told was a romance doesn’t seem like the correct way to go about it.
If an author wants to branch out, then fine, but I think the series should have been ended in that case, and a new one begun. How can a genre reader have trust in an author who commits the worst “crime” they could in order to create a shock?
However, I’ve heard that my favourite BDB character has a scene in this one where he masturbates to the sight of potatoes and peaches, and… I’m glad I didn’t stick with the series to see that!