Anyone who’s hung out around me for any period of time knows I’m a huge Nora Roberts fan. The woman is hella prolific with over 200 novels under her belt since that 1979 snowstorm that led her to writing her first. We all know I admire efficiency. I also admire her consistency, her success, and her almost unfailing ability to draw me in with characters that appeal to me.
I have often remarked that I want to figure out La Nora’s formula because clearly it taps into something that readers LOVE. And surely if you could figure it out, you could maybe find a way to make it your own within the restriction of that formula (in the same way that sonnets have rules but infinite variation) and tap into that same fanbase. My analytic skills tend to go out the window when it comes to trying to find it, though, because I always get engaged with the characters and the story, even when it’s one I’ve read a half dozen times.
Two things she does well that I know for sure are part of the formula that appeals to ME as a reader are the big messy families and the families that you make. I go back to her work for those things time and again (maybe because I come from such a small family–only child, only grandchild, only niece).
This topic came up in a chat with some other author friends the other day and Louisa Edwards mentioned a couple other elements to the formula.
Nora’s heroes aren’t super tormented. They usually have their crap together and are recognizably (usually) the kind of guy you could actually MEET. None of those tortured, damaged heroes you fall for with delusions of FIXING (which is a dangerous and somehow still appealing trope in romance–the power of LURVE).
Her heroines tend to come in four varieties: seductive and comfortable with their bodies; maternal and nurturing; bookish and neurotic; strong and tomboyish. And yet as many as I’ve read, I don’t feel like I’m reading the same women over and over again. Within those constraints, she still creates three dimensional characters who feel like real women you could meet and want to hang out with.
I think that’s really the thing. That her books (the contemporaries at least), feel like REAL LIFE (except, cooler and less bogged down with the day to day crap we all deal with). They take us out of the every day but not so far that we can’t bring that feeling of positivity and hope (which is the end game in romance to my mind) back out into our actual real world. And that’s the bit I haven’t wrapped my brain around yet. How to strike that balance between authenticity and interesting and avoiding boredom.
I’m still working on the answer.
What about you? Are you a Nora fan? What makes you keep coming back, book after book?