A while back (ok, too long ago), I posted about 5 reasons I set a book aside. To even things out, here are five reasons I keep turning the pages.
Sexual Tension. This is NOT the same as sex! Nothing ruins a romance for me quicker than characters who hop into bed too early. The very best romances keeps that sexual tension up until the last possible page. But I love it when something keeps the characters apart–as long as it is not misunderstandings. This is what has kept me coming back to The Gaslight Mysteries by Victoria Thompson. In ten books, they only kissed once, and Sarah was under the effects of morphine and doesn’t even know if it really happened! And yes, Frank totally took advantage of her. It was so fun. I really need to get the next book.
I tried to read The Time Traveler’s Wife recently, but set it aside when the characters slept together after their first meeting. Yes, I know. To Clare, they were already married, and it was only Henry’s first meeting of her. But it was the first time I met both of them, and I ended up heaving a sigh, setting it back down, and returning it to the library several days later. If any of you can recommend it, I’ll try again.
Secrets. Tantalize me with a secret and I’ll be dying to find out the end. Especially if it is the kind of secret that the main character doesn’t even want to face. A good example was The Face of a Stranger by Anne Perry. A man wakes up in a hospital after an accident with no memory of who he is. And as he learns who he was, he discovers that he doesn’t like himself. Why? You read to the end dying to find out. (My only quibble was this novel was its very abrupt ending right at the very instant that the main mystery was solved. Grr.)
Adventure. This is why straight romances often don’t work for me. I love to read about danger and adventure. Children like these kinds of stories for a reason, and one good way to get kids into the classics is through adventure stories. My own daughter is liking The Boxcar Children for its adventure, and she is what you’d call a struggling reader. Why does she like them? Because they are nothing but adventure. For an older reader, Treasure Island and Tom Sawyer are, of course, great choices. In the fantasy realm, I’m really overdue for a good adventure-type fantasy novel. The kind where the character goes off and does something exciting. I’m reading the The Sacred Band by David Anthony Durham, and I’m hoping it has the same kind of heroic adventure that was in the last book. I almost think it has no choice.
A character to love. I’ll forgive a lot of flaws in the book if the main character is wonderful. For that reason, the kind of multi-POV stories that have been coming out lately are slower to engage me. However, they still do. In George R. R. Martin’s series, I just loved Jon, Daenerys and Tyrion. (This is why A Feast for Crows was such a disappointment for me.) I prefer just a few viewpoints, and I’m not so crazy about seeing the world from the villain’s point-of-view.
Worldbuilding. I adore masterful worldbuilding. It’s what brought me over to fantasy, and why I love historicals. And really, anything goes. I have been enthralled by feudal Japan (Shogun), ancient Rome (I, Claudius), 18th century Paris (Les Miserables), the Depression (Maisie Dobbs), medieval England (The Once and Future King), deep space (2001), alien worlds (Sentenced to Prism), and, of course, fantasy worlds (too many to mention).
What do you think? Do these things keep you turning the pages, or is it something else for you, like solving the mystery (meh for me) or seeing the villain’s comeuppance?