Alter Post: Lessons From Commercial Fiction

One  of our favorite coping strategies is getting lost in a good book.  As a former student with a B.A. in English Literature, we have read a lot of serious fiction.  As a multiple with wide-ranging interests and a need to find hope through happy-ever-after stories, we chose to deliberately focus on reading commercial fiction instead of literary fiction after graduation.  Every once in a while, a piece of literary fiction will end up in our hands and be enjoyed.  For the most part though, we have found that a lot of lessons about character, personality, relationships, and growth are best found in commercial fiction like fantasy, science fiction, romance, thrillers, and mystery to name a few.

My all time favorite murder/mystery series is the In Death series by J. D. Robb.  I identify a lot with her main character, Lieutenant Eve Dallas, who is also a survivor of sexual and physical abuse, of the NYPSD homicide division as she moves from survival to living to thriving with a group of friends and family outside of work.

I have 3 favorites in Fantasy/Science Fiction; though they are probably closer to urban fantasy.

The first one I read was The Hollows by Kim Harrison.  Rachel Morgan with her honesty and feisty attitude; her moral code and resilience; and her growth from young adult to woman through the books really spoke to me.  She never gives up or gives in; she changes her mind and learns from her mistakes.  She stays loyal to her friends and family while also learning to walk away and set boundaries.  And even though she questions her identity and power when many people try to harass her for being different, she learns to find her true strength and have confidence in herself so when happy-ever-after comes, she grabs for it with both hands.

The second series is Mercy Thompson by Patricia Briggs.  Mercy Thompson is a mechanic living among a pack of werewolves when she is a coyote shifter.  I love reading Mercy’s stories because she has to use her brain and her hard-learned skills to defeat more powerful and magical enemies to protect herself, her loved ones, and her world.  Her only magic comes from her part-Native American heritage – one that is obscured by mystery and a lack of information in the present time – and is not as obvious or flashy as vampire, fae or witch magic, but just as powerful in its own way.

The final series is Kate Daniels by Ilona Andrews.  Kate starts off the series hiding and isolating herself from people to prevent attachments.  But then she meets Curran and the rest of the shifters as she tries to avenge her foster father’s death (book 1).  From there, Kate starts making friends, forms attachments, and goes on adventures that make her question how she was raised and how she lives.  Is there a chance for her to be happy?  Can she be more than a killer?  Can she stop hiding and live for herself instead of the purpose her adopted father trained her to do?

Most of the books above were discovered in early adulthood.  And as much as we enjoy them, most often a comfort book is a romance novel.  Yes, we said it, all of us enjoy reading romance novels.

Why?  How can we read something like that when it is all about sex?  A bodice ripper?  Shame…etc. yeah yeah yeah.

None of us are ashamed of saying we read romance, not anymore.  And FYI, consider the Anita Blake series by Laurel K. Hamilton if you really want to read about sex cover to cover.  The following series do have sex and romance in them.  But not cover to cover sex.  The main factor in all of these books is the characters and their relationships with themselves and each other throughout the book and the series.  I learned to have hope in these books.  Hope that not all relationships are like the ones I was raised around.  Hope that love did exist.  Hope that families mean more than blood.  Hope that people can survive almost anything and still live a happy, full life with relationships and friendships and family.

Psy/Changlling and Guild Hunter Series by Nalini Singh

Sea Haven Series by Christine Feehan

Arcane Society Series by Jayne Ann Krentz

What books inspire you to dream and hope?