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Book Covers, Titles, and Readers’ Expectations

My holiday over Christmas was not quite what you would expect. Lucky me, I caught a nasty flu bug which took ten days to dissipate but then left me five pounds lighter and a whole lot more respectful of my health. I hope you did not have to learn this lesson.

While I was nursing myself back to health I did a lot of reading but the book I had was disappointing to me. A multiple prize-winning novel by a well known author, The Lonely Hearts Hotel had some fabulous and creative language, a testament to the skill of the writer, but I just could not keep reading for long periods of time. No, this was not because of the flu. It was because of the negative tone of the book.

Without giving away too much of the story let me just say that it is about two orphans, their amazing talents, and the sad story of their lives. There is a message at the end. A sad one. Even when the heroine finally has some success both financially and personally, the author cannot refrain from dashing the reader’s hopes for some sort of redemption for all the negatives the heroine has suffered.

In the second last paragraph a murder occurs showing us that nothing good comes without its nasty cost. I’m sorry I can’t be more specific but you may wish to read this book for yourself and I don’t want to give away the ending. Suffice it to say that I was sad still.

I reread the cover, front and back, and the inside page with all the comments. Nowhere did I read any hint of the dark mood that readers would be faced with and I am left wondering. Shouldn’t covers give some sort of clue if the mood is so dark? What has happened to a sense of redemption or well-being in a good ending?

Another Canadian author well known all over the world leaves me with the same feelings with her books. I finally stopped reading Margaret Atwood’s work not because she can’t write–she most definitely can–but because her work is so dark. Life is dark enough with all the bad news stories and negative happenings surrounding us every day. Do we really want to have our cherished reading time make us sad, too?

A Fine Balance by Rohinton Mistry was really interesting for so many reasons but here the subject matter of a poor family in India was difficult. Maybe I’m just wanting to put on my rose-coloured glasses; I confess that I do work very hard to find positives in my life.

Having faced a life-threatening health state about twenty-five years ago I made the decision to surround myself with happy people, places, books, and stories in order to keep my sunny disposition. I’ve noticed that others who have faced life’s toughest trials often do the same. We want to experience positive reinforcement in just about everything we do.

Lest you think my books are all sunshine and roses, let me assure you they are not. All of life’s tragedies are fair game for my stories and I am a follower of Anne Rice’s maxim “Make it bad for your hero. And then make it worse.” This keeps the reader engaged and allows that reader the chance to experience joy and contentment at the end. (I loved her witches series the best, by the way.)

I know that everyone has different ideas on what is good and what is bad writing and that’s as it should be. All I want is some hint on the cover or comment pages that lets a reader know what the mood of a book might be. Have you had any surprises in your reading relating to mood?


Click on the Loyalist Trilogy books below for great historical stories with satisfying endings:











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