I was talking with another author friend of mine the other day about books that you resisted reading and ended up totally surprised by and loving by the end.

Two of those books were Diana Gabaldon’s, Outlander and Susan Elizabeth Phillips’, Ain’t She Sweet.

When I first read the back cover blurb of Outlander I laughed. Honestly. Time travel? World War II to pre Culloden Scotland? She leaves her husband behind? What? Why on earth would I read this book?

Over the years people whose book sense that I liked and respected continued to praise the book and a friend sent the entire series to me. My TBR pile was empty and so I picked it up. I didn’t stop reading until I’d read the entire series through and Outlander another time just for good measure.

It wasn’t time travel that made the book stand out, it was the connection between Claire and Jamie. Claire is flawed. She does choose Jamie over her husband in the future. Even later when she comes back to the future, she stays with Frank despite still loving a man who was long dead (hundreds of years in the future). And yet, her connection, this great deep love she had with Jamie was just so bright and so clear that all of that stuff falls away.

Outlander is good because it’s the very opposite from a cookie cutter story. It breaks every rule I can think of and yet, in my mind (and there are those who disagree most vehemently on this) it’s one of the greatest romance novels ever written.

Along that line, Ain’t She Sweet is another book that friends kept telling me to read. But why would I care about Sugar Beth? Ugh, this woman is the kind of girl I hated in high school! But Phillips takes this character and redeems her.

It isn’t that she was misunderstood in high school, she was a bitch. But she’s not now and she has to take a lot of shit to make up for what she was. But she does and she does it with class and in a way that does not diminish who the people are that she screwed over when she was young.

Again, Ain’t She Sweet is a fabulous romance because it breaks the rules. It gives us a heroine who is totally unexpected and unworthy even. But she learns. She grows and she’s courageous.

I love these unexpected surprises. I love being proven wrong about a book. And most importantly, I LOVE authors who break rules and who do it well.

What about you all? What are your “surprise” books?

One comment to “Surprises?”

  1. tvaddictgurl
    August 12th, 2005 at 9:58 am · Link

    The only time I can remember where I was really surprised by a book that had been recommended to me was the first time I read Laurell Hamilton. A friend and I were in B&N and I was complaining about how I needed something new to read. She worked at a bookstore and told me how she knew a lot of people that like the Anita Blake series (this was when there were about 4 books in the series). I’ve always been a fan of high fantasy but never really got into the urban contemporary stuff. They didn’t have the first book in stock but they did have the second. I wasn’t thrilled with the choice but thought I’d give it a try.

    I couldn’t put the book down till I finished it and immediately went out and bought all the rest that were out and devoured them in a week.