A couple weeks ago I wrote a post about whether reviews really mattered. At the time, it was my most popular post, driving in more traffic and comments than anything I had previously written. In case you didn’t see it, I’ll catch you up. As a reader, I’ve never been one to care about book reviews. Other’s opinions about a prospective book have never swayed whether I’ll read something or not, but as a writer, I’ve come to realize how heavily reviews do impact other readers. When I made the decision to pursue publication, I promised myself that I wouldn’t get caught up in reviews and honestly, so far I’ve done pretty well. That was until Mr. Yancy Caruthers contacted me about reviewing my book. I’ll give you the short version of my concerns. Drive Me Sane, centers around Tyler, a musician and Sera, an army veteran suffering from PTSD after a deployment to Afghanistan. Mr. Caruthers is an army veteran who served two deployments in Iraq. I did not see this review going well. It made me reconsider everything I’d written and whether or not I accurately portrayed Sera’s condition or totally mess up the military aspects of the story. My first instincts were to decline the offer, but after careful thought, I sent it to him anyway. With that being said, here is my dreaded review:
“I don’t generally read light romance, but I was intrigued by Sera, a combat vet trying to make sense of real life again as she deals with Tyler, a spectre from her life before war. The opening scene made me think, “Okay, now I’ve got to read this.” What I found is that Rogers has the ability to write a light, readable story that took me through the gamut of reactions to the two main characters – at various times I thought they were thoughtful, irritating, kind, and mean to each other, and never at the same time. What I like the most about Drive Me Sane was the constant, alternating frustration that each of them felt as the relationship developed – it felt genuinely warm and at the same time cut a little bit.
Anyone looking for a decent love story that reads effortlessly, pick up a copy. ”
In all fairness and with Mr. Caruthers permission, I’d also like to share some of his thoughts that he personally conveyed to me. Yes, not only did I get a good review, but I was also fortunate enough to get some honest feedback.
“This reads very smoothly, and you are doing more showing than telling and I like that. When she started throwing rocks at his truck, I figured out that she wasn’t going to be happy to see him. Kudos to that scene, although it could do with a little bit more fire. Combat vets get angry a lot more colorfully.”
“I wouldn’t normally read romance, but the military tie-in intrigued me. I haven’t yet found any inconsistencies, save one. Most military folks don’t use the PTSD label. There’s still a stigma to it, as the label is still associated with whiners and check-chasers (and I’ve met several of each). For most of us, it’s just a collection of symptoms. There are nightmares and loud noises and crowds and fireworks and anger and isolation. But we don’t generally lump all that together and throw it in the same bag – not when we are referring to ourselves. An official diagnosis is a certain number of these symptoms, but most war vets have at least one or two.”
“Your style is very light and easy to read and the pacing is flawless – something I don’t see too much. It’s a little heavy on narrative and I would consider breaking up some of the longer paragraphs. It’s grammatically correct, but shorter paragraphs are easier to digest. I have no idea why.”
“Finished your book – loved the way it ended. I’m not a reader of light romance…It’s well written, decently edited, and very easy to read (I know I’ve said that three or four times, but it’s true). You’ll recognize my review on Amazon when it posts. Cheers and happy writing.”
So there was some good with the bad and I’m okay with that. And I’m definitely okay with sharing it. More than anything, I appreciate his honesty and come to realize that reviews do matter. Maybe not as a reader, at least not to me. But as a writer they can be a valuable tool. I’m happy to take the constructive criticism and learn from it.