From Dear Author:
Some conversations in romancelandia never go away: accuracy and authenticity in historical romance, whether Jamie Fraser of Outlander is a great hero or the greatest, and whether series books are wonderful or maddening or both. Coincidentally, I was about to finish the last book of an eight-book series when I saw a column lamenting the lack of stand-alone books in romance. I was nodding my head in agreement when I suddenly stopped and thought, wait a minute. I’ve been reading series and linked books in the romance genre as long as I’ve been reading romance, and these include some that were written before I was born. Are there really more series books and less stand-alone novels? Is it that we notice series more because we talk about them as a community? Are they publicized more, by authors and publishers? Or is it just something we have mixed feelings about so the conversation never really goes away?
There are a number of ways books can be linked to each other in a series.
(1) They can feature the same characters over a number of novels, like Eve and Roarke in J.D. Robb’s In Death series, and the relationship develops over the installments. Among non-genre books, the development of Lord Peter Wimsey and Harriet Vane’s romance by Dorothy Sayers is one of my favorites.
(2) They can feature a shared world, with different main characters in each books; previous characters make quick or more extended appearances, the way strangers and friends do in real life. Meljean Brooks’ Guardian and Iron Seas series are contemporary examples of these; Mary Burchell’s Warrender Saga books and Angela Thirkell’s Barsetshire novels are blasts from the past.
(3) They can revolve around a family or set of friends, with each member of the group starring in his or her own book. They can be single-authored or multiple-authored. The Bridgertons, the Cynsters, the Mallorens, the Bedwyns and the Black Dagger Brotherhood come to mind immediately when I think family/friends series, and I don’t even read Laurens or Ward.
When I stop and think about it, romance is the only genre among the ones I read regularly where readers complain about too many series. The SFF and mystery genres are dominated by series, and the debate usually rages around issues of quality (Wheel of Time) or time between books (I know, George RR Martin is not my bitch), rather than whether they should exist at all. Characters can grow and change (Rebus, Dalziel, Spenser), or they can remain almost cartoonishly static (James Bond, Mickey Spillane, Nancy Drew, the Hardy Boys).
Link to the rest at Dear Author