Maybe, like me, your 2019 resolution is to read more. Maybe you want to branch out and read diverse books, or books in new-to-you genres. Or perhaps you’re itching to find different authors and edgier, hotter stories.
Well. I’m here to help. In 2019, I’ll introduce you to the world of serial fiction. Every month, I’ll give you recommendations about what to read on the latest serial fiction apps and sites. Because I’m a romance writer — and a serial fiction novelist — I’ll be focused on romance, although other genres might slip in every so often. Also expect a recommendation or two from graphic serial novels.
For me, the best part about reading serial fiction is the unpredictability. Writers of serials take chances and blend genres with wild abandon. I love that aspect of serial fiction: literally anything can, and does, happen in serial novels. Stories sometimes meander, and sometimes they take 180-degree turns. There are times when the prose isn’t as polished, but that’s also exciting — the writer’s passion shines through.
First, though, let’s get our terms straight. A serial is one story, broken up into different episodes. Characters age and change, and there’s a storyline and conflicts running through the entire thing. The TV show Lost was a serial. Charles Dickens wrote serials. Soap operas are serials. Fifty Shades of Grey was also a serial — one story, same characters. Fun fact: Tom Wolfe wrote Bonfire of the Vanities as a serial in Rolling Stone.
Series are not the same as serials. They’re groups of stories that all standalone. Marie Force’s Gansett Island series, or Bella Andre’s Sullivans books are all series. You don’t have to read the books in order. Many police procedural TV shows are series — you don’t need to watch Law and Order from the beginning in order to figure out each episode’s storyline.
One important point: serials always have cliffhangers. Always. Many readers hate the cliffs, but lovers of serials adore the anticipation that comes with waiting for the next episode.
Serial fiction was huge in the 19th century, when writers like Dickens published stories in newspapers and magazines. Today, the narrative form has seen a resurgence, thanks to some modern-day technology: mobile apps.
These apps are free to download, and offer seamless reading experiences that rival Amazon’s Kindle app or the iBooks format.
All of the novels I’m going to recommend in this column will be available on these free apps, although some of the actual books — or chapters of these books — aren’t free. I’ll let you know what story requires payment, what app it’s on, and whether the book is complete.
I hope you’ll join me this year in exploring bite-sized fiction. It’s a wonderful way to discover diverse voices, new authors and raw, emotional storytelling. If you have any suggestions for me, I’m always available at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Now let’s get to this month’s recommendations!
TITLE: BREW BOOKS
AUTHOR: Elle Kirkpatrick
ABOUT THE BOOK: This is the story of Jane, an Instagram-obsessed twentysomething, who leaves her small town and takes a job at a London bookstore. What starts as a charming, chick lit-like tale morphs into a romance, and a fascinating, tragic mystery. Kirkpatrick does a wonderful job of fleshing out each character of the ensemble cast. I adored this story because it captured the angst and insecurity of being a recent college grad, and navigating life as an adult. Although there is some romance in this book, there is no graphic sex. It’s a cozy, intimate novel perfect for a Sunday read. Also, who doesn’t fantasize about working in a London bookstore?
TITLE: HOW WE WERE
AUTHOR: Meg Hahn
ABOUT THE BOOK: I don’t generally read cowboy stories. Or love triangles. Stories about angsty, troubled teens sometimes make me edgy and irritated. But I ate this book up with a spoon. Meg Hahn’s story of Layla Danner, the daughter of a rodeo star and the town floozy, grabbed my guts and wouldn’t let go. This is a raw, rough tale of poverty, unrequited love and heartache. I loved how the writer didn’t make her heroine too perfect — Layla had many faults and embraced them. Warning: this is not a strict romance as defined by RWA, not with the love triangle between Layla, the rich and complicated guy Peyton, and bad boy Jake. The ending kind of ripped my heart out, and wasn’t what I was expecting. Fans of Colleen Hoover will love this extremely emotional story.
TITLE: CRUSH AND BURN
AUTHOR: Jane Peden
ABOUT THE BOOK: This serial begins at Mac’s Club Deuce, Miami’s most famous dive bar, and you can almost smell the beer and feel the sexual tension in Jane Peden’s prose. Our heroine Abigail has just settled a big case when Bo Grant — her former boss, the most brilliant lawyer in the city, sex on legs — walks in with his trademark swagger. It’s the start of Abby and Bo’s story, one that will be told over many seasons. Ever shipped any of the lawyers on Law and Order? Love legal drama and long-running relationship sagas in the vein of Sylvia Day’s Crossfire Series? Do you like stories set in Miami? You’ll adore Crush and Burn.
TITLE: THE VAMPIRE AFFAIR
AUTHOR: Tawny Stokes
ABOUT THE BOOK: In my day job, I’m a journalist, and I’m a sucker for stories about reporters. The book opens in Calgary, Canada, a location that doesn’t often get a lot of book love. Reporter-heroine Makayla Bradley is trying to get the scoop on a sexy billionaire named Jonathan Devane. Jonathan, as it turns out, is the man she shared a hot kiss with one night at a club. Oh, and he’s a vampire. This is a fun romp of a story, with wit and scorching sexytimes.
TITLE: ASSASSIN ROOMMATE
AUTHOR: Monica Gallagher
ABOUT THE BOOK: This is a graphic novel about a nerdy, introverted, curvy woman who shares an apartment with a handsome, brash frat boy. What could fall into a cliché turns into a heartfelt, sweet story about two people navigating desire and work demands. There’s all kinds of diversity in this story, too: the hero is Asian, the BFF is African-American, there are LGBTQ characters, and the heroine is a badass assassin with a wicked sense of humor. If you haven’t tried reading a graphic novel on your mobile device, this is a great place to start.