I can’t tell if the book I’m reading is self-published or not.

This could be considered a great stride in self-publishing: a book put together by someone who respects their work enough to hire a good editor and a good designer, someone who has been paying attention and decided to do it on their own and doesn’t see any reason there should be any qualitative difference from something put out with the totality of A. A. Knopf’s editorial team behind it.

In some cases, it would be.

But this is a romance novel.

So the cover’s pretty okay, and the layout’s pretty darned good, but the editing . . .

To be fair, if the editor did what I would have been tempted to do and took a shot for every sentence fragment, they’d have been dead of alcohol poisoning by Chapter 3 and none of this would be their fault.

The plot revolves around two lovers separated before they had closure, and their reunion and presumed eventual resumption of relations (I haven’t read that far). She is in a non-threatening caring profession (she’s not a cardiac surgeon or a Special Education teacher, but somewhere in between where the audience can nod along that yes, she has obvious nurturing qualities and no, we don’t need to think about anything too difficult). He is in a highly-paid and highly-respected field that leaves him feeling somewhat isolated (sports star, business tycoon, whatever: that’s not important either except for props). Her son is in the requisite 6-10 age range, smart and quiet (quiet because we can’t have one of the obstacles to their relationship taking up too much dialogue).

This plot, with these characters, are practically a genre unto themselves. If I kept track, I could probably name a dozen with the same setup. Most of them are probably put out by some imprint of Harlequin. To give credit where it’s due, Harlequin romances are often well-written. Rather, actually, comprehensibly written, because I am quite aware of the literary merit of cotton candy nailed to a page.

But with other romance publishers, I have encountered nightmarishly bad editing. The rub of it is, I wasn’t particularly scandalized. If a sci-fi novel had been published with a similar startlingly vast array of problems, I’d have politely tweeted to the author that they had gone insane. But these are romance novels. So I take the warm-fuzzies of the inevitable happy ending, go to the next one, and forget I ever read it.

This time, I’ll try to include a note to self that just because it’s free from the Kobo bookstore does not mean I  am obliged to download it and read it.

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