Friday, February 25, 2011

No Hook. Lots of Telling. A First Chapter of Backstory. Simply Wonderful!

"The Village Nurse's Happy-Ever-After"

by Abigail Gordon
Harlequin Medical Romance
Miniseries: The Bluebell Cove Stories
Category: Classic Romance
Just What The Doctor Ordered!

Abilgail Gordon is a master storyteller! “The Village Nurse's Happy-Ever-After” is not only a joy to read, it’s a breath of fresh air! I loved it! The author treats readers like they have brains and don’t have ADD!

The narrative opens quietly as the characters are introduced with enough history to quickly place the reader in the center of the story. This gives the novel a richness in detail and texture usually only found in much longer books. I really enjoyed this approach.

I believe that today too many authors write every book as if it were a high suspense thriller. As Stephen Spielberg has said:

“People have forgotten how to tell a story. Stories don’t have a middle or an end anymore. They usually have a beginning that never stops beginning.”

That’s exactly how I feel. If an author can truly tell a story, artificial ‘thrill’ gimmicks do not need to be used. Readers don’t demand these things; editors do. (Too bad.)

Let me give an example of how annoying these techniques can be for a reader. Suppose you work in an office, you’re one of the unmarried women there, and a dreamy hunk has transferred in from the Dallas office. All the girls want to know all about him.

Mary says, “I know all about Paul Goodall. I worked with him in Dallas. He’s single but that’s all for now. Pay close attention to me over the next three weeks and ,little by little, I’ll let slip a detail or two about him. Just be sure to hang on to my every word.”

Would you be happy with Mary? That’s what authors do with 'dribbling backstory'. This technique makes good sense from the author’s POV. But it does not add to the reader’s reading enjoyment.

Abigail Gordon wrote “The Village Nurse’s Happy-Ever-After” as if she was telling a heartwarming love story from the POV of the reader. I loved it. Not every story has to be written on the suspense/thriller paradigm.

About the story:

The heroine, Phoebe Howard, is a newly divorced mother and nurse with a baby her husband did not want. The hero is a doctor, Harry Balfour, who has come back to his old town and medical practice in Bluebell Cover, England. His wife has died in Australia where he moved to be with her five years before. Both Harry and Phoebe have apartments above the medical practice building. Of course, they meet often -- both at ‘home’ and in the office.

Because of his unhappy childhood, Harry does not want a family. Phoebe, given her ex-husband’s attitude, has no interest in men who do not want a family. How the two work this problem out is half the fun. The other half is just in the pure fun of reading this enjoyable work.

I’m delighted that “Bluebell Cove” is a miniseries. I intend to read all the “Bluebell Cove” books.

If you like Medical Romances, you’ll love this one!

“The Village Nurse's Happy-Ever-After” – A Perfect Book for Writers to Read!


  1. Hi Vince,

    I love reading the HM&B Medical romances. Thanks for letting us know of this one. But how could she get away with "No Hook. Lots of Telling. A First Chapter of Backstory"

    We are always told not to dump backstory in the first chapter. Start with a hook and my struggle is telling not showing!

  2. Hi Nas:

    I’m so glad you stopped by and left a comment. This is an important book, in my opinion, because it does not follow the current conventional wisdom. It’s a very good story from start to finish. It is also very emotional and heartwarming.

    If you can tell a really good story, you don’t need writing gimmicks. But you have to be extra good to do this. I think most writers need or at least feel they need help keeping the reader’s interest. Thus hooks and showing. Now hooks and showing are fine in themselves. In a suspense story they are very necessary. Showing is also very good to do but it does not have to be done exclusively.

    I think “The Village Nurse's Happy-Ever-After” is very important book because it serves as an example how pure storytelling can be done and done well the old fashion why. This is the way books were written in the past.

    But I do not suggest a new writer do this. Editors do not want to take any chances. They want to stack the deck in keeping the reader interested. Writing contests are the same way. So I don’t suggest you do this but I think it is important to understand that books do not always have to be written the way they are today.

    If you read “The Village Nurse's Happy-Ever-After”, please come back and let me know what you think of it. I loved it but then I am a very big fan of the medical books.


  3. I always stop by, read and soak up the good advice at the Philosphy of Romance, but don't have much to say normally!

    I'll definitely come by if I get my hands on “The Village Nurse's Happy-Ever-After”.

    Recent Medical I read was Kate Hardy's "A Christmas Knight" and Janice Lynn's "The Nurse Who Saved Christmas" both awesome books!

  4. Hi Nas:

    Kate Hardy is one of my favorite authors. She is also a very interesting person. I missed her Christmas book because the Medicals come out late and I had already many Christmas books in my TBR pile.

    On March first two of my favorite medical authors have books coming out in North America.

    The books are: Rescued by the Dreamy Doc
    by Amy Andrews and Six-Week Marriage Miracle by Jessica Matthews.

    To answer your question from the first comment: I think they let Abigail Gordon write her book the way she did because the book speaks for itself. It reads just fine. Why change it?


  5. Thanks for this link Nas! As an author of medical (unpublished now but in what we are hoping will be my debut book revisions) this strikes a strong chord with me Vince. I will have to try to get that book. Like you (if I read that right) I don't see medicals here in NA. I will have to search this one out. My beginning or chapter one is giving me headaches in the rewrite right now so it's probably not conducive to progress for me to read Abigail's book right now.

  6. I read this book wondering the whole time how she managed to get this book past the M&B editors--it flies in the face of all the current, conventional editorial policies. However, she has a body of work that goes back a long time--this gives her credibility. She is a suburb storyteller and she already has a loyal readership. Her editor trusts her to deliver and is able to give her more latitude. Her pacing is also different because of her writing style. Since 'variety is the spice of life' there is room for her brand of storytelling and we are enriched by it.

    Thanks for posting this excellent review of her story.

  7. Hi Calisa:

    The Harlequin Medical Romances have very unusual marketing restrictions worldwide. They are limited in many ways. For example, the four new Medicals you can buy this month from eHarlequin are different in paperback than they are for the eBooks. I want one of the paperback Medical titles this month but it is not available as an eBook. (I need eBooks for the larger type).

    "The Village Nurse's Happy-Ever-After" is available on Amazon right now. I’ve tried to buy medicals from Mills & Boon in London and they say I not authorized to buy them from my location.

    America loves doctor stories. There are always doctor shows in the top 10 TV programs every year. The medical romances have some of the best authors Harlequin has. They should be in all the stores. But no. It’s so strange.

    Anyway, that’s the story on Medicals. If you want to sell to the Medical line, I would suggest that you read the first few pages of the books of their best selling authors. This might help you in seeing what they are buying. I would not copy Abigail Gordon’s style if I were unpublished.

    I wish you luck on your book. Perhaps I’ll get to review it here on my site!


  8. Hi Nancy:

    I think publishing is very trendy. Now it seems like the editors want hooks and more hooks. They want every book to read like a thriller. One big writing guru even says that writers should try to have each paragraph end in a cliffhanger! I think this is just crazy.

    However, if you want to sell and you are not well established, then you have to follow the trends or self-publish.

    I don’t believe that I’ve read any other Gordon books so I don’t know if this is her style or an one-off book. I believe there are three “Bluebell Cove” books on Amazon right now for the Kindle so I will get the read some more of her books soon.

    Thanks for coming by and commenting.