When Does a Romance Series Jump the Shark?

“Jump the shark” is one of my favorite phrases in TVlandia. It’s an often used phrase which owes it’s origins to the television show Happy Days. If you’re too young to remember, Happy Days was one of the most successful sitcoms on television during the 70’s and ran for ten years. And on one fateful night, September 20, 1977, it jumped the shark – literally.

In a three-part episode, hoping to boost ratings, the bright executives and writers in charge, had their beloved character Fonzie, played by Henry Winkler, water ski with a bathing suit and his trademark leather jacket on , and yes, he jumps over a shark. It has become a defining moment in television history that now crosses over into pop culture. It is now used to describe what can happen when something that has been of long and sustained quality begins to spiral into the abyss of ‘been there done that’ or into the ridiculousness of ‘I can’t believe they did that’, where viewers no longer have any interest.

There are many beloved romance novel series out there. The first that comes to mind is J.D. Robb’s In Death series – with over 25 books. Then of course there’s Julia Quinn’s Bridgerton Series, Brenda Jackon’s Madaris Family Series, Victoria Alexander’s Effington Series, Wbseries Media Jo Beverley’s Malloren Family Series, Stephanie Laurens Cynster Series, Mary Balogh Slightly Series, Rochelle Alers Hideaway Legacy Series, Catherine Coulter FBI series – and the list goes on. Personally, I’m a series kind-o-gal. You all know I love revisiting characters, places and continuing story arcs, so when some one says series, I’m pretty much there. But, what happens when a series jumps the shark? It’s a hard question for me to answer.

I’ve recently read two different books from two different series from two of my favorite authors with mixed and surprising results.

The first book I read was Dark Curse by Christine Feehan, which releases September 2, 2008 and is the 19th book in the Dark Series. Now, see, this is a series that I thought had definitely jumped the shark, oh, around book 15 – but I kept buying and reading. I still wanted me some dark, uber alpha Carpathian male to beat his chest and say ‘you are woman I am man and you belong to me’. I also really enjoy the way Ms. Feehan writes and the world building was quite fascinating to me.

I think her mythology is unique and original- the first book in the series, Dark Prince, debuting in 1999. Her heroines have always intrigued me, running the gamut from head strong, willful and dominant to unsure and questioning; but always intelligent and eventually fearless. However each book continued to re-hash the same mythology and pathos of the world and the characters, until finally after book 17, I said NO MORE, and totally skipped reading book 18, Dark Possession. So, when my ARC of Dark Curse arrived I was like an addict alone in the room with a fix and a war going on in my head – don’t do it, but I can’t stop myself, but you said no more, I know but just one more time… until finally the addict in me won out. And I’m glad she did.

I was surprised and delighted by Dark Curse and it sparked renewed interest in the series. In this latest addition to the series, Ms. Feehan expounds on the world and characters she has lovingly created and goes beyond the pathos to some real answers for the characters. This book has real depth to it, going beyond the ground work she has laid down in previous books to get to the crux of the matter – why the Carpathian race is dying out.

In addition to the very romantic and compelling story line between the hero and heroine Lara Calladine and Nicolas De La Cruz, we also get to visit with many other characters from other books and even some from the novellas, Vikirnoff and Natalya, Gregori and Savannah, Francesca, Mikhail and Raven, Shea and Jacques to name a few. They don’t just have a walk on, mention what fine weather they’re having or drop off a bunt cake.

They have substantial roles to play and bring cohesiveness to the story and believability to the universal story line. The intrigue and mystery to some of the long standing questions readers may have had begins to be illuminated and I say bravo and about time. As a reader, Dark Curse finally made me feel as if I was reaching for something that was attainable.

 

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