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Is Reading a Fiction Series Worth the Questions?

I’m one of those readers who loves a series. As I’ve said before, I get attached to certain secondary characters and can’t wait to read their stories. I do the same thing while writing a book. I create characters whose lives and romances I can’t wait to explore.

It doesn’t matter whether the same main character stars in every book or each story focuses on a different character.

It doesn’t matter if the series consists of three books or eight. (Frankly, in my mind, two novels do not count, although I’ve seen them touted that way.) 

For a writer, receiving a contract for a multiple number of books is cause for celebration. For a reader, there can be questions:

Am I prepared to wait? Unless you begin after all the books are released, it’s a long wait for the next one. Most of the time, it will be a year or more before the second book comes out, then another year or more for the third. Although there are exceptions, you’re still looking at months between releases. In that time, you may forget important details. Presently, I’m reading the third book in a series and had to go back to the first two to refresh my memory on certain characters.

What if the series has an underlying story that runs through each book?04d94-secretkills-32bcopy The main characters may be different, but there is that thread that connects them. One such series I recently finished was Lynette Eason’s Deadly Reunions. (See my review here.) Each novel told a different story about a different couple, but each was connected by an incident that happened ten years earlier. While the whole series is well worth the read, the books should be read in order, if possible.

In the past few days, I finished Submerged and Shattered, books one and two in Dani Pettrey’s Alaskan Courage series. I’d heard they were very good and found that to be true. She does something a little different, though. It’s not uncommon for the reader to meet the main character for an upcoming novel in one book, but the POVs are strictly the hero and heroine. Ms. Pettrey sets up the next couple’s romance through using their POVs in the present novel. It’s an interesting concept that has its pros and cons. By the time the second book comes out, the reader already feels they know them and has been anxious to get to the new release. However, it can make the previous book seem a bit like a cliffhanger. (Take heart, those who have read these first two books, the third, Stranded, is due to release the first of September 2013.)

What if I can’t find the full set? Let’s face it, as writers we want people to buy our books. It’s how we get paid. But that isn’t always practical. While, for some, purchasing books ranks slightly below food and shelter, for others, it’s a luxury…one they can’t always afford. The library is my friend, but they may not order every book in a series, or someone might beat me to checking out the latest release and never bring it back. (I’ve had that happen.)

What do I do now? All good things must come to an end. Eventually, the writer wraps up the series and moves on, and we’re left to either sigh or cry. We’ve spent time with these people. We’ve worried about them. They’ve become our friends. Okay, it’s time to get a grip on reality. How? Find another series and new imaginary friends, of course.

So with all these questions, I’d like to know what you think.

Is it worth it? What are your thoughts on reading a series? What do you like about them? What do you dislike? Do you wait until all the books come out before starting a series? Do you like a series that follows one main character throughout or focuses on different main characters?


As an author of heartwarming historical and contemporary romance, Sandra Ardoin engages readers with page-turning stories of love and faith. Rarely out of reach of a book, she's also an armchair sports enthusiast, country music listener, and seldom says no to eating out.

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  • Susan J. Reinhardt

    Hi Sandra –

    I like series books that have a common thread but are stand-alone novels. If a series is too long, I lose interest. The Left Behind Series started off great, but the gap between books wore me out. I never did finish it.

    My own series is a trilogy with the second book coming out this fall.

    Susan 🙂

    • Sandra Ardoin

      I’m with you on the stand-alone novels, Susan. I also prefer the ones that have different main characters, but not out-of-the-blue different–people I’ve already met in the first book. I’m probably the only Christian on the planet who hasn’t read the Left Behind series. 🙂

      Best wishes for your book!

  • Dora Hiers

    What? You haven’t read the Left Behind series, Sandy? Gasp!!
    I’m with both of you on this. I enjoyed the Left Behind series, but I much prefer series books that have closure with the main characters and pick up with secondary characters for the next book. Do NOT like cliffhangers because it’s too long to wait in between books. 🙂

    • Sandra Ardoin

      LOL! I started to read the first book in the LB series years ago, Dora, but didn’t get far for some reason.

      Cliffhangers can be okay as long the whole series is out. If not, I agree, it’s too long to wait.

  • eliseinaz

    LOL! No, you’re not the only Christian who hasn’t read the Left Behind Series. I read the first book. I might have read the second and possibly the third, but I never finished the series.

    I read mostly mysteries, where the problem of cliffhanger endings isn’t as big a problem as in science fiction or fantasy. There are very few I keep up with though. As you said, the time between releases causes you to go find other books in the meantime.

    I loved Nevada Barr’s Anna Pigeon mysteries until she started tackling dark topics and the action became too brutal for my taste. I’m also a fan of Julia Spencer-Fleming’s Claire Ferguson/Russ Van Alstyne mysteries. Each of these stands on its own, but there is growth and change in the characters over time. Unfortunately, Julia is a slow writer, so it’s more like two years between releases than one.

    The problem of out-of-print or unavailable books in a series is maddening. I may first discover a series through a later book, but if I like it, I want to read all the books from the beginning in order. My library, too, has gaps in its series collections.

    Speaking of waiting, Dennis Lehane wrote the Kenzie and Gennaro mystery series long before Mystic River became a bestseller and a movie. I love Lehane’s writing. The intriguing thing about his characters is that they’re not all bad or all good. The main characters make dubious moral choices, but he writes a convincing argument for why they do so. He wrote five books, then moved on to Mystic River and Shutter Island and historical literary works. Fans kept asking if there was going to be another Kenzie and Gennaro mystery. His response was that the characters hadn’t told him there was another story to tell yet. Finally, after I don’t know how many years, he wrote Moonlight Mile, which picks up a thread from an earlier mystery and clearly is the end of the series. For me, it was a very satisfying finish to one of my all-time favorite set of books.

    • Sandra Ardoin

      Hi Elise! I’ve never read Nevada Barr’s books, though I’ve heard she’s good. Frankly, at least ninety-percent of my reading is Christian fiction, mainly for the reason you stated about Nevada Barr. There are so many good novels in the Christian marketplace now–lots of good mystery/romantic suspense writers.

      “His response was that the characters hadn’t told him there was another story to tell yet.” I love that! It tells us how in tune Dennis Lehane is with his characters.

      Thanks for responding. I really wanted to know what readers think/what they like and dislike about a series.

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