A reader’s perspective on follow-up novels
I recently finished a prequel and that got me thinking about whether or not I really like them (and I do).
There is no question that I like a well-written sequel. And even if those main characters that I fell in love with don’t get that sequel I more often than not do like it when the next in a series have those beloved characters make an appearance so that I can catch up and make sure everything is still rosy. Just a guess here but I’m not thinking too many lesfic authors want to face the wrath of their readers if that carefully crafted HEA is put to the test; be it in a subsequent novel where we only see a cameo of them or they are now the supporting characters. There are a few sequels/series where the original couple are faced with real life issues and eventually persevere (or not) but in the romance genre that’s a rare event – KG MacGregor’s Shaken Series, K.A. Moll’s Soul Mates Series and CD Cain’s Chambers of the Heart Series (all sequels) come to mind. It’s probably just my perception but it seems that mystery/intrigue, fantasy and science fiction seem to lend themselves to what I consider to be “true” sequels more so than romances where subsequent books focus on other characters in order for there to be a “new” romance that doesn’t offend a reader’s loyalties.
According to Wikipedia “A prequel is a literary, dramatic, or cinematic work whose story precedes that of a previous work, by focusing on events that occur before the original narrative. A prequel is a work that forms part of a backstory to the preceding work.” That said, “all prequels are, by definition, essentially sequels in that they expand on a previous or preceding work.”
Yep, there are some really terrible prequels out there. It’s often a losing proposition and again I’ll take a leap but it seems that fantasy and science fiction would be more difficult on the prequel side of the timeline versus sequels as there is so much to line up within the original work and devotees are a tough crowd. How many times do you read about disappointment and infer “money grab” in those mixed and/or negative reviews?
But there is potential for a prequel to be a hit with readers and IMHO romance can be a vehicle to make an audience very happy (at least me anyway). In those that I’ve enjoyed it’s an opportunity for me to get a more in depth knowledge and emotional investment in a main character’s backstory, personal drama and history or events that occur prior to the original. Perhaps (in some cases) not included due to the average length, profitability and accompanying restrictions of many lesfic books? I’m a captive audience as they say: already invested and interested. I’m all in if a prequel is done well, that is to say that there is nothing inconsistent with the expectations and understanding I developed about the original characters and story and it is a story in it’s own right. Fortunately I haven’t had a bad experience yet.
In Jax Meyer’s Dal Segno (A Marine’s Heart Book 1) Cameron (Cam) a former marine is still grieving the loss of her wife Sharron, also a marine, five years prior. Close to forty years of age she finds herself attending a local community college to study music at an advanced level. Here she runs into her high school music teacher who has moved from the East Coast to take a position in the music department at the college. Not a lot of years between them, the intervening twenty years has not always been kind to either of them. Wonderful story as they face their increasing chemistry and confront some of their personal demons.
In the first prequel A Marine Awakening we are given insight into a very young Cam and get a glimpse of Sharron. In this prequel the author focuses on the early relationship as it develops between Cam and Sharron. I thought it fairly reflected “young love” and it gave us insights into the version of Cam we see 20 years later. In the most recent release A Marine Discovery (Prequel #2) Cam and Sharron have been together for five years and Cam is on the verge of leaving the marines and going to university. It is just after 9/11 and the book focuses on a fifteen-month period that includes Cam’s adjustment to civilian life, getting through Sharron’s deployment and discovering she is likely on the autistic spectrum. We also get some insight into the intervening years and how they weather DADT. I didn’t realize until the author’s notes at the end of this one that Cam’s backstory would actually be three separate prequels and admit that while reading this one I kept waiting for the other shoe to drop. Meyer’s books are all available on Kindle Unlimited – an added bonus.
I’m a fan of Lynn Ames going back to her Kate and Jay series. In 2019 she released Chain Reactions and six months later the prequel Secrets Well Kept. I was totally drawn into the story of Nora and Ruth along with their history and events surrounding the establishment and operation of Oakridge during WWII. Much is skillfully revealed to her great-niece and caregiver who form the current day love interests. This book had me searching the Internet to learn more about Oakridge and the women integral to the project. In Secrets Well Kept we get a more in depth history of Oakridge as well as Nora and Ruth and how they got to where they were in Chain Reactions. There was enough new information about Oakridge, as well as tension and backstory related to Nora and Ruth in the prequel that I found it as interesting and enjoyable as Chain Reactions. If you like well researched books with lovely romance woven into your stories these both hit the mark.
Books by T.B. Markinson have been in my kindle since 2013 when I discovered A Woman Lost. This self proclaimed “contemporary lesbian romance writer” has written some wonderful series and in two cases – The Confession Series and Woman Lost Series she followed up the original story with a prequel and I thought they nicely added rather than detracted from the respective series. These two series are reflective of Markinson’s overall work – well written with great dialogue and fun quirky characters. Even her earlier darker novels Marionette and Claudia Must Die are well worth the read.
Unlike any of the above which are strictly speaking prequels, we have Melissa Price’s Skin in the Game – actually a mid-quel that reveals what happens in the gap between Part 1 and Part 2 of Steel Eyes which takes place over many years. Both fall into the romantic intrigue genre and feature a fun rump through the world of espionage, music and romance. If the idea interests you I’d recommend getting both books, reading Steel Eyes to the end of Part 1, switching to Skin in the Game and then back to Steel Eyes for Part 2. When Skin in the Game came out I was admittedly a little confused and to keep things straight in my mind I pulled out the original story.
As usual there are likely many others out there. Do you like prequels or avoid them at any cost?