There comes a time when you’re reading a series when you have to decide, “Is this getting better? Is this series still worth my time?”
I want to say that the Autumn Rain novels are getting better with each installment. I want to love Autumn’s character as much as I did when I first discovered the series. But either the author Rachel Ann Nunes is getting series fatigue, or I’m becoming a more savvy reader and recognize flaws in her writing that I never noticed when I first read Imprints.
I went over my reactions of the first installment of the series when I reviewed Final Call, so I won’t rehash them here. Instead, I’ll focus on what stood out to me that makes me believe either the author has writing fatigue or isn’t focusing on improving her craft.
First of all, there’s the story: Autumn goes to the town of Salem, Oregon to find a missing girl and clear her birth father’s name in the girl’s disappearance (all while hiding the fact that Autumn’s his daughter from him). The motives from this were placed in Final Call instead of Line of Fire, which was most definitely a ploy for making the reader pick up the next book. If all the scenes from Final Call that had importance to this story were placed in Line of Fire instead, Line of Fire would have been much stronger. There would have been sufficient background and emotional investment to draw even the newest readers into the story. Instead, it jumps straight into Autumn’s investigation in Salem, with little to no explanation why. What explanation is given is told with so little emotional investment that it feels like the story of Autumn’s birth father is far less important than the story of the missing girl, like it was an afterthought to these two books that Nunes felt should probably go in somewhere so that Autumn’s character can grow.
The characters: It’s always a tricky balance for an author of a series to decide how much rehashing of character setup to do in subsequent books. In Imprints, Nunes takes the most time to build up each character and make them unique and interesting, showing each character’s unique traits through their actions and their words. By Line of Fire, however, Nunes has fallen into the trap of tell instead of show. We are told that Autumn is a bit of a hippie, but she hardly acts any differently than anyone else in the book. We are told that Shannon is a great detective, but we hardly ever see him do detecting (okay, that’s not quite fair. He does detective work, but it sounds the same as Autumn’s, with none of his previous anger or abrasiveness). We are told that a deputy is a bit goofy and eager, but his actions don’t quite carry through. We are told so often that Autumn has feelings for Shannon and feels guilty for leaving Jake (who has been relegated to brief mentions whenever she thinks about her feelings for Shannon–or rather, tells us about her feelings for Shannon), yet we see so little actual evidence, that it almost feels like Autumn has cut off her emotions for everything and has to logically go through each action she commits so she can remember that emotions are a thing. I don’t remember this telling instead of showing being the case in Imprints, but it’s been so long that I can’t honestly tell whether this is an author flaw that I happened to miss or a development over the series.
Speaking of romance, all of it feels fake. Autumn will be in some situation, Shannon will do something daring (like running while shooting at shooters with rifles before finding cover next to Autumn), and then Autumn will tell us that she has feelings for Shannon, oh and that makes her feel guilty for leaving Jake, all in plain, matter-of-fact words that does little to impress the reader with her emotions. And then it’s straight back to the action.
And finally, all the characters sound and feel the same. All the good guys monologue. All the bad guys monologue. Everybody monologues, including Autumn’s narrative voice. And it all sounds the same. By the fourth book in the series, each character’s voice should have gotten more unique, not less, as Nunes becomes accustomed to each character’s quirks and tics. This book has the disadvantage of having only Shannon and Autumn carry over from the other books, but her father Cody shouldn’t sound the same as them or the grieving mother, who shouldn’t sound the same as the head detective, who shouldn’t sound the same as the big baddie. It’s like Nunes forgot that one of the major draws was the uniqueness of her characters and had stripped all characters of said uniqueness. I had monotone/monologue fatigue by the end.
The action: It was weird. There were so many suppositions and asides that I’d lose track of the action, or even worse, feel like the character was walking through a park instead of trying to desperately fight off an armed attacker. Yes, this is a first-person narrative, but that doesn’t mean that Autumn has time to think about how weird this move would be in her Tae Kwon Do class.
I don’t know if I’ll ever pick up another Autumn Rain novel. I hear there’s another one where she loses her imprint ability, but it truly feels like Nunes has series fatigue and is churning the books out because the readers want them, not because she’s fully invested in the stories or their characters. I hope I’m wrong.