Gimme the strong voices

 I did a lot of re-reading last year, and one of my most re-read authors was Stephanie Laurens. I haven't read a lot of her newer, self published books, but the original Bar Cynster and the Bastion Club series? You betcha.  I have a fondness for those books, and a large part of it is because she has such an incredibly strong voice.

Voice is one of those things that's often really hard to describe to people who don't read a lot. How can words on a page have a voice? How do you define it? Because it's definitely one of those things that you know it when you see it. Which is why Laurens is such a good example of this. Because her voice is pretty easily deconstructed.

Voice is kind of like style. It's something that makes one author's book distinct from every other author. It's a unique combination of word choice, rhythm, sentence construction, even pacing. Something that will tell whoever is reading it that this book is a Stephanie Laurens book, even without a name on the cover.

With Laurens, there are a few things that I always notice. One is her fondness for descriptive phrases in sets of three.  This is from The Lady Chosen

 "...the taste of him—hard, male, dominant— sank into her. 

For long moments, they both simply took, gave, explored."

and later in the same book. 

"She'd snapped out his hold too easily that afternoon, evaded his snare, shaken free of any lingering fascination far too readily for his liking.

His nature had always been dictatorial. Tyrannical. Predatory."

It's a combination of both phrases in threes and words in threes. It's particularly noticeable when listening to these books in audio, but even in print, it's very distinctive.

A second is her fondness for certain phrases. The most infamous one is probably "her lungs seized." If you go into Google books and type that phrase in, you'll find all of the dozens of books she's written with that phrase. Often multiple times in the same book. I used to make a game out of finding the first mention of it in one of her books. It was her go-to phrase for intense attraction.

Then there's the horse metaphors. So many horse metaphors. Sometimes, but not always in one of the more intimate scenes. 

Are there any authors who you feel have a strong voice? Or do you have a different way to explain what it is?


  1. I suck at identifying author's individual voices; I'm don't think I could read a chapter and be able to guess the author, with perhaps a couple of exceptions (Nalini Singh has a few strong writing tics, for example; Nora Robers does the head-hopping and the alliteration or/repeating of a word for emphasis in high tension scenes).

    I think of a strong writing voice as one where the characterization is strong, where pacing and plotting are good enough, but really, where characterization is queen.

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