Recently I have been asked about my ability-and willingness-to remain as honest and objective as I possibly can in my reviews.
The question is valid, in two different contexts.
In one case, I cross post my reviews to Suzanne Brockmann”s message board-including reviews of her books. It is no secret anywhere that I’m a fan of her work, and so far I haven’t been disappointed, but… what if I were? Would I write an honest review giving a low grade to one of her novels and then post that review at her board?
Yes, I answered, I hope I’ll continue to be honest when reviewing any and all books, regardless of who the author is and my relationship (or lack thereof) with them.
Regardless of whether criticizing an author’s work in her own space is in good taste or not (it’s not author bashing if a person doesn’t like a book and says so, people! but that’s a discussion for another time), there’s the matter of my own integrity as a person and my credibility as a reviewer. (Boy, does that sound presumptuous or what? and yet, it’s true-I feel I owe to myself first, and to all those who read my reviews second, to be honest and fair in my reviews.)
But here’s the second context: for the past couple of months I’ve been acting as promotion person (she calls me her virtual personal assistant, since a)we live in different countries and b)we have yet to meet!) for author Ann Aguirre. I have read her books, and indeed reviewed both Grimspace and Wanderlust before all this started. Yet, the question arises: would I be able to write and publicly post an honest review of future works now that, in a sense, I work for her?
My answer is, once again, yes, I know I can do that-though of course I would include full disclosure of my professional and personal relationship with the author in the review.
But of course, the real question is whether a review by someone in a personal or professional relationship with an author would have any credibility with readers.
After all, isn’t it conceivable that a person in that position would pull her punches-if not outright donning the cheer-leader outfit-at least in the second case? It’s not as if we haven’t seen plenty of husbands raving anonymously about their wives’ books, is it?
What say you, readers? authors? What do you think about my continuing to review Ms Aguirre’s books, given the circumstances described above?
Whether your reaction be yay or nay, would it be the same for other reviewers? Are there any specific circumstances that would sway your opinion one way or another–such as personal knowledge (or internet history, what have you) with the reviewer-cum-promo person, or perhaps with the author?