Saturday, December 31, 2011

Romance: HEA & HFN vs. Unhappiness

(Image: © Alexfancy | Dreamstime.com)
I'm an unapologetic romance reader - sure, I dabble with reading the occasional bit of suspense, fantasy, mystery, non-genre literature, and, recently, erotica - but my true love is romance.  It doesn't matter if it is historical, contemporary, regency, or paranormal - if it is romance, I'm game. 

I've read a lot this year. Well, a lot for me, anyway - and a third more than I did last year.  That's good, right? (And, yes, it was almost exclusively romance.) 

So, I figure I have a good understanding of what it means for a book to be classified as "romance."  For me, romance is a happy ending.  It could be a happily ever after (HEA) or a happy for now (HFN), but happy is mandatory.  If I wanted unhappy, I'd chose my books from a different part of the bookstore.  Yes, I know there are love stories that don't have happy endings... and that is why I'm calling them love stories and not romances
Most books I read follow this "happy" rule, but every once in a while I find a book in the romance section, which has been tagged as a romance, but it lacks the "happy."  Of course, I don't know that until I reach the end of the book - and what a cruel surprise that is!  (After re-reading the last page in disbelief and flipping through the pages in a desperate attempt to locate that happy ending, I have to suppress the urge to rip the book in half with frustration.)

Sometimes the author has written / is planning to write a follow-up to the book - presumably something that will resolve that mess of unhappiness they created in the first book - but, as a reader, how can I trust the author again?  What if I get to the end of the second book and it too is brimming with unhappiness and angst? 

My trust has been broken.

Generally, I will buy the next book when it is available (I can't stand loose ends, and it drives me crazy that there hasn't been closure).  In that instance, then, the author gets one more book sale.  But after that?  No way.  I avoid the author.  How can I trust them to deliver what I want and expect?  They've tricked me once and I would be foolish to set myself up for another disappointment. 

So, I would encourage writers to be aware of reader's expectations - particularly if you write genre fiction.  Treat those expectations with care and be mindful of them.  If you break the "rules" of that genre, you may lose more readers than you gain.

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