You! Guys!!! Look who’s here! It’s Sarah freaking Mayberry! She’s more than one of my favorite category authors, she’s one of my favorite authors. (Um, have you read her Blaze books? Because if you haven’t you’re missing out. That’s how I got totally hooked on her, and basically the Harlequin Blaze and Desire lines. She just cemented it.) If you’ve ever met me in person, you’ll know I’m not all that effusive and fangirly about authors. (I mean I’m nice and all, and excited, I just… don’t squee.) But I would totally be all “OMG IT’S YOU!” If I ever got to meet her. Either that or I’d hide behind someone. My mood varies. Enough about me- you don’t care what I have to say, just what Sarah Mayberry is here to say!
First up, a big thinks to Limecello for having me here today. I love writing and reading and talking about romance, so it’s always great to meet fellow romance lovers.
I wanted to talk about Happy Ever Afters today. I was talking about books with my mother recently when she said something that I found really interesting. She likes to read big sagas and a bit of women’s fiction, and when she found out that the book I was pimping to her was a romance, she pulled a face and said “no thanks.” Not because she’s a literary snob or anything like that, but because she knows how it’s going to end. Her words, not mine. “You know they’re going to end up together, so what’s the point?” she said.
It gave me pause. Because I love a book or movie where I don’t know what’s going to happen next. I love it when I’m not absolutely sure if what I would like to happen is going to actually happen. But in a romance, the HEA is part of the deal, isn’t it? When you start a romance, you know pretty quickly who the hero is and who the heroine is and, a lot of the time, what the grounds for conflict will be. You also know that whatever that conflict is, it’s all going to work out in the end and they’re going to be together and in love by the end of the book.
When its laid out like that – and when my mother said it so starkly – I had to wonder why romances didn’t bore me into a coma. I mean, talk about predictable! And yet I love romance stories. I gobble them up, am absolutely absorbed while I’m reading and even a little dazed and confused when I’m spat out the other end of a really good book.
How can all that happen when the ending is, as I said, a given? I’ve been giving it a bit of thought over the past few weeks, and I think, for me, that when it comes to romance, it’s not the destination that’s important, it’s the journey. The ups and downs, the emotions, the tension. For the duration of the read, I get to walk a mile or two in another woman’s shoes. Sometimes I get to be in a man’s head, too, and I get to re-experience all the excitement and anxiety and lust and despair and uncertainty of falling in love again, with the comfortable knowledge in the back of my mind that all will be well in the end because there’s a HEA just waiting for me at the end of the book. Kind of like going on a roller coaster ride – you get all the thrills of a near-death adrenalin rush, but your life is never actually at risk (hopefully!).
The greatest accolade I can pay a book is that it made my chest ache. If I get to a certain point in the book and my chest literally aches for the hero or heroine to understand the other or for their sadness or nobility to be soothed or rewarded, then I am a happy little camper. I re-read a Mary Balogh recently and there were certain passages that had so much poignancy for me on a second reading because I knew that the self-talk the heroine was using to protect herself was an illusion. And yes, I cried. Yesterday, I gobbled up Kristin Hannah’s On Mystic Lake and I think I cried every twenty minutes or so because it was so sad and moving and emotional.
But even in the midst of all that suffering and chest aching, I knew I was in good hands, because both those books were romance novels. I had my HEA safety net there to catch me. I knew all the trials and misfortunes would be worth it. I knew I’d feel as though we (me, the hero and the heroine) had earned our HEA by the time we got there.
I guess that’s why I enjoy writing romance stories, too. I like going on that journey. I like watching my hero and heroine learn things about themselves and accept or reject challenges. And I like knowing that in the end they will be together and happy.
My November Super Romance, All They Need, takes my hero and heroine, Flynn and Mel, on some big ups and downs before they find their HEA. Flynn’s struggling to cope with his father’s diagnosis of early onset Alzheimers, and Mel is trying to remember who she was before she married a man who spent 6 years trying to change her. Neither of them are looking for love, but it finds them anyway. I’d like to think that it’s a warm, funny, emotional journey that they go on together, but the final judges of that will be you, the readers.
So, over to you. How do you feel about the promise of HEA in a romance novel? Why do you read romances? Do you feel cheated when you read what you thought was a romance and the HEA is missing?
I would love to give away a copy of All They Need today. Just comment to be in the running.
Awesome, right? Answer any of Sarah’s questions, and you’re good! She’s giving away at least one copy – winner(s) announced next Tuesday, so start talking! ;-D