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
I absolutely need a HEA when I’m reading a romance or at least some sort of happy resolution if it is a continuing relationship. I feel cheated if there is no HEA and I try to avoid books that don’t have them. I am so with you about when your chest hurts for the characters. I think that’s about the highest compliment I can give an author or book is if it made my chest ache for the characters. Of course, I’m also a crybaby who is very much a sympathetic cryer. I cry watching TV (including some commercials), movies, reading books, when I see someone crying in real life, etc…
Thanks for the giveaway!
Oh, I’m so with you on the crying front. I cry at ads, lines in songs, a look in someone’s eyes on a tv show. I cry when I write, too – sometimes I can barely see the screen!
IMO a HEA is one of the requirements of a romance – and I do feel cheated if a read a book which is advertised as a romance but doesn’t have a HEA.
The HEA is definitely one of the most immovable conventions of the romance genre, that’s for sure. When I was younger, I used to scorn people who read the last page of a book first. But as I get older, I often turn to the last page at a certain point in the story, just to make sure I want to go on the journey the writer is taking me on. But I never need to do that with a romance, because I know I’m in safe hands.
I absolutely love the HEA and feel completely cheated without it!
Susan, you are in good company! I actually think I’ve been very lucky in my reading. I don’t think I have read any book billed as a romance that didn’t have a HEA. I did get sucked in to Wally Lamb’s The Hour I First Believed, though. A friend gave it to me and I read it and read it and read it (it’s quite long, you understand!) and then the ending was all death and disappointment and nothing. Pretty much confirmed me in my reading tastes – romance all the way, thanks!
What a fantastic post and so very true for me as well. If I read a book purporting to be a romance and the HEA was missing, I’d be one unhappy camper. I don’t mind an emotional book but I don’t want to be devastated at the end, so when I’m reading a romance I expect it to end HEA, period. I definitely want a HEA because life isn’t always like that, and it’s what attracted me to romance books in the first place (along with the hot heroes and the lovin’ of course).
Anyone who disses romance by telling me its unrealistic and that “real life isn’t like that” and all that other stuff has missed the whole point of reading as far as I’m concerned. Escapism, entertainment, pleasure, fantasy. Occasionally I’ll read for a cause or enlightenment or education, but I will never devour those books the way I devour a good romance.
The HEA is the reason I read romance novels. There are times when reading is way for me to escape reality for awhile and I choose to read a book that I know will end happy. I agree with Sarah that journey the heroine and hero take is the best part of the story and knowing that they will end up happy doesn’t spoil the story for me.
Clearly I came to the right place to discuss this HEA addiction I have. Nice to know I’m not alone, Patti.
Oh no! I need my happy ending! That’s why we all read romance, I don’t even like happy-for-now endings. I don’t care how much they have to work for it as long as by the end of the book I know they will be fine and happy. I know that real life doesn’t always work that way and that someone might say that romance novel are unrealistic and its readers delusional, but I think that we all want that happiness in our lives. Real life is already scary and sad, so when I read a book, especially a romance, I want it to have a positive, uplifting ending, because among other things, it makes me feel good and it gives me hope that someday I might find something like that. If there’s something in life for which you should always aim high, it’s love.
Please, don’t enter me in the giveaway since I already have the book (preordered it two weeks ago, like the crazy fan-girl that I am). Just wanted to stop by and say hi to Sarah!
Hi Brie. Can I just say “ditto” to cover everything you said? You totally nailed it. I want to add this, though (and I’ll type it quietly in case my man can hear me talking about him!): Even though some of what’s in romance novels is fantasy, every single one of my heroes is inspired by my husband. I firmly believe there are lots of real life romance heroes in the real world, so aiming for that kind of love is not delusional or foolish. Hope you enjoy All They Need when you get around to it.
That’s what I’m talkin about! We have to have a HEA. Of course the road to get there is the interesting part. I love to be “spat” out at the end of a book with a warm fuzzy feeling. I havent read any of your books, but based on this post, i’m certainly going to. Thanks!
Hi Trish. I have a love/hate relationship with the end of a good book. If I’m loving it that much, I never want to leave the world of the book. I can be a little grumpy sometimes when I have to reconnect with the real world! Thank God there’s always another book in the TBR pile to dive into.
Aloha, Sarah! I need that HEA. I depend on that HEA. I am crushed if it doesn’t happen because reading romance is an escape. Too many “no HEA” in real life.
Hi Kim. Lovely to “see” you here. Romance is all about escapism for me, too. Maybe that’s why romance novels are so very more-ish!
Congrats on the new release, Sarah. The promise of an HEA is one of the reasons I read romance. I guess there are times when I do feel cheated when the certainty of the HEA is missing. As long as the HEA is suggested, I’m fine with it.
Hi Jane. When I first started writing, I struggled with the idea that all my books needed to end with a baby on the way and marriage and everything tied up in a neat pink bow. Especially since I was writing Blazes at the time! But then I worked out that HEA was different for each story depending on who the characters were. Some characters needed that big pink bow. Others felt really solid with just the notion that they were living together and in love. As you say, it’s the suggestion and belief in the HEA that’s important – whatever form that may take.
It is essential to me that a romance has an HEA. If it doesn’t, I don’t read them. I love to read romances because I am a romantic at heart and love to read about others romantic ups and downs before they get their HEA. I love to read about romances in the US and other parts of the world and feel like I am there with them, experiencing everything they do. It is wonderful to be able to escape to another time and place.
I’ve met some of my favourite people within the pages of a book, Cathy! Like you, I love exploring different places and I especially love exploring different careers. It’s a bit like role playing (but without the Dungeons and Dragon’s element!) – you get to walk a mile or two in someone else’s shoes and imagine another life. The perfect escape from the everyday.
Sarah – first I’m a huge fangirl of yours and I am so jealous that my CP, Emmie Dark, has met you in person. Keep writing all your great books, I love to read them.
I love reading romances and writing romance for the same reason – it is hope in a time where everyday is a constant advertisement fro all that isn’t right in this world. I love writing and reading stories that are all about the promise of love. it is an honorable calling to spread hope.
Hi Robin. Lucky you for having the lovely Emmie as your critique partner! I’m so glad you’re enjoying my books. Like you, I think writing stories full of hope and human connection is a positive thing. Frankly, I can’t imagine doing anything else. Hopefully I never have to! Now you’ve reminded me that it’s well past time I caught up with Emmie and my other writing buddy Joan Kilby for cake and other delicious things. Mmm….
I must have an HEA!! I read romance to feel good and have a happy feeling. I also enjoy learning about things (locations, lifestyles, careers, etc) while reading fiction.
Diane, we romance readers know what’s important. The happy, and the romance! Like you, I love going on the emotional roller coaster ride of a good book.
I think a romance should have a HEA, if it’s advertised as romance then I think we expect it to end that way.
Agreed, Mary. And any publisher who breaks that covenant can expect a angry mob with pitchforks and flaming torches on his/her virtual doorstep. And so say all of us!
I think one of the reasons I love romances is the HEA. I tend to suffer from depression and real life can really suck sometimes (just watch the news to see) so I tend to like books that end with happiness.
June, I’m going to let you in on a little secret – I never watch the news. I figure if something big happens, I’ll hear about it anyway. Otherwise I have chosen to not be exposed to all the things a bunch of media moguls think will entertain/scared me. I’d much rather be reading a romance, anyway.
Sarah, I love your books, too! Am reading one of your blazes at the moment, actually. I love a HEA too, and for me it’s the journey that’s so appealing, watch each couple earn their way to the HEA.
I also think, why would I want to read a book or watch a movie that makes me feel gutted and miserable at the end? I can watch the news for that. Give me feel-good romance every time.
Ms Gracie. Delightful to “see” you here. I think that “earning” thing is important, isn’t it? One of my big beefs with a lot of rom-com movies is that while the writers often put a lot of effort into making the man interesting/funny/quirky/vulnerable, the woman (apparently) simply has to be beautiful for the man to fall for her. Um, yeah. I like a little more meat on my heroine’s bones than that. I want her to be as real and flawed and faceted as the hero. Which is why I love *your* books!
I have learned that I am not the “normal” romance reader in that I don’t have to have the HEA. I can live with a HFN or even a to be continued. Of course, I also love UF so that might explain it. Honestly, if the author is running head long into a HEA and then pulls out the rug, I do feel cheated. But, if it is well written, it can be one heck of a ride! BTW, I think that comes from the fact that I read literature (like the classics) and that happens quite a bit.
Jen, you are a far more tolerant reader than me. As I mentioned above somewhere, I toiled my way through one of Wally Lamb’s books only to be left high and dry with a big sackful of nothing at the end. Not a lot of hope. Not a lot of joy. Not a lot of life-affirming anything. I have read my fair share of “classic” literature, and while I will always be engaged by a well told story and fascinating characters, I am much less inclined to go on the long journey to possible heartbreak with a modern literature for some reason. I shall have to think on that a little…
If I read a romance book, as opposed to a short story, I feel cheated without a HEA, though the definition of happily can vary somewhat with the genre. To me it is like the difference between a date and a long term relationship, the latter of which I feel should bring you joy in the end. And I am totally with you re the ache in the chest, that great blend of angst and hope.
emmasmom AT wi DOT rr DOT com
Mary M, that chest ache is so awesome. Even though at the time I am angsting for the hero and heroine, I love that I am so engrossed in their journey that I feel physical pain (note: please consult your doctor if pain persists!!!) I agree, the rules for short stories are a little more elastic. I think it’s hard to write a very satisfying romance in a short story form. I’ve written a couple of novellas and really enjoyed the focus they brought to my writing, however.
I agree with most of the other posts. I read romance novels because they usually put me in a good mood, and it is an escapism for me as well. I do read other genres, but when I’m in the mood for a romance novel, I do prefer the HEA. There may be some struggles for the characters to get to the HEA, and that’s fine, I just like knowing that there will be a happy ending. I know it’s fiction, but it still uplifts my mood. It’s like when a friend tells you the story of how her & her spouse/significant other met & began their life together. You know they’ve had struggles (or will have), but their happy & their story is so sweet, you just feel happy too. I do feel a little cheated if the romance novel doesn’t have a HEA because I want that for the characters & it doesn’t feel completed.
Sarah, I’m sorry I hadn’t heard of you before now. However, now your books will be on my “to-read” list! “All They Need” sounds really good! Oh and I really like what you mentioned about your husband being your inspiration. My husband is not only my sweetheart, but my best friend. He can still be romantic, even after 11 yrs of marriage!
Hope everyone has a great weekend!!
Hi Tricia. My husband is my sweetheart and best friend, too. He’s awesome, really. My favourite person. I love hearing my friends’ “how we met’ stories, too. In fact, my friend Helen’s “how we fell in love” story was the inspiration for one of my Super Romances, Her Best Friend. But you should have seen her husband’s face when I read out the dedication thanking her – I guess he must have thought that I’d written their romance blow for blow! I assured him that my friend had left out all the “good” bits (even though she’d told me a few of them!) and that I’d used their story as a springboard only and he got a bit of color back in his face. But it was touch and go for a moment there!
Sarah – I LOVE your books – I emailed you to tell you this about a year ago – and seriously, I never do that! (Lime – so excited that I get to blog after Sarah!).
The HEA thing is interesting. My ‘second-wave’ of romance reading started about 5-6 years ago and at the start of that I’d have said I didn’t require a HEA. Now I regard it as an (almost) absolute requirement.
And yes, the chest-achey thing. So much.
Hi Tumperkin. I remember you and the very kind blog you wrote about me. Funny that you had a second wave of romance reading. I guess I probably did that, too. I started on my Nans’ books when I was teen, progressed to Sweet Dreams romances, then back to Mills and Boons. Then I kind of just stopped. When I got published in my early thirties, I had pretty much never read a long-form (single title length) romance. My editor sent me Susan Elizabeth Philips and from there on in I have been consuming single title romances, both contemp and historical. Lovely to chat with you here!
I think the reason I read romance is the HEA. I read romances because when I’m reading for entertainment, sometimes I want know that whatever goes on, there’ll be a HEA. I don’t remember reading any books I thought were romances that didn’t have a HEA.
Hi Chey. Are you the same Chey from our Superromance blog? If so, hello! If not, you should know there’s another Chey out there : ) Like you, I read for entertainment. I’m happy to cry a little and get angry a little and laugh etc, but I must have my happy ending. It’s a deal breaker!
Hi Sarah!!! 😀 Thank you so so so much for being a guest at my blog! I loved your post, and it made me think again about why I read romances. It’s a lovely topic, isn’t it, with so many different answers. I love that each has a happy ending and positive message – that relationships can and do work.
I definitely am disappointed by romances where there isn’t a HEA or closure. I once read a category that had a “well I guess I’ll call you when we’re both home” and I about hit the roof. I felt cheated and rather annoyed.
It’s all about the journey and characterizations for me. I like getting to know the characters as people, not necessarily the events that occur to and around them, which is generally the focus of other genres. I find people fascinating, which is also why so many romances with the same or similar story lines work – because the characters are written as realistic people.
Hi Limecello. Exactly! It’s the people that make a good romance – great characters, with quirks and foibles and strengths and weaknesses. I did a Tumblr post on this subject for Harlequin yesterday, talking about loving someone, lumps and all. Because that’s what we’re all looking for in the end, right? Enduring, accepting, supportive love and friendship. (sigh. I need to go read a romance!) Thanks so much for having me to visit. It’s been great talking to all your readers and thinking about why I love this genre so much.
I don’t absolutely need a HEA, so long as the ending is justified. I love the interaction between the characters.
Hi Mary. If a book is billed as a romance, then I am pretty set on having my HEA. It feels like false advertising otherwise!
Pingback: Sad Day = Giveaway. And Winners! « Limecello