WHAT? y’awl are probably wondering. How can she not want a HEA?
I was trying to explain this not to long ago and I’m not sure I did a good job in making my point. So before I go on, just to be clear, when I read a romance, while not always wanting a HEA, I DO want the hero and heroine to end up together. It’s more of a semantics thing. When I was young I loved fairytales. And in almost every one, they lived “happily ever after.” But then I grew up and realized that very rarely happens. One of the major reasons I read romance is to get away from real life for a time. But I often enjoy a more realistic romance whether it is in a historical or contemporary. And when I’m reading a more realistic romance, I want a more realistic ending.
As an example I’ll use Darking I Listen by Katherine Sutcliffe. I loved this book but for me, this was not a HEA and I’m glad it wasn’t. Brandon was one screwed up human being and it wouldn’t be realistic to think he and Alyson tripped happily into the sunset. Brandon was going to need major long term help to get him past the trauma he went through.
Anne Stuart’s Black Ice is another example. Can anyone who has read this book picture Bastien and Chloe doing the suburb thing with a SUV, 2.5 kids and a dog? Not me.
And what about the In Death series? When it finally wraps up – and I hope that’s a long way down the road, can anyone imagine Eve being happy? She just wouldn’t be Eve if she were.
Historicals don’t necessarily have the traditional HEA either. The book that got me realizing this is A Season to be Sinful by Jo Goodman. Lily had a very dark history. One of my favourites, Whispers of Heaven didn’t have a HEA to me. I loved the ending for that book, more so because of the ambiguousness of it. It allowed me to create an additional ending; a follow up, in my mind.
I don’t think The Shadow and the Star by Laura Kinsale had a HEA. Samuel was also one damaged dude and I can’t picture him happy.
And while I haven't read either Shadowheart or For My Lady's Heart, they are both in my TBR pile, I don't think either Allegreto or Melanthe would be what we consider "happy" even at the end.
Being happy is fleeting. I can’t say I’m happy all the time. I’m not unhappy, but I think I would almost get tired of being continually happy. I’m pretty sure I would get annoying after a while.
Instead what I prefer in these darker and more intense books is the hero and heroine are enriched by the other person. They grow and they are better people for there loves being in their lives.
Brandon can heal deeper with Alyson as a part of him. Bastian is changed and loving Chloe is the reason. Eve can accept and conquer her childhood scars because Roarke helped make it possible.
I have read books with a somewhat darker theme where the author insisted on giving them a traditional HEA and it made my teeth ache. I can’t read Catherine Anderson any more for this reason. I used to love her historicals and I read a few of her contemporaries and she is a perfect example of an author who insists on making everything turn out just wonderfully happy. Nope not for me.
So for me it’s sufficient and sometimes more fulfilling to have a ATLAEABOTB ending but I can’t really see that becoming an everyday acronym.
And Their Lives Are Enriched and Better Off Than Before