Monday, August 22, 2005

I don't always want a HEA

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.

‘til later

And Their Lives Are Enriched and Better Off Than Before


Tara Marie said...

I think HEA is a perception that changes depending on the book.

I've read just about everything you mention (including For My Lady's Heart and Shadowheart, haven't read the Goodman) and have never felt their HEA diminished because we don't see the perfect fairy tale ending.

I guess I'm saying I agree with you and yet I think I do expect a certain level of happiness or at least the thought that they will be happier and more content. I prefer an author to leave the ending of a "dark" book rather ambiguous, it allows me to decide the level of happiness and contentment.

This is probably why I stopped reading the Death series, Eve's level of personal growth and change between books is so small that at times it's imperceptable (and yet I'm sure if I read the first and the last of the series, it probably would seem huge.) By the end of the series, I want her to be happy and content with her life and yet that doesn't seem possible and for me that's not enough.

bam said...

I don't think Anita Blake from LKH's Vampire Hunter series will have a happy ending. She'll probably screw herself to exhaustion, then get run over by a truck or something. That would be funny.

Megan Frampton said...


I totally agree with you. In fact, nothing ruins a book for me more than the forced HEA. For example, Anne Stuart's To Love A Dark Lord has this saccharine epilogue that makes me squirm. Actually, epilogues in general drive me batty. I still loved the book, but I wish I could've seen a realistic ending--these people are troubled, and giving them a trad HEA is just wrong.

Kristie said...

Exactly Megan. I'm reading this wonderful book right now and will blog on it when I finish, but the hero is very damaged. I skipped ahead to the end because I do that kind of thing (sigh) and it says to paraphrase "Was he a hundred percent? No, who was? But he managed to find a measure of contentment."
To me that is wonderful ending. No promises for HEA, but you know he is healing and he is in a better place because of the love of and for the heroine.
Tara; We are actually saying the same thing:) I demand the certain level of happiness too - Not just an unrealistic high level in darker romances.
BAM: I've never tried LKH but from the buzz I hear, that might be something that happens to Anita :)

bam said...

LKH is going to kill off Anita? That would be a happy day!

CindyS said...


Yes, exactly ;) I read to escape also but there is no way people are happy 100% of the time. Love changes and grows and there are rough patches and smooth but, I just want to feel that these two people will weather it all.

It's funny that you mention Anne Stuart's book (I'm a fangirl) because someone at AAR said they would have liked an epilogue and Anne Stuart wrote up a mini one with the whole house in the burbs, 2.5 kids etc. Stuart says that she absolutely sees her characters living HEA. Uh, no, not in my head. They are each other's other half but I imagine there will be some wonderfully dramatic moments between Chloe and Bastien in the years ahead.

As for Anita - what!! Where's the buzz at? I gotta know!


Kristie (J) said...

IIRC in her epilogue Stuart had them living alone in the woods pretty much except for family :)

And (laughing) no buzz on Anita. I think BAM meant at the rate she is going, this is what could/should happen

Robin said...

I agree, Kristie. I don't need or necessarily want them to be "happy" forever; I just want them to have love and commitment from each other forever -- to be able to count on one another forever. I don't know if that's a higher or lower expectation, but it's what I love about all of my favorite Romances. Like Kinsale's TSATS -- Samuel is soooooo damaged that he's a long way from content, but I can totally see him being there for Leda and I have no doubt that she will always be there for him. So even though I wouldn't want to end up with Samuel myself, I feel he and Leda are safe in each other's hands. It's a social stability thing, I think, and a need to see the hero and heroine as worthy and competent to be there for the other in mind, body, and spirit.

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