Tuesday, December 15, 2009

Pondering The HEA...

The menz, Tori and I are lined up in a row along the beach watching Mitch surf this morning and I got to pondering about the HEA's in the romances I've been reading lately. Many of them have been quite non-traditional but that has been a good thing because the ending has suited the context of the story. I asked my heroes if they felt the HEA in a romance novel had to be traditional versus a more open ended type of conclusion to the story (I mean, they are after all, heroes) and I got a number of very weird looks.

"You know, the 'Happily Ever After', for the heroine and hero in a romance that comes at the end after plenty of sexual tension, conflict and hopefully interesting plot," I clarified.

"Oh, you mean bonding." Eidolon responds.

"No, she's talking about marriage." Nicholai pipes up rolling his eyes.

And, herein lies the crux of the question. What, in this modern reading world, is a "traditional HEA"? I mean, we have humans, aliens, demons, vampires, shapeshifters including werewolves, and any number of other shifter folk, sorcerers, witches, etc. etc. Then of course there are the various sub-genres of romance that all these species, human or non fit into, contemporary, erotic, paranormal, suspense, military suspense, fantasy, m/m, historical and so on and so on.

So, what am I getting at? On more occasions than I can count I've noticed fellow romance readers responding in blog comments, on readers groups etc. that they've "gotta have their HEA". I'm not saying that is bad because it isn't at all, I mean I look forward to a happy ending incorporated into the climax of my current read too. However, are we talking a "traditional" happy ending here, as in white wedding dress and white picket fence? Or, as modern women/men reading a variety romance sub-genres are we more open minded with respect to the HEA, particularly when it is a riveting well-written story?

I would like to think and hope the latter is true. When you are talking about a bad boy hero or heroine who has major 'issues' that they work through over the course of the story, hopefully with the help of their partner, for example, wouldn't a more open ended type of HEA seem more appropriate? As in the hero and heroine decide to live together or make a commitment to be monogamous and see what happens. In the case of black ops or military heroes, who live a life of danger and intrigue and are likely to continue this life despite finding their love match, I find it more realistic if they have a non traditional commitment at the end of the story to be together and see how things work out.

Now, I'm not saying that a white wedding dress and picket fence isn't appropriate in this type of scenario, because it certainly depends on the characters and the plot of the story. However, I also think a more open ended, non traditional ending is perfectly acceptable too.

Which brings me to paranormal beings, and I'm going to use the example of Larissa Ione's seminus demons from her Demonica series. Now these guys don't just mate, they bond, for-ever. In fact the female takes on the same dermaglyph markings as the male when they exchange blood and are intimate during what is a physiological as well as emotional bonding ritual. In Lara Adrian's Midnight Breed Series, her alien male vampires mate for life with a unique human female breedmate who has the blood they require to sustain them.  These are just a couple of examples and there are certainly a litany of others in the thousands of romance novels on the shelves of HEA's in the paranormal sub-genre. There quite often isn't a traditional "wedding ceremony" or white picket fence when you are reading paranormal romance, and it likely wouldn't fit when you live in dark places because sun exposure will turn you to dust. Would it?

I do think historical and contemporary romance readers like to see a more traditional HEA in their reading. Certainly with respect to historical romance, the HEA has to be kept in context with the times and marriage was expected. However, in contemporary and erotic romance I've read a number of more open ended types of HEA's that have left me very satisfied. Particularly with polyamorous relationships or again when one of the partners is working through some traumatic life issues that don't resolve overnight. I guess, from my perspective anyway, I find it much more appropriate for there to be an "I love you and we will see where this takes us", at the end of the novel rather than a rush to the church for wedding bells in this type of a situation.

So, what are your thoughts with respect to the HEA in a romance? Does it have to be wedding bells and the white picket fence, or can you handle a more open ended relationship commitment depending on the story?

Tomorrow is my last day on the island until the New Year, and I'm looking forward to another holiday luau tonight to celebrate. Wow, 2010 is almost here, and tomorrow I'm chatting about New Year reading resolutions. :)


Unknown said...

Love the post and the blog =) I have to say I really enjoy the none traditional HEA as in Midnight breeds, BDB and The Demonica series... but I really ebjoy when there is a traditional one... I love to see an hero actually propose to his heroine... its soo adorable... as in the Weather Warden series by Rachel Caine... or even when the hero asks the heroine to move in and the HEA is less "fate" than just two people falling in love and wanting to be together =)))

Really awesome post!

Mary G said...

Hi Lea. Well said.
"much more appropriate for there to be an "I love you and we will see where this takes us", at the end of the novel rather than a rush to the church for wedding bells". I recently read Steve's Story by Jess Dee & that had a most unusually handled HEA. The heroine has an illness that will shorten her life but the author was very brave in offering a different kind of HEA. Hope you & Tori & the menz are enjoying the

Chris said...

Oh, good post, Lea!

I don't think marriage and a white picket fence are necessary for the HEA ending at all. For me, it's enough that the characters are together and have worked through whatever issue/problem/crisis needed to be resolved.

I suspect that reading paranormals and now m/m have led me to not "requiring" a traditional HEA.

Clare London said...

Hi. Great post!
I read and write mostly m/m so I think it's true, the 'traditional' HEA isn't really up for grabs in that situation. But what HEA means to me is a resolution of some kind, a realisation between hero/heroine - or hero/hero! - that their attraction is more than lust and is changing - or has changed - their life, with potential for the future.

I like that idea of - 'we realise we mean much more to each other than we first thought, and we want this to build into something even better - let's commit to each other and see where it goes!' type of ending. Oops, that sounded clumsy LOL.

I like the modern idea that there can be so many more HEAs than a marriage. It doesn't detract from the marriage ending, but gives authors scope to write more complex characters and situations, gives readers more variety, and reflects the real challenges that people have in life. :)

Unknown said...

Hi Lea!

I like to have an HEA in the books I read, but I'll also settle for HFN ending. Not every love will be a true love or the love to end all others. But romance is romance, I love the first kiss, the first dance, the first intimate moment. I love sensual and then graphic can be great too. What matters most to me is the hero and heroine being someone real to me, that I can relate to and bond with. Some of the best UF that I've read has recurring love interests, but either the hero or heroine are held back by something. Unwilling to risk losing the love they have, usually it is a true love, but for one reason or another, commitment hasn't happened. I know it will, but not yet.

I have a real thing for vampires and humans. Romance between them is always difficult, but so engaging and enthralling. I love the first brush with the raging hormones. Vamp pheromones are the best between two that are meant to be.

So, do I need the white wedding (borrowing from Billy Idol, lol) - no, not for me to love the story. If that's the cards for the players, I'm all for it, don't get me wrong, I just don't need it to be satisfied. But it's the chemistry I'm looking for, the hot and heavy romance that can't be denied. And I'm not talking just about sex, I want it all, gratuitous sex almost always sucks. I want the happily ever after that means this hero and heroine are together, for now or for always.... I just want to watch them fall in love each time their lips meet.... so romantic.

Dottie :)

Lea said...

Hi Larissa!

Thank you so much for stopping by and for your comment. I agree a mixture of "traditional" versus a more open ended or "non traditional" HEA is really great for us romance readers. I think it certainly has to fit with the context / genre of the story and that is what makes it special for us readers.

Thank you again.

Hey Mary!

Thank you for your comment. :) That is a different sort of HEA, but again suited to the context of the plot of the story, which is key, yes?

It's great to know that other readers are more accepting of a more "open ended" type of HEA such as the one you are describing.


Hi Chris!

Thank you so much! I totally agree, it is more about the resolution of the conflicts the author has created while advancing the plot of the story. It's good to know that others are more accepting of a less "traditional" HEA. I also agree that with the proliferation of m/m, paranormal, erotic etc. romance, a less linear HEA has become more acceptable to many readers.

Thanks again!

Hi Clare!

Thank you so much for your great comment. I think you expressed it perfectly in saying, "we realise we mean much more to each other than we first thought, and we want this to build into something even better - let's commit to each other and see where it goes!" type of HEA.

I was chatting with another author over the weekend who writes paranormal and she opined with the proliferation of paranormal, m/m, erotic and so on it has broadened the landscape expoentially with respect to the HEA in a romance novel. I think that offers such an opportunity for writers to be creative with respect to ending their stories.

Thanks so much again. I have a couple of your stories on my e-reader by the way!


Hi Dottie:

Thanks so much for your comment, I agree completely. The sexual tension leading to that HEA is crucial for me in a romance, no matter what the sub genre. All the points you mentioned make the ending that much more special.

And, for me too, the HEA doesn't necessarily have to be "traditional" at all.

Thanks again Dottie!!

beth kery said...

Hi Lea. Such a terrific post. I know for me, it's hard at times to write a traditional HEA when the h/h have known each other for a week or something. But I think you can combine a HFN with a really amazing chemistry between the lovers, and an acknowledgement that, "yeah, this is something unique that has just bowled me over...something tells me THIS IS IT."
Maybe the HFN sort of can have negative connotations? As if it's a fling or something? I don't want it to seem like a fling; I want it to be obvious that these two are made for each other, but at the same time, have some realism as far as how people would behave after a week of knowing each other.
Hope that makes sense. lol. Thanks for the post, Lea.

Lea said...

Hi Beth!

Thank you so much for your kind note and taking time to visit again today. :) I too think the time frame over which a story takes place is so important with respect to an HEA or a "Happy For Now", type of ending. If the H&H are newly acquaited and the story takes place over the span of a week, I always have difficulty with a "rush to the church".

I'm all for that "bowled me over" feeling of love between the H&H and the special feelings that just "erupt" from the attraction. However, an HFN is always more palatable for me in these special circumstances.

Thanks again Beth!

Anonymous said...

I will NOT read Nicolas Sparks because the man NEVER gives me a HEA. I loved "A Walk to Remember", "The Notebook" and "Message in a Bottle" as movies, but I will NOT read the books because they all end without the HEA. I HATE that in romance books. The hero and heroine have to LIVE with the HOPE of happiness. That is enough HEA for me. I don't need wedding bells and the picket fence, just an adoring healthy couple with the appearance of a long happy life together.



Carolyn Crane said...

Ooh, great post! So agree on the church bells thing, too. Ooh, you're just reminding me how much I can't wait for Lara Adrian's next!!

Cecile Smutty Hussy said...

Hey hon!!!! Girl, you rock out the Island!! HEA ~ I could not agree with you more on the fact that they have to suit the book/genre you are reading. I mean, I am all for wedding bells and white picket fences... but let's face... I just want them to be together! But it has to happen!! They have to wind up together! You can torture them, cause them angst, whatever... but let the light bulb go off and let them fall in love!!!!
I hope you have a great time at the Island Lea! ((hugs to you, feel like i have not talk to you in a while))

Lea said...

Hi Ms.M.: Thanks so much, yeah, Nicholas Sparks epitomises the "romantic tragedy", doesn't he? Great if you want to feel sad and weep until you choke at the end of the story, but not for those of us who want to feel good at the end.

He does have a huge following, but his books aren't my cuppa either. I think you are so right, knowing that the H&H are going to be happy together is what's important.

Thanks again

Hi Carolyn!

Thanks for stopping by! I'm so looking forward to Lara Adrian's next too. I've collected her midnight breed series since I first read it. IMHO great stories and she is world building so well. ;)


Hi Cecile!

Thank you for your note. :) You are so right, I think knowing that the H&H are happy together is what's important. It makes the romance - "romantic" doesn't it?

Best to you.

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