Saturday, July 16, 2011

The Happily-Ever-After Syndrome

Like many bloggers at Tabby’s Nocturnal Nights, I’m a reader and writer of romance. I crave the happily-ever-after (HEA) ending at the finish of each romance. In fact, I will refuse to read a romance book that can’t promise that. This may seem inflexible, but I escape into romance not for the realism, but for the fantasy. If I want tragic relationships, I only have to turn on the TV, talk to a friend--basically just visit the outside world for that dose of reality.

I can’t say exactly what draws me so strongly to romance over every other genre out there. But I think there’s a certain optimism in romance, the belief in the HEA that attracts me. While I can’t be guaranteed that happiness in real life, I can be sure to get it from a romance, as long as the author keeps his/her part of the deal. Though rare, I’ve come across an author or two who’ve broken this not so unspoken rule, whether it happens in the couple’s actual book or in a related novel further in the series. Unfaithfulness and death of a romantic partner are my wall bangers.

Those books that break with the traditional HEA become taboo for me. I may love the series in question, but my mind tries to wipe the knowledge these HEA breakers from my memory stores. Unfortunately, the opposite often happens, and they’re seared into my brain with a branding iron. I abhor these books, but can’t stop thinking about them.

Why? Well, they upset me, destroy my faith in the HEA of romance. And, yes, shock, repulse, and fascinate me with the realism they display. But if I can’t have a HEA in a romance novel, where can I?

What are your reasons for writing/reading romance? Is the HEA dispensable for you or a must-have? And what breaks the HEA deal for you like no other?


Jenna said...

I too love the optimism of the HEA. But it's not only that that draws me to romance. It's the in fantasy romance, the ideal that is seldom in real life that makes me want to read.

One romance book in particular I have a love/hate relationship with the hero--who is unfaithful to the heroine throughout the book (there are extenuating circumstances, but still I hate that he does it) and then doesn't seem quite as contrite at the end as I think he should be, though there is an HEA.

Like you, I obviously am obsessed with this book, even though it still makes me mad!

Great post, Lisa!

Lisa Kumar said...

Thanks for stopping by, Jenna!

I, too, love the fantasy in romance. It's that fantasy that allows the guaranteed HEA--and indeed the optimism in a HEA.

Lol, that book you have a love/hate relationship does sound like it brings out the same emotions in you as it would in me;)

Lia Davis said...

Great post! I too like both the fantasy and the HEA. I'm bad about reading the last chapter to make sure there is a HEA. Knowing that it's there keeps me reading the entire story.

Casea Major said...

There should be a GIGANTIC WARNING LABEL on any romance novel that doesn't include an HEA! That kind of betrayal is grounds for severe penalty. And any card toting romantic knows it.


Angie Cox said...

I read paranormal romances so everyone knows I'm not after a dose of real life. I want to find that love at first sight. The one that makes the girl go against everything her head says to do and fall in love with the boy.

The one that has a hero who could pick any supermodel thats a 15 on a scale of 10 but still takes the normal girl who may not be a size 0. The one that will let nothing come between him and his love.

The HEA comes in there. Nothing will keep them apart. I agree that if I wanted a real story of deceit, lies and cheating I could just watch 'reality tv' or local news. I need the escape from reality and these stories give me that.

Brenda said...

I NEED a happily ever after. LOL, I too glimpse the last chapter to make sure there is a HEA!

D'Ann said...

I wouldn't classify a book without a HEA as even a romance. Woman's fic, yes.

On my shared blog, we talked about a certain man author who is called a "romance author" with characters who die, often the MC. Usually, the woman.

He isn't a romance author at all.

I refuse to read lit fic or really any other kind of book, except mystery, because there's enough death, destruction and horror in the world. I don't need it in my fiction, too.

Let me qualify H/h are fighting it in my books. And there will be a HEA for them, no question.

Lisa Kumar said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Lisa Kumar said...

Thanks for all the great comments, everyone! I couldn't agree with you all more.

D'Anne, I agree with you about the definition of the romance genre, but I've read a few romance novels I felt were a betrayal of the HEA.

One was where a woman fell in love with an Indian male, stayed with his people, had his children. 3/4 into the book he was killed, and she ended up with a sweetheart from her childhood! Hated that book! Too much realism for me.

Many of the other wallbangers are from series, where the couple achived thier HEA early on. In their chidren's books, it becomes apparent their HEA wasn't so happily ever after as there were illegitimate children born after their marriage. Lol, that destroyed my idea of an HEA!

I've read a few historicals where the hero was questionable hero-material (i.e. unfaithful almost until the very end, guilty of past rape--not the forced seduction of heroine but all out rape of another woman earlier in the series).

Brenda said...

I am with you on that D'ann. I think in order for a novel to be classified as 'romance' it has to have the HEA. Otherwise it is really chic lit, or whatever is the next strongest element. I love the romance genre because of the sigh I feel well up inside me as I read it, or write it. It makes me look at my husband with stars in my eyes, despite his dirty socks in my potted fern. The more they fight, the better the pay off at the end. I think that is why I am not drawn to the new erotica stuff with multiple partners and one night stands. I want a hero who is not willing to share and I want the emotional investment of the HEA. Brenda L.

Brenda said...

You are right Lisa, it's practically a sucker punch when they trick you like that after you've invested all that time.. Brenda L.

Lisa Kumar said...

Brenda, thanks for stopping by!

Lol, I think most romance authors and publishers have the HEA concept down, except for a few wallbangers I can think of. I don't think these books got the memo--or were forced to fit into the romance genre when they shouldn't have been.

Kitt Carson said...

Interesting Brenda. I just read a couple of articles trashing romance novels as giving the wrong idea to women. But here you've proved that romance novels can re-vitalize marriages. That's a worthy cause. Maybe that's the spin LA Times should try next time, "How romance novels can ignite your marriage." Ignite in a good way, of course. :)

Sheri Fredricks said...

If it doesn't have a HEA, I won't read it.

Lisa Kumar said...

Thanks for stopping by, Kitt and Sheri!

I think Brenda has a good point about. Romances can make us want to revitialize a romantic relationship. Even though we know that life won't turn into the HEA in a romance novel, we see the little things in romance novels that could provide moments of HFN (happy for now) to our everyday lives.

I've also read articles trashing romance novels, and I think the writers/researchers involved with such studies can twist words. They also forget that most women aren't delusional and can see what is fantasy in a romance and what is not.

Jennifer said...

I think the HEA if the heart of a romance. I, too, have a hard time reading books that don't promise that. I once gave one of my ms to a friend who had never read a romance and when she got to the end where the hero gets shot and you don't know if he is going to live or not (of course, as a romance reader you know he will-he's the hero), and she came to me and said in horror 'He's dead? You killed him?" She was so upset I just had to look at her in wonder. Then I remembered she wasn't a reader of romance so I explained the HEA. Why would you read anything else but a happy ending? I love the HEA.
Great post!

Lisa Kumar said...

I agree with you, Jennifer. A HEA is one of the key factors for a romance.

Lol, you really had you friend worried!

Toni Kelly said...

I agree with your post in that I like to escape reality to find the HEA. It's not that reality never has it but it is usually a lot more complex and the wait can be a while. Romance novels are a quick, short dose of that HEA.