Romances and their HEA

There’s no doubt that one of the main must haves for a romance novel is the HEA – known as the Happy Ever After. One of the main reasons I read romances is for that alone. There are enough shitty and depressing things that happen in real life.

Since most romance novels have a HEA guaranteed, I don’t bother to be a spoiler whore to find out what happens in the end. And because of that guarantee, I know that I won’t be surprised with a horrible ending with one or either of the protagonists dying.

So you could have hit me over the head with a shovel last night when I was happily reading what I thought was the most lovely YA romance, when within the last 5 pages, WHAM!

The heroine died suddenly.

I was like, NO WAY.

So I re-read the scene again, and then my NO WAY turned into a OH NO FUCKING WAY.

From looking at the cover and reading the blurb, IMO it was marketed as a YA contemporary romance. It had a cheery bloody cover. Why would you market it as a romance and have the heroine die in the last 5 pages! Don’t you know the HEA rules?

Then someone mentioned to me on twitter last night – after I vented my anger and disbelief to other romance lovers – about a bait and switch. And I think in this case, it totally was. You bait the reader with the cute happy cover along with the cute blurb. You make the story as lovely and cute as possible, then at the very end, WHAM. You pull an almighty stinker without any warning.

So now I’m wary about YA contemporary romances, and I’m now going to become a spoiler whore. So thank you very much author who shall now be known to me as the ‘authorwhototallyruinedthebookIwasreadinglastnightandturnedmeintoaspoilerwhore’.

But don’t get me wrong. There is nothing wrong with books that have protags dying. I just choose not to read them. But when a book is marketed as a romance, am I wrong to expect a happy ending?

So my fellow readers, what say you about the HEA? If you see a book marketed as romance, do you expect to have a HEA?

Update: I’ll post the blurb and a link to the cover in spoiler format. Click on ‘show’. I’ve changed the spoiler tags, and it now works on Chrome and Safari.

Spoiler Inside SelectShow

Comments

  1. says

    I definitely expect a HEA when I read a romance, too. That would likely have upset me as well (can’t say for sure since I haven’t read the book, but still). If I wanted a sad story I wouldn’t've picked up a romance!

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  2. says

    OMG she died? WTF! I really think I’m really open minded with HEAs and I see them in books where other readers scream for a better one. For example Megan Hart’S novels are often seen as not so romancy because they don’t promise the perfect HEA with all the shiny glory but more of a realistic one.
    But I agree dying is an absolute no go . I would cry my eyes out.

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  3. says

    Oh Lou!! I would have been equally pissed!! I totally expect an HEA when I’m reading romance novels. A main character dying? NOT IN THE CARDS!

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  4. Lou says

    @ Emma and Susi

    It was such a shocker because it all happened within the last 5 pages at end of the book. And the story itself was only 156 pages long.

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  5. Lou says

    @Minn

    It’s what I would call a YA contemporary romance.

    Reading the blurb alone, it made it sound like after having a serious illness and now being in remission, the heroine had to let go of her fears of her past illness to find love again. To me, that screams having her HEA.

    She does find love, but then dies! WTF is up with that?

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  6. says

    Okay, I really want to know what book this is, so I can AVOID reading it. I am not a fan of the bait and switch! If you won’t post it publicly, will you email it to me???

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  7. says

    :-O Seriously! In a YA Romace!

    THATS JUST NASTY! NASTY bait and switch!

    Maybe in a paranormal romance thats gonna continue and he’ll bring her BACK! But no! nasty!

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  8. says

    I had a similar experience with an epic fantasy. It should end with the world being saved. That’s the convention of the genre. Instead, they save their corner of the world and the rest is screwed. Worse, after she confronts her rapist in the last few pages, he walks away smirking and she has to let him go. Her RAPIST.

    I was pissed! I wanted my happy ending. You can give me the bittersweet ending of “well, we saved as much of the world as we could” but then you have to compensate with a personal victory. Instead, the whole ending was a downer.

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  9. Lou says

    I’ve put the name of the book and blurb inside the spoiler box above. I’ve also included the cover.

    When you read the blurb, especially the last sentence, it totally sells as a romance I feel.

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  10. says

    I would class that as a romance too, also it does look light hearted even though she was a cancer sufferer. But that is a tragic ending and with romance there is a clear definition that there should be a happy ending. :P

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  11. infinitieh says

    Ack, the spoiler thingy is not working so I have no idea what the book is!

    Still, I read romances for the HEA which I needed after reading a string of depressing YA books.

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  12. Lou says

    The spoiler doesnt seem to work on Google Chrome Browser and on Safari. Tomorrow, I’ll try another another spoiler tag plugin.

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  13. says

    What is the point in reading a book if you already know how it’s going to end? Guaranteed HEAs are pa-the-tic! The stories they’re attached to are (usually) completely unimaginative cookie-cutter fluffy BS that says nothing to no one other than “I’m horny and barely literate”. They are for those who cannot handle life in any manner and must be spoon fed every little thing. It seems to me that you just (finally) stumbled across an author who knows how to tell a good tale. Romance doesn’t depend on the ending of a story….it depends on the relationship that sustains the story, even if it ends “unhappily”. Get a spine!

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  14. says

    Wow. To the last commenter, just …wow.

    Okay, anyone who has read my work knows that even though it’s classified as romance, I don’t guarantee a happily ever after. USUALLY I will guarantee a happy for now, but one of mine (a short story) doesn’t even go there. HOWEVER, it’s a paranormal and the first in a series. You keep reading and there’s a lot more going on that redeems what happened in the first one.

    I don’t expect a HEA from ALL romances (even though it’s considered a convention of the genre), but a stand alone contemporary? Yeah, I kind of would. Once you move out of contemporary and/or into series, I think there’s a lot more leeway.

    I don’t know. Unless there is a damn good reason for it, I’d feel cheated after investing time in a story that seemed to follow conventions and then did that at the end. Bad marketing decision on someone’s part.

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  15. says

    I’ve happily lived for close to 30 years without a spine when it comes to my preferred reading material. Anybody who wants unhappy, go read literature and please leave us happy romance readers to our pathetic happy endings.

    I bet the difference between those writers and successful rom writers is in the number of zeros after the comma on their royalty statements. :P

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  16. says

    Ohhh boy :D

    Well with all genre books there is a set of preconceptions and reader expectations. A love story that may end unhappily but it is emphatically is not a romance. Romance has clear set conventions of anything goes but at the end there must be a HEA. Is it boring? Perhaps to some people but I can assure you that the majority will disagree with you on that end.

    People read romance for a wide variety reasons – and for me the HEA is a reward for the issues and the problems the characters have to get through.
    And romance is not the only the genre that has these conventions. Mysteries and thrillers, will people be happy if the villian/s get away with their crimes or killing off the hero?

    And why is there is this problem with not having a HEA. We all strive for that in real life don’t we? And not all romances have HEA with butterflies and glitter and angels singing orgasmically in fluffy white clouds when the hero and heroine say their ‘I love yous’. In fact lots still have issues and problems which they know they have to work on. But with ALL books that are marketed and aimed at an audience there is preconceptions on what they are reading.

    This was clearly a bait and switch. its a disservice to the author because the publisher should have known better to mask and disguise it as a light hearted romance when it was not the case. That is the issue.

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  17. Lou says

    Dark Romance Writer, for some odd reason, I take it you’re not a fan of HEA romances? ;)

    As for your extremely ig-no-rant lame ass patronising post that manages to insult the majority of romance readers, all I’m simply going to say is thank you for commenting on my post.

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  18. says

    Dark Romance Writer –
    While I can appreciate all sorts of different things from my books, they all do tend to stick to particular formulas. For romance, the happily ever after, or at least the happy for now, is one of those things I have just come to expect. When reading a mystery, I expect it to be solved, the hero/heroine to solve the case, and the villian to be caught. With erotica, I expect there to be lots of steamy and sometimes meaningless sex. Is it wrong for me to expect these things? I don’t think so.

    As far as you claiming that those of us romance readers are reading books because we “cannot handle life in any manner and must be spoon fed every little thing,” I can only say WHAT?

    Life is hard. At times it really sucks. You can’t turn on the news without hearing about people shooting up their schools, wars in already impoverished areas, the rise in unemployement, homelessness, and all the other problems in the world right now. What’s so wrong with curling up on the couch with the intention of reading a book to escape all of that??

    I like the fact that when life beats me down a little, I know that I can pick up a good romance and escape into a place where things work out in the end. It might not all be rainbows and sunshine on the journey, but at least I’m guaranteed a story where I know that things will work out in the end.

    I don’t see how that translates to me not having a spine.

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  19. says

    [quote] Romance doesn’t depend on the ending of a story….it depends on the relationship that sustains the story, even if it ends “unhappily”. [/quote]

    If you are speaking about romance in general, that’s a valid opinion. If you are speaking about the romance genre, you are misinformed.

    “Two basic elements comprise every romance novel: a central love story and an emotionally-satisfying and optimistic ending.” http://www.rwa.org/cs/the_romance_genre

    If it doesn’t end happily, it’s not a romance novel, and it’s a bait and switch to market it as one. Someone could, of course, write a book focusing on a central love story that does not end well, and that could be a great book. But it wouldn’t be romance.

    If you don’t like cookie-cutter fluffy BS, that’s fine. No one’s asking you to like it. But try to appreciate the fact that you are not the only person in the world and it’s okay if people like a genre you do not. There even exist intelligent, imaginative, literate, well-adjusted people who like things you don’t. Really, it’s true! And that’s okay. You don’t need to feel threatened by it.

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