Tuesday, December 07, 2010

Why I Like Romance

Today, I welcome author Rebecca York to Terry's Place. Rebecca started writing romantic suspense when she was eight. Well, actually, she was playing with dolls, but the dolls were always kidnapped by a handsome hero and taken off to a desert island.

Rebecca will give away an autographed DRAGON MOON to a reader who comments on her post by December 11. Rebecca will choose a winner, and I'll announce it here, so don't forget to check back. Unclaimed prize will be forfeited.

Romance authors get criticized for their happy endings. It can’t be real literature if you know the hero and heroine are going to walk off into the sunset together.

Literature? That’s what I studied in my English classes in college. When I read a book now, I want to enjoy myself.

I’ve just finished a “guy book” that upset me a lot. So I want to discuss it a little. I won’t mention any names, but the story was about a woman lawyer whose husband was accused of murder. She loved him and defended him at his trial. During the course of the book, I got to know and like the heroine. Several times during the story, she questioned whether her husband was really innocent. But each time, she regained her faith in him. She won an acquittal, and they joyfully went home again. Then the author had the brilliant idea of having her find out that the guy was really guilty. Not just guilty, but a psychopath. When she confronted him, he tried to kill her. When she ended up shooting him in self-defense, that was the last straw for me.

I’d gone through a deeply emotional experience with the heroine. I rooted for her to win the court case–in the face of a hostile judge and a lot of dirty tricks from the prosecution. Not only that, during the trial, she almost gets fired from her job. But she triumphed over all of that.

What was her reward? Her life was destroyed. Why? Because the author thought it was a cool twist for the end of the book?

As I read, I started suspecting that the author was going to pull a zinger at the end. But I kept hoping for the best, and I kept going because I liked the heroine and wanted her to win–and walk away happy. I was involved with the story, but now I’m really upset with investing so much time and emotional energy in the plot–and the characters.

I write paranormal romantic suspense, which means I put my hero and heroine through terrible trials. I test their resolve and their character and their love for each other. But I end the story with them happy together. Because that’s what I want to read. And write. There’s enough bad stuff going on in the world without inventing more.

I could name countless movies where the cool twist has one of the main characters dying. Or deeply disappointed. With a movie, it’s not so bad. I’ve only invested a couple of hours in the plot and characters. In the face of a disaster ending, I always turn to my husband and say, “That’s not what really happened. What happened was . . .” Then I tell him how it really came out okay.

But I can’t read a book in a couple of hours. The investment is bigger. And the disappointment is worse when the ending sucks.

Romance writers get a bad rap for our happy endings. But it’s basically the same in mystery and suspense. I mean, the detective solves the crime, or the hero escapes from the evil bad guys. As far as I’m concerned, genre writers have a contract with the reader. It’s going to come out okay. Unless maybe it’s a science fiction novel where the whole world blows up at the end. Well, there’s another exception, too. Guys who write love stories who bend over backwards not to end the book the way a woman writer would.

So what’s your preference. Do you want that happy ending? Or will you settle for misery because you’ve just been dragged through a powerful emotional experience?

Rebecca York's latest paranormal romantic suspense is DAY OF THE DRAGON which comes out today, December 7.
For more: Rebecca's Web site: www.rebeccayork.com

On Twitter: Rebeccayork43


Jess said...

If I want a happy ending, I'll grab a romance. That's the whole point. Each genre gives you something different, so if you don't like it, don't read it. But criticizing a romance for a happy ending is like criticizing the grass for being green..it just IS.

Rebecca York said...

I also expect mystery and suspense to have a "happy ending." Not the same kind as a romance, but I expect that the characters I care about will be alive and at least satisfied with their lives at the end.

Jennifer Shirk said...

I DO prefer a happy ending, but I have read books like you've read (in fact, it sounds familiar so I wonder if I did read it) and accepted endings like that (reluctantly).

But when I close a book I want to leave my characters in good hands not unsettled or a mess. It just doesn't satisfy me either.

Shannon said...

I've always been a fan of dark fantasy and horror, in theory, but the more I've read the more I've realized that I want a happy ending of the character arc sort. A lot of tales I've been reading recently have been really tragic. Sure, they might get crowned in the end, but they've lost more than they've gained, come out worse people, and caused others to become worse people.

Since the people haven't come out okay, there's no reason to believe that the coronation or anything else, is a happy ending, anyway. Just a new beginning to new troubles.

This is really bad with big, fat fantasy trilogies where you slog through 900 pages a book.

Kill the protagonists if you must, let them come out the poorer, but let them grow and develop and become better people. I've dealt with enough bitter, self-indulgent and arrogant people. It takes a lot of energy out of me to deal with it all some more in a novel and see them get rewarded for it.

I do make exceptions for tragedies or obviously dark themes (vengeance never pays; cycles of abuse) but sometimes dark fantasy novels that aren't tackling such hard issues just start feeling like a soap opera where the people just become nastier and nastier (or stupider) for the sake of more melodrama.

At least in Romance, they normally end up better people!

Maryann Miller said...

Actually, a twist like you described would not bother me if it came across as believable and not just done because the author wanted a twist. And I still think the heroine came out on top because she lived. The fact that her faith was misplaced is something that happens to a lot of people, and these types of suspense novels that are not romantic suspense can have more realism than what a reader expects from romantic suspense.

Hilary Melton-Butcher said...

Hi Terry and Rebecca .. when I read - I do like to be left with a happy ending, but life's not like that .. so - ok either way! But your story about your lawyer .. sounds too much - but that's me at the moment I guess! I need the happy times .. but I'm learning - so one day I'd read the (bad) sad ones too. Thanks Hilary

Rebecca York said...

There are a lot of movies we go to where I turn to my husband when we come out and say, "That's not the way it ended. What really happened was . . ."
Then I put my happy ending on their sad one. Somehow, that's easier with a movie, because I've invested less time.

Linda Henderson said...

I really do prefer a happy ending, or if it's a series of books I like the hope of a happy ending at the end of the series.

seriousreader at live dot com

Monica Manning said...

We all want the HEA story. We want to dream it and live it. And why not? We deserve it.

Romance novels have evolved so much, I don't think you can call them 'Romance Novels' anymore. They're more about Woman Power and ownership of that power. Heroines are strong, intelligent and sexual. They're confident and bold. Good role models for young women, and a good kick for me when I start to feel sorry for myself.

So my hero has a pot belly and is balding (sadly, he doesn't have the ripped abs or hair that needs a little trim just begging you to run your fingers through...sigh) but he's mine. The right book reminds me how lucky I am to have my not-so-GQ man. And when I write, I get to make him look however I want. Not to mention, I look hot as well.

Let the others have their violent endings, I'm happy with happily ever after.