Why are there people in the reading/writing world determined to mess with the happy world of romanceland?
We don’t ask for a whole lot.
Okay, well, sometimes we do.
We want decent covers.
We want people to stop it with the, oh… you read those?
We want there to be an end to all heroines who are TSTL.
We want fun stories, sexy stories, silly stories, intriguing stories, good stories, dangerous stories.
We want stories that reflect who we are… nerdy and not, country girl and city chick, skinny, fat, black, white, Asian, Latina, straight, gay, queer.
Oh. And one other thing.
We want our HEA. That’s non-negotiable.
Sorry, but these people who try to stomp into the genre and insist that the idea of the HEA is antiquated or out-dated or something that needs to be challenged… guys, you need to just stop. Go find your own genre. And be very happy with it. We wish you well. Seriously. And hey, we might even read some your books…as long as you don’t go misleading us and calling the book a romance.
But you can’t mess with the romance genre’s specifications.
They exist for a very specific reason.
They are part of the author/reader contract. That’s just all there is to it.
If you buy a mystery, you are guaranteed a mystery.
If you buy a historical fiction, you’re guaranteed a historical fiction.
If you buy SF or UF, you’re guaranteed a book with either speculative fiction or PNR elements.
If you buy a romance, you’re guaranteed a book with that promised HEA.
If you buy a mystery, you’d feel duped if you got comedic non-fiction look at the modern world of entymology (especially if you hate bugs)
If you buy a historical fiction, you’d feel duped if you got contemporary medical fiction.
If you buy SF or UF, you’d feel duped if you ended up with a story about a farmer trying to make it during the Great Depression.
And if you buy a romance, expecting that promised HEA, you have every right to feel duped if what you get is one of the main characters killed off or the heroine reminiscing about how she hadn’t found Mr. Right this time…but she would next time. Because Mr. Right was supposed to be in this story…it was a romance!
These are not my definitions.
These are not definitions made up by romance fandoms or book clubs. These are widely accepted industry defintions.
“An Emotionally Satisfying and Optimistic Ending: In a romance, the lovers who risk and struggle for each other and their relationship are rewarded with emotional justice and unconditional love. “
It’s defined at Wikipedia as:
primary focus on the relationship and romantic love between two people and must have an “emotionally satisfying and optimistic ending.”
Writer’s Digest has a download–Essential Elements of Writing a Romance Novel (opens to a download) and…you guessed it. The HEA is part of it.
This definition summarizes the four crucial basics that make up a
1. a hero and a heroine to fall in love
2. a problem that creates conflict and tension between them and
threatens to keep them apart
3. a developing love that is so special it comes about only once in a
4. a resolution in which the problem is solved and the couple is
These aren’t conventions or even tropes meant to be challenged, although every few months, somebody will wade into waters of Romancelandia where one thing is universally clear among those who understand the genre. Plenty of things in romance land aren’t perfect but this is one area where I think we all generally agree.
THE HAPPY-EVER-AFTER IS REQUIRED FOR THE ROMANCE GENRE.
If you don’t have it, you don’t have a romance book. Selling a book as a romance without the HEA is misleading readers and you’re breaking the author/reader contract.
You can call it rule-breaking, you can call it challenging convention but what you’re doing is misleading the reader and disrespecting the genre, its writers and its readers. And you still don’t have a romance.You don’t get to define what a romance is.
A genre is defined not by one person or even a small group of people. Genres are categorizations, used to help readers find books to their liking, to help publishers promote books to those readers, for booksellers, to help them recommend books and shelve and order books for their customers.
Genres are long-established devices, and they are useful.
The HEA isn’t a trope, like the older brother’s best friend, or friends to lovers, pregnant amnesia.
The HEA is the very bedrock of the romance book.
Readers pick up the romance book, knowing that at the end of it, the characters they’ve read and come to love might suffer, might go through hell, might laugh or cry or scream or just have fun, but at the end, they will be in love and happy together.
If that’s a problem for some, then romance probably isn’t your ideal genre, and that’s okay.
Litfic has plenty of love stories. You might fit in just fine there, but you are not going to change the romance industry or the need for the HEA in romance.
The HEA isn’t optional. We want it. We expect it. We’re entitled to that happy-ever-after. Maybe not anywhere else, but in the pages of a romance? Yes, we’re entitled and nobody’s opinion will change what is by-and-large accepted as simple fact in romanceland.