Tuesday, 4 April 2017

I want my Romance with a promise of forever

Over the past couple of days I've seen a lot of people I follow on Twitter get hot under the collar about what is romance. What defines the romance genre? I traced it back to this blog post, Sometimes I want a Romance Without the HEA.

From the angry tweets I've read, people vehemently disagreed. They point out that a romance without an HEA is women's lit. You don't have a mystery without the goddamned mystery. In romance an HEA is essential.

At one point, I had the same opinion as this post. I didn't think it was necessary to have a happy ever after or even a happy for now after a wild romance. But I don't believe that now and I want to explain why I think an HEA or a promise of one is essential.

My reading habit in my life followed this pattern from early teens:
Crime-->Romance-->SciFi-->Fantasy-->Classics-->Crime-->Fanfiction-->MM Romance

There is at least twenty-five years between reading Mills & Boon to discovering MM Romance. Crime and Fantasy have been my great loves as genres and spread over the years, but I stopped reading romance the day my mum died when I was eighteen. In 1985, the romance I was reading had just discovered sex and the formula was woman meets man, woman falls into man's arms, HEA. Things happened along the way of course, but that was the basic formula. The ones I remember are the books which bucked the formula just a little. It wasn't that I liked them more, it's the fact they stood out in the hundreds of romance novels I eagerly devoured.

By the time I started writing for MM I was adamant I didn't write romance, I wrote relationships.
Nothing Ever Happens wasn't a fairytale romance. It was a hard, sometimes traumatic, always passionate, relationship between two men spanning nearly a decade. Morning Report was about two men who loved each other passionately but it was a well established relationship with its ups and downs. As for The Nightporter, one of them walks out to get married at the end.

I was more interested in the journey than the end. Why were they attracted to each other? What stood in their way? Why did I have to write man meets man, man falls in love with man, sex, HEA? I wanted more than that, and was frustrated by readers who insisted on an HEA/HFN ending.

I was wrong, my dear reader. I admit it. I was wrong.

Seven years on and I've mellowed. MM manages to satisfy my need for crime and explore romance in its glorious rainbow. But what are my comfort reads? The ones with a Happy Ever After of course.

People don't read romance for soap-opera gritty reality. They can watch the TV for horrible news. They may seek to escape for a few precious hours from the reality of their own life. They may read a sweet romance, or a tear your clothes off from the first look romance. But what they want at the end is a promise. A promise that the author is going to deliver is a happy ending, and if they don't get it they feel betrayed. Why have they invested their time, their energy in these characters only to have it torn away?

I still write books which buck the norm, but I'm just as happy to write a man meets man books, like Lyon Road Vets or the Isle series. Even a book with a tough storyline like Letters From a Cowboy has a true happy ever after, as is proved by the epilogue.

I need that reassurance when I start a book or when I start writing that these two people are meant to be together. That the road travelled together so far is worth the journey ahead. An HEA isn't an end, it's a promise of something more.

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