Do you have something that you are sure, and I mean absolutely sure, is set in stone? I do too, or did, I should say. It was the rule that every romance I read ends with an HEA, or a happily ever after. For years I maintained that if a book did not end with that fairy tale ending, it was not for me. Carve it in stone because I am so darn sure!
Well, maybe I need to hire that stone carver again because I have changed my mind. The reasons are many but I'll touch on a few here today. Before I get into the why and who, let me say that I will be discussing things from J.R. Ward`s newest Black Dagger Brotherhood novel, The Shadows, in this post. I will also be chatting about the ending of one of my books, Two Man Advantage. If you haven`t read either book, please know that chances are good that things will be spoiled for you if you proceed.
Okay, now that the spoiler warning is in place let us move onward and upward. Let`s begin by discussing my own book, and the way that it ended. Yes, Two Man Advantage ends with a HFN, or happy for now, and not that glowing HEA. Vic and Dan are together, although they are struggling with a long-distance relationship as well as not being out. That ending felt right to me when I wrote it. Many readers have expressed how upset they are about it but I stand by my ending. Just as Ms. Ward stands by the way she wrote the ending for The Shadows. Will there be more for Victor and Dan? Yes. Will the next book end happily? I do not know.
If you think Vic and Dan not being google-eyed delirious in the same city is bad, then The Shadows will surely send you into cardiac arrest. It took mammoth stones for Ms. Ward to have the leading lady of her romance novel die. Yes, die, as in off to the Fade never to be with the leading man until he also passes over. Talk about a tearjerker of a book. I loved it. Each gasping sob made me adore the book, and the author, even more. That is real emotion. That is my job, and Ms. Ward`s job and the job of every novelist out there. We are supposed to make you love these characters. We are supposed to hit you in the feels. I was shocked when I closed that book, with a dead leading lady, and found myself so enamored of the work.
A couple years ago, I would have flipped my wig over that kind of an ending. Now, I not only understand her decision, I respect and applaud it. While the flames of her unhappy readership are considerably larger than my wee fire, we seem to be sweating from the heat together. That is okay. Actually, it is pretty damn cool to be roasting alongside my favorite PNR author. Of course, I could never have planned things to work out as they did. Two Man Advantage was close to release status when The Shadows came out. Fate has just tossed us into the unhappy reader pyre at the same time. So what changed for me and my need for an HEA?
I'm not sure. Maybe it`s the fact that I have branched out from reading only romance novels into other genres. Perhaps it`s just that sometimes I need a less than perfect ending. Sometimes I want real life, or as real life as fiction can be. Every now and again, I want a jerk as a leading man, or a woman who is not Becky Sue Sunshine as a heroine. Show me some flaws!
Give me a young king who is a rotten, cruel, and sadistic human being. Let me hate him, call him names, and curse his every breath. Man, someone still hates Joffrey Baratheon even though he`s dead now. And heck, go ahead and kill off almost every character that I like. Do it. DO IT!! I'll be back because you, Mr. Martin, have made me feel real emotion. You have spun a story that is so real and so powerful, even if every person I like dies at a wedding, I will be back for more. Happy conclusions don`t occur in Westeros it seems.
That is perfectly okay with me now. Sometimes life is not happy. Sometimes people are less than perfect. Sometimes terrible things happen to those who do not deserve to be hurt. Maybe an unhappy ending, or a happy for now, is a good thing. Perhaps if I get that happy for now or not happy at all ending, it makes me appreciate the happily ever after that much more.
What about you? Do you need a happily ever after? A happy for now? Or can you enjoy a less than happy ending?