The big HEA. Anyone who reads romance knows that’s a given. Although we may love RS for the whodunit factor and to see just how awful the situation can get for our hero or heroine, ultimately, we know they’re both going to live and they’re going to get their HEA. And generally, that means marriage or a long-term commitment of some kind.
However, all HEA’s aren’t created equal. I read two books over my vacation. The first – a true RS murder mystery by one of my favorite authors – was about a renegade FBI agent and a gem cutter. It was heavier on the suspense than the romance, but I still expected a HEA. There was one, don’t get me wrong, but after 400 pgs I expected some sort of declaration of love and devotion. And that wasn’t there. There was no mention of love anywhere, and only a hint that these two characters were going to stay together. No mention of marriage or even that they might live together. (Although she said if he got shipped off to Fargo, ND, she could always cut gems up there). As a romance reader, I felt gypped.
The other was a true contemporary romance that definitely had a happy ending. And oodles and oodles of ‘I love you’s’…to the point where I was like, ‘okay, enough already!’ BUT (and you knew that was coming) at the end, the hero and heroine announced they were getting married but that they wouldn’t be having kids. Now, maybe I’m old fashioned, but as a romance reader, that turned me off. Maybe it was because the hero coached a little league team and was great with his 8-yr old nephew. Maybe it was because he had a screwed up family and would make an awesome father because he’d know the way NOT to be. And maybe it’s because I have kids and know how great being a parent is. It’s definitely the hardest job on the planet, don’t get me wrong, but it’s also the most rewarding. And I can honestly say I find my DH way sexier now that he’s a father than I ever did before we had kids. So when I read a romance, and at the end the main characters say, “I love you, but I don’t want to have kids with you,” I think, “Okay, I LIKED you, but now I’m not so sure. Because you’re obviously selfish and don’t know what real commitment is.” And that doesn’t mean I’m biased to people who don’t have kids (I do remember what it was like to be childless – and it definitely has its pros). But when I read a romance and get all the way to the end, I want to know these characters are committed for the long haul. The option of kids? Long haul. Declaring you never want children with this person? Not all that committed. Personally, if your characters know they don’t want to have kids, I’d just rather not know that part.
So what do you look for in a HEA?