Have you ever gotten to that stage in a romance novel where you know–because you can literally feel–that there are too few pages left to finish things off satisfactorily? Where you know, beyond a shadow of a doubt, that the writer is going to leave you hanging–and you’re going to be pissed? Well, it happened again last night, and I wanted to throw the book across the room, I was that tired of it. HEA-us Interruptus. Much a-damn-do about nothing.
Can you imagine a mystery where a writer asks a reader to invest hours and hours in the suspense, then tosses the solution in at the end as an afterthought, as a summary? Of course not–the ending of a mystery must satisfy. It must make the journey worthwhile. It must resonate. I believe a romance should do the same, but I must be in the minority–because lately, all I’m reading are books with plenty of setup, but no payoff. Is that bad writing, or is it me?
And before you lop my head off, I am NOT talking about sex–just the opposite, in fact. It seems to me too many writers have convinced themselves that romance is sex–that if they throw their hero/heroines in bed, they’ve resolved the story arc. Maybe that’s true for some people, but not for me. I expect authors to do the work. All the way to the end.
Just to be clear, here’s what I expect–in a romance.
I want interesting characters who, for whatever reason, are lacking in love. I want them to find each other, and awaken to the possibility that love might be lurking after all–if it weren’t for all those pesky conflicts. I want them to explore a relationship, at least in the abstract, and then I want them to solve whatever problems are keeping them apart–together! That’s right, I want them together. And not just when they hop into bed at the end, headed for the HEA super-highway. I want the two to become one. It’s a romance! Isn’t that what’s supposed to happen?
I’m tired of reading romance novels with a tired mantra thrumming in the back of my head–“Please don’t stop! Please, don’t stop!” It’s stupid. I feel like I’m stuck in a bad sex scene. Enough, already. I’m going back to mysteries, where I belong. Some of them might not be great, but at least I know the author will get their ass kicked if they leave their readers hanging–and reviewers won’t equivocate about that.