Sunday, May 1, 2011

The Morning After

Posted by: Keri Stevens
Most romance novels end at the beginning: The main characters commit to each other, guaranteeing a Happy Ever After (HEA). We might accept a Happy For Now (HFN) in erotic romance and erotica. This only true "rule" of romantic fiction is that the main parties involved end up happy and together.

A few writers and readers will quibble over the "together" part. Is it possible, for example, to kill off the hero in a noble sacrifice at the end of the book (especially if he's already knocked up the heroine a la COLD MOUNTAIN)? Some say yes, but most (including many of those hero-killing authors) will assert that this choice puts the book outside the boundaries of "romance."

We romance readers want to believe that after the party's over, the love continues unabated and problem-free. We read series and related novels not just because we want a new romance, but we want reassurance that all is still well among the titans of Susan Elizabeth Phillips's Heaven, Texas. We want to see babies and new homes and flourishing businesses and convivial gatherings that further reward our favorite heroes and heroines for the hardships they endured in their own books.

Duke William and Duchess Kate fed into our fantasies this week. Romance writers around the globe saved the PDF of their wedding program into our research files. We scribbled notes as we watched the parade of hats before dawn. These two living, breathing kids (I know, I know. But I'm a hella lot older than they, and I watched him grow up. No matter how much hair he loses, he'll always be a boy to me) have the weight of managing their own HEA both in real life and as fictional characters.

Yup. Wills and Kate are fictional characters. They're cultural constructs and national symbols. They're never to be constipated, never to be dishonorable, never to fail each other and, more importantly, never to fail us.

Otherwise, they'll find themselves facing the Wrath of the Romance Author. Since the 1990s, thousands of books have been written in which Camilla did NOT get her man. Diana has survived and morphed into someone stronger, wiser and able to catch a bullet in her teeth. The handsome prince has been shown to be a hollow shell, and new heroes have arisen with fangs and claws and powers that mere mortal royals simply can't compete with.

Poor Kate and William. We're rooting for you. Honestly we are. We want to see regal dignity, genuine warmth, eternal fidelity and all of the rewards we promise the characters we create.

But we write modern romances now. The obstacles of your parents' generation (and ours) can be overcome by technology, prayer, good sex, marriage counseling and drinking blood. You have no excuses for hurting each other from this day forward. If you do, writers around the globe will pull out our styluses and give you what you deserve.

And...being optimists, we'll pin our hopes yet again on the next generation.


  1. Upshot, they've done the co-habitation before marriage thing, so Kate should be aware of his irrepressible urges during the full moon.


  2. I didn't get into the hoopla over their wedding. Too much to do in my own very real life. Cold Mountain--hated the ending. Don't like Nicholas Sparks either. Grrrr. Want my Happily Ever After in the books I read. There ought to be warning labels on the covers. Hero dies. Heroine dies. Does not contain a happy ending. Things like that. hah!

  3. KAK - exactly.

    Barbara, I'm with you. In fact, I'm sexist about it now: Male author writing hetero "love story" = dead hero. I didn't read COLD MOUNTAIN--saw the movie. The moment Nicole figured out she was pregnant I said to my husband, "Jude's dead."

  4. Also, if I've spoiled COLD MOUNTAIN for anyone, I'm sorry. Sort of. I'll send you freebie promo if you email me your snail-mail addy to keri at as an apology. Just post your ire below.

  5. All right, all right, I'm commenting!

    Seriously, though, I missed the whole wedding because of other commitments, but sat down this morning and looked at reams of pictures. Some of those smiles they exchanged were genuinely swoon-worthy. They looked like two people who knew exactly how huge the stage was upon which they were playing, and how ultimately ridiculous the hoopla was at its core. What I saw?

    "Hey, babe. We're in this together."

    Let's hope it stays that way.


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