Saturday, June 18, 2016

Nontraditional Romance

Posted by: Unknown
Lately I’ve been seeing the terms “nontraditional” and “bittersweet” used to describe books that are marketed as Romance but don’t have a happy ending. The happy ever after (HEA) is a basic tenet of the Romance genre, a promise that no matter how much crap the hero and heroine have to deal with, they’ll win in the end.

I was recently reminded of why this rule is so important when I was home sick watching an old movie called “Anne of the Indies”.  (SPOILER Alert!) I’d never heard of the movie before and went in with no expectations. At first, I thought it was pretty great. The heroine is a female pirate who steals ships, collects booty, fences Blackbeard, has a passionate G-rated love affair with a captured French sailor, and basically sails around the Indies having a grand time doing whatever the hell she wants.

And then… She’s betrayed by everyone she loves and takes a cannonball to the gut. 


Because how dare she?

Now, “Anne of the Indies” isn’t a Romance, but I thought that since Anne was the heroine of the story that surely she was going to triumph in the end. In retrospect, I should have seen that cannonball coming. There are hundreds of years of storytelling where a woman goes on an adventure and dies a horrible death for stepping out of line.

And this is why the happy ever after guarantee in the Romance genre is so important to me. Because in most of literature and film heroines are punished for pursuing happiness, but not in Romance. Never in Romance. Romance is the only genre where I don’t have to worry about surprise cannonballs. It's a magical place where heroines not only get to survive their own stories, they get to win 100% of the time. And that’s a really big deal.


  1. It's not "non-tradition" or "bittersweet" romance. It's a damn NOVEL. It's a love story. It's a tragedy. It's NOT genre romance. Romance is now inextricably linked to it's definition as a genre. If you break the rule. And there really is only one universal rule for genre romance, then it is NOT romance. That rule is the HEA/HFN ending.

  2. I think "surprise cannonball" is my new favorite metaphor for this shiz. Excellent post!


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