Reading: the Ultimate Comfort Food
Posted by Tracy Solheim
I read an interesting blog on USA Today’s HEA page last week that asked readers to go to their keeper shelf and name the book that was third from the left. It was fun to see what books readers—and writers—decide are keepers. I read many more books digitally now, so the book third from the left on my keeper shelf is dated—Jo Beverley’s St. Raven—but it’s still holds it own with today’s releases.
Why? You already know how it’s going to end, he asked.
That doesn’t matter, I answered. These books are my comfort books. I read them again because they make me happy.
His response was the typical teenage double negative—an eye roll and a shake of the head—before leaving my office. But, hey, I know I’m not crazy. Just based upon the posts in the HEA blog, there are plenty of people who keep books and read them again; romance novels in particular.
Why? Because of that comfort. A reader always knows they’re going to get that happily ever after at the end, no matter what the main characters have to go through to achieve it. That HEA is the premise behind the romance genre.
But wait. I read another blog this week. (I know I’m on deadline, I shouldn’t be reading anything!) This one on Dear Author. It was a thought provoking look at HEA versus happy for now (HFN). You can read the full commentary here. In the article, the author opines:
Knowing that you can find constancy in a fictional love match can be a point of comfort for readers.
There’s that word comfort again. I’m okay with an HFN ending in my books—as long as we’re not talking Gone Girl here. (But even that ending is being changed for the movie version!) That’s because I always infer that the couple will be together for the long haul. I don’t always need an epilogue to wrap things up. Don’t get me wrong, though, I love when a book has one, but it’s not a game changer. For my Blaze series, I did write epilogues for each book. The first was before the wedding, the second during the wedding and the third on the wedding night. I hadn’t planned them that way, that’s just what the characters demanded.
In my current WIP my characters are getting a HFN ending. Not because they’ve been maddening during the writing process and I don’t want them to have an HEA, but because they’ve been through a lot and I think it would be too contrite to rush them into a wedding. (Who says a wedding defines HEA anyway?) Because this is the first book in a series, readers will see these two again and can follow them through the process a little more naturally than if I just gave them the requisite epilogue ending.
So what do you think? Is a traditional HEA necessary for you to enjoy a romance? What about epilogues?
More importantly, what’s the third book to the left on your keeper shelf?
I can’t wait to type “the end” so I can cuddle up with St. Raven!