Reading: the Ultimate Comfort Food

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.

reading a book 5 timesMy son asked me why I keep so many books if I’ve already read them.  Well, duh!  Because I read them a second time.  And sometimes maybe a third!

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!

About Tracy Solheim

Best-selling author of the Out of Bounds series--sexy, contemporary sports romance novels. See what she's up to at

Posted on February 28, 2014, in Blog Posts and tagged , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. 8 Comments.

  1. 3rd book either Greg Iles “Turning Angel” or Diana Gabaldon’s “Outlander.” Didn’t know if I counted gardening books or not…..

  2. You know, I had no clue that there are many people who read books over and over. My family has made me feel like I’m a weirdo that I’ve read a book many times and/or seen a movie seven times. I don’t feel so alone now. I have my favorites and now I have ones that I like to read for their style – to help me out as a writer.
    Nice post, Tracy.

  3. Tracy, I keep all of my how to write books on the left side of my shelves, so I’m going third from the right. And it’s Don’t Look Down by Jennifer Crusie and Bob Mayer. Next to that is Agnes and the Hitman. And right above that is Jill Shalvis’ Smart & Sexy series. And over on my other bookshelves are all of the Susan Elizabeth Phillips and Cherry Adair, and the rest of Jenny Crusie’s books. Oh, you just wanted one? 🙂 Keeper shelves! Absolutely. Reread my favorites? A must!

  4. Lisa Klepas’s the Travis series ….I love revisiting my favorites, it is like spending time with an old friend 😘

  5. Third book in from any direction on my bookshelf is a Nora Roberts. Thank God she’s prolific!

  6. I hate when an engagement is rushed for the sake of an HEA ending. I’d prefer an epilogue, because those can be fun, especially if the ending is ambiguous. But to me, a declaration of love and commitment is sufficient. (Of course, I’m more of a women’s fiction reader than a romance reader, so my reactions probably aren’t typical.)

  7. I’m good with HEAs, but also really enjoy some that aren’t so clean-cut. (Like The Fault in Our Stars… finished it last night!) It comes down to story and author’s voice for me, not so much what form the end takes.

    Out of curiosity I had to look. My third keeper from the left is The Art of Racing in the Rain, and that’s perfect. Of all my favorites, it’s highest for writing, voice, flow, characterization, and re-readability. 🙂

%d bloggers like this: