Nancy: Will They or Won’t They?

When we read romance books, we know that, by definition, the couple will get a happily ever after (HEA). The joy isn’t the destination; it’s the journey. Not the what, but the how and, as Lisa Cron would remind us, the why.

But one thing I’ve been pondering as I finish my final round of revisions on the next Harrow’s book (Two Scandals are Better than One) is whether part of that journey should be the sense that this couple’s obstacles are so great, they just might not make it. Two Scandals doesn’t have that burning question. One of my beta readers listed it as a problem, although she liked the overall story. And as the writer/god of this story universe, I can thank her for that input and then choose to ignore it. But that bit of critique has stuck in my brain, because I think she might be onto something.

Let me give you some of the story deets. Edward and Lucinda (Luci) are friendly, acquainted through his sister, and of the same social class and tangential social circles. She had a girlhood crush on him but decided he’s dead boring (spoiler alert: he’s not), and he finds her mesmerizing but believes she’s from a family of dangerous men (spoiler alert: she is). They work together to rescue her father from a treacherous criminal gang, which leads to visiting houses of ill-repute, playing dress-up and assuming aliases, and crossing a group of cut-throat smugglers.

Neither of them is betrothed or promised to anyone else. Neither is hiding a dark secret that could keep them apart. Neither is being forced into close proximity against his or her will. There’s no impediment to them being together. Instead, this story is the journey of each discovering themselves while falling for the other.

Each of them is trapped in the proscribed life their families expect of them while dreaming of the life they wish they had. When they join forces against outside entities, they each doubt themselves but believe in the other. They each help the other recognize his/her own potential and achieve it, which makes them feel ready for and deserving of their HEA. All while on a dangerous foray into London’s seedy underworld.

Have you read (and liked!) any romances where there was never a point when you wondered how these crazy kids were ever going to end up together, but instead were watching them fall–perhaps  predictably–in love? Does the fact that the story involves mortal danger and weapons, most of them deftly wielded by the heroine, make the set-up any more appealing 😉?

4 thoughts on “Nancy: Will They or Won’t They?

  1. I dislike the traditional happy ending thing, part of the reason I don’t even bother with reading (much) romantic fiction. Yet I have oodles of stories I’ve written (unpublished) that focus on the journey, the different aspects of the romance including the sexual one, that ends in what I hope would leave the reafer wanting more. Without some happy ending of wedded bliss (as if. Yep I’m cynical…😉)

    I like your idea of the whole work together to solve a dilemma while falling for each other without the shackles of other relationships impeding them. The process, journey, foreplay etc. Why does one have to follow a specific mould?

  2. I’ve never wondered in a romance novel if the couple would get together—the genre itself determines that. It’s all about the journey. I’m not fussy about that—calm parlor conversations or unconventional derring-do with the heroine in mortal danger is all the same to me—but I cannot bear certain kinds of characters. So I think if I liked your characters, I’d like your book.

  3. I’ve been taking an online class on internal conflict with Linnea Sinclair this month. (She rocks. If you ever get a chance to take one of her classes. do it. She references Lisa Cron a lot!). Anyway, one of the reasons I was looking forward to the class was because I was stuck with my WIP. I knew what was going on in the central plot, but the romance plot, which was supposed to be a second chance at love story, had no spark.

    Over the course of the class, I realized it was because my couple no sooner saw each other again than they started wanting to get back together. At least, she did. He took a little longer, but once he threw his hat in, at the end of the first act, the romance plot fizzled like a soggy sparkler. And then I remembered Jenny’s advice: Your H/h should not think, “Where have you been all my life?” They should think “Oh, no! Anyone but you.” So now I know how to reignite my fireworks.

    I think it’s possible to write a good romance where there’s nothing keeping the couple apart, but I also think it’s a lot harder to generate sexual tension that way. On the other hand, if their internal goals and beliefs put them in conflict with each other, that could work.

  4. I can’t think of many romances I’ve read (labeled as romances or not) where I was in doubt about whether the hero and heroine would get together.

    I’ve read a few red-herring romances, where you think the heroine is going to wind up with Male Interest X, but she goes for Male Interest Y instead — Georgette Heyer’s Cotillion does that with Jack and Freddy. But even on the first read, I didn’t really think, “Oh, Kitty isn’t going to wind up with Jack, ever!” Because Jack was a jerk, and I was actually quite glad the switcheroo happened — and by the time it did, there was no question that Freddy and Kitty weren’t going to make it.

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