For me, so far, the hardest part about writing romance is the HEA. Here your hero and heroine are, about to really be honest with themselves and each other for possibly the first time, lay themselves wide open to rejection (and being a category romance there are bound to be very good reasons why that rejection will be shattering) and your emotionally-invested reader needs to be swept away in a flood of sensual yet genuine emotion. The worry is that, having built your book and your characters up to this climax it is all going to be one massive let down, just as poor Anne Shirley found when she finally received her first proposal from Billy Andrews, who got his sister, Jane, to do the deed for him.
A truly satisfying HEA bypasses all sense and irony provoking a truly emotional response. I love Four Weddings and a Funeral I really do but when Andie McDowell says ‘Is it raining? I hadn’t noticed?’ I cringe. Every time. Yet up to that moment it works, the humour and romance perfectly balanced only to fall flat at the last hurdle – thank goodness for the end credits which redeem the film slightly. In contrast the ending of Sleepless in Seattle which came out at the same time is picture perfect – understated and sweetly funny much like the film itself.
|*Swoon* Jordan Catalano...|
Hathaway flying out to Seattle to find a bearded Dr Ross sitting by a lake (ER), Bill Pullman dropping the ring into the payment slot, his whole family grinning behind him (While you were Sleeping) and yes, despite my husband’s eye rolling, Patrick Swayze ensuring that No-One Puts Baby in a Corner. Claire Danes walking over to Jared Leto (My So-Called Life - okay, Brian obviously really loves her and that's lovely but she's a teenager and Jared Leto has cheekbones and a guitar), the moment the camera pulls back to reveal that yay! Joey and Pacey did get together (Dawson’s Creek), the look on Lorelai’s face as she realises Luke has ensured Rory’s farewell party was a success (Gilmore Girls). Each of these endings is the perfect pay-off for the viewer who, in some cases, has spent hours watching the characters grow and develop to reach this moment.
So how as romance writers do we achieve this perfect moment, this pay-off? Our HEA has to feel real, has to feel natural. We need to show that our characters have grown and moved on, are ready for this moment, deserve this moment. It’s not enough for a stereotypical, womanising, anti-marriage hero to just propose. We need to see what brought on this change of heart; we need to believe in it, we need to believe it will last. If our heroine has spent the last 120 pages professing to despise everything our hero is and does then she needs a more convincing reason to say ‘yes’ than his billionaire status and chiselled good looks no matter how perfect the proposal may be. Make them real, let them grow, show them learn from their mistakes and make the reader yearn for a HEA and then all you have to do is deliver it…
Sounds easy doesn't it??