In her October 25 post, “Outstaying Their Welcome: “When Romantic Couples Linger Too Long,” Elizabeth Vail declared,
“If prequel characters have no specific purpose to be in a particular story, then they ought to butt out, because Perfectly Married Bliss is boring as hell to read.”
With all due respect to Elizabeth and those who hold to her view, I beg to disagree. Not all readers find boring a second (or third or fourth) look at couples whose HEA has already been achieved.
I, for one, will be disappointed if Mary Balogh’s 2012 book about Lady Gwen Muir doesn’t have roles for Lily and Neville and Kit and Lauren; I even hope for a glimpse of the Bedwyns. Although I agree that the primary couple should be the focus of the story, I would find it strange if family and friends were not part of the world the couple inhabits. For example, I loved the wedding scene in Simply Love and the summer gathering in Simply Perfect. They seemed like natural interactions to me.
Jo Beverley’s first Malloren book, My Lady Notorious, was published in 1993. Cyn and his bride Chastity immigrate to Canada, and I don’t expect, given the realities of travel in the Georgian era, to see them at family gatherings. But I look for references to them, and I look forward to seeing other family members in subsequent Malloren World books. Winter Fire is one of my favorite Beverley books in part because of the Christmas house party at Rothgar Abbey.
I’m a big fan of Eloisa James’s ensemble romances too. I’ve heard the complaints from readers who dislike them because they lack an intense focus on a single hero and heroine. But I find the interwoven threads of characters’ lives compelling and credible. It was the threads that continued from book to book in the Essex series that made James an autobuy author for me and sent me back to glom her earlier series. I love that she gives readers an extra chapter on her web site, so that we can see what happens after the series ends. I’m jubilant over the possibility that James will write second-generation stories for some of the progeny of her Desperate Duchess characters. (Do I really need to add that I love Julia Quinn’s Bridgerton second epilogues too—and that Loretta Chase’s Last Night’s Scandal was one of my top romances of 2010?)
I’m no less enamored of continuing characters in contemporary romance. I look forward to visiting Robyn Carr’s Virgin River three or more times a year, and one of the reasons I keep returning is to catch up with Mel and Jack, Preacher and Paige, Mike and Brie, and all the rest. Since Hidden Summit (December 27), Redwood Bend (February 28), and Sunrise Point (April 24) will be books #17, 18, 19 in the series, clearly I’m not the only reader who feels this way.
Nora Roberts’s Quinn brothers stories are among my favorite series. Sea Swept, the first book is an all-time favorite. I like the final book in the series a lot, but my favorite scene in Chesapeake Blue is not one with Seth and Dru, but rather a scene that shows the love and passion that still exists between Cam and Anna, although they are long married, with teenage children. Boring? Not from my view.
Now A Bride is an ebook that offers additional episodes and a series epilogue for Mary Balogh’s Mistress series. In her web site announcement of this book, Balogh said:
“When a series ends, readers often feel a little bereft, somewhat left behind. I often get asked what happened to the characters after the end of the series, whether they continued happy, how many children they had. Scenes in which the characters are all shown living happily ever after can be a bit cheesy, but they can also be satisfying for readers who have been involved with them through several books.”
I’m in favor of this reader’s satisfaction.
Janga spent decades teaching literature and writing to groups ranging from twelve-year-olds to college students. She is currently a freelance writer, who sometimes writes about romance fiction, and an aspiring writer of contemporary romance, who sometimes thinks of writing an American historical romance. She can be found at her blog Just Janga and tweeting obscure bits about writers as @Janga724.