Apr 21 2011 5:00pm

Once the Thrill is Gone: When HEAs Fizzle in Paranormal Romance

EmbersThere are certain romance series that make you catch your breath and have you counting down the very second until you can buy yourself a copy of the next book and devour it on the spot. And what causes you to obsess so profoundly? It's the delicious sexual tension between the hero and heroine.

From those first moments when they meet—and no doubt shared a few choice words, especially if your leading lady is feisty—you long for when Mr. Sexy and Miss Adorable throw aside all pretenses and openly declare their feelings for each other. All longing glances filled with smolder are over. Those heated conversations where you never know whether they’ll end up fighting or making out have passed. They’re in love and are set to live happily ever after—The End — and as the reader, you’re left in a huge contented gooey mess.

That’s all great when it’s the end of the series, but what happens when there’s still more story to tell? Can the couple still hold onto the passion that made them set the pages on fire? Or now that the hero has caught his gal, will the sexual tension between them fizzle, leaving the reader wondering whether getting the ultimate “happily ever after” moment was worth the risk?

River Marked by Patricia BriggsRiver Marked by Patricia Briggs was released earlier this year, and I snapped it up and read it in a heartbeat. Hands up, all those who were Team Adam? I have loved this series, watching the sexual tension build between Adam and Mercy. There was something so amazing about the couple, something that had me crossing my fingers each book, praying that Mercy would choose Adam and they would ride off in her VW into the sunset.

Adam is pretty intense. He’s been there for Mercy from the beginning protecting her. and although she’s been pretty slow in realizing how remarkable he is, I went into River Marked with high hopes. I was expecting to be dazzled, but what I got was fizzled. I won’t spoil it for those who haven’t read it but now that Adam and Mercy are truly together, I have to ask, where did all the delicious sexiness go? Where did the banter I’ve come to love disappear to? I was left feeling so disappointed and wishing that the author would’ve stretched the courtship out a little more. Actually, scratch that… Adam and Mercy needed to hook up. They just needed the chemistry to continue.

Sometimes it’s a hit and miss—look at Mac and Barrons from Karen Moning’s Fever series. Oh. My. Gosh. The sexual tension between those two was so thick you needed a chainsaw to carve through it. One of my all-time favorite urban fantasy series and these two characters had me hanging on every word and gesture they made. Whenever Barrons walked into the room, I was panting and begging Mac to reach out and grab him. Those two were continually feeding off one another, leaving the reader unsure whether they loved or hated each other—or both. The final book, Shadowfever, was a constant rollercoaster of emotions, but when the two finally did get together, they scorched every scene. You could never accuse them of lacking chemistry, and even though the series has ended, I know, deep down, somewhere Mac and Barrons are getting it on and it’s HOT!

Another hit is with Cat and Bones from Jeaniene Frost’s The Night Huntress series. They came together in the first book and it’s been explosive ever since. Does anyone else sigh and get slightly giddy when they read Bones call Cat “Kitten”? Their relationship has developed through each successive book in the series, going through high and low points, but it continues to get stronger and I definitely wouldn’t place them in the “fizzle” category. The same tension is there, the same intensity and passion for each other and it has me falling all over myself wondering what will happen next. You want Bones to catch Cat because it’s all you can think about *giggles*

Hard Bitten by Chloe NeillBut here’s what leaves me scared, what has me holding my breath muttering a silent prayer to the Book Gods. There are two upcoming releases that hold my favorite couples: Ethan and Merit from Chloe Neill's The Chicagoland Vampires, and Kate and Curran, from the Ilona Andrews's Kate Daniels series. What if… I can’t even bring myself to say it out aloud. *leans in to whisper* What if when these sexy heroes catch their women… the romance fizzles and we’re left with a lackluster relationship? *shudders* It almost seems too blasphemous to wonder.

Merit and Ethan have incredible chemistry and fans of the books everywhere are screaming, “Hook up already!” We have been teased and taunted with kisses, seduced with a sexy bed scene in the last book and been heartbroken when Ethan continued to put his loyalty to the Cadogan House before his love for Merit. We’ve all yelled at him to get his act together and with two new books being released this year, I know I’m wondering—will they finally get together? Will Ethan grab hold of Merit, kiss her senseless, and then put her first in his life? I don’t think I can handle another River Marked. I need sparks and passion so as much as it will infuriate me; keep these two apart a while longer, if that’s what it takes.

The next couple, Kate and Curran, are explosive together. It’s almost as if they have too much chemistry for the series because after each book, I’m left reeling for how intense their relationship is. Theirs is definitely a love/hate, get away from me/ravish me kind of romance with moments that have me gushing to anybody who’ll listen. I love how incredibly dominating Curran is, and how Kate won’t put up with one bit of it. They are constantly fighting back and forth, each interaction fueling the fire between them. The last book sees them finally get together so I’m left wondering what will happen with this new release. Things can’t possibly be all “we’re so happy we’re in love” between them. There has to be something that has them engaged in a battle of wills. I think if this relationship fizzled, it would be the most devastating and would tempt me to offer up my romance membership card.

There’s a good possibility all will be right in the world for these characters and we’ll continue to enjoy the same emotions and sexual tension we’ve come to depend on. But it does raise a good question—one that goes against everything a romance lover longs for—If it means saving the passion and keeping a fire burning between them, should a hero miss catching his heroine, leaving the chase for another day? I say, “Heck yes!” and to the heroines… “RUN!”

Embers image courtesy of erix! via Flickr


A homesick Aussie living amongst the cactus and mountains of Arizona, Belinda Boring is a self-proclaimed addict of romance and all things swoonworthy. When she's not devouring her latest read, you can find her celebrating her passion for reading on her blog The Bookish Snob. She also reviews for The Romance Reviews

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Donna Cummings
1. Donna Cummings
I've only read The Night Huntress series so far, but when I started I didn't realize their relationship would continue through the rest of the books. I kept waiting for a HEA at the end of Book 1, and it wasn't exactly what I was expecting. LOL Once I knew it was continuing, I was fine, but somebody should have told me first!
2. SLion
I am a follower of a many PNR series, but only 2 of the ones that you have listed in your commentary. I guess I have been lucky so far that in none of the series I follow, the heat or the essecence of the interaction between the main couple has chilled or become anything less tasty than how it began. In the 2 series that I also have read, I completely shared your assesment of the chemistry between the lead couple. Barrons and Mac happen to burn the words off the pages and I think that KMM cannot even be approached for the way she can create the depth of interaction and passion in her character interactions. Her tales are just epic.
I have also found myself unable to stop smiling at the simlicity of the feeling from reading one of Jeaniene Frost's Night Huntress novels. I could not agree more that the characters are just expanding, growing, and wrapping around each other but never dull. This ability to have 2 characters love through time but entrance the reader can also be seen in Kelley Armstong's The Otherworld novels. Clay and Elena have changed through many books but are still fresh, alive and very much full of heat.
3. MarieC
I follow all the series mentioned and agree with your assessments, except 'Rivermarked'. I saw the Mercy and Adam relationship as being deeper, sweeter and more intensely private than before. I nearly choked up towards the end of the book, getting a better feel of how intertwined the two were.
4. akajill
I am going to have to disagree with you on Rivermarked. Like @mariec I also felt their connection was deeper and more private than before. Also, this meant to be a book of celebration that they were finally together and thus a bit full of the "we're so happy" moments. The next book, where time will have passed and life will involve the pack and probably a few other elements might bring back a little of that push and pull tension for you. Don't give up yet!
Carrie Strickler
5. DyslexicSquirrel
I was both sad and overjoyed to see the Fever series end. Mac and Barrons... I loved all their interaction and the evolution of their relationship. Their silent conversations were the best. And the rare moments in the earlier books where he called her Mac instead of Ms. Lane? There was more feeling and tension packed into that one word than pages of other books.

I haven't read any of the other series mentioned here, but I did read Stacia Kane's Downside Ghost series. There's three more books in the works and after a long and arduous journey, Chess and Terrible get together a the end of the third book. I'm holding out hope that it won't fizzle. The first three books in the series were just that good .
Carrie Strickler
6. DyslexicSquirrel
I'm on book three of the Mercy Thompson series and I had to go back and reread this article because it's where I first heard of it and what put into my head the first inkling that I should read it.

I have to admit that I'm a little sad and also... not sad to see that Mercy ends up with Adam. I kind of figured. There were some pretty big hints in the first two books, but I kind of like Samuel. ): At the same time, I also like Adam. So, I'm conflicted. I'll have to see how I feel later on...
7. Linda Fulton
Patricia Briggs is my favorite. Her Mercy Thompson series is great as is her Alpha and Omega series. River Marked is probably the weakest book in the series. Adam is the best book boyfriend ever and they come back strong in the next book. The relationship between Mercy and Adam continues to evolve.

I also love KMM's series with Mac and Jericho. That relationship continues to be very hot.

I wait for and scarf up new books in these series as eagerly as a kid for Christmas.

I haven't read all of Jeanine Frost but her series about Dracula is red hot and I hate that it ended.

I think keeping us interested while continuing to evolce characters is probably the hardest part of a series. It's also the best part. Keep writing ladies!
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