Mar 13 2017 11:00am

When the HEA Isn’t Quite What We Expect: Unusual Happily-Ever-Afters!

When the Marquess Falls by Lorraine Heath

Today we're thrilled to welcome Lorraine Heath (When the Marquess Falls) to Heroes and Heartbreakers. In romance, we know we get a Happily Ever After, but sometimes that HEA is a little more unique. Lorraine is here today to discuss some of the more unique ways heroes and heroines have found their happy ending. Thanks, Lorraine!

Contains spoilers for Jude Devereaux's A Knight in Shining Armor

Often when I’m speaking with people who aren’t avid romance readers, I find myself explaining that every romance is a love story but not every love story is a romance. A romance must have a Happily Ever After (HEA). Which comes as no surprise to the followers on Heroes and Heartbreakers. But sometimes the HEA isn’t always what we expect.

One of the classics, which I believe exemplifies an unusual HEA, is Jude Deveraux’s A Knight in Shining Armor. In this time travel romance, our modern day heroine, Douglass, travels back to the 16th century where she falls in love with Nicholas, Earl of Thornwyck. While the romance focuses on this couple, the story ends with our heroine on a plane in her own time period while the hero lives out his life in his era. No happily ever after.

Then a man sits down beside her—he’s not Nicholas. But he mentions that she reminds him of a medieval miniature portrait he’d been drawn to and purchased in an antique shop. When he shows it to her—because he feels a connection with it and always carries it with him—she realizes it’s a painting of herself done when she was in Nicholas’s time period. To be quite honest, I don’t remember their exact exchange, but I do remember what I felt at the time I read the closing to this story: He might not be Nicholas, but he possessed Nicholas’s soul and he had found Douglass. And I wept with happiness.

Because I was relatively new to reading romance, I viewed this ending as a wonderful HEA—and a little different from the other romances I’d been devouring since discovering the genre. And while I didn’t “see” the heroine fall in love with the man sitting beside her, I had no doubt they would find happiness with each other and spend the remainder of their lives together.

It was only some years later that I learned a few readers weren’t as enthusiastic with the ending as I was. But for me, it was perfect. It had me believing soul mates would always find each other and time was no deterrent to that end.

The value in unusual Happily-Ever-Afters is that they can dare us to believe in the possibility of so much more, change our perspective, or elicit a profound emotion. They can help to keep the genre fresh, broaden its horizons, and allow authors to step out of their comfort zone. There is the risk of disappointing our readers, but if reading romance teaches us anything at all, it’s that there are rewards to be found in taking risks.

I think it would be a tragedy if stories weren’t written because the ending didn’t fall neatly within the boundaries of what is expected. Because it’s possible an unusual HEA will have a reader still sighing with pleasure thirty years later.


What is a romance you’ve read that had an unusual or unexpected HEA? 


Learn more about or pre-order a copy of When the Marquess Falls by Lorraine Heath, available March 14, 2017:

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Lorraine Heath always dreamed of being a writer. After graduating from the University of Texas, she wrote training manuals, press releases, articles, and computer code, but something was always missing. When she read a romance novel, she not only became hooked on the genre, but quickly realized what her writing lacked: rebels, scoundrels, and rogues. She's been writing about them ever since. Her work has been recognized with numerous industry awards, including RWA's prestigious RITA®. Her novels have appeared on the USA Today and New York Times bestseller lists.

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1 comment
1. Ninoskasua
Thank you, Lorraine. I can not think of any unusual HEA romance novels. A knight in shining armor is one that I remember being unconventional ending. I really enjoyed it as well. It gave the story some hope in the end.

I really enjoyed your book When a Marquess Falls. This book was amazingly beautiful. I totally feel in love with George and Linnie's love story. It's heart breaking and soul wrenching. I have knots in my throat thinking about them I'm tearing up just writing about them. However, shorted lived their time together I truly enjoyed their love for each other and appreciated this story in general. Thank you for writing a love story that stands the test of death and time.
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