March 11, 2011
I confess! I confess! I read the endings of romance books before I start the book. Now, I have a very legitimate reason for doing this. You see fellow readers, I had two very traumatic Romanceland moments in my past. Yes, there are two books out there that forever changed the way I read romance.
And, unwary travelers, you are about to read some big spoilers!
Long ago in a far off kingdom of Oblivionland, I innocently thought when a book was shelved in the romance section of a library or store, be it used or new, that book was in fact a romance and furthermore I would have my HEA! But nooooo! Some nefarious person, probably a marketer, decided to shelve Nakoa's Woman as a romance. Romance... happy ending... romance... happy ending... romance... happy ending, be they historical, contemporary, suspense, western, paranormal, etc., when the word romance is tacked on the end of those words, then I expect the couple to ride off into the sunset and by gum... they should both be alive!
Yes, fellow readers, I said alive! Because, you see, in Nakoa's Woman there is a strong indication that the hero of this book is shot between the eyes two pages from the end. Imagine my shock! I remember reading that ending over and over trying to figure out if I'd miss something buried in all that mystical flowery writing on those last pages.
So as Nakoa's ghost fades into the snow, the heroine is standing outside the lodge communing with stars and the story ends with "the beating of her triumphant heart." What kind of ending is this? Not a happy one.
And that was the beginning of my reading endings.
(By the way a sequel to Nakoa's Woman was written some 20 years later called Gladyce with a C. A reincarnated Nakoa and Maria show up in it.)
Years go by, leaves turn brown, they fall to the ground, snow covers the land... time passes, and along comes Bride of the Lion by Elizabeth Stuart, and my second trauma. Now, I will admit that I had become a little lax. I had my favorite authors, who I could depend on for HEA. I also had authors that I stayed away from, for instance: Susan Johnson, Catherine Coulter, Virginia Henley.
Why stay away from them you ask? One word: Infidelity. Don't like it in real life; don't like it in my romance books. Now, of course there are some exceptions to that rule, some guidelines shall we say. It all depends on how it is written, what the timeline the event is and how it is resolved. I consider Mary Balogh to be the queen of writing infidelity with finesse; she is very good at mending those broken adultery fences.
Back to Bride of the Lion. Elizabeth Stuart was new to me and as I do with all authors, I read the ending and - bingo! - there was a HEA. Good. Imagine my chagrin when on page 247 out of 376 the wonderful heroine discoverers her husband's infidelity! I was crushed. The heroine was such a wonderful person, I became totally depressed. This was a case when the infidelity should have been at the beginning of the book instead of 129 pages from the end. Because you know what happened next? She went to confront her husband, was kidnapped, drugged, and then a political revolt happened. And then when the husband groveled she accepted his lame excuse of "I didn't want to love you." Puleeze! So, boinking a servant prevents you from falling in love with your wife? Spitooie!
Well, obviously there is more to reading the endings of books than I thought. More complexities, more research. Over the years when I checked out the endings I started to keep a look-out for words that might trigger a warning. Beware! Investigate further... may have superfluous infidelity in it. These are some of the words that make the alarm in my head go off: forgive me, I know I hurt you, how will you ever trust me, she is gone, I love only you, I will no longer sacrifice our love for my country, I was looking for you in those other women, I promise.. .Beware if these are on the last page!
Of course there are some sneaky authors you have to watch, like tricky Mary Balogh, Eloisa James and Jo Beverley. However, with them the pain is lessened because they know how to mend those fences I talked about earlier.
And those two books were life altering books that made me what I am today: an end reader! You may ask, doesn't knowing the ending spoil the book for you? Nope! I still enjoy the journey through the story to the ending. After all, I've seen Psycho 50 million times and still love every minute of it. (By the way if you've never seen Alfred Hitchcock's Psycho, all I can say is don't become too attached to the girl in the shower.)
Nakoa's Woman, 1972 by Gayle Rogers
Bride of the Lion, 1995 by Elizabeth Stuart