Nora Roberts, Wilbur Smith and Bernard Cornwell have a lot in common.
I will read pretty much anything any of those three authors have ever written, but that’s not what I’m talking about here.
It’s something their books share with every Lee Childs, every Katie Fforde and even just about every Stephen King.
Nora, of course, writes steamy romances, and there’s a strong romance theme in every Wilbur Smith I’ve read.
The heroes in Nora’s books rise above the challenges and bust through the obstacles she puts in their way and are rewarded with a productive committed relationship with a gorgeous, sexy partner. The result is the same in hundreds of romances I’ve read.
In fact it’s required.
If you check out the submission guidelines of major romance publishers -Harlequin, Entangled, take your pick – it is a stated requirement that they’ll only consider HEA, or at the very least, HFN. It took me a while to work those out, so if you’re wondering what I’m talking about, HEA is happy ever after. HFN stands for happy for now.
Romance is despised for HEA and HFN. And I guess we have to admit that it is pretty unrealistic to that one hundred per cent of heroines, in every era and every situation can look forward to a perfect partner with a big diamond in a small box.
Wilbur Smith gets a pretty bad rap from the literati for the same reason.
But why doesn’t Bernard Cornwell? Every Sharpe and every Last Kingdom book ends in a triumph for the hero. They usually get the girl they’re after too, although it’s not exactly the lifelong soulmate a Nora Roberts heroine can expect.
Reacher solves the crime and defeats the bad guys in every Lee Childs.
There are Stephen King stories with unhappy endings. I offer in evidence The Body, the excellent novella made into the movie Stand By Me. But I reckon I’ve read at least eight out of ten books the great man has written and I can’t think of a single one where good fails to thwart evil.
So why don’t critics scoff at thriller and crime writers for HEA and HFN? I wish it were realistic that the monsters always fall to the white knight and the killer always gets caught, but … hallo!
Why is Love Actually or Notting Hill soppy for having an HEA, but Die Hard and Dead Pool are cool? The last thirty-five times I watched Die Hard, Bruce Willis saw off Gruber and got to stain Bonnie Bedelia’s shirt with the blood on his biceps and if I remember rightly Ryan Reynolds beats Ajax and Angel Dust and waddles off into the sunset with Lauren Shuler Donner before the credits roll in Dead Pool.
Of course Stephen King and Lee Childs aren’t likely to win a Booker or a Pullitzer or the Nobel Prize for literature any more than Nora or Wilbur.
They commit the unforgivable sin of being popular. They write books that aim first to entertain. For shame!
I’m not saying a book which deals seriously with hard topics can’t be absolutely captivating – but it does seems to me that too many ‘serious’ literary critics can’t bring themselves to praise a book written this century unless it’s a dirge.
I’m saying that when I sit back with a glass of wine and a book I want my heroines and heroes to go into their struggle with a better than even chance of winning, and I don’t see what’s so wrong with that.
Long live HEA.