My hubby rented Marley and Me today for the girls.

We’d already watched it ourselves, but the kids wanted to see the movie about the dog.

A little while ago, my daughter came into my room with her hand to her head and sniffling. “My head hurts, Mommy.”

“Is your movie over?”

She nodded.

I motioned her over. “Did you like it? Or was it too sad?”

She sniffled. “I think that’s why my head hurts and I have a big lump in my throat.”

My heart immediately went out to my poor little girl who was on the verge of tears. Of course I invited her to come snuggle with me. “Sometimes movies are just like that, a little sad at the end.”

The sniffling came in full force now. “But… they shouldn’t do that Mommy. Movies shouldn’t have sad endings, they should always be happy.”

I love the lesson that this brings. Granted, I liked Marley and Me, even though it had a sad ending. It was a good movie, but I gotta say, I much prefer to leave on a a bright note. It’s like having a romance but then at the end, panning to twelve years down the road when they get in a car accident and die. What a downer!

I’m not saying it can’t be done, but as a romance writer, I’d caution anyone who wants to “stir” the pot and leave off with a less than happy ending. Leave that for our “love story” or “Women’s fiction” writers.

In my humble opinion, all romance readers are promised the following things. If you leave one out, you’re doomed.

1.) A happy ending Guy MUST end up with girl and there MUST be some promise of a future. Not necessarily a ring, but that’s nice too.

2.) Emotions I don’t mind you making me cry, in fact, if you can get me into the story enough that I need a Kleenex, you’ve done your job. and the can be sad tears… if they are in the middle only.

3.) Sexual tension Okay, don’t scream at me, you CBA writers. But let’s face it. It’s part of life and whether it’s kosher to say it out loud or not, it’s part of romance, Christian or not. You can’t have guy and girl crushing on each other and falling in love without a little bit of sexual tension. They need to want and desire each other. That doesn’t mean we need to let them “sin” or go beyond boundaries, and surely doesn’t mean that we need to have a front row seat in the bedroom, but the sexual tension MUST be there. Otherwise it’s, uh, too prudish. 🙂 And just plain unrealistic.

4.) A likable–albeit flawed– hero *Most* readers of romance fiction are women. And women want a hero they can swoon over. If I’m reading a romance and I can’t stand the hero, most likely I can’t stand the book either. It’s irritating. Now, he can be FLAWED and need work, and that’s where your heroine comes in. (sound like real life, girls???) But don’t make him so flawed that we can’t stand him. A good example of this is Edward from Twilight. Seriously flawed dude. But…most women still oohed and awed over him. Teenage girls did anyway, and I gotta admit I was hooked too. There was just something about him that drew you in. I did a whole other post on that here, but the bottom line is, your reader needs to fall in love with your hero.

5.) A quirky heroine Whereas most women want to fall in love with the hero, or need to in order to get the “emotion” part of the story, they need to be able to relate to the heroine. This is difficult though, because us women, well, we’re different. We can’t always relate to each other, so how do we create heroines that the vast majority of women can relate to? My answer is to make them relateABLE by giving them fun quirks. Don’t put them in a box and keep them there. Go beyond the stereotypes, but make sure we are rooting for them to win. You can write a flawed heroine, but make sure she has a good motivation. Make us feel sorry for her enough to root for her to get the guy.

Discussion: Can you think of any other “must haves” in romances?



  1. Your assesments are right on! BTW I laughed a little at number three!

  2. Must have another plot besides the romance plot. Recently, I started a romance book that I'd won in a contest, but I couldn't keep reading. There was nothing to drive the story forward except the heronine's attraction to a new guy. While that attraction is key (like you mentioned), I like the story so much better when there's more going on than just the romance relationship! What do you think?

  3. Great post! I have to say that Julie Lessman is a master at #3 and keeping it within boundaries. (sigh…I love #3)
    I also seem to love it when the hero and heroine DON'T like each other at first. I love the #3 while not being able to stand each! conflict and tension!!!!

    Have to ask…are you sore from your TV moving exercise from yesterday?

  4. Great post. I'm not a reader of romance, so I won't try to answer your list. I disagree with your thought on the movie however, since I don't think having an unhappy ending is a bad thing. Life is uncomfortable at certain moments, and while it sucks, sometimes we just have to deal with it. I'd rather a movie (or book) tell it like it is, even if the ending is heart-wrenching rather than sugar coating it.

  5. T.Anne, thanks! I love that everyone refers to it as (#3). HA!

    Jody, right on! There needs to be conflict besides the romance. BUT… I *personally* think in that quest, we have less and less pure romances out there. I read an old Heartquest romance by Tyndale the other day and sighed at the end. It had other things weaved through, but it was romance first and foremost. You see that less and less these days I think. (or at least on the contemporary side of things…)

    Sherrinda: You are so right! Julie is a master at this! Still loving how we don't say the S word but use #3 instead. *grin* Forever more I'll be looking at my WIP and thinking… 'Do I have enough #3?'

    Eric: Keep in mind, this was the thought of my 8-yr-old daughter. I personally liked the movie despite the sad ending, but as a whole, I prefer happy endings to books/movies I watch and read. This is purely a personal preference, and why I stick to romance mostly so I can be "promised" my happy ending. I completely understand that there are those that prefer the realism over my fantasy world. and that is just peachy! It takes all kinds to make the world go round! So you enjoy your sad realistic stories and I'll munch happily deceived with my cinderella stories. HA!

  6. You definitely need a "jerk" in a romance novel, in my opinion, as that can really drive the plot. It also provides a nice contrast to the hero, and it justifies the heroine's actions.

  7. I agree about the jerk. Heehee. I like happy endings too.

  8. Hmmm… Jerks as a requirement for romance. Congrats Megan, you've just inspired Monday's blog post. Stay tuned for my opinions on the matter! *grin*

    Lotusgirl: Happy endings… *sigh* Gotta love 'em.

  9. Sherrinda! I forgot to answer your question! Yes, I survived, and but for a pretty goodsized bruise on my arm, I'm faring well:-)

  10. Caveat: I'm not a romance reader usually.
    Maybe you list this with the sexual tension but I think you need THE KISS. Not because it ramps up the sexual tension-to me THE KISS is a separate thing. It's the confirmation that the two cannot live without each other. I love a good kiss, whether in a book, movie or, ahem, real life.
    If I'm reading a romance, I want a happy ending. If I'm reading another genre, I don't expect that happy ending.

  11. Ohhh, THE KISS! A VERY good one. It is linked in, obviously, with #3, but you're right. It is seperate and distinct too. And it needs to be there. Nothing bugs me more for a romance to have a "blah" first kiss. It's a BIG DEAL! It's wait we're all waiting for!

  12. I SWEAR I wrote a comment on here yesterday. Darn it! Oh well, I can't remember what I said, but this is a great post, and I really liked the last one about a quirky heroine. I really need to give my current heroine more quirks!

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