Please welcome guest author Tamsen Parker to the Cafe.
Once upon a time, about three lifetimes ago, I trained to be a yoga teacher. Though I rarely get on a mat anymore, one of the things that has stuck with me is something my instructor said: “If you don’t like yoga, you just haven’t found the right yoga for you.”
That sentiment could be applied to many things, but I find it especially relevant in romance. I know a lot of people who have been skeptical, dismissive, or downright derisive about romance, but if you get the right book in their hands, they become the most zealous converts. Which is because romance really does have something to offer everyone; there is at least one romance out there that will reach deep into a person’s soul and not let go.
The romance genre ranges from the most chaste inspirational to the filthiest erotic romance. Our stories take place all over the world, in all walks of life. We’ve got mermaids, vampires, time travelers, and shifters galore. We’ve got straight couples, gay couples, lesbian couples and forget about the couples, we’ve got ménage. And we’re pushing boundaries further and further all the time.
One of the strengths of the romance genre is that there really is a romance for everyone. And the ability of romance to be such a diverse yet still cohesive genre is in part due to a promise that we as romance authors have made to readers: No matter the ups and downs, no matter the outlandishness of the fantasy elements, no matter the kinks involved, you will get a happy ending.
Last week, Jeffe Kennedy wrote a post about cherishing reader trust. In it, she talked about feeling betrayed after reading a book by a debut, self-published author which ended not with a Happily Ever After or a Happy For Now, but with a cliffhanger.
That was my book.
The choice to end Personal Geography on a cliffhanger wasn’t a rebellious, self-righteous, looking-to-cash-in-on-romance-dollars-but-screw-the-contract decision. Nor was it out of ignorance. I have critique partners, beta readers and editors, and I read in the genre I write. I made the decision to split the books where I did for several reasons, including but not limited to book length and my heroine’s emotional arc.
As a romance author, I believe very strongly in the contract that I’ve made with my readers. Pretty much anywhere there’s a description of Personal Geography, it states that it cannot be read as a standalone. My next book, coming out in June, is a prequel. There is no HEA or HFN for this couple—just a bunch of kink, sex and psychological warfare—so I’m calling a spade a spade. And in this case the spade is erotica.
After a few dalliances with reading romance in high school and college, I started a serious affair with the genre after I had my little girl, who is turning four this spring. When I arrived on the romance scene, the promise of a happy ending was still in full effect, but the contract had been amended. It’s not unusual to see authors everywhere on the spectrum from best-sellers with a major publisher to the tiniest indie write series which contain a cliffhanger or otherwise non-HEA or –HFN ending to a single book.
This contract states that yes, the author has an ironclad obligation to provide their readers with a happy ending, but that the author’s responsibility lies in providing an HEA or HFN at the end of their characters’ story, which may or may not be contained within a single book.
I love romance as a genre. I love Romancelandia as a community. I love the fact that myriad versions of What-Love-Looks-Like can flourish here and that we can explore difficult issues because, we know that as romance readers, we’ve signed a contract with our authors that perhaps not everything will be okay (actually, several of my favorite books leave characters with some of the same issues they started out with, because love is wonderful but does not in fact heal all) but that our main characters are promised happiness with each other.
Not everyone will agree with this interpretation of this contract and I respect those opinions. But I hope that at the end of the day it’s clear that I (and other authors who choose to extend their characters’ stories over multiple books) very much value readers and the trust they’ve put in me to deliver satisfaction in the form of an HEA or HFN. Cross my heart and may my Romance Author card be revoked, you might have to wait a little longer, but I will deliver.
Thank you for having me, and a special thank you to Jeffe for inviting me to do a guest post here at Contemporary Romance Café.
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Powerhouse consultant India Burke is notorious for her razor-sharp mind, her incisive tongue, and for always being in control. But during her “lost weekends”—out-of-town, one-and-done, anonymous rendezvous solely for the purpose of kinky sex—she craves a submissive role.
Cris Ardmore, India’s latest tryst, is a Dominant who calls an isolated Hawaiian paradise home. India’s expecting forty-eight hours of contractually defined sex, but instead of serving as just another BDSM Band-Aid, Cris wants to know the real India Burke. Despite her aversion to anything approaching intimacy, India is hooked by their incredible sexual chemistry.
With tension ratcheting up in her professional life, India needs the release Cris offers more than ever, but her repeated visits come with their own risks. No matter how strong their attraction, India is determined to maintain her boundaries in order to keep her life whole after her first love blew it apart. She must choose between taking a chance and handing Cris the road map to her heart or locking down her borders before he does any more damage.
**Please note: Personal Geography is Book 1 of The Compass Series and is not a stand-alone. Intimate Geography, the conclusion to Cris and India’s story, released in March 2015.**