Over on LiveJournal, AlleyPat discusses Colleen Gleason's article “The New Romance?” and whether or not the HEA (Happily Ever After ending) is necessary to call a romance tale a Romance.
Now, is an HEA necessary, and I mean ABSOLUTELY necessary to make a romance a Romance? For the most part, pretty everyone would say yes.
But there is a trend in some of the crossgenre works to have a strong romance plot and yet not feature an HEA. Some are calling this the New Romance.
Me, I don't know if I want to give it such a label. Genres evolve. They change, they adapt. I think the overwhelming oppression of HEA requirement may stifle some of the strength of storytelling. From the very beginning, you know Our Hero and Our Heroine are going to get together and everything will turn out all right. This knowledge can take the tension and delicious suspense out of a story. It becomes not so much a question of will they get together, but how it'll happen.
I'm starting to think this is weakening stories.
Compare two TV shows I've loved in their time--Star Trek and BBC's Spooks (aka MI5).
In Star Trek, you know no matter what, the main crew will survive whatever comes their way. You know they're going to outsmart them, what you don't know is how. (But woe the Red Shirts. This is a series of disposable extras.)
Then there's Spooks. They get into all sorts of scrapes, and there is some serious tension. Not only do you wonder how they're going to get out of the scrape, but you have some serious angst about whether or not they will. Forget Red Shirts. Spooks features disposable regulars. Main characters die all the time, and it puts some serious tension into the show.
Now, back to Romance. Most of the Romance published in the past thirty years has mandated each story have an HEA.
Perhaps readers are no longer requiring an HEA, because they prefer deeper tension in their stories.
And there is nothing wrong with that.
But there is also nothing new about it.
Georgette Heyer (if you read romance and you haven't heard of her, go google her) has written stories that don't feature obvious HEAs. I recently read her "Cotillion". For pretty much most of the book, I wonder if Our Heroine is going to end up with the guy she's in a sham engagement, or the fancy lord she had a young crush on as a child.
Now, this story isn't exactly "new". It was published before most of today's authors were even born.
Want another romance story that features Not-an-HEA? Romeo and Juliet.
If anything, the mandatory requirement that all Romance stories feature an HEA is the New Romance, and hopefully a genre straitjacket that will be loosened and we can discover the true tearjerk of a bittersweet ending.