Risky Regencies

The Ride

Yesterday I finished the 6th Harry Potter and confirmed watering-pot that I am, I got all choked up reading about Dumbledore’s death. Anyone writing popular fiction aspires to creating this powerful a reaction to her characters and their problems. Yet I think romance novelists have a special challenge. It comes from one of the defining characteristics of the genre: the HEA.

Don’t get me wrong. I love (and I know readers do, too) the HEA. But when we know it’s going to be all right in the end, why do we keep turning the pages?

I’ve mulled this before but as summer is coming (including a vacation near Cedar Point, Ohio) this time roller coasters came to mind. We get on them knowing we’ll (probably!) return safe and sound to the starting point. Yet they’re still a thrill.

Maybe it’s because of unexpected and new twists and turns. That’s definitely true of romance novels. Sometimes authors give characters seemingly unsolvable problems and part of the fun is finding out how they work them out.

Yet the good old “there-and-back” coasters, like the Blue Streak at CP which I rode as a child, are still fun. It’s still a real experience. Each time I ride a coaster I still feel the wind, the bouncing of my stomach with every up and down.

It’s the same when I read romances by mistresses of deep characterization like Laura Kinsale. I get so sucked into the characters’ point of view that my own awareness of the HEA fades. It’s the difference between watching a bunch of people screaming downhill versus riding the coaster myself.

So what makes the romance ride work for you? Are there any roller coasters (literary or the amusement park type) you plan to ride this summer? 🙂


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Cara King
15 years ago

Ooh, I love roller coasters! Both the old-fashioned kind and the new. (And I once actually went to Cedar Point, BTW!)

So, what makes the romance ride work for me? I think biggest thing might be characters who feel real to me.

It’s such a fine line that romance writers have to walk, I think — making characters flawed enough to be interesting & believable, but heroic enough to fall in love with.


Keira Soleore
15 years ago

Elena, ooh, I loved the roller coaster analogy. Yes, I know all romances are going to end in a HEA, but it’s the “how” and “why” that interests me. If fact, if I don’t know where the story is going then that sense of wonder is in fact reduced. So, the trite ending of romances in fact enhances my involvement in the characters and the story.

The Cedar Point roller coaster was my first RC experience. Thankfully, it was also my last. New York New York in Vegas doesn’t count.

15 years ago

I like roller coasters and the roller coaster nature of romances. However, it’s the empathizing with characters that hookd me. The characters don’t know there’s a HEA at the end of their story. In many ways I put myself in the shoes of the heroine and that’s where I derive much of my enjoyment of romances.

Kimberly L
15 years ago

I love going to the parks but I do not like getting on a lot of the rides especially the roller coasters. I’m a big CHICKEN!!!LOL

Diane Perkins
15 years ago

Ohhh, the last roller coaster I rode was The Rebel Yell in Richmond’s Kings Dominion a brazillion years ago. I remember thinking, “I hate this. I want to get off.” Never went on another one; not even once when a stranger begged me to go on with er, offered to pay me, even. But I wouldn’t go on with my own son, why should I go with her?

I’d rather read a romance novel. I think what Mina said was brilliant. The characters don’t know they will have a Happily Ever After. One thing I love is when the tension between the characters continues to the end. So just when you think they are free to be in love, something gets in the way. I read a romance recently where the conflict between the hero and heroine was resolved about halfway through and the rest of the book was external conflict. I lost interest.

15 years ago

Isn’t Cedar Point the park with the roller coaster Millenium Force? We went there in 2000 and stood in line for HOURS to ride on it. But it was totally worth it! I was reasonably confident that I wasn’t actually going to die during the ride, but there were a few seconds rushing down that first hill when I had my doubts. 🙂

My mom doesn’t like to go see movies if she thinks they may end unhappily, and I’ve inherited a bit of a tendency that way myself. Tragedy is all very well in small doses, but one of the comforts of a romance is that you know happiness will prevail in the end. It keeps me going during the dark bits before that.


Keira Soleore
15 years ago

It’s good to have Todd back commenting regularly on RR, don’t you agree, Riskies? 🙂

Diane, I have to confess: Your brazillion always reminds me of the brazilian. Ouch!

Elena Greene
15 years ago

Todd, Cedar Point does have Millennium Force and a whole bunch of others I haven’t been on since the last time I was there was in my teens. I’m looking forward to trying them!

I always think of lingerie when I read Diane’s “brazillion”. It seems such a racy term. 🙂

Amanda McCabe
15 years ago

“I always think of lingerie when I read Diane’s “brazillion”. It seems such a racy term. :)”

LOL, Elena! Or a bikini wax. 🙂 But I’ve found myself using the word recently, Diane, it’s fun to say–“braaaazzzillion”

I’m also a chicken, and haven’t been on a roller coaster in years. But I think it’s such a good thing to remember that, though we know all will come out well for characters we love, THEY don’t. They don’t know when the downs will turn to ups. I’m going to make a little note saying that and put it on my computer to remind me. 🙂

15 years ago

Well, it’s like I say when I explain my library. . . science and romances. . . is that romances are easier to read, and you know what’s going to happen in the end, you have that answer in the back of the book, but it’s a matter of finding out how they get there. 🙂


Diane Perkins
15 years ago

Oh, darn. Now I’m going to think of those things when I say “brazillion.”

Deb Marlowe
15 years ago

Love your post, Elena!

If I love the characters in a romance, the journey seems new, even if the HEA is at the end. I love the emotional twists and turns, ups and downs, and I want to be taken along as they fight for their HEA.

Deb Marlowe

15 years ago

Keira wrote:

It’s good to have Todd back commenting regularly on RR, don’t you agree, Riskies? 🙂

Why, thank you! It’s so nice to be wanted. 🙂

Elena wrote:

I always think of lingerie when I read Diane’s “brazillion”. It seems such a racy term. 🙂

Oooo, nice one! Of course, as a guy, I can be made to think about lingerie by practically anything…


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