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? 🙂