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Thursday, December 31, 2009


If you write Romance inevitably you hear: “Why do you write that fluff? It’s all happy endings. You could do better.”

I typically laugh it off and say, “Well, I started out writing a murder mystery, but then my hero met the heroine.”

Despite the cheerful reply, though, the implication that writing happy endings somehow requires less effort or less talent grates on me like stop-and-go traffic. I can’t speak for every author, but sometimes finding a HEA that is believable and true to the characters is a huge, exciting challenge.

For example, my current book TIES THAT BIND could just as easily been a tragedy.

The hero, AEDAN ap OWEN, idles at angry, tends to act-out rather than think through his actions, and misuses his magical abilities for his own gain. Each time he fails to think through his actions, the reactions pull him deeper into a quagmire of treason and murder. I wasn’t sure that even I—the author—had the ability to save him.

My heroine, TESS, LADY of BRIDSWELL, also makes choices that put her on the divide between gain and loss, happiness and heartache.

And it’s this divide—the knowledge that the story could go either way—that makes writing romance such a challenge and so much fun. The Happy Ever After has to make sense. It has to come from the characters and the plot in a natural, logical way that readers accept. Otherwise, they hurl the book against the wall.

The happy ever after in TIES THAT BIND happened because my characters managed to grow and change. The story’s tension is created by mistakes, thoughtless actions and genuine personality differences. It’s not obvious how the conflict will be resolved—and it shouldn’t be.

The tension, conflict and unknown are what make a good book good.

So with each book, I set myself a challenge. Make the conflict deeper, the stakes higher, the HEA more impossible—and then find a way to get my characters there in a natural, logical way that makes everyone happy.

Back of book blurb:

A druid who denies himself nothing desires the only woman who believes magic and love don't mix.

Out of place in the Plantagenet court, minstrel AEDAN ap OWEN misuses his Sidhe gifts for the king's dark business. Sent north to investigate rumors of treason and dispatch the troublemakers, Aedan discovers someone is murdering monks and stealing saints’ relics. And all clues point to Carlisle.

TESS, LADY of BRIDSWELL, refuses to rekindle her relationship with Aedan. She knows his reputation as a secret stealer—and she has a secret that must be kept. But her resolve falters when her uncle promises her hand to a man she despises and Aedan hounds her steps.

A would-be king uses the stolen relics to amplify his power, wielding it like a weapon. Meeting the traitor's magic with magic will prevent war, but it will also destroy Aedan’s chance to show Tess he has at last mastered the temptation of the ancient wisdom. Can Aedan renounce his magic to win Tess' heart anew or will he choose magic over love?



It was a single word, four letters, yet Aedan somehow imbued her name with the importance of a royal decree. He knows words, she reminded herself, quickening her steps. Life in the king's court had no doubt honed to perfection his raw talent for finding the phrase to start a quarrel or arouse passion. By now, he could likely start a war¾or stop one¾with a single syllable.

Chilled by the thought, she turned into a niche in the wall and discovered escape ended at an oak door as wide as she was tall. She fumbled for a latch. Finding only smooth boards beneath her hand, she pressed her palm against the door, prayed it would miraculously open. The steps behind her stopped. She closed her eyes. He had bathed. He smelled of Saracen soap, spicy and exotic, mixed with the brisk, earthy scent of old trees that had clung to her for days after he’d left.


A tremor ran down her spine. Saints, she still loved the way he said her name. Rather than giving it a shortened, clipped feel like everyone else, he elongated it, adding depth and weight as if it were her true name.

“Tess, look at me.”

Unable to move forward or backward, she pressed her forehead against the door. Go away. Just go away, she prayed, and then hands, warm and steady, settled on her shoulders.


Anonymous said...

A happy ending is what drives me to read romance. I know I'm going to feel good when I close the cover. You're book sound awesome, just the kind of stuff I like to read. Have a great New Year.

Boone Brux

debbie haupt said...

Great article Keena. It really burns me when people look down on romance authors and readers alike. I remember once on a e-book club someone mentioned that they read a really good mystery and when they found out it was published by Mira they vowed never to read another one of her books, well I blasted them. I hate book snobs more than anything.
I love my HEA's and after a couple of serial killers or crime dramas I'm ready for some big time.
Happy New Year!!!

Anonymous said...

Hi Keena,

I couldn't agree more. I don't understand how people can dismiss this genre. It's a real challenge to reach people's hearts in a way that is believable. Deep down, doesn't everyone yearn for a happily ever after? I know I sure do!

Great article. I loved your excerpt. Awesome.


Michelle Kafka said...

There's nothing wrong with the genre. Interesting excerpt. Thanks. Happy holidays!

Virginia C said...

Hi, Keena! I truly believe that people who make fun of "romance books" secretly devour them : ) Who wants perfect characters? I become more deeply invloved and enjoy the story line much more when the characters start out with rough edges. It's very enjoyable to watch characters learn from each other and grow as human beings as they fall in love!

Happy New Year!

gcwhiskas at aol dot com

robynl said...

rough times in a book make for a more enjoyable read and the characters grow through these times.
I love my HEA in books.

Happy New Year


Diane Craver said...

I love romances and know how hard they are to write. I have a new romance, MARRYING MALLORY, releasing tomorrow. Your book TIES THAT BIND sounds awesome. Thanks for a great post!

Jennifer Johnson said...

I need the HEA because it doesn't always happen in real life! Very nice excerpt! Oh, when a man knows how to say your name-purrrr.

Keena Kincaid said...

Hi, everyone! Thanks for the support. It's good to know that others understand the challenge and the thrill of creating HEAs. Congrats on your release, Diane. I wish you many sales.

sherry said...

I love romance books that's just about all I read. I read every style of romance there is. I want a HEA if it doesn't have it I will never read that author again.

susan said...

Romance books are still my favorite genre and think they always will be. I enjoyed your blog. Happy New Year. susan L.

Keena Kincaid said...

Thanks, Susan and Sherry.