Does romance need a HEA?

This month on the blog, we’re talking all things lovey-dovey. Here, Lauren K. McKellar discusses the ending of a romance novel–does it have to follow a formula?

For many people, romance novels are a great source of escapism, providing an emotionally packed story that transports the reader away from the humdrum of everyday life. Perhaps that’s why when a romance novel doesn’t end with a HEA (happily ever after) it inspires such controversy. If a romance novel doesn’t have a HEA, is it truly a romance at all?

Let’s consider the alternative. If a romance novel doesn’t have a HEA, it usually has a HFN (happy for now). This means that while the hero and the heroine aren’t perhaps together, the immediate threat has passed and the characters are happy for now. Their future isn’t clear, though–we don’t know for certain whether they’ll end up together or not, and in some cases, when one character passes away, it’s not even possible.

In recent times, however, many readers are questioning whether a romance novel needs a happy ending to truly be part of this category. Here’s why.

man hold his girlfriend up above the city


Many people read romance looking for the feeling that comes with a HEA. They’ve found the book in the romance category and while they’re ready to go on an emotional journey, to watch two characters go through hell to be together, they expect them to be holding hands at the end of the story (or making love, depending on the heat level of your novel). They want that sense of emotional fulfilment–they want to close the book and have the “ah” moment that comes when two people get together and everything is set for the perfect future.

In a book with a HFN, you don’t get that. I mean, sure, we could put a warning in the blurb (“at the end, I’m going to kill the hero, so don’t read this one if you’re after a wedding and a baby”), but obviously, most authors don’t want to do that, and I’d argue that most readers don’t want to know that sort of detail before they start a book, either.

That then begs the question: does all romance need a HEA, and if an author doesn’t offer one, are they breaking the reader’s trust?

The Romance Writers of America defines romance novels as having:

An Emotionally Satisfying and Optimistic Ending: In a romance, the lovers who risk and struggle for each other and their relationship are rewarded with emotional justice and unconditional love.”

To me, this implies that a HEA is required to fall into the category.

What do you think? Do you need your romance to have a HEA?

lauren k mckellar_ms
Lauren K. McKellar is the author of several romance reads, and some not so romantic ones. She loves torturing her characters and playing Russian roulette with their lives. You can read more about her books on her website, or come say hi to her on Facebook.

The Best Winter Themed Characters

Fuzzy socks, hand knitted blankets, finger-less gloves, and warm beanies. That’s just how you’ll find me most days at the moment, often with my computer sitting in my lap or a book in hand. I don’t have a crackling fire to settle in front of, but I do have two warm purr-buckets who like to curl around me and share their warmth.

Isn’t winter the best season for reading and writing?

You betcha! Anyways, while reading Wicked Lovely earlier this month I got to thinking about season themed characters and just how awesome a strong setting, with a character to match can be. Here are some of

my top wintry wonders

  • Donia from Wicked Lovely – This winter faerie isn’t just cool, she actually looks like winter. With corpse-blue skin and lips, plus the fairest hair you could image, Donia even weeps frosty tears. Her transformation throughout the book doesn’t see her lose her wintry appearance, if anything she becomes more, better, just … SPOILERS. This one is for fans of beautifully written fantasy.
  • Lucas from Winter Omens (The Last Years) – This alien-hybrid boy is winter personified. He’s cold to the touch, but not cold-hearted and he balances out Althea’s summery traits perfectly. He’s one of those protective, loving heroes that you just can’t help but love. Anyway, I’m not going too delve to far into this world because spoilers, but if you love dystopian sci-fi, read this one!
  • Ull from Elsker – You can’t get more winter-themed than the Norse God of Winter himself. Ull has the looks and charm of a god as well as the powers. If you love huge romantic gestures, love too great to be true, and guys who can manipulate snowflakes then Elsker’s for you.
  • Jadis the White Witch from The Chronicles of Narnia – Winter = cold. Cold = heartless. Heartless = broken. That about sums our self decalred Queen of Charn. You can’t get much more heartless than cursing a whole land with an endless winter. But poor Jadis isn’t just mean for meanness’s sake. If you haven’t read The Chronicles of Narnia then where have you been?
  • Elsa from Frozen – yeah, yeah I know she doesn’t live in a YA book, but how could I list off winter characters without mentioning the girl who can control the snow and ice?!



Is there anyone I’ve missed? Who are the greatest winter-themed characters in your opinion?

Stacey Nash

For reasons unknown to her Stacey Nash’s books are almost all set in autumn. Perhaps because of the fun you can have with falling leaves. If you feel like connecting with the young adult author on social media, where she tries to be engaging check out these places:, instagram, twitter, facebook.


A mother’s guide to raising booklovers

You may have noticed the motherly theme we have going on this month. So far we’ve talked about the good mums in literature, the bad book mums, juggling motherhood and writing, mums who beta read and there’s a whole bunch more still to come. When we decided on the theme my first thought was for my own mother. You see, I have my mum to thank for my love of reading. From a very young age she taught me not only to treasure books, but the power of the written word. Reading was always encouraged, praised even, and writing was important too. I remember her telling me as a young girl that once written down, words had the power to move people forever.


Now, as a mother of three, I hope that I am nurturing my children into a love of literature. With two of the three already avid readers, I think maybe it’s working.


CC0 Public Domain (Pixaby)


Here’s how we approach books in my house.


  • From babyhood we included a story in the bedtime routine. When the children were young I read to them, but now the older two like to read to themselves every night before bed. My eldest even complains that she can’t fall asleep without reading first.
  • There has always been a ready supply of books. Yes, there are precious books that were kept out of reach when they were at the ripping out pages age, but there was also a bookcase full of plastic and board books that they could ransack whenever they liked. Even now there is a family bookcase that anyone is free to read from.
  • As soon as they were old enough, we talked about respecting our books (and toys too). They were to be treated with care, so that we could enjoy them over and again. Each child not only shares the family bookcase, but has a special shelf in their room for their own precious favourites.
  • Never tell them not to read. Sure, we need balance in our lives, but if either of my two bigger kids chooses to hole themselves up in their rooms all day because they’re reading a book and can’t stop until they reach the end, we let them. There’s always tomorrow for outside play.
  • If they seem to be loving a book, we ask them about. We let them talk our ear off about their latest read, and if they want us to read it. We do. There’s nothing more encouraging then sharing in a story their love.
  • We make sure they see us reading for pleasure. Both of us, so it’s neither seen as a girl thing, a boy thing, nor a kid thing. Reading is for everyone.
  • Whenever they complain that there’s nothing good to read we head to the library.

Our latest combined library haul!

My next point is controversial and I’ve been flamed for it before, but I‘m still going to put it out there, because I’ve seen how important it is.


  • Censorship


Please, hear me out before you tie me to the stake. My eldest is twelve, which according to publisher guidelines puts her somewhere between the perfect age for MG and YA. Many people believe that if a child wants to read a book, we should never say no. Reading is good, so we should encourage them to read whatever takes their fancy. My daughter could pick up Stephen King’s It, read it in two days, understand all the vocabulary used, and situations explored, but would I allow her to read It. Hell no!  She’s a sensitive little soul, and she’d not only have nightmares for the rest of forever, she’d be too terrified to sleep anywhere but between her father and I for, well, ever. Nor would I allow her to read 50 Shades of Grey, which by the way she’s asked me about, because she’s seen it in the shop and a friend brought it from Kmart as a dare. Now, The Hunger Games is a book lots of her peers started reading back at age 10 and 11. It’s also on her ‘no go’ list, for now. Kids killing each other — nope. I know she can’t handle that. She knows she can’t handle that. In another twelve months she may be able to, but not right now. I would never stop her reading books designed for readers above her age if the story did not contain themes that weren’t appropriate for her. Anyway, let’s not get into a rant on censorship here … what I really want to point out is why this makes my list of raising bookworms. Just like anything else in life, a negative experience, or one you aren’t emotionally equipped for can turn a love into a hatred, and I never want my kids to hate reading because they read a book they weren’t ready for.

And that’s the end of my motherly list of how I’ve raised book lovers.

What about you … is there anything that contributed to you loving books, or if you’re a mum, that you do with your kidlets to ensure they love books?

Stacey NashStacey Nash is the proud mother of three little bookworms. If you feel like connecting with the young adult author on social media, where she tries to be engaging check out these places:, instagram, twitter, facebook.

What is YA to you?

Until recently I’d thought the definition of young adult was a pretty cut and dried topic, but it seems that’s no longer the case. While browsing through the Amazon charts I’ve seen books I’d call new adult in YA categories. I’ve also even seen books I’d label adult there. And there seem to be YA books in non-ya categories. What crazy world is this? Have the rules changed while I wasn’t looking or are authors / publishers ignoring them? I have no idea! But as a mother of an almost-teen, I find this a little concerning and think I need to get my head around it.

So …


I’ve always thought it was a combination of the following;

  • age of main character
  • life stage (ie some kind of parental figures present)
  • education stage (high school vs college)
  • issues and themes of the story
  • heat level (if there is sex, how much is shown)

A friend recently put this question to a group of readers and got really varied responses. So now I’m asking, how do you define YA? Is it the protagonist’s age, their life stage, the themes covered in the book, or even the heat level, or amount of swearing? Or maybe it’s something else entirely. Let’s talk about this!


Stacey Nash (3)Stacey Nash thinks she is a writer of young adult fiction. To find out more about the books she has penned find her at, instagram, twitter or facebook.

How do you review?

When I first started writing, it was all about getting the book finished. Then it was about finding someone to publish it. Then it was having my friends and family read it and not hate it.

Never, ever in a million years did I worry about reviews. *insert evil laughter here* Oh, how naive and foolish I was!

After my first book was published, I started reading the odd review, and I discovered that not everyone loved this book I had put my blood, sweat and tears into. That, despite people being less critical of an often cheaper cup of coffee, my book was apparently not up to scratch.

Of course, reviews are a part of author life, and soon I learnt that and came to accept it. And that even though you can get a glowing review and only 2.5 stars out of five, it’s all part of a good learning experience. And sometimes, reviews can provide great feedback on  your product.

All in all, it made me really think though about how I judge a book. What I look for when I review.

Here is what I keep in mind:

-The plot. Is it engaging, captivating? Does it make me want to turn the page? Are there any loose ends? Anything not wrapped up?

-The protagonist. Does he/she make stupid mistakes, time and time again? Do they experience growth? Development? Can I relate to and/or fall in love?

-The scenes. Are there any scenes that just don’t need to be there? Is there sex for the sake of sex? Are there times when my mind wonders and I think about bringing the washing in instead of whether Juliet will drink the poison?

-The resolution. Does it end on a cliffhanger, and if so, is it a good one? If not, are all loose ends tied up? Do I get that sense of growth and satisfaction deep within my soul that a good book will really do to you?

Does it end in a cliffhanger? Photo:

Does it end in a cliffhanger? Photo:

So, what about you? Tell me, what do you look for when reviewing a book?


Lauren K. McKellar is the author of Finding Home, the Crazy in Love series, and How To Save A Life. If you take the time to review her work, she’ll love you forever. Or not, if you’d prefer.