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.

My Top Five “MUST HAVE RIGHT NOW” Winter Reads

Skiing makes me nauseous. Football, that perennial winter sport, bores me. To my mind, there are only a few good things about winter: being able to use my slow cooker, wear my TARDIS beanie, and hibernate with a good book. Fortunately, there are some amazing books coming out over the next three months; it was hard to narrow it down to just five, but I’ve done my best.

This Savage SongTHIS SAVAGE SONG by Victoria Schwab — releasing 5 July 2016

There’s no such thing as safe in a city at war, a city overrun with monsters. In this dark urban fantasy from author Victoria Schwab, a young woman and a young man must choose whether to become heroes or villains—and friends or enemies—with the future of their home at stake. The first of two books.

Kate Harker and August Flynn are the heirs to a divided city—a city where the violence has begun to breed actual monsters. All Kate wants is to be as ruthless as her father, who lets the monsters roam free and makes the humans pay for his protection. All August wants is to be human, as good-hearted as his own father, to play a bigger role in protecting the innocent—but he’s one of the monsters. One who can steal a soul with a simple strain of music. When the chance arises to keep an eye on Kate, who’s just been kicked out of her sixth boarding school and returned home, August jumps at it. But Kate discovers August’s secret, and after a failed assassination attempt the pair must flee for their lives.

Under Rose-Tainted SkiesUNDER ROSE-TAINTED SKIES by Louise Gornall — releasing 7 July 2016

Agoraphobia confines Norah to the house she shares with her mother.

For her, the outside is sky glimpsed through glass, or a gauntlet to run between home and car. But a chance encounter on the doorstep changes everything: Luke, her new neighbour. Norah is determined to be the girl she thinks Luke deserves: a ‘normal’ girl, her skies unfiltered by the lens of mental illness. Instead, her love and bravery opens a window to unexpected truths…

An important and uplifting debut from a British author, which tackles mental health issues such as agoraphobia and OCD.

PS I Like YouP.S. I LIKE YOU by Kasie West — releasing 26 July 2016

What if the person you were falling for was a total mystery?

While Lily is spacing out in Chemistry one day, she picks up her pencil and scribbles a line from one of her favorite songs on the desk. The next day, someone else has written back to her on the desk! Soon enough Lily and the mystery student are exchanging notes, and lyrics, and even sharing secrets. When Lily finds out that her anonymous pen pal is a guy, she’s flustered — and kind of feels like she’s falling for him. She and her best friend set out to unravel the identity of the letter writer — but when the truth is revealed, the guy is the LAST person Lily could have ever imagined it to be. Now that Lily knows the truth, can she untangle her feelings and gather the courage to listen to her heart?

From beloved author Kasie West (The Distance Between Us) comes an utterly charming story about mixed messages, missed connections, and the magic of good old-fashioned secret admirer notes.

Harry Potter and the Cursed ChildHARRY POTTER AND THE CURSED CHILD by J. K. Rowling, Jack Thorne and John Tiffany — releasing 31 July 2016

Based on an original new story by J.K. Rowling, Jack Thorne and John Tiffany, Harry Potter and the Cursed Child, a new play by Jack Thorne, is the first official Harry Potter story to be presented on stage. It will receive its world premiere in London’s West End on 30th July 2016

It was always difficult being Harry Potter and it isn’t much easier now that he is an overworked employee of the Ministry of Magic, a husband, and father of three school-age children.

While Harry grapples with a past that refuses to stay where it belongs, his youngest son Albus must struggle with the weight of a family legacy he never wanted. As past and present fuse ominously, both father and son learn the uncomfortable truth: sometimes darkness comes from unexpected places.


It Ends With UsIT ENDS WITH US by Colleen Hoover — releasing 2 August 2016

Lily hasn’t always had it easy, but that’s never stopped her from working hard for the life she wants. She’s come a long way from the small town in Maine where she grew up. She graduated from college, moved to Boston, and started her own business. So when she feels a spark with a gorgeous neurosurgeon named Ryle Kincaid everything in Lily’s life suddenly seems almost too good to be true.

Ryle is assertive, stubborn, and maybe even a little arrogant. He’s also sensitive, brilliant and has a total soft spot for Lily; and the way he looks in scrubs certainly doesn’t hurt. Lily can’t get him out of her head, but Ryle’s complete aversion to relationships is disturbing. Even as Lily finds herself becoming the exception to his no dating rule, she can’t help but wonder what made him that way in the first place.

As questions about her new relationship overwhelm her, so do thoughts of Atlas Corrigan, her first love and a link to the past she left behind. He was her kindred spirit, her protector. When Atlas suddenly reappears everything Lily has built with Ryle is threatened.

With this bold and deeply personal novel Colleen Hoover delivers a heart-wrenching story that breaks exciting new ground for her as a writer. Combining a captivating romance with a cast of all too human characters, “It Ends with Us” is an unforgettable tale of love that comes at the ultimate price.

If you think I’ve missed any, leave a comment — because my TBR is only 100 or so books high, which means I’m not trying hard enough!

Cassandra Page is an author, reader, geek and bookstagrammer. You can find her here.

Cassandra Page

Why I write more in winter + COMPETITION TIME!

Winter. I love it.

No, scrap that. I FREAKING love it.

At heart, I’m a summer girl. I swim, I spend time outdoors, and I bask in the summer. But without fail, every winter I manage to achieve one thing that always seems to slip out of my grasp in summer:

Writing. More. Words.

I can put this down to three main reasons:

  1. Cold weather = less time out socialising (read: walking the dogs) and therefore more time spent inside. As well as less time spent dog-walking, a serious social activity for me, I also spend less time going out and visiting friends this season because secretly, I was a hedgehog in another life and I totally hibernate. Yes. I’m one of those weird creatures who just gets super tired in winter. However, it does mean less time spent out and about, and more time spent at home results in more time writing.


    Photo courtesy of WikiCommons. Credit: Olaf1541

  2. Bribery is epic. In summer, I’m a pretty healthy gal. I love fruit, salads and all sorts of things that would make you sick. Kale? Yes, please. Quinoa? Only if it comes with another superfood.
    But in winter? I turn into a badarse. Chocolate. Hot chips. Wine (well, not at the moment, since I’m pregnant, but that doesn’t mean I’m not dreaming about it). The point is, I often like to ‘motivate’ myself when writing. For example, I’ll say to myself, “Lauren, if you write another 5,000 words, I’ll let you eat a bowl of ice cream.” (Well, if I’m being completely honest, it usually then is followed by, “No, make that two bowls … Oh hell, give me 5,500 and you can have the whole tub!”).
    I bribe myself more in winter because the treats I crave are junkier, and therefore, I write more. See? I’m a simple creature with simple needs (feeeeed meeeeee).
  3. Since I’m home more, and eating more (see points one and two) I find I read more during winter. After all, chocolate tastes better when I add in some book-induced tears! I’ll often find myself too busy to have reading binge-fests in summer, but on a rainy winter’s day, what could be better than sitting down to a fresh book and just diving in, demolishing that sucker in as few sittings as possible?
    I’ll often stockpile books I want to read, saving them for a mammoth winter sesh. This month, I’m really looking forward to A Thousand Boy Kisses, which I hear AH-MAY-ZING things about, and can’t wait to devour.
    And, with reading a lot, comes writing a lot. For me, the two go hand in hand. Reading something great makes me aspire to write something hopefully similarly okay/readable-ish.

So what about you? Do you write more during winter?

Tell me why you do or don’t for your chance to win an e-copy of Losing Faith and Seeking Faith, two contemporary New Adult novels in the Surfers Way series written by the lovely Jennifer Ryder and myself. Entries are open below and will be judged on creativity. Competition closes June 14, 2016, 5pm AEDT.



Lauren K. McKellar is an author, editor, and hedgehog. You can find her hanging on her Facebook page, rambling over at her website, or eating copious amounts of chocolate while obsessing over her growing baby belly.

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.

Reading Slump

Ever have a pile of books to read and they all feel a little… meh?

I’m at that stage right now. It’s odd in that some of the books I have waiting are going to be good. I know it. They are by fave authors or recommended by friends who I trust.

But still, I look at the pile… and don’t read.

This isn’t like me. Usually I start my next book right after my last, loving the dive into worlds and people unexplored (or back to faves in the case of sequels). It might be the weather. It’s all lovely and rainy – which should make for good reading – but it’s also really hot. Down here in South Australia we do dry heat and cold rain – thanks.

Am I feeling contrary to match the turn of leaves and darkening of skies as the days get a little shorter?

Have I just not yet found the right book?

Have you gone through this? Any recommendations?

Maybe I should read something way out of left field. But what?




beck nicholas_ bec sampson


I always wanted to write. I’ve worked as a lab assistant, a pizza delivery driver and a high school teacher but I always pursued my first dream of creating stories. Now, I live with my family near Adelaide, halfway between the city and the sea, and am lucky to spend my days (and nights) writing young adult fiction.

The Magic of Christmas

So, Christmas is this week. How did that happen? I’m still wondering …

Even though this year seems to have flown by, I’m excited because I love the magic of Christmas. I have two kids who (mostly) still believe in Santa, which makes it even more fun. I did say mostly though, and it seems my younger one at seven years old is the one who is questioning the truth of it all. He has asked me a few times if Santa is real, and every time I’ve told him, “He’s real if you believe he’s real.”

There’s a Roald Dahl quote from The Minpins that I love:

“And above all, watch with glittering eyes the whole world around you because the greatest secrets are always hidden in the most unlikely places. Those who don’t believe in magic will never find it.”

You might wonder why I’m talking about Christmas, and magic, and believing in things, and what this has to do with writing and books. Well, I think it has everything to do with what authors love to do, and what readers love to do: write and read.

Every story written and every book, whether it’s published or not, is a little piece of magic brought to life. Through books authors have the ability to take us places we’ve never been to, dreamed of, or imagined, and as readers we are given the opportunity to experience that magic. All we have to do is believe.

I’d like to wish everyone a very Merry Christmas, and I hope your 2016 is wonderfully magical.


K. A. Last has managed to write every day for the past 51 days. She is the YA author of Sacrifice, Fall For Me, Fight For Me, and Immagica. She drinks lots of tea, is obsessed with Buffy, and loves all things purple (it used to be pink). K. A. Last hangs out on Facebook or you can find her on twitter and Goodreads. She’s also been known to blog once in a while.


It’s just a jump to the left

And then a step to the right…

This is a bit how I feel at the moment, jumping all over the place. It isn’t the holiday season – although there is that too, but more that I have edits and proofs and I’m writing a new story all at the same time. These are sci-fi, romance and mystery. It’s a juggle!

So today I thought I’d share my best tips for switching between completely different stories.

  1. Probably the most obvious is be organised so you’re not overwhelmed.
  2. Allot a decent stretch on each thing at once. Five minutes here and there might not make much progress at all.
  3. I love playlists. If you have a list it can help you get in the mood for the book you’re supposed to be working on. (sometimes just thinking of the songs is enough)
  4. If you get on a roll with one it might be worth sticking with that for longer. Progress is good.
  5. Finally, give yourself some slack to do your best – it’s all of us can ask really.


Anyone got any good switching tips?




beck nicholas_ bec sampson


I always wanted to write. I’ve worked as a lab assistant, a pizza delivery driver and a high school teacher but I always pursued my first dream of creating stories. Now, I live with my family near Adelaide, halfway between the city and the sea, and am lucky to spend my days (and nights) writing young adult fiction.

Find me at my website:

Or on twitter @BeckNicholas