Bad Boys and the HFN in Romance
Bad boys are a big trend in romance, but I’m not feeling the fantasy
Frequently on some writer’s thread, another writer will ask if a romance has to have a HEA (Happy Ever After) or at least a HFN (Happy for Now). The response from the romance writers is always a resounding “Yes!” We’re writing escape fantasy, not trying to win a “serious fiction” award.
I had a sudden insight the other day—which doesn’t happen nearly enough—and it freaked me out. Recent events have made me rethink the HFN ending. My definition of a HFN is where the couple ends up together but nothing is signed, sealed or delivered. There’s still an escape clause waiting in the fine print
I know Joe Morelli and Stephanie Plum will end up together eventually, but in my secret heart, I’ve always kind of hoped she’d two-step down the aisle with Ranger. Ranger is a HFN ending just waiting to fall apart. I’m not seeing him settling down to domestic bliss. Dang Janet Evanovich, anyway. She makes Ranger seem a lot more romantic than Joe. Ranger is The ultimate bad boy.
I’m sorry, but Joe is one six-pack away from a beer belly.
The worst kind of HFN is the one I don’t believe. Certain romantic thrillers and romantic suspense books have these kind of HFN endings. The testosterone-driven alpha male who’s a cold-blooded killer, working for some ambiguous international group without a mission statement on their website, because they don’t even own a website. Or the falsely imprisoned ex-convict who has been brutalized by the system—hard-edged, living on his nerves, and ruthless—tamed by the love of a good woman. You know the type of books I’m talking about. I’ve enjoyed them, too.
Which brings me full circle to recent events. Joyce Mitchell, the prison seamstress who helped the two convicts escape from Clinton Correction Facility in New York thought she was in love. I don’t know which of these two princes was her love object. Possibly the one who dismembered his victim or maybe it was the one who shot the deputy 15 times, my new definition of overkill.
On the news, Joyce appears befuddled and soft, the perfect victim for a pair of charismatic psychopaths, which seems like it should be contradictory, but these guys are master manipulators. Of course, I had a lot more sympathy for Joyce before she confessed she was conspiring with these two to kill her husband. Anyone who has been married can appreciate the sentiment, but the impulse usually fades. Joyce recanted too, probably because some belated sense of self-preservation convinced her to abandon being their getaway driver. I can’t read Joyce’s mind, but I’m thinking she reconsidered because these two guys Are killers!
If Joyce had gone on the lam with them, I predict her HFN would have been short-lived. Literally.
My sudden insight is nothing miraculous, but I’ll share it anyway. Real BAD BOYS aren’t romantic. I think I may lay off reading romantic suspense for a while, until I’m able to suspend my disbelief again.