Romance Means an HEA… (Fight Me!)

As of late there has been some discussion of "romance books that subvert expectations". This usually means there's no HEA (happy ever after). For me, that is not a Romance Book, that is a book with romance. The market for Romance Books is HUGE. I'm talking nearly 1.5 billion dollars annually, making the romance genre the highest grossing genre of fiction. It is little wonder authors, and publishers alike wouldn't want to tap into that market. Romance readers expect the HEA, and those of us raised on the idea that genre Romance offers it feel fairly betrayed when it is "subverted". "Romance Books" becomes a catch-all for books that may feature romance (even sometimes centrally), but are not specific to a sub-genre. "Women's fiction" is often lumped in with romance, even if it's not genre fiction. Books written by women primarily for an audience of the same are categorized as "romance" merely for having a relationship in the narrative. A prime example would be the current popular works of Colleen Hoover. Hoover is a juggernaut in publishing at present, and though her books are often called "romance", they aren't really. I'm not saying there's no overlap with romance readers (there clearly is based on her sales figures). But I think it does a disservice to authors, readers, and the genre to not properly represent Romance Books, and books with romance. 

I have been a romance reader for many years. In my early days of reading, I expected the HEA, and received the HEA. It was an unspoken agreement I seemed to have with the genre and favourite authors. Suddenly, all was not how it previously appeared, and I was shocked to discover some books marketed and sold as "Romance Books" did not include the HEA, they didn't even include a HFN (happy for now). I know there are many who disagree, but let me just say I have Romance Writers of America agreeing with me as well...(scroll down to definition). Romance readers are often voracious readers, and rarely stick to one sub-genre. I think you can look to the success of the romance titles on "Spicy Booktok" (basically a romance book community on TikTok responsible for making romance authors bestsellers virtually overnight) for even more proof that romance readers consume their literature with a speed and diligence we don't often see in other reading communities. 

And so, here I present to you some Claire-approved guaranteed HEAs for your reading pleasure:

A Hunger Like No Other

When I first started reading genre romance, I almost exclusively read paranormal romance. Sherrilyn Kenyon's Dark Hunter series is the one that hooked me, by Kresley Cole's Immortals After Dark series is the one that solidified it. Cole excels at creating characters the reader can't help but root, love, hate, cringe, and cry for. For full experience I would recommend reading this series in order. 

When Beauty Tamed the Beast

One of my all time favourite historical romance authors is Eloisa James. I don't think I have ever finished one of her books and thought "Meh, it was only alright." This particular title is one I have re-read more than once and have enjoyed each time. 


So, I am kind of breaking my own rules with this pick. Let me explain. Beatriz Williams is not a genre writer. She's an excellent writer, but I would never call her a romance author. And yet, Overseas is one of the most romantic books I have ever read. There's dual timelines, time travel, and a romance you won't soon forget. Let's call this one a gateway book. 

Lastly, may I recommend,

The Kiss Quotient

Don't let the sweet cover fool you, this one from Helen Hoang is unexpectedly spicy, but I think a good introduction to modern contemporary romance. A reverse Pretty Woman story features great chemistry from the main characters and a breezy pace.