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Jennifer Porter @JenniferRNN
, 40 tweets, 15 min read Read on Twitter
Okay, I have my thread about the HEA/FN, reader expectations, fantasy, historical accuracy and realism done and ready to share. I will use #HEAORBUST so people can mute the thread. It is about 40 tweets long.
So time for the much delayed, last thread that the SBTB review of Eva Leigh’s Dare to Love a Duke spawned in my mind and this is the big one: the HEA/FN, reader expectations, fantasy, realism and historical accuracy in romance. Which has kind of morphed a bit. #HEAORBUST
There have been several debates and conversations on twitter since the day I posted the 1st two threads. And my thoughts and conclusions have changed rather dramatically. #HEAORBUST
The conversations about historical accuracy in romance and ones about the HEA and what the HEA represents in particular have got me thinking about romance in particular and the problems with claims about reality, fantasy and historical accuracy in genre. #HEAORBUST
The HEA/FN or Happily Ever After/Happy for Now is the most basic expectation for romance novels. Ultimately, this means for most romance readers, we want an optimistic ending where we can believe the MCs ride off into the sunset together. #HEAORBUST
But I think we want more. And this part is inspired by @SuperWendy of Wendy the Super Librarian blog and a post and a post she wrote reviewing Midlife Crisis -…. #HEAORBUST
In the post, Wendy writes: “I learned a long time ago that life isn't fair. You know what I love most about genre fiction? It's fair. True love conquers all, the bad guys lose in the end, genre fiction is art's way of righting the universe.” #HEAORBUST
Righting the universe. This phrase has stayed with me since I read SuperWendy’s post. We romance readers don’t just want the HEA/FN we want an HEA/FN in a righted universe. If the universe isn’t right, many of use reject the HEA/FN even if it exists. #HEAORBUST
In what cases is the universe not righted? In those stories with Nazis as romance MCs. Stories with KKK MCs. Stories where one MC rapes another. Stories with other people that readers consider on the wrong side of the universe. There are many possibilities. #HEAORBUST
For SuperWendy, the universe was not righted in Midlife Crisis because of the way that life treated the wife of one of the MCs. Read the review for more info. And I will say that I would’ve had the same issue with this book as Wendy. #HEAORBUST
Bc the universe was not righted, Wendy had trouble with the HEA. Presumably, it did not meet her HEA requirements (I am totally extrapolating here & apologies to Wendy if I got this wrong). This happens quite a lot to me as well, where my HEA requirements are not met. #HEAORBUST
As an example, Brianna Hale’s Midnight Hunter is a romance novel with an East German Stasi hero. I am a huge fan of some of Hale’s other books. But in this case, the universe was not righted by the Stasi hero (and other things including an odd art thing). #HEAORBUST
The Stasi hero was portrayed as a very threatening character who hunted East Germans who tried to escape to the West. And while things aren’t exactly what they seem with him, I could not sympathize with him as hero in order to buy into the HEA. #HEAORBUST
Then there is Julia Quinn’s An Offer from a Gentleman in which a hero (in a historical romance) falls in love with an illegitimate heroine. Because historical society won’t accept her lineage, these 2 MCs live quietly and are rarely heard from again. #HEAORBUST
This one hurts my heart and I don’t find the universe righted at all. In both books mentioned, there are definitely HEAs, but neither book worked for me because I am not happy with the world in which the MCs live. The HEA is dented and the universe is not right for me. #HEAORBUST
It is important to note here that what makes one reader’s universe right does not make another reader’s universe right. The righted universe is in the eye of the reader and WE CANNOT CONTROL THIS. So this is of course where it gets messy. #HEAORBUST
With historical accuracy, some readers care and some readers do not. I do not care as a rule, but sometimes something will hit me as anachronistic and out of place. This may or may not pull me out of the story and destroy my happiness in the book’s universe. #HEAORBUST
The things that I might notice would have to fall into an area of history that I studied, maybe wrote a paper about, or spent time researching. Keeping in mind this was as an undergraduate history major. Which means my knowledge is better than some, but still sketchy. #HEAORBUST
And yes, I may react to something in a historical romance that I cannot believe or doesn’t right my conception of the universe that may be historically accurate. Just because something is historically accurate doesn’t mean it is going to work for a reader today. #HEAORBUST
I feel the need to reiterate, just because something is accurate doesn’t mean it is going to work for a reader today. And readers are not going to take the time to research something before complaining about it. #HEAORBUST
When a reviewer says that a book isn’t historically accurate, there is a good chance that something in the book made the reviewer unhappy with the universe. They could not buy the HEA because of something. And it is the reviewer’s right to feel this. #HEAORBUST
But yes, this is fraught with problems. This is where deep prejudices and biases come into play and is why we should always examine WHY we as reviewers react to something the way we do. Should general readers do this as well? Yes, but can we make it so? No. #HEAORBUST
Yes, it is dangerous for us to cling to claims of historical inaccuracy without looking deeper. The same is true for claims that something is unrealistic in contemporary romance. What don’t we believe? Why is our universe wronged in these cases? #HEAORBUST
So reader expectations in romance novels? We want the HEA/FN in a right universe. There are probably some high level things that many people can agree upon about the right universe (see Nazis & KKK above). Although not all of us, as evidenced by recent Nazi romances. #HEAORBUST
But there are probably way more things that wrong our universes that we will never, ever agree upon. This is why some readers will love a book that others will hate. We can’t change this and honestly we shouldn’t attempt to. #HEAORBUST
Readers and reviewers should react to books how they react and write about them as they see fit. And we should react to reviews in the same manner. If we think a reviewer’s reaction is problematic, we should talk about it. Dissent and discussion is good. #HEAORBUST
Ultimately my point in this thread is that romance readers want an HEA/FN that rights their universe. This means that there are things that readers are not going to accept whether they are realistic or historically accurate. #HEAORBUST
Again yes, this can be problematic in terms of internalized biases and prejudices. I do not want to gloss over this point. It is important but in many cases we can’t see our own prejudices easily. I discover most of mine with the help of others. #HEAORBUST
Biases and prejudices in our reading habits need to be examined in more depth. Because these do come out in our reading choices. Sometimes they are innocuous and sometimes not. I mean, I dislike hockey romance because hockey isn’t my thing. I’m good with that choice. #HEAORBUST
But a deliberate choice to not read about courtesans or sex workers could be based upon a personal idea that this group of people do not deserve an HEA/FN. I had an earlier thread about how I had to examine my biases against courtesans because I had some. #HEAORBUST
And I feel compelled to reiterate that sometimes reading choices are just mood-based. We all have preferences for things that aren’t borne from hurtful and judgemental prejudices and biases. #HEAORBUST
One issue, however, is that the most readers are probably not interested in examining their reading choices, their biases or understanding what their right universe says about themselves. They read for fun. #HEAORBUST
And I think it would be a serious mistake to try and take the fun out of the experience of reading any book, romance novels included. #HEAORBUST
Romance novels are about hope, about a hope for an HEA in a righted universe. There is an element of fantasy in the very idea of the romance novel. Some people want realistic birth control in contemporary romance; some people want surprise babies. #HEAORBUST
Some want historical accuracy and some want blue collar workers finding love; some want vampires and some want zombies. Many, many want dukes and billionaires. There is room for all type of characters in all time periods including fantasy worlds. #HEAORBUST
Readers have a right to their expectations. They buy books to fulfill a certain need/want in their life. And when they pay money for something, they are entitled to react in any manner they want. Their expectations cannot be controlled or contained. #HEAORBUST
There is a reason why we hear the phrase “the customer is always right” constantly. And it isn’t because the customer is literally always right. They really aren’t. It is because without the customer (in this case the reader), there would be no market for books. #HEAORBUST
Readers will continue to say things aren’t historically accurate without knowing if they are. They will continue to email authors pointing out problems, grammatical errors, real or not. They will buy books without reading descriptions and be offended by what they read. #HEAORBUST
The reader wants what the reader wants. And what the reader wants or doesn’t want may be highly problematic. Much like in this awful political climate, we have to fight to highlight the problems and raise awareness as we try to right the universe in our real lives. #HEAORBUST
Because ultimately the reason many of us read romance is because we have hope in the real world. We believe in the power of the HEA/FN and want to right our own universes. #HEAORBUST

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