KZ Snow's special take on the Happily-ever-after Ending.
A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to the HEA
The sacrosanct happily-ever-after: some readers and publishers insist on it; others are more flexible. A recent trend in romance fiction seems to be toward the happy-for-now or HFN ending, which better reflects reality and is therefore more believable. In both cases, though, it’s considered bad form for an author to mess publicly with a couple once they’ve been joined. If spunky Liza and alpha-dude Lucas decide to buy one-way tickets to Splitsville, they’d better be discreet and do it off-stage.
This became a big issue for me when I was recently backed into a corner by three very stubborn characters who decided they didn’t want to conform to any model.
In my Ellora’s Cave novel Plagued, vampire hero Adin Swift hooks up with a mortal woman named Celia Quill. They come to love and stand by one another. Because they face a threat of great paranormal magnitude, Adin must call on an old friend for help.
Enter Jackson Spey, a man of many skills.
From the moment this Harley-riding wizard reappeared in Adin’s life, I knew I’d opened a big ol’ can of worms. Adin and Jackson had a ten-year history. They’d always found each other profoundly simpatico in nearly every respect. Then Adin drank his friend’s blood, and . . . Well, you know how it is -- a vampire feed is one erotic experience. Oh, boy.
It quickly became obvious to me that these men were so bloated with repressed desire for each other, something was bound to pop. (Sorry for the metaphor.) But what was to become of Celia, who’d gotten her HFN at the end of Plagued? Hell, Adin wasn’t a faithless cad. He truly loved her. And Jackson was an honorable man who had genuine respect for this woman, both as an individual and as Adin’s partner.
Helluva quandary. I knew Adin and Jackson deserved a chance to explore their mutual passion—it was inevitable, really—but I also knew Celia could not become a scorned and bitter female consigned to the doldrums of romance. The men wouldn’t stand for it, she wouldn’t stand for it, and I wouldn’t stand for it. Furthermore, I refused to kill her off or turn her into a lesbian, either of which would’ve been one of the lamest deus-ex-machina turns imaginable.
Deliverance ultimately came from an unlikely place—MySpace. (My hand to god/dess, this is a true story.)
A former college roommate, somebody I hadn’t seen or heard from in decades, found me there. We began exchanging emails to catch up on each other’s life. Laura rather tentatively confessed she had an “unconventional” marriage. I assumed she and her husband were into some kind of swingers or Dom/sub thing. That wasn’t it. Following their marriage, it became apparent all was not right in the bedroom. Laura and her husband at first assumed he was bisexual. That call, as it turned out, was a little off. Not long thereafter, the husband realized he’d fudged on the truth, however unintentionally, and was actually gay. But he and Laura stayed married. Both soon became happily involved with other men . . . and remained contentedly wed.
This living example of selflessness, devotion, and adaptability has been around for thirty-plus years. I was impressed.
There’s no doubt in my mind that many, many couples have similarly, and silently, chosen to tolerate each other’s sexual preferences/orientations/practices. Moreover, Laura’s story prompted me to reflect on my own experiences. I’ve had two flings with gay men, and I learned from both that fond friendships can spring, sans bile and blame-throwing, from the ashes of doomed romantic pairings.
I sincerely hope more M/M romances explore such situations, which often entail a very special kind of heartbreak coupled with a very special kind of HEA. Although it’s common for the male protagonists to struggle with their own issues, we rarely get a glimpse of a woman who must either accommodate or play past her partner’s choice to be with a man. It would be gratifying to see more characters clear this hurdle with grace.
So back to Celia Quill. I realized she was open-minded enough to understand Adin’s dilemma, and strong and caring enough to help smooth the way toward its resolution. The first step takes place in the novella Obsessed (available from Changeling Press). A recent review of Obsessed at Literary Nymphs further affirmed I'd made the right decision. Wrote the reviewer:
Obsessed surprised me. I wasn’t entirely sure what to expect, but by the end, I realized how deep a story it is. Adin is an admirable man -- very loving toward [his girlfriend], but unable to shake the growing love for his best friend. Jackson possesses more than just physical strength, especially at the end, but it’s Celia who shines, even if she doesn’t take center stage. As someone who understands Adin’s plight, I couldn’t help but adore Celia for her loving and trusting acceptance of who he is and what he feels.
Whether or not Celia continues living with Adin is entirely her decision; he will not summarily dump her, and Jackson will not press the issue. If she decides to stay, it won’t be because she’s been pulled into a domestic threesome. She’s no buttinski (uh, that wasn’t a pun). If she decides to leave, it won’t be because of Adin’s and Jackson’s ongoing trysts. She’s resigned to them.
As the men’s relationship continues to evolve (and it’s currently doing so, in a WIP titled InDescent), so will Celia’s attitudes. From the start, the three of them have communicated with frankness and sensitivity. I do have a feeling, though, there’s great fulfillment in store for her.
My exploration of naughty boys -- with or without girls, but usually without -- will continue in a futuristic urban fantasy series (Utopia-X) I have planned for Loose Id. The first book, Looking for Some Touch, is now in edits. And September 19 will see the release of the erotic romance Prince of Glacier Glas from Ellora's Cave; different men, different world . . . and a plump, juicy HEA any woman would envy!
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