Wednesday, March 25, 2015


"I’ve always thought the payoff of the HEA depends on the path leading to it."

My guest, is author Nancy Northcott. She writes the Light Mage War series. 

A satisfying ending is a must. But what kind of ending should you choose? The type of ending depends much upon the genre you write. Nancy discusses Happy-Ever-After and Happy-For-Now.

What makes the HEA ending of a book satisfying?  Well, obviously the main characters have to be happy.  And the reader has to be happy.  In romance, at least, there can’t be any niggling little but what about…?

The obvious exception would be in a series with an overarching plot in any genre.  Romance seems to be leaning more toward Happy For Now (HFN), but with the promise of that ever after part down the road.  The hero and heroine generally are settled in their relationship even if other elements of the plot may remain unresolved.

I’ve always thought the payoff of the HEA depends on the path leading to it.  There’s an old saying that those who’ve never known sorrow cannot appreciate joy.  There’s also the theory that we appreciate most the things that don’t come easily.  I think these ideas influence our perceptions of a book’s happy ending.

That doesn’t mean everything has to be dark and super-angsty, at least not to me.  But it does mean that the path of true love, to borrow from another saying, cannot run smoothly. If the hero and heroine never have more than the occasional little spat, we never really doubt they’ll end up together.  There has been no suspense, no growth, and not much conflict.  Without conflict, the book is over in chapter one.

I love Terri Osburn’s and Jill Shalvis’s contemporary romances.  In every couple, one of them has to confront some shadow from his or her past and overcome it.  There are varying degrees of angst involved, but healing and character growth always occur.

Mystery series may use the same couple in all the books.  A romantic arc may start slowly in book one and build as the series goes on.  In such a case, the HEA would be the resolution of the mystery, the sense that the villain has gotten his/her just desserts.

Karin Slaughter’s Will Trent series wraps up its murder mysteries at the end of each book, but the relationship between Will and Sara Linton didn’t start until the third book and has been progressing slowly since.  The books don’t always end happily for Will and Sara--but there are always feelings shown that imply a happy resolution and commitment down the road.  Despite the many complicating factors Slaughter has thrown in their way.

Jeaniene Frost’s Cat & Bones books, which I just recently discovered and then rapidly devoured, take the relationship between Cat and Bones on an arc that extends over the entire series.  Those books and the ones in Nalini Singh’s Guild Hunter series skate the line between paranormal romance and fantasy in that there’s often a thread of the bigger plot still hanging and there may be relationship issues that aren’t entirely resolved.

All the series I’ve mentioned involve heroes and heroines who learn to face their personal shadows and move beyond them.  So it is with Will and Audra in Warrior.  Will has to face the youthful scars that have made him wary of letting a woman get emotionally close, and Audra must learn to appreciate her own value.

I read pretty much everything but horror, and I can be happy with an ending that ties up the big story questions and implies that the relationship issue will be settled.   I can even deal with having the hero and heroine apart at the end of the book if I think they share strong enough ties to get back together in the next book.

My friends who read only romance, however, often want the relationship solid at the end of the book and a new couple for the next outing.  They prefer not to have romantic issues left hanging. 

  • How about you?  What makes an ending qualify for Happily Ever After status for you?
Sia, thanks for having me!  I’ll give away a signed, personalized copy of Warrior to one commenter today.
Leave your email addy if you want to win a copy


A Woman Tormented by Darkness 

Archaeologist Audra Grayson hopes the dig in the Okefenokee Swamp will save her career. But that hope is dashed when she finds out-of-place relics and brilliant, sexy consultant Will Davis comes to investigate her for fraud. Worse, working on the site strengthens the evil shadow that has haunted her since childhood, and she knows he will think she’s crazy and unfit for the job.

A Mage Who Must Oppose it At All Costs

Mage Will Davis senses the darkness in Audra when they meet. Wondering whether she’s in league with dark forces, he vows to ignore his growing attraction to her. Then deadly ghouls target her dig, and Will discovers they want the ancient bronze pieces to open a portal for demons from the Void between worlds. If they succeed, everything on Earth is an endangered species.

The Fate of the World At Stake

With ghoul attacks escalating and mage traitors in league with the enemy, time is running out for Will to stop the portal from opening. The chemistry between him and Audra threatens to combust, but the darkness within her may give the enemy its chance. Must Will choose between the fate of the world and the love of his life?


NANCY NOTHCOTT'S debut novel, Renegade, received a starred review from Library Journal. The reviewer called it "genre fiction at its best." Nancy is a three-time RWA Golden Heart finalist and has won the Maggie, the Molly, the Emerald City Opener, and Put Your Heart in a Book.

Married since 1987, Nancy and her husband have one son, a bossy dog, and a house full of books.

You can find Nancy: Website