Thou shalt not depart from the path
These past two weeks have seen both highs and lows in the form of book reviews. Triple Burn was released on April 15. In less than a week, it received its first review: 5 stars. Warm fuzzies all around! My heart went pitter-patter with joy. Ah, there's nothing like basking in praise.
The second week, the book received a negative review: 2 stars.
Wow, that stings!
The reviewer complained that the story did not end on an HEA (happily ever after) or HFN (happy for now), which is what the Romance Writers of America (RWA) require for a book to be categorized as a romance. Well, I'm not an RWA member, folks.
The review delivers a spoiler, too, which annoys me to no end. So, let's pick it apart.
The power imbalance. Most romance novels have a power imbalance, usually in the hero's favor. For instance, in Regency romances, a woman had no rights and, therefore, no more power nor privilege than her guardian(s) permitted. In BDSM romance (and I hesitate to call that romance), the heroine is almost always the submissive in the D/s relationship. So, according to this reviewer, it's OK if the heroine is restrained, beaten, humiliated, and otherwise hurt in BDSM--treatment that would have the ASPCA, HSUS, and law enforcement knocking at your door if you treated your dog like that. However, if the hero (multiple in my book) does his very best to preserve the heroine's dignity and make her happy, then the cultural power imbalance is somehow wrong.
I must be missing something.
The HEA/HFN requirement. Due to the review's spoiler, you know one of the heroes dies. That leaves two heroes alive and dedicated to our heroine's happiness. There's also an element of hope at the end. It's bittersweet, but not an absence of an HEA or HFN.
Let's face it, the heroes are warriors. They go into battle. There's good reason--explained in the story--as to why a warrior triad takes a mate, when the rest of the Uribern castes allot only two males to a female: because of the likelihood that one (or two) of them will die. The "extra" mate is needed to ensure the well-being of the female. In this story, the purpose of the triad becomes clear because that purpose manifests. It's an element of realism that the wife of every active duty soldier and law enforcement officer faces.
Finally, the Romance Writers of America specify that a story must end on an HEA or HFN to be considered a romance. Sure, they're the 800 lb. gorilla in the genre, but I'm not a member and I feel no particular obligation to adhere to their formula for the genre. In short, I don't write for them.
I strayed from the well-paved path. I deviated from the charted course. I went my own way. No one has to like what I write, but neither do I have to follow anyone's prescription or formula for a story.
At least the reviewer didn't complain the writing or editing sucked. Sometimes an author can't win for losing.
5 Star Review | Daughter of the Darkwood
Reviewed by Long and Short Reviews
Read the full review:
Authors need not resist temptation, which makes writing stories so uniquely satisfying. That satisfaction includes the use of "real" people in fiction. Many authors gleefully kill off their schoolyard or office bullies in villains modeled after the people who make their lives miserable. Change the names to protect the guilty, but leave the rest the same and, voilà, one more demon vanquished. Of course that little bit in the front matter of the book that states, "This is a work of fiction," helps to mitigate the author's culpability should the real person upon which that villain is modeled recognize himself (or herself) in the story and take offense.
Real people appear in fiction all the time. Anyone familiar with Regency romances recognizes the name of Beau Brummell, once a friend to Prince Regent George who would become King George IV of England. Brummell rose to fame as an arbiter of men's fashion and held considerable influence over the fickle haute ton until he fled England in debt and disgrace. Royal and influential personages often feature in fiction, from France's Cardinal Richelieu who appeared in Alexandre Dumas' The Three Muskateers to English Prime Minister Winston Churchill and the USA's Daniel Boone.
The trick to using real people in fiction is to either disguise them or to ensure they have no descendants who care about that person's good name. By that measure, anyone who's been dead for at least four generations is probably fair game. Less than that, and you may face litigation from offended relatives who object to their ancestor being maligned or ridiculed. Relatives whose motive may be more greed than affront may seek to acquire a share of royalties earned from fiction that profits from the inclusion of their ancestor as a character.
Get your revenge. Off with their heads! But don't be too blatant.