I just finished a book. It was the second book in a series. I really enjoyed the first book and I was looking forward to the second one. It was every bit as good, so I was quite happy with it, and certain that I would want to read the third book.
Until I got to the end.
In the last page or two of the last chapter, the author did one thing that made me swear off this series. This is strictly a subjective thing – there’s no reflection on the writing or the story. But I’m curious about how others feel about this.
It’s basically the typical love triangle. In the first book, we have a smart and stubborn heroine, her long-time male friend, and a hot new friend who makes her nervous system do interesting things every time he walks into the room. There is a lot of “history” between the heroine and her Old Friend (O.F.). Their relationship has not always been platonic and they both harbor a deep love for each other. Throughout the first book, they dance around this situation, coming close to it, only to move away again. It always comes smack down in between the heroine and her New Friend (N.F.) – she can’t truly let loose with him, because the O.F. is always in her mind.
Each man is aware the other man has feelings for her. But they are good friends with each other, too, and both of them tend to step aside magnanimously, with a no you go ahead. I insist, kind of thing.
The triangle provides some heat to the story, racketing up reader interest in a “who-will-she-end-up-with” way.
At the end of the first book, N. F. leaves to resume his job in another city, while Heroine and O. F. get really close to confessing their feelings for each other. But once again, they back off, as they get into the cliff-hanger for the second book.
Okay. I can live with that.
Second book: more of the same. Only as this story unfolds, I root more and more for Old Friend. Their relationship is long and complex, rooted in deep respect and friendship, along with a healthy dose of realism: they’ve seen each other at their worst and always helped each other through it.
New Friend is great and all. He is not a shallow character, but there’s nothing in his relationship with Heroine to make me want to cheer them on. It’s mostly physical. Oh, I can see them loving each other, but… eh.
Nope, I’m rooting for O.F.
And at the end of the second book, N.F. has a possible new love interest, while O.F. and Heroine have been through Hell together and saved each other’s lives ten times each, and have just settled in for “the talk.” Let’s admit our feelings for each other.
And heroine backs off again, with the old standby reason: there are people watching her, and anyone she loves is in danger. For his own safety she must stay away. So she tells him it won’t work. There’s too much history between them (another old standby, and ghod, do I hate that one), and so she turns and walks away, breaking his heart completely.
And this author just lost me as a reader.
It’s not her fault, because the industry pretty much demands this type of ending in this type of book. But I could care less what the “industry” demands. By this point, two books into the series, I do not want to hang with these losers anymore. I’m not going to put myself through another book’s worth of these three people dancing around each other.
I want to know why is it that two main characters in a book can’t be in a committed relationship with each other, and still pull off a great story? Sure, in romance, they get together in the end – that’s a requirement for the romance genre. But why can’t it be done in mystery or adventure novels?
Is it because publishers insist that the heat and tension only exist when the couple can’t acknowledge their feelings? Because I’m here to tell you, that after two books, there’s no heat or tension left in that quandary. I’m bored with it, plain and simple.
For full disclosure, I do not intend to do this with the books I write. My couples will get together. They’ll explore each other as much as they’ll explore the universe. I think it can work to do this, and since I don’t have a publisher telling me I can’t do it… I’m gonna give it a whirl, in genres that are NOT romance.
So what do you think? Do you prefer the constant tension of unacknowledged love? Do you hate it when the girl gets the guy, hold your nose, and toss the book aside? Or do you enjoy watching a loving couple play off each other as they solve the mystery and save lives?