When I think of cliffhangers, I think of long-ago Friday and Saturday nights when the family all sat around watching TV. It would be the end of a season, and whatever show we were watching was sure to end on a cliffhanger. Who shot JR? Was Buffy really dead? Was Jack Bauer ever gonna have a good day? (No!)
What I don't think about when I hear the word cliffhanger is a romance novel. The romance genre, by definition, contains books that end in one of two ways: Happily Ever After or at least a Happy For Now. I don't even really like HFNs, actually. I want a resolution to a relationship. That relationship might continue beyond the book, as with Christine Feehan's Dark series, Cherise Sinclair's Master of the Shadowlands series, and JR Ward's Black Dagger Brotherhood series. There might even be new books or novellas about the couple, but in their book, I want an HEA. It's what my heart longs for. I can't help it -- I NEED an HEA.
So, cliffhangers in romance? Not so much. My first encounter with such an animal was a very popular book that shall remain nameless. I literally got to the end, read the last paragraph, and turned the page expecting more. When it wasn't there, I turned the book over, looked at the cover, scratched my head... It took me a while to figure out that really was all there was to the story. If there had been some indication of a hook, a resolution to the original story arc, I wouldn't have been confused. But instead it felt as if the author had written one book, taken a cleaver, and literally chopped the story into thirds.
I hated it.
Now granted, there are series that take three (or more) books to resolve a relationship. But there's usually some indication that this will happen. There's usually a sense of "finishing," of resolution to the end of each book. There might still be questions, but the arc of the story, both within itself and within the overarching trilogy (or however many books), is evident. There's closure of some kind, even if the reader knows it is temporary.
This isn't even like those long-ago TV cliffhangers. There wasn't a buildup to a climactic event that we knew would get resolved in the beginning of the next book. No, there wasn't even that promise. The character's walked out on the street to go somewhere, stood for a minute talking (about nothing important), and that was the end. Done.
Uh-uh. No. If at all possible, I won't read a book like this. It drives me nuts -- and makes me never want to read anything by that author again. Period.
Can you tell I don't like this new romance version of cliffhangers?
So what about you? Do you like cliffhangers? The old TV kind or this new kind found in romances? Do you like romances that end, if not in an HEA, then in an HFN? Or are you a die-hard HEA junkie like me? Inquiring minds want to know! :)
*Photo courtesy of Duncan Hull.