I had all kinds of ideas for this blog post, but instead of writing it I spent a chunk of today reading an urban fantasy novel by an author who was new to me and who shall remain nameless because I’m about to reveal a big ol’ spoiler in the interest of making my point.
The book has a pretty typical set-up for an UF – Our Heroine has superpowers and weapons and various other forms of badassery, and she gets involved in a case that might be impossible to solve, except for someone with her particular combination of skills. From the beginning, she’s shadowed by a Studly Authority Figure, who’s convinced she plays for the Bad Guys and wants to put her behind bars.
Studly Authority Figure is a mundane, and doesn’t understand anything about the paranormal world Our Heroine inhabits. He is also a wee bit attracted to her, something the author hints in the sections told from his POV, though the attraction’s wrapped up in a whole lot of antagonism.
Similar hints are woven through Our Heroine’s POV, laced with even more antagonism. They both blow so much smoke, you know the fire has to be there somewhere. Things escalate about midway through the story, when he gets tagged by a spell that turns him into a lust monster. She figures things out and reverses the spell, but gets caught in the blowback and is suddenly ready jump on board his naughty train.
They manage to stay out of bed, but the sexual tension definitely increases from that point on. Unfortunately (or fortunately) they have to work together to solve the case. Real trust starts to grow between them, and the intensity of the attraction builds. In the end, the only way Our Heroine survives the Final Battle is by holding onto the emotional connection they feel for each other.
And then she gets sucked back into the badness and spit out the other side.
And when they’re reunited, he’s apparently hooked up with Our Heroine’s best friend, leaving OH all sad and lonely, except for her pet werewolf and a Harpy who’s come over to play.
Oops, did I just give things away?
There’s no final section from Studly Authority Figure’s POV, no explanation for how or why he lost interest in Our Heroine and hooked up with her best friend, and certainly no final kiss.
Or even a near-miss kiss.
It pissed me right off.
See, I know that not every book is a romance (although really, why not?). Some of the very best love stories are never consummated, like the one in the October Daye novels by Seanan McGuire. She’s worked the heck out of the non-relationship between Toby and Tybalt, the King of the Cait Sidhe. I’m a couple books behind, so maybe they’ve finally kissed, but through book four, it’s been all about brief meetings, intense glances, and unstated desires.
Oh, and when one of them is in trouble, the other turns up ready to fight. If they ever get together, it’ll melt my Kindle.
The book I read today, however, did nothing to my Kindle except expose it to the risk of being flung across the room. If you’re going to set up the expectations of a romance, and build those expectations through 90% of the book, you can’t then aim a Best Friend Torpedo at them and expect it to work. I feel like the author betrayed my trust in the character she created. The storytelling was strong enough that the first thing I did after finishing was to go to Amazon to have a look at Book 2. I didn’t buy it, because the major plot line had Our Heroine and the Studly Authority Figure working through their mutual antagonism to get to a place of trust so they can solve the case.
Um… already read that.
The rules of the romance genre don’t necessarily apply to urban fantasy, but the rules of good writing do. I think the author of the book I read today had an ending in mind, and did what she needed to do to get to it, even if it meant a character behaved inconsistently. If you put off answering the will-they-or-won’t-they question, the payoff will be greater, and that’s fine, but don’t cut your reader off at the knees by making a promise you have no intention of keeping.
Wow! I feel so much better now for getting that off my chest. What do you think? Have you ever read a book with a twist at the end that just made you want to throw your Kindle across the room? Leave a note in the comments so I won’t accidentally download a copy.