Georgette Heyer’s endings
Re-reading some of my favourite Georgette Heyer novels recently — Dame Isadora snagged me as the minion to do the research for her blogs because she, being a Very Important Personage, had Better Things To Do — I was struck by how often Heyer brings her lovers together at the very end of her novels, sometimes on the very last page.
What we don’t get in Heyer is a lovers’ wallow.
What’s a wallow?
I’d describe the wallow as a shortish section at the end of a love story where the reader sees the lovers together and passionately in love — both of them trusting and relaxed and happy. Sometimes the lovers are married, sometimes they have had children, sometimes they are simply enjoying each other.
It’s the Happy Ever After ending shown right there on the page for the reader to savour.
Some readers love a wallow. Some readers even feel shortchanged if a novel doesn’t have one at the end. But readers still love all those Heyer novels that don’t have the merest hint of a wallow. So…
Does a love story need a wallow?
I think it depends. Yup, fence-sitting here in the hive.
If (as a reader) I’ve really invested in the lovers, I enjoy a wallow — it feels like an extra pay-off when I see the HEA actually happening on the page. But, from up here on that spiky fence, I can see good arguments against, as well as for.
Love stories are the core of romances and romantic novels but they can appear in other genres, too. You’ll often find lovers in crime fiction, in thrillers, in science fiction and fantasy, in all sorts of women’s fiction, and of course in literary novels.
So…Miss Marple has just explained exactly how the murder was done, unravelling all those missed clues and red herrings, and then we finish with a lovers’ wallow? It could seem like an anti-climax and a diversion from what the book is really about. On the other hand, it could provide a welcome moment of relief from all that evil murderous stuff.
Watching Marple on ITV, I notice that they often do round off episodes by returning to the lovers’ sub-plot in the final scenes, as in At Bertram’s Hotel (above, with Martine McCutcheon and Stephen Mangan).
No such fluff in Poirot, though! And maybe that tells us something?
If the tone is relentlessly masculine — Poirot and his little grey cells, maybe? — there’s less likelihood of having a lovers’ sub-plot in the first place. But it’s not impossible. Think of all those James Bond spy movies and how they invariably end with a love-making wallow (even though Bond-type love-making does not imply love and the films are nothing like as explicit as Ian Fleming’s novels).
Readers have comfort zones — a reader of sweet romances won’t expect a sexually explicit wallow at the end of a novel, even if the lovers are by then safely married. And if there is a wedding at the end, is that the wallow readers want to see on the page? That’s a question that’s been bugging my hive-partner, Sophie, so she is going to do a follow-up to this blog next week (wallow even deeper, you might say) with our first Libertà competition as well.
If the heat level in a love story is high, readers will usually be happy to see the lovers together in a sexy wallow at the end. (And if they’re laughing in bed together, all the better. Isn’t that real intimacy?) Then again, a wallow can be emotionally satisfying for the reader without having any sex in it. It all depends on the story and the characters.
This could be part of a wallow, don’t you think?
Authors have comfort zones, too, and publishing fashions evolve. For most of the period when Heyer was writing, the bedroom door stayed firmly shut. To be fair, formality is totally in keeping for the Enlightenment period of her 18th century romances. But what about her Regency-set ones? What about Regency sexual excess? Yet, in all my rereading of her novels, the only vaguely explicit mention I found was about real people (Juana and Harry Smith) when she wrote:
Just as she never pressed a scented handkerchief to her nose to shut out the reek of dirty humanity, so she never denied the comfort of her body to Harry, though he came to her grimed with dust; as rank, he said, as any private. (The Spanish Bride, chap 3)
According to Sophie, Heyer’s sexual frisson happens between the lines rather than explicitly on the page. Well, maybe. To be honest, I’m not sure. I’d say it depends on the kind of reader you are and how you read between the lines. Some readers don’t.
I still like writing wallows. I like reading them, too, but only when they fit the genre and style of the story. In other words, my comfort zone is right up on top of those gilded spikes.
What about you, dear Reader? Wanna wallow?
Tell us via our Wallow Poll — Open till Midnight on Friday 20th May
Poll now closed — Results below
This poll is just for fun, but we’d love to know what readers think. Please do tell us.
You can vote only once, so if you come back to the blog after you’ve voted, or after the closing date, you’ll see the results screen. Voting closes at midnight, UK time, on Friday 20th May (so that we have the results of your votes for our next blog!)
Huge apologies: I’m afraid the poll is playing up. Have tweaked and hope it now lets you vote and also records your votes properly. (You’ll now see the results screen only after you’ve voted.) Sorry so many were mucked about.