Wanna Wallow, Dear Reader?

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.

bride and groom pre wallow
Heyer might give us a chaste embrace. She might even give us a fierce kiss or two. And she often adds a shared joke.
But that’s about it.

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.

wallow on tropical beach



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.

fence for fence-sitter thinking about a wallow

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.

Different Genres

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.

wallow at bertrams hotel in ITV's Marple

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).
Romantic couple in HEA having a wallow?

Comfort zones

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.

wallow night skyline

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 Smithwhen 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.

comfort zone on fence



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

[poll id=”8″]

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.

15 thoughts on “Wanna Wallow, Dear Reader?

  1. Sue McCormick

    I don’t see how I can vote in your poll. There are five choices, I am equally affirmative on choices 1 through 4. Put the poll doesn’t seem to let me make such a choice. (Also, it doesn’t seem to be registering a choice?

    1. Sophie

      Think you have to vote for just one for it to work, Sue. (I’m not technically accomplished, so have to pass this one to the Einstein of the hive.) But we’ll take due note of people’s comments and report back on them, too.

      Thank you for yours! Must say I find your wide range of choices encouraging, from a personal point of view. At least one of those options I’m pretty sure I couldn’t write to save my life.

    2. Joanna Post author

      Sorry, Sue. I set the poll up so that people could only register one vote, one choice. You should be able to click one of the radio buttons alongside one of the 5 choices and then click the Vote button underneath. It must be working for some people, because a couple of votes have already been registered. You don’t have to be registered on our site to vote so I don’t understand why you’re having problems. But I’m still learning this website lark.

      Please do try again. And I’m sorry I didn’t allow for multiple choices but I wanted to know what readers’ absolute favourite wallow was.

    3. Joanna Post author

      Have looked back at the poll and changed the heading in the light of your comments, Sue, so that it’s clearer that voters can choose only one option. Thanks for your help on this.

  2. Georgie Wickham

    It’s the bit of Heyer I’m least comfortable with – having pulled me in to the story, to a relationship, she turns round on the last page and effectively says, “Well, it’s not so important you have to see more of it”. When I mentally rewrite her stories (sorry, The Shade of G.H.), it’s the endings I mull over and extend.

    1. Joanna Post author

      I think many modern readers would agree with you, Georgie. I suppose we have to remember that some of her books were written nearly a century ago when people thought a bit differently. But sometimes I muse about what might have been, just as you do …

    2. Sophie

      I suppose when I say that the emotion is in the space between the words in Georgette Heyer, I’m partly saying that, as reader, I’ve been imagining my own resolution – to some of the books at least.

    1. Joanna Post author

      I’m beginning to think I should have included a response that was “all of the above” above the existing number 5. Too late now. But at least the poll is now working — apologies to anyone who tried to vote and was rejected. Please try again if you have a moment.

    1. Joanna Post author

      All votes count, Lesley (except the ones I put in, randomly, when I was trying to get the ******** poll to work properly). If some readers are not into wallows, that’s fine. And I know you’re a Heyer fan so you’re sorted 🙂

  3. Tom

    I write histfic stories that are definitely *not* love stories, but all include a romantic relationship. They almost all end badly, so no romantic wallow at all. Ironically, one of the few that ends with lovers reunited is closely based on a true story and in real life they split up almost immediately.

    1. Joanna Post author

      Many thanks for introducing that slant, Tom. I can understand why no wallows in your non-love stories but isn’t it interesting that TV (eg the Marple I quoted) does so, at least sometimes?

      And, so far, the poll hasn’t many supporters for the “no-wallow” option 🙂

      1. Joanna Post author

        Oops. Got that wrong! Looking at the latest poll returns, option 5 — the “no-wallow” option — is now the second most popular choice. Shall be very interested to see the final results. Please do vote if you haven’t done so yet. The poll is open until Friday night (UK time)

Comments are closed.