Have you ever been happily reading along when suddenly, out of the blue, something terrible happens that throws you out of the momentum of the book?
In my case, I was reading a nice little book when the hero was suddenly struck down and DIED just before the end. (Sorry, guys, I won't say what book it is. I'm aggressively anti-spoiler -- except when I flip ahead to the end of the book. o.O)
I'm not going to lie, the sudden death took me by surprise. It was jarring and it was entirely unexpected simply because I thought that the hints we'd been given about him possibly dying were just another roadblock the hero and heroine would have to work around.
I read books to escape into another world. I read romance because I like the push and pull that comes from well constructed characters battling their inevitable headlong fall into love. I don't necessarily need a full-on Happily Ever After. I mean, I would be thrilled with a Happy For Now. When the heroine (or hero) is struck by tragedy at the end of the book and doesn't have the chance to recover, it's hard for me to read. HARD. I can appreciate someone overcoming overwhelming odds and fighting through the pain of losing someone, but I want that to be part of the story. I want to see them triumph. Losing someone at the end and not getting to be part of that journey makes me blink in bewilderment.
Now that I've said that, I am going to say that I did read a book AGES ago (seriously, I think the glaciers were just forming and dinosaurs roamed the earth) where both the main characters died. And you knew this going into the book because the author told you in the prologue (No, I can't tell you what book it is because I honestly don't remember the title at this point). AND IT WORKED! It was one of the sweetest romances I've ever read and I devoured it.
So, I'm not saying that killing off your main character (or characters) in a romance novel is BAD necessarily, I'm just saying that it takes a certain amount of finessing. I want the HEA. I want to know that these characters are being rewarded for all their literary heartache by the time I reach the end of the book.
Tell me how you feel about this. Do romance books where a main character dies work for you -- are passion and tragedy your thing? Or are you strictly there for the HEA?