My so-called bodice-ripper read Through A Glass Darkly has proved a shock to me - by not being a bodice-ripper at all. I doubt that it even qualifies as "historical romance". Not only is the ending in the "tomorrow is another day" line rather than "they lived happily ever after" - Gone With The Wind survived that and is still considered a romance - but there are simply too many deaths in it. And not just any old periferal deaths; deaths which hit the poor heroine where it hurts the most. Scarlett O'Hara was lucky in comparison. What with one darned thing after another, it is surprising Lady Devane isn't nicknamed Calamity Barbara.
To be fair, Through A Glass Darkly never claimed to be a bodice-ripper, though apparently it did win a prize for "Best Historical Romance" when it came out. I just assumed it was one because Dark Angels was. I should have heeded the warning signs: the blurb of Through A Glass Darkly mentions that Barbara and prize prat Roger are "star-crossed", and the first time someone used that word to describe a couple it wasn't good news. The novel is best seen as historical fiction, pure and simple, with plenty of relationship drama and gossip. Heady romance, however, proves difficult with a male protagonist as insensitive as Roger, who ends up behaving impossibly both as a husband and as an object of villain affection. And then the deaths rain down, accompanied at times by financial ruin.
Not quite the easy read I imagined, then - but still a good read. And yet, I have to face facts. For years I have tried to be mature about books and endings, telling myself that from my point of view - the villain-lover's - 90% of all books end unhappily anyway. I have seriously considered different theories as to what makes a good ending. There was one I read about in an article on Great Expectations which sounded quite persuasive, about "static" and "dynamic" endings. As I understood it, "dynamic" endings made you imagine a continued life for the characters full of ups and downs, just like the novel you'd been reading, while "static" endings froze the picture instead, leaving the characters in a state of happiness or misery for the rest of their lives. The best endings were, of course, the "dynamic" ones.
I have come to realise, though, that I simply prefer happy endings. I really do. I would much rather have a static happy ending than a dynamic one where the main protagonist is knee-deep in corpses. And is that so strange? We are invited to feel for the characters in a book, aren't we? Is it so surprising that we would like them to do well, rather than the opposite? I have grumbled before about sophisticates who like to wallow in endings where everything goes to the dogs, but only now have I fully confessed to myself why they annoy me so much. My name is Georgiana (no, not really), and I'm a happy-ending addict.
Having said all that, I have already ordered the sequel to Through A Glass Darkly, Now Face To Face, though I've understood from Amazon reviews (I've done my homework this time) that the ending isn't completely satisfactory here either. I still hope that the death rate will sink to an acceptable Dark Angels level, and after all, the villain is still alive.