In Search of the Julie HEA **plus giveaway**

by Julie, summering in Somerville

image of a typewriter with happily ever after typed on the page

I love a good story, I really do. In “normal” times, I voraciously consume them–through books, theater, movies, television, podcasts, artwork. But these aren’t normal times, are they? These days my consumption is a bit different–live theater hasn’t been part of my life for over a year for one thing. (How I miss it!) Here’s the other thing.

I need to be assured there will be an Julie HEA. A Julie approved Happily Ever After.

Now, let me explain. Happily ever after, as defined by me these days, means the following:

  • The ending needs to be satisfying. No loose ends. No ambiguity. Life is uncertain enough. I need a story with an ending.
  • The journey to the ending can be exciting, but it can’t be too scary or anxiety producing.
  • The ending cannot rip my heart out, depress me, or make me overly anxious.
  • The ending needs to make sense for the novel/movie/television series/podcast. You can’t force an HEA. It needs to come naturally. Forced is worse than not having one at all.
  • I want to smile at the end of the story.

When people recommend a book/movie/series/podcast, my first question is “will it stress me out?” That’s become shorthand for “is there a happily every after?”. My nieces, both of whom are horror and thriller fans, are always telling me about a show they’re watching. “Is is an Aunt Julie show?” I’ll ask. They look at each other, and usually shake their heads. When they come along a show that passes the Aunt Julie HEA test, they’ll text me excitedly. “Have you ever watched Hart of Dixie?” was a text last fall. “It’s an Aunt Julie show.” (It was.)

Now, pre-pandemic Julie sat happily in a theater weeping. My Irish roots embraced the darkness of life. I found satisfaction in tragic stories that ended well. I rewatched sad movies prepared for the catharsis. Bleak poetry warmed my soul. That Julie will be back.

But these days, I have started and stopped more mystery series (BritBox and Acorn are two channels I adore) with a “too dark” then ever before. I’ve never been a blood/guts/torture fan, but I used to be able to deal with dark. You know what I mean. Cranky investigator with a troubled past, haunted by a case, always making their life more miserable by being a wonderful sleuth but less than human being. These days it’s a “nope” and then I rewatch Murder, She Wrote or Midsommer Murders or The Librarians for the upteenth time. I’m listening to Elizabeth Peters books like they are musical theater scores. I’ve been reading non-fiction (I read Wikipedia to prepare myself first) and, of course, my beloved cozies.

That doesn’t mean that I’m not buying books that don’t fit the Julie HEA. I’ll save them for later, or lend them to a friend. When friends recommend a television show, I ask for more details and, more often than not, move it to the “future” side of my to watch list.

So here I am, late summer of 2021. Life is a lot these days. I’m looking for stories with a Julie HEA. Readers, what do you recommend? Comment below, and I’ll send two commenters a copy of Wreathing Havoc, which will be released on September 28! BTW, it has a Julie HEA.

73 Thoughts

  1. I am so with you on wanting HEA in these stressful-enough times, Julie. There’s an Australian series available through Acorn TV called “A Place Called Home” folks might enjoy if they like a high-production-value soap.

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  2. Oh, Julie, I am right with you on most of that. We are watching Unforgotten and loving it, but I don’t think it’ll pass your test. On the other hand, Call the Midwife is back October 3. Definitely an Aunt Julie watch!

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  3. New Tricks (2003-2015) is a British detective series that solves cold or unsolved cases. There’s a strong female detective superintendent and 3 retired male detectives. There’s no gore, the cases get solved, there’s a catchy theme song and the quirks and back stories are fantastic. An added bonus is if you binge watch at all you can freely drop all sorts of British slang – the show is not shite!

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  4. This reminded me of of my Cheetah story. When I was little (a long long time ago). In one episode of the tv Tarzan, a bad guy shot Cheetah out of a tree. I boohooed big time and ran upstairs where I stayed until my father shouted “they’ve fixed him up, Cheetah’s okay”. (Tarzan’s woes never produced the same reaction). During these Fraught Years, I am in a narrative conundrum. I cannot bear for the cared about characters’ paths to be too tidy OR for them to be irretrievably flattened — “the world is too much with us” as it is. Also, I appreciate the Sisters In Crime Podcast! And many thanks for the post, good to know I’m not the only one.

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    1. My father never let us watch Bambi or Old Yeller because they traumatized him as a child. Your Cheetah story sounds like several of mine. I hear you about the narrative conundrum–I feel the same. And thanks for the kind words about the podcast–I love doing it.

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  5. I agree with you, Julie, too dark doesn’t work right now! Carla is spot on with New Tricks, also Death in Paradise has a fun, tropical feel. The Hallmark channel always has some nice cozies, like Aurora Teagarden or Hannah Swensen. Although it’s not a mystery, I always go back to Hyacinth in Keeping Up Appearances when I need some good ‘ole silliness.

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  6. I can’t watch or listen to any dark or any kind of psychological shows. I subscribe to Acorn and have enjoyed Penelope Keith’s Hidden Villages series as well as her Coastal Villages series. They are nice escapes.

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  7. Oh, I wanted to also mention Shakespeare & Hathaway, Rosemary and Thyme, and Agatha Christie’s Poirot. We have Britbox.

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  8. Ha! this post put a grin on my face because in my house we also rate movies/shows as ‘mom approved’ or not. I have never been able to watch psychological thrillers or dark themes where haunted characters make their way thru their lives creating chaos as they go. I love an element of spoof to a good mystery or detective show! I watch tv to let go and relax not get overstimulated. I love cozy mysteries and dramas by authors like Maeve Binchy, Susan Wiggs, Jan Karon, Elizabeth Peters, Barbara Ross, Diane Mott Davidson, Maddie Day or Edith Maxwell, Sue Grafton A-Z books

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  9. Julie, nothing makes me happier right now than Ted Lasso—and I know zero re: soccer. Funny, touching, warm and inspiring. Plus the British setting. (I was also glued to Mare of East Town, but you may want to wait on that one for a…LONG time.)

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  10. Oh my goodness Julie, I agree 100% with you! I used to only ready literary fiction and since the pandemic I can’t handle the dysfunction that is in so many of them. I’ve been loving cozies and “chick lit.” Katherine Center is an author that I’ve recently discovered who has HEA endings. Check out her website! I’ve listened to the audiobooks, “How to Walk Away” and “Things You Save in a Fire.” I highly recommend both of them. The narrator is amazing!

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  11. Oh my goodness Julie, I agree 100% with you! I used to only read literary fiction and since the pandemic I can’t handle the dysfunction that is in so many of them. I’ve been loving cozies and “chick lit.” Katherine Center is an author that I’ve recently discovered who has HEA endings. Check out her website! I’ve listened to the audiobooks, “How to Walk Away” and “Things You Save in a Fire.” I highly recommend both of them. The narrator is amazing!

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  12. So with you! I was even thinking of cancelling my BritBox because I’d stopped so many shows after the first five minutes. I’m happily scribbling the suggestions made here for my tbw (to be watched) list!

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  13. I’ve read and watched lighter things too. Did you watch the first season of Blood and Treasure when it was on? It’s an action/adventure/touch of romance kind of like Raiders of the Lost Ark. Lots of fun. There is supposed to be a second season soon.

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  14. I’m so glad to see others like me and appreciate the recommendations. I don’t want to see any more gory dead bodies or autopsies. I’ve been sticking to Hallmark mysteries, Hallmark movies, and reruns of the old MacGyver series that I recorded. I’d never seen it but he sure is a cutie! I also like Jeopardy and The Chase.

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  15. I recommend reading Girl On The Run by Daryl Wood Gerber. It’s a really good book and I think it fits your criteria for an HEA. It’s a stand alone.

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  16. Yup, my thinking too, Julie. Thanks for this post. Have you read anything by Jenny Colgan? When I was recovering from Covid, a friend in Orkney sent The Bookshop on the Shore to me as a delightful, restorative bit of escapism. She was absolutely right (and sent it all the way from Orkney!) The tagline is “Escape to the Scottish Highlands where a tiny bookshop perches on the edge of a loch.” My other suggestion is to take a look at juvenile fiction. There’s some smart, fun stuff out there. Three Times Lucky, by Sheila Turnage comes to mind, or a classic like The Pushcart War, by Jean Merrill. For re-watches, how about movies like Bringing up Baby and The Trouble with Harry? Take care, my friend.

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  17. This post sure fits me to a T. I used to like a certain amount of suspense (Twilight Zone, etc.), but as I’ve gotten old and seen too much of the real thing, I want to be entertained with humor, laughter, silliness, and non-threatening intrigue. Thus, my love of cozies. My go-to is re-reading anything by Charlotte MacLeod or most of Carolyn Hart’s books. Life is too short to bury myself in more misery. And, of course, all the Wickeds’ books fit the bill perfectly.

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  18. I’m a little stuck with what to recommend – at least what to recommend that is new. And this is funny coming from me, who loves the same type of stuff you are looking for. I’ve been diving back into old familiar favorites. I’ve mentioned my rewatch of The Mary Tyler Moore Show. Almost done, and I think I Love Lucy is next.

    Did you read last year’s Mrs. Claus and the Santaland Slayings by Liz Ireland? Fabulous and cozy. I’ve got the second in the series coming up soon, and I’m looking forward to it.

    Something to put on your list for later is Superman and Lois. I have been blown away by how wonderful this show is. High drama, so you wouldn’t enjoy it right now, but later, you must watch the first season at least. (I’m hoping that season 2 can meet if not surpass the high standards they’ve set.)

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  19. What a great way to choose a book! And very thought-provoking. I’m not sure I can recommend a book like that right now but it certainly gives me a new standard to think about. Very well defined Julie!

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  20. The endings in your book are appreciated and approved by me! These days (and if I am honest, also in the past) I only read books that are entertaining with the HEA ending. We have been rewatching the Miss Fisher Murder Mysteries lately. And, watched the first season of the Miss Fisher Modern Murder Mysteries before going back to rewatch her Aunt, the original Miss Fisher. We enjoy the dialogue as well as the mystery. Miss Fisher is Australian based and another good show is Brokenwood. I think it is based in New Zealand. It is fun to “visit” those far away countries!

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    1. One more thing, I just finished reading A Side of Murder by Amy Pershing and really enjoyed the well written book and its ending!

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  21. I’ve mostly been rewatching old shows – As Time Goes By and Midsomer Murders. I just started reading mysteries by Scarlett Moss. I just finished A Dealer Dead Ahead. It’s a quick read and I like the characters.

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  22. My current comfort read is Donna Andrews’ Meg Langslow series. I just finished a reread of the entire series – 29 books, if I counted right, including her just-released MURDER MOST FOWL. Interesting and endearing characters, lots of humor, a very competent protagonist, clever plots, well written. The 29th was just as absorbing as the first.

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  23. Definitely recommend Psych if you haven’t seen it- hilarious but good mysteries. Warehouse 13 is another favorite of mine. And of course you can’t go wrong with Murder She Wrote, Diagnosis Murder, Monk. If you’re in the mood for more comedy I love The Big Bang Theory and older shows like The Nanny, Coach, etc.

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  24. If you like heist/con stories with a good cast, I recommend Leverage. You can find the original five seasons online via ElectricNow and there’s a new season, Leverage: Redemption now on IMDBTV.

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  25. I want my HEA’s as well. I discovered a new to me cozy series that I absolutely love that really brightened up my days. It’s the Seaside Cafe Mystery Series by Bree Baker. I really am enjoying it.

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  26. I loved reading “Desire of My Heart” and “With All My Heart” both by Heidi Gray McGill, they are wonderful books, I really loved reading both of them.

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  27. I usually alternate between cozy mysteries and romances with some autobiographies in books. Father Brown TV mysteries haven’t been mentioned yet. A golden oldie is Burke’s Law, which is somewhat like Murder She Wrote with lots of celebrity guest stars. Looking forward to the new book.

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  28. A sigh of contentment is NOT too much to ask for, and I despise cliff-hanger endings — a satisfying conclusion is the best way to assure this reader will be returning. A friend asked if animals died in CHARLOTTE’S WEB and chose not to read it right then, in a fragile state. Halfway through MR. HOLLAND’S OPUS, my mother said, “If he leaves his wife and runs off with that CHILD, I don’t want to watch any more of this.” I reassured her. I have also had a fellow teacher send a student to carry away a book a less aware colleague decided to recommend to me — we must look out for each other. 😉

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  29. You are going to think I’m crazy because I am just like you about everything, but since the pandemic, I can’t stop watching Lucifer. Last season is about to drop. There is some gore which would be a no go for me normally, but I am fascinated with Sam Ellis’s acting in it. And I find it satisfying. I am totally an HEA girl, but it soothes me somehow.

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