by Julie, summering in Somerville
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.