In my DREAMING ANASTASIA trilogy, Anne and Ethan deserve their HEA. But I made them suffer a lot before they get it. Really (without being too spoilery), the entire saga is about love: romantic love, love of a cause, love for family, and love for friends, among others. But loss drives the story as well, and on many levels. Ethan has lost his family to murder and his mortality to love for a cause. Anne has lost her brother to cancer. Anastasia (my slightly alternate history take on that doomed Russian princess) loses everything, only to find that she still has agency. Baba Yaga (my version here of the iconic Russian fairy tale witch) has lost her beauty in order to gain power. (I explore this further in my short story "A Very Baba Yaga Halloween", which appears in the fairy tale anthology DRAGONS AND WITCHES, from CBay Books) And that's just some of it. In the series there is always a price to pay for getting what you want, especially if you use magic to achieve it. The trick is to balance out the losses with the gains--which isn't always possible.
Oh how I loved writing that series. I'm proud that it continues to tick along.
My latest novel, IT WASN'T ALWAYS LIKE THIS, is also about lost love. Emma loves Charlie and wants nothing more than to be with him forever. But just as they find themselves accidentally immortal (Hmm. I do seem to find that theme rather fascinating), terrible tragedy strikes and they are parted for like a century. 100 years of searching for you lost love makes a girl jaded-- or in Emma's case, a jaded, world-weary PI, with a talent for solving murders... until of course the potential murder victim might just be her! Like with ANASTASIA, I loved exploring what long-term lost love does to a person. Is there a point where you just give up hope? Luckily, the answer to that is no!
Leo in FINDING PARIS wants love but her secrets stop her from feeling she deserves it. But the novel is also about love of family and the lengths two sisters will go to protect each other, even as both have lost so much.
Likewise, THE SWEET DEAD LIFE series is more about sibling and family love than romantic.
For me, a good YA novel has to be about something more than just the love story, more than just the personal exploration of what it means to love. That's part of why I take things away from my characters, why I make them struggle. I want them to come to love not just understanding who they want to love but also understanding at least some of what else they want in this life.
So how about you, reader? When it comes to love stories, do you prefer a sure thing? Do you want to wade in to the story knowing you and the characters will be rewarded with a HEA? Or are you willing to risk along with them, knowing that you might not get what you want, but only the ending the story needs?