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What about those cliffhangers?

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I think my distaste for cliffhanger endings were born and fostered over the past ten years of reading.  Much of reader response can be measured by the expectations the reader has when embarking on her reader journey.  When one is a romance reader, the ending is expected to be one of certainty.  Having expectations built up in this manner leads to many dents in the wall from frustrated readers not receiving the fulfilling ending for which they were looking.

Sarah Wendell, Angela James, and I talked about the cliffhanger, the series, and romances extensively at Tools of Change.  We all agreed that we did not like cliffhangers.  Sarah wrote about her reader expectations today over at Smart Bitches.

I agree that it has a lot to do with reader expectations but I also think it has to do with the encroachment of non romance books being sold as romances. Publishers want to capitalize on the money spent on romance books by labeling and marketing books that would not have been deemed a romance a decade ago.  I don’t think that the romance genre has grown organically to embrace these books with their unresolved endings. Instead, I think these books have been pushed into the genre.

The only reason that this is bad idea is it is beginning to erode the confidence romance readers have in the books that they are buying.  After being subjected to stories like the vampire series by Cameron Dean (who I maintain was a group of authors ghost writing under one pseudonym); Anne Bishop’s Jewels series (not a romance but with a heavy romance base) and other similar series, all that have unhappy endings at the end of the series, readers are more reluctant than ever to jump on the series bandwagon, uncertain whether the investment into the series will come with the requisite payoff. For instance, the Chloe Neill fans are already rising up with their pitchforks over her ending to the Chicagoland Vampire series. I bet any number of them are wishing they had waited before buying into that particular series.

Jayne decided not to read some of the Royal Wedding stories because she knew the historical context resulted in non happy endings for those couples.  I know many a reader who remain dissatisfied with the reincarnated soul ending to A Knight in Shining Armor by Jude Devereaux.

There is always the danger that the cliffhanger will never be resolved.  There was this concern with George RR Martin but it is very real with the Ariana Franklin series. The last story ended on a big cliffhanger and Ms Franklin aka Diana Norman passed away before the story was finished.  Another not uncommon refrain are authors’ series that end on a cliffhanger but are not ever resolved because there is no publisher willing to pay for the rest of the series.

But series sell and cliffhangers work. Witness the success of Karen Marie Moning’s Fae series or the YA books by Stephenie Meyer and Suzanne Collins.      The problem is that these work because of the story, not because of the gimmick.  And let’s face it, sometimes cliffhangers are gimmicks, designed to get readers to buy the next book.  In fact, I’ve seen authors complain that if readers don’t buy books one and two, they won’t get the end in book three.

Readers, series weary and cliffhanger scared, are telling us that they are waiting until the end of the trilogy or series, to hop on board. They want to know that the series is worth their time and investment, both emotional and monetary.

I once likened reading as a pas de deux led by the author. (http://dearauthor.com/features/letters-of-opinion/the-journey-of-reading/) When you are dancing, you have to trust that the person leading knows where they are going and that you are going to like where they are taking you.  When you don’t trust that author, when that author hasn’t delivered for you in the past (either because she is new to you or her past work hasn’t worked for you), then jumping on board the cliffhanger series ride is viewed with apprehension and distrust.

I do understand that some stories are too big for that 300 page, 90,000 word count; but the predilection toward cliffhanger endings and never ending series isn’t one that is viewed with much favor by me.  What about the rest of you? Like them? Hate them? It depends?

[poll id="238"]

Other readers’ thoughts on cliffhangers:

Smexybooks

Tori: I don’t mind cliffhangers myself-UNLESS- the author makes me wait 2 or more years for the next book .*are you listening Linda Lael Miller????* Waiting more then a year pretty much guarantees I will A. lose interest or B. forget the first book. Neither is appealing to me. There has to be some sort of conclusion even if it’s just a minor story plot.

Laurel

As a reader I feel cheated if the story doesn’t feel resolved, or at the very least paused. Cliffhangers just feel…truncated. Like you ran out of paper before you got through. There are two possible reasons to employ such an ending. One, the story you have to tell is longer than the book you have been contracted to write. If this is the case then suck it up and figure out how to make your story tighter. Two, it’s a cheap trick to manipulate me into buying your next book.

Jane Litte is the founder of Dear Author, a lawyer, and a lover of pencil skirts. She spends her downtime reading romances and writing about them. Her TBR pile is much larger than the one shown in the picture and not as pretty. You can reach Jane by email at jane @ dearauthor dot com

85 Comments

  1. cead
    May 03, 2011 @ 07:20:32

    More and more these days, I’m waiting for an entire series or trilogy to finish before diving into it. This is mostly because with fantasy (but not so much with romance), I tend to insist on re-reading the entire series each time a new installment comes out, because I want to make sure I’m getting all of the details. My TBR pile has become huge enough that all of this re-reading has become a bit ridiculous, so currently there are very few series I’m still reading in installments. With those series, though, I don’t object to cliffhangers. I actually really enjoy huge sweeping sagas with plot arcs that take a long time to resolve; I don’t need everything wrapped up tidily by the end of the book. Done properly (and granted, it isn’t always done properly), longer arcs have more depth, which is more satisfying to me as a reader, regardless of genre.

    Sometimes, though, I do object to cliffhangers. If the main plot of the book has already been resolved, and then suddenly in the last chapter there’s WHOOSH! suddenly a cliffhanger from out of nowhere… that pisses me off. Surprise twist endings that result in cliffhangers? Those can be okay if, in retrospect, they’ve been carefully set up. But starting an entirely new plot on the last page is just cheap.

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  2. Jane
    May 03, 2011 @ 07:23:22

    @cead: why do you wait, though, if you don’t mind the series taking many books to resolve? Aren’t you essentially waiting until the “story” can be finished?

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  3. Mandi
    May 03, 2011 @ 07:25:38

    I don’t mind cliffhangers in the UF I read as long as the book or series is leading up to it. You mention Karen Marie Moning – I loved the cliffhangers at the end of her fever series…although they killed me each time, it was fun to speculate with everyone. I also really like the end of Carolyn Crane’s Double Cross..she worked up to it really well and I’m dying to find out how it will be resolved.

    BUT – there has been a time or two where I feel like the cliffhanger is just thrown in at the end or it just didn’t feel right. I actually read a book that comes out today that has a cliffhanger in book 4 of a series that does not feel right at all. Instead of biting my nails and getting excited for the next book, I’m angry. Feels like it doesn’t fit the series.

    So I don’t know – for the most part I like them.

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  4. Jane
    May 03, 2011 @ 07:31:01

    You know, I think I should add that cliffhangers bother me less if I have to wait only a month or if the publisher is committed to wrapping it up (i.e. they buy all three books in a trilogy instead of the first two). I read the first book in a planned trilogy by Berkley Heat. It is supposed to be a love triangle and at the end of the book there is no satisfying ending, instead, the romantic pairing is sundered apart. I gather that the second book concentrates on the love story between the second leg of the love triangle, but there was no hint of any such reciprocated feelings in the first book. If anything the planned trilogy seemed very much a marketing tool than a true evolution of a story.

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  5. scooper
    May 03, 2011 @ 07:44:26

    I only like cliffhanger endings if I have all of the books. I didn’t read the Moning books until mid-January and waiting two weeks for the final installment was bad enough. Then there’s the book that I reviewed a few months ago and mentioned being unhappy with the cliffhanger ending. I said it wasn’t like KMM and the author wasn’t happy with me. She didn’t understand why I could be ok with KMM and not the ending to her book. She thought it was exciting; I didn’t tell her, but I thought it was a gimmick to make me buy her next book. (It ended at the beginning of a fight scene that the whole story had been building up to.) In the end, I’ll only knowingly buy stories with cliffhangers if the entire series has been published.

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  6. Jane
    May 03, 2011 @ 07:47:39

    @scooper Do you wait because you don’t have confidence the publisher will put out all the stories or are you concerned about the ending not satisfying you?

    I think when a reader invests time and money over the course of several books, the payoff has to be big. When I read the reviews of the Moning series finale, I wondered if she had really delivered for her readers. Many sounded like the 5th book was only okay for them.

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  7. Keishon
    May 03, 2011 @ 07:48:06

    But series sell and cliffhangers work. Witness the success of Karen Marie Moning’s Fae series or the YA books by Stephenie Meyer and Suzanne Collins. The problem is that these work because of the story, not because of the gimmick. And let’s face it, sometimes cliffhangers are gimmicks, designed to get readers to buy the next book.

    I voted for “it depends” because as with everything, it depends on the talent of the writer.. ..

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  8. Jaclyn
    May 03, 2011 @ 07:51:14

    Abrupt cliffhangers for no other reason than to keep me reading the next book: hate with passion.

    Unresolved issues at the end of a book in a series, maybe setting up the next adventure: I can deal as long as (if this is a romance) I get some resolution on the H/h.

    The cliffhangers in Moning’s Fever series drove me nuts–I got a little crazy after each of book. I think they were worsened because so much of the relationship between the hero and heroine was muddy and unresolved. And five years of cliffhangers is a long time for a romance reader used to an all-sewn up HEA.

    If it’s a series and the H/h carry through book after book, I can deal with setting up the next book at the end of the current one, as long as what happened in the current book is resolved.

    Those little excerpts of future books that publishers print at the end of the book? They’re sort of like cliffhangers–a tease to get us to go read the next bok. I don’t like to read them if the excerpt is part of a series unless the next book is available, but sometimes I can’t help it because I want more more more now now now. ;) Of course, when I start reading those I know it’s an excerpt and that it will leave me hanging–it’s all about expectations.

    If it’s labeled romance–I expect my ending to be served up with some sort of resolution.

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  9. Jane
    May 03, 2011 @ 07:53:44

    @Jaclyn How about books that are marketed to the romance reader but aren’t supposed to be romance. I.e., I have heard some books called “romantic adventures” or something like that. Do your expectations change?

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  10. Julie
    May 03, 2011 @ 07:54:27

    I HATE cliffhangers. I hate the thought of starting something that may not have an ending. I hate waiting, but more, I hate forgetting what happened in previous installments.

    I read A Game of Thrones when it first came out. That was 15 years ago. I read the next two books the day they were released. Guess what – I still haven’t read A Feast for Crows, and I don’t know if I am going to read A Dance with Dragons when it comes out, because there are still TWO more books to go! I can’t remember every little plot thread with all of these years stretching between books, and that ruins my reading experience.

    I think I’m a pretty smart person, but I can’t remember everything that I have read, and the most satisfying aspect of reading series is getting to know the characters, and getting to enjoy the plot as it unfolds. When I don’t remember what happened in a book I read 15 years ago, I get frustrated, and the magic is lost for that series. I don’t have time to go back and re-read every book in a series when a new one comes out – who does? I don’t mind so much when a book that is part of a series has an ending that isn’t a cliffhanger, because then I don’t feel robbed.

    Don’t even get me started on all of the manga series that I started that were subsequently canceled. Talk about feeling robbed…..

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  11. Angela
    May 03, 2011 @ 07:54:33

    1. You mentioned reader expectation, and I think that applies to cliffhangers for me as well. If I know to expect an unresolved ending then they don’t bother me – as long as they work with the story. I used to think
    they didn’t work for me, but I’ve thought about this quite a lot since then.
    Truth be told, there have been a couple of series that I’ve picked up and not known that it A. was part of a series, and B. had a cliffhanger ending. Darkfever (Karen Marie Moning) and Otherland (Tad Williams) both caught me
    off-guard like. And I loved them both.
    It’s a bit different for me in romance though. With the Romance genre, I expect certain things; one of them being that the main love story is tied up. If I have confidence in the author, then I’ll go along with a longer story (Lynn Kurland’s Nine Kingdoms series comes to mind) told over the course of
    several books. But if I don’t, I tend to wait.
    And I know a few people that need to know if the HEA happens in UF books prior to starting the series. There have been plenty of times that I’m five books into a series and have finally been able to tell people that they’re ‘safe’
    for them to read.
    In the end, I guess they work for me more often than not. Though I’ve never had a series that I love cancelled prior to it being finished and I’ve not yet been burned by an ending that didn’t work for me.

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  12. KMont
    May 03, 2011 @ 07:55:05

    Totally disagree that the cliffhangers worked in the Fever series by Moning – but that’s just me of course. They kind of ruined the series for me, actually. I haven’t read the last book yet and may not ever. I had other issues with the series, too, but the cliffhangers didn’t help it any.

    I guess I’ve never really encountered this in romance books, or else I’m just forgetting if I did read some romance cliffhangers. I do see this more constantly with fantasy, urban fantasy and the like. Sometimes it’s maddening, but usually the series I read tend to end things satisfactorily enough for the installment arc, and I understand that the series arc will continue.

    For me, it just very much depends on whichever book I’m reading at the time. It’s hard to say definitely that I’m for or against them. Some authors do them well, while others end in ways that make me want to tear my hair out and I end up feeling manipulated. Definitely don’t like the latter sitch (and that’s how I felt with Moning’s Fever books), but you just don’t know what you’ll get till you get there.

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  13. Jane
    May 03, 2011 @ 07:58:30

    @Julie I was talking with some other reader friends about the George RR Martin series. You are right that part of the reading experience is getting to know the characters and enjoying the plot unfolding. Like you, we can’t remember everything that has happened but rather than reading the series again, I think we are doing a wiki re-read which is sad because I definitely think you lose the flavor of the epic saga when your pre book reading is reviewing wikipedia entries.

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  14. ritu
    May 03, 2011 @ 07:59:16

    In a perfect world, I’ll start a series only after all the books have come out if only to minimize the wait. Alas, I don’t. On the other hand, I hate, hate, hate cliffhangers. Few examples off the top of my head:
    1. The Iron Fey Series by Julia Kagawa – frequency seems to be two in a year – but they all end in cliffhanger.
    2. The Kingkiller Chronicles by Patrick Rothfuss – A damn long wait between the first and the second.
    3. The Hex Hall by Rachel Hawkins – I read the first book without knowing it ends in a cliffhanger. Now I’m waiting for the third to release (no release date anywhere) before going into it again.

    I didn’t read the C.L. Wilson’s Tairen Soul series until a month before the fifth was out. I don’t need a HEA (though I’d love to) but I need the end in sight before I can go into the series. It wouldn’t be this bad atleast if the books were out back-to-back say, within a month or so of each other. But many of them release once a year and they are all (expected to release in so-and-so year). In that case, as cead says, you end up re-reading the series just before an installment is out. As a working, single woman, I don’t have the time I’d like to have to re-read each and every single one in the series.

    Hmm, though I do think it wouldn’t be so bad if they atleast didn’t end in cliffhangers. Case in point: Nalini Singh’s Psy-Changelings and the Guild Hunter series.

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  15. Julie
    May 03, 2011 @ 08:04:06

    @Jane:

    One of the things that I love about GRRM’s writing is the dialog. His characters have so many wonderful things to say – I still remember many of the things they said, even if I can’t remember the context within which it was said. Having to read a wiki to remind myself of previous events is doubly frustrating, because you miss out on all of the rich, textured writing that makes those books so good. Gah!

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  16. Bianca
    May 03, 2011 @ 08:10:35

    Interesting topic! I have to say, personally, that I wait until a series is finished to even begin reading. I’m pretty sure it was because of LJ Smith and her Nightworld series (paranormal romance for young adults): she never wrote or published the conclusion of the series, and it’s been unfinished since the late 1990s. I was a teenager then, and totally devastated and angry, because I was *crazy* invested in those books.

    I really haven’t touched series since, unless I know that its finished (or the books are standalone), and I can’t stand cliffhangers. I just don’t have a lot of confidence that the series will (a) get resolved in a timely manner and/or (b) be satisfying for me. We all spend a lot of time, energy and money on series books; it’s probably prudent to see if the investment will be worth it to you, imho.

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  17. Liz
    May 03, 2011 @ 08:12:11

    I think having intriguing subplots that can be further explored in later books is a better way to keep a series going than cliffhangers. Introduce a secondary character or two in book one, then make them the stars of book two. Then you can revisit book one characters, make them a continuing part of an overall series arc, yet still give them a firm HEA in book one.

    I’ve even read series where book one characters get another chance at center stage later on, maybe get their HEA tested, and I’m cool with that — because I get the resolution IN THAT BOOK.

    Honestly, when books end in cliffhangers, even books by authors I adore, I usually anticipate the next book so much that by the time I read it, I feel a little let down. I’m all about the immediate gratification :)

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  18. Jaclyn
    May 03, 2011 @ 08:12:40

    If it’s not romance … Hmm. No matter the genre I need what’s happening in the central plot to have some amount of resolution.

    Bombs dropped at the end of a book must be done outside of the resolution of what needed resolving in this book. This screams for an example of when this worked successfully … and I’m going to have to think on this and respond when I can think of one. :)

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  19. jayhjay
    May 03, 2011 @ 08:18:51

    I don’t mind a series that takes place over more than one book as long as each book has a discrete plot that gets resolved. What makes me crazy is an unfinished story that you then have to wait a year to see what happens.

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  20. Rebyj
    May 03, 2011 @ 08:39:55

    I’ve been irked about Dianna Gabaldon’s cliffhanger in Echo In The Bone. None of the previous books ended in a cliffhanger but this one did. Ended with a child abduction! That’s just mean since you have to wait years for the next book. Yes, I’ve heard that she doesn’t consider her books romance. (ha) Regardless, it was an unwelcome, unexpected type of ending and if I had known before I spent 25+ dollars on a hard cover book I’d have saved my money and waited till the series was complete like I did with KMM. Oh wait, I quit buying KMM to wait for the series completion and totally lost interest and never did buy the last 2 books. I am NOT a cliffhanger fan!

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  21. lisa d
    May 03, 2011 @ 08:42:23

    I LOATHE cliffhangers. I’m a very impatient (and fast) reader, and I want to know what’s going to happen. I loved the Fever series, but I always felt like the cliffhangers where unnecessary. I would have tuned in for the next book because I wanted to see what happened to Mac. I didn’t need the life/death cliffhanger to encourage me. In fact, the 3rd and 4th books just left me really, really dissatisfied. I think Diana Gabaldon has started doing it to w/ An Echo in the Bone. Her other books ended so that you knew there was more to the story, but it wasn’t urgent. Considering it takes 4-5 years between books for her, the end of Echo was really frustrating.

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  22. Barbara
    May 03, 2011 @ 08:46:13

    I’ll read a cliffhanger if it’s part of a known finite series – a trilogy that I know has a guaranteed contract, etc. I’ll read a cliffhanger if it’s by an author who’s known for his/her work coming out at a consistent pace (two books a year, one in this series, etc.). I’ll read a cliffhanger if it’s by an author I trust absolutely, even if I have no clue if there’s no guarantee she’ll finish it (someone in the Nora Roberts stratosphere).

    I won’t continue a series (or buy that author again) if I think the author tricked me by seemingly promising me a stable ending then at the last minute yanking me to a cliff just to get me to buy the next book. If I know ahead of time that there won’t be a resolution, I decide based on the stuff above. If I’m not sure, a lot of time I’ll wait until the entire series is done and buy the whole thing at once.

    I didn’t want to read Karen Marie Moning’s Fever series because I was getting a flavor of her cliffhangers from the reviews and they sounded like seriously heavy dangles that I wouldn’t want to wait for. I bought the books when they came out but haven’t read them yet.

    When I review, a lot of the time if it’s part of a series, I’ll make a note at the end about whether or not the cliffhanger is big enough that someone reading it will be fine with ending it there or if it’s big (I just did it as a matter of fact). I’d want to know.

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  23. Jennifer Estep
    May 03, 2011 @ 08:51:03

    It depends. I don’t mind if some of the story arcs are to be continued in the next book, as long as most of the plot threads are wrapped up.

    It also depends on how much I’m enjoying the story and how eager I am to see what happens next. If I’m really loving a book, then, yeah, I don’t like waiting months or years to see where the characters go from here.

    It seems to me like cliffhangers are found more in epic fantasy books and that the wait between books is longer. Several folks have mentioned Martin, but I haven’t read the latest Robert Jordan book for the same reasons. The wait was so long, and I can’t remember everything that’s going on. Plus, it seemed like the last few books were mostly description, instead of action that moved the various plots forward.

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  24. Marsha
    May 03, 2011 @ 08:53:44

    I think the question depends upon if a book is actually a series or a serial. I’m good with series, since these presume that the primary story is wrapped-up. I don’t mind lingering or unresolved questions because I assume they’ll be addressed in a future book.

    The Fever books weren’t a series, in my opinion, as much as a serial – multiple installments of the same story. They’re also the books that pretty much talked me out of serials altogether. Not at all masterful, they utterly failed to wrap up the major points. So many years spent pondering all these questions only to have the last installment spend a ton of time explaining why a good number of them weren’t important anyway? No thanks. Next time, I’ll wait until the bitter end and check the reviews before investing the time and energy (and money).

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  25. Joy
    May 03, 2011 @ 08:58:45

    I don’t mind cliffhangers as long as I don’t have to wait more than a few months between books. Yes, Diana Gabaldon, I’m talking to you! Any longer and you risk losing reader interest anyway–I’m off to someone else’s cliffhanger, ha ha!

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  26. Tina
    May 03, 2011 @ 09:07:28

    I think there is a difference between a cliffhanger and a multi volume story. Not all mutli-volume stories have installments that end on cliffhangers.

    I dislike cliffhangers that are shoehorned in for the sake of making a reader buy the next book. I don’t mind a cliffhanger that feels like it happens naturally and is a good breaking point for the next volume.

    I was NOT a fan of the Moning books because, frankly, I felt the books were tedious to slog through just to get to an end where finally something happens only to end on a cliffhanger.

    I tend to like of SFF because I think they actually get it right when it comes to writing a continuing story through multi- volumes. For instance, GRRM’s A Game of Thrones & A Clash of Kings wrapped up smaller narratives while leaving you to understand that a longer narrative arc was still ongoing. These two books didn’t end of cliffhangers per -se, but you still knew there was story left to tell. The third book, A Storm of Swords, ended on, like, 5 OMFG! cliffhangers — where multiple characters were left right in the middle of life changing events (one character was literally pushed off a cliff…). But since the entire second half of the book was taken up with setting up the cliffhangers I wasn’t peeved. It felt right.

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  27. Kim in Hawaii
    May 03, 2011 @ 09:14:23

    I have not read too many cliffhangers in books … but expect some shortly as several TV dramas end the year.

    Perhaps I am in the minority, but I was satisfied with the ending of KNIGHT IN SHINING ARMOR.

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  28. scooper
    May 03, 2011 @ 09:30:55

    @Jane: Jane, When I buy a book I expect to leave that book feeling satisfied not anxious. Either you or Smart Bitches said something about when you buy books you want a full story. I feel the same. Cliffhangers exasperate the drag a story out into as many books as possible problem and leaves me angry with that I have to spend another $7.99 to find the conclusion to the $7.99 story I previously bought. I’m slightly concerned with the next book being published, but the authors should be more concerned that I’ll forget to look up their next book out of a)concern that it will have a cliffhanger ending and b)it made me too mad to put it on my “buy list.”

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  29. Jane Lovering
    May 03, 2011 @ 09:31:31

    This is purely, absolutely personal, but I HATE series. It feels to me (and again, this is purely personal) as though the author fell so much in love with her characters that she couldn’t bear to tell just one story, she had to drag them through the mire time and time again, just for the pleasure of their company. I want to get in, get the story and get out, not invest years of my life in these people, I’ve done enough of that with my kids. I’m not completely averse to self-contained stories which have recurring characters, and wonder if this whole love-affair with the cliff-hanger ending is a borrowed trope from TV series, where the producers need to make sure we have a hook to drag us back in next week. In books? Not necessary. The end doesn’t have to have all the ends tied up in a pretty little bow, enough can be left open for a return match, but, for the love of God, end the story in that book!

    Sorry. Rant done now. Need tea.

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  30. Krista
    May 03, 2011 @ 09:50:14

    Short answer:
    For me it comes down to trust in the author.

    Long answer:
    I am a straight up romance reader (very rarely do I read outside my preferred genre) so my expectations are a HEA at the end of book 1. Sure a cliffhanger for the secondary plot is fine, as long as it doesn’t interfere with the H/h’s HEA.

    That said, we are all aware of the Romance Author’s need to “try something different”.

    Case in point, Karen Marie Moning. She was very honest with the Fever series (if you read her website/receive her newsletter) so I knew going in that her Fever series was going to be a story told over 5 books. And since I LOVE her writing I decided to give it a try, even though it was outside my box. All went well until the 3rd book (I think that was the one) and that cliffhanger nearly destroyed my trust and annoyed me to no end. When your base readership comes from romance readers… seriously there are no words for how dumbfounded I was. I picked up the next book because I had to know what happened after that and ran into another shocker of a cliffhanger. So when the last book came out I made sure I was going to get the HEA promised before I purchased the book. And now I know I will wait until all the books in any future series she writes are out before I purchase/read them. She didn’t destroy my trust (since she did deliver what had been promised), just made me a little more cautious.

    I read a different series by an author who shall remain nameless (because seriously I’m still annoyed with her…) The series was probably 6-8 books in, all had been stand alone (as in a new H/h each book with a HEA at the end) when I picked up the latest book. I got to the end and literally threw the book at the wall, she changed up the series and decided to write 2 books (with a cliffhanger ending regarding the relationship) about the same H/h and didn’t feel the need to let her readers in on the change. (Ok she did let everyone know… 2 weeks after the book had been released… so yeah too little too late for this reader) I was FURIOUS. My trust destroyed and her name taken off my Auto-Buy list. Forever. That was 2 or more years ago and I still fly into a rage whenever Amazon tries to tell me I should buy her books. I felt the cliffhanger ending and the 2 book storyline (seeing as the storyline in the 1st book felt drawn out) existed only to make the reader pay double for one storyline.

    So yeah, trust. With it cliffhangers can be thrilling and fun. Without it they are annoying and can destroy any chance that I will ever buy another book from that author.

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  31. LG
    May 03, 2011 @ 10:13:34

    I enjoyed Knight in Shining Armor and don’t consider it in the same realm as, say, a series marketed towards romance readers in which the romance doesn’t get a resolution until books later…and I’m not sure I can think of any books like those that I actually consider to be romance. Some other genre with strong romantic elements, perhaps. Usually, when I read a series that I consider to be a romance series, the romance has a conclusion within the novel, and it is other storylines that get the cliffhangers – which means that, usually, the series doesn’t deal with the same pair of characters in each book.

    My first series burn was when I was in high school, reading a series that had elements dealing with the end of the millennium…and the series went on hiatus and was never concluded. It was basically a paranormal romance series, and most of the romantic storylines had proper conclusions within each individual book, but the overarching storyline was left hanging. I hated that, and hated that one of my favorite pairs of characters never got their HEA.

    That hasn’t stopped me from starting series that haven’t been finished yet, even though I know I could be opening myself up to future pain. I find I have to deal with the pain of unfinished series more with manga than romance (or other genre) novel series, though – but that may just be the fresh wound that is Tokyopop speaking.

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  32. LG
    May 03, 2011 @ 10:18:58

    @Bianca: Yep, the Nightworld series was my first series burn. I waited for years, and was even vaguely hopeful after certain details would no longer have made sense.

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  33. Allie
    May 03, 2011 @ 10:19:52

    I won’t read a book unless I know it doesn’t have a cliffhanger. There are several authors who are, to me, reliable in this respect so I trust them and buy their books and read them as they come out. If there is some hint of a cliffhanger ending to something, I go looking to see if it is a trilogy or series or whatever. I may or may not read a trilogy based on reviews of the whole set, but I won’t read the first in a trilogy knowingly without having the other two stacked up next to it.

    Unintentional cliffhangers with regard to something or someone in the story also annoy me. Authors mention something and make a big deal out of it like it’s important to remember for later and then it never comes up again. That drives me nuts.

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  34. Ann B.
    May 03, 2011 @ 10:31:04

    @KMont: I completely concur with you about the KMM series. Marsha, I think you hit the nail on head with your description of the KMM books. I, too, may not read the last book. I had never heard of her before, so the Fae books were my first exposure to her. I didn’t think to go to her website and research that it would be a five year series (or something like that). My preference is reading complete stories that share the same world (Nalini Singh, Ilona Andrews…although she my not be a romance writer, Meljean Brooks, Kresley Cole). Thus, my need for closure and a HEA ending is satisfied, and I will still buy that author’s next book.

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  35. Has
    May 03, 2011 @ 10:38:38

    I am in the depends category – I am not a huge fan of hard cliffhangers and would prefer to wait for the full series to come out which I did for KMM’s Fever books. I was glad she was upfront about it but it did feel like it was one huge book split into 5 parts.
    But I can live with a 6 month interval ala Rachel Caine for her Weather Warden/Vampire YA series. The wait isn’t as bad. I think I prefer cliffhangers which don’t leave you hanging but introduces a twist or something similar and that is easier to wait for than something that is OMG I can’t wait for a whole year especially when its something huge. I don’t think I am that patient :D

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  36. srs
    May 03, 2011 @ 10:40:06

    I agree w/what Jennifer Estep and Tina said above, that a multi-volume story arc is different from a cliff hanger. In fact, I think Jennifer’s series is a pretty good example of how to make that work. Each book has an A plot that is neatly wrapped up and also serves to advance the broader multi-book story. The thing is, I don’t consider the Spider books to be romances and think that that kind of story telling doesn’t really suit the romance genre. Sure, there is a lot of cross-over these days between romance and other genres, but I think that a romance needs to end in a HEA or HFN, otherwise it isn’t truly a romance.

    I can think of a couple of romance series that tried to have a multi-book story arc (i.e. Zoe Archer’s Blades of the Rose quartet, that horse club series that was popular last summer,) but I found the least successful parts of each of the books to be the non-romance aspects. And again, none of those books ended in a cliff-hanger. Each completely wrapped up a given couple’s story.

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  37. Sarah Porte
    May 03, 2011 @ 10:54:09

    @Kim in Hawaii:

    I’m with you I loved a Knight in Shining Armors ending, it left enough to your imagination to give them a HEA.
    I have to say that I’m not a fan of cliffhangers and I will try to buy the series when they are out(KMM).

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  38. Lynne Connolly
    May 03, 2011 @ 11:17:29

    In romance – no, I want a satisfactory resolution to the romance arc. Which is a posh way of saying that I want my HEA, dammit.
    Don’t mind a few external plot threads carrying over, or secondary characters hanging on – Suz Brockmann’s Troubleshooters is a good example of this. The central couple get their happy for now, and other couples aren’t so lucky, until they get their book.
    In other genres, I don’t mind so much. As long as it’s not a “fake” cliffhanger, the kind that cheats – “Oh, it’s not cancer after all, we got the X Rays mixed up!” kind of thing.

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  39. Niveau
    May 03, 2011 @ 11:52:02

    In romance novels, I hate them. Hate them, hate them, hate them with a passion. I don’t mind a backstory running throughout a series, but the each romance should be neatly tied up at the end of its own book. I feel the same way about mystery and suspense: I want the main plot concluded at the end of the book or I will probably not be touching the next one.

    In other areas, though, I don’t mind them as much. Romance manga? It’s been 27 volumes, I’ve been reading Skip Beat! for nearly five years, and I’m still patiently waiting for Kyoko and Ren to get together. YA? I may not have enjoyed waiting for The Sweet Far Thing, but during that wait, never once did I regret reading Rebel Angels. TV? The past couple of weeks have been incredibly frustrating, but I’m so excited about tonight’s episode of The Good Wife that I don’t mind all that much.

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  40. Lynn S.
    May 03, 2011 @ 12:12:12

    I’m having a painful flashback to the ’80s regarding the subject of cliffhangers. Does anyone else remember the Maggie Bennett trilogy by Anne Stuart? I purchased the first book from an actual bookstore, read it, and then looked in vain for the second and third books. They were printed but who the heck knows where they were distributed. It took me about five years to run down the other two through the UBS route (of course I found the third book before I found the second one). They’ll now have to be pried from my cold, dead hands.

    Although I prefer stand alone books, I’m a slow reader with an ample TBR and have discovered there is a distinct pleasure to be had in reading a completed trilogy, quartet, etc. one right after the other. The neverending series of connected books featuring an unending cast of characters would be my current peeve. After eight to ten books you’re going to need a scorecard. Enough already.

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  41. LG
    May 03, 2011 @ 12:28:28

    @Niveau: 27+ volumes of Skip Beat, wow. The only series I’ve had that kind of stamina for was Fruits Basket. On the one hand, I’d love to wait for the long ones to end before buying, just to be sure that I *do* get an ending, but, on the other hand, buying an entire long series at once is humongously expensive, while buying it as it comes out spreads things out better.

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  42. Julie
    May 03, 2011 @ 12:40:13

    @Niveau:

    I LOVE Skip*Beat!, too!!

    Cliffhangers are different with sequential comics, though, because you know before you start reading that there will be more. With many novels, you don’t know until you hit that unresolved ending.

    My fear with graphic novels now is that the entire run won’t make it to print here. Manga pubs are dropping like flies, and many of my favorite series are dying with them. It is frustrating, because I am so invested in the series. I have come to love the characters, but now I won’t get the complete story. It is hard for me now to even start a new GN series, because I don’t know that I will be able to read the whole thing. It’s gotten very frustrating and depressing.

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  43. Leslie
    May 03, 2011 @ 13:13:39

    I agree with the “it depends” that many of you indicated. If the author appears to be on a fairly regular schedule, I don’t mind a little bit of a wait when committing to a series. If the wait is nearly a year, lately I have put off starting series until a few more of the books are released – I LOVE Ann Aguirre’s Jax series, but the cliffhangers have also been heartbreakers and I won’t read the last two until the final book comes out; I read the first two books of the Parasol Protectorate, but am leaving three until four comes out.
    If I had known back when I started reading LKH in the 1990s(remember those horrible ACE imprint covers??) that Anita’s story line would STILL be unresolved so many years later (and I won’t get into other problems with the series), I don’t think I would have started it.

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  44. Mary Anne Graham
    May 03, 2011 @ 13:18:40

    One of the big reasons that I read Romance is because real life contains no guaranty of a HEA.

    I also write Romance and I promise my readers a HEA. By that, I mean a HEA for each book – no exceptions, ever. If that’s a spoiler, so be it. When you reach the end of one of my books the problems will be resolved and the hero and heroine will be in a happy relationship.

    If I get stuck reading a cliffhanger – especially if it’s a Romance – I feel I’ve been lied to or that I’ve been the victim of a bait and switch. Had the cover copy disclosed the absence of a HEA – had it even hinted at that – I’d never have bought the book. And I’ll never buy another by that author.

    Cliffhangers in Romances should get resolved before the writer types “The End” – or so I believe. I think anything different cheats the Reader.

    Maybe Dear Author can design a badge that authors or publishers put on their books and ebooks – a visual promise of no cliffhangers and a guaranteed HEA.
    I’d buy a bunch of ‘em.

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  45. Jane
    May 03, 2011 @ 13:21:22

    @Mary Anne Graham I think we do try to “spoil” a book if we think it has no HEA or a cliffhanger (i.e. what we did with Anne Bishop’s books). I have a review for a book coming out in July that contains a major infidelity storyline and while the series is an urban fantasy I know several romance readers are reading it. It’s something I would want to know.

    I had to edit my post because someone emailed me about the Chloe Neill book and it was the Chloe Neill book that prompted the cliffhanger discussion back in February. As I said in the updated post, I bet any number of them are wishing they had waited before buying into that particular series.

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  46. Chelsea
    May 03, 2011 @ 13:22:19

    Series are long term relationships for me. It started when I was a kid with Harry Potter: the enjoyment of each book, the anticipation of the next one, the feeling of completeness upon reaching the series end. I love that.

    This being said, I hate cliffhangers. If I keep returning to your series time and time again it’s because each book makes me feel good, or excited, or at least feels complete. Not because they leave me feeling as though I’ve jumped out of a plane with no parachute. It’s ok to leave some unanswered questions–I like that. It’s not ok to leave your characters trapped at gun point in a dark alley with no hope of escape.

    For this reason, when I suspect a series is going to pull a lot of cliffhangers, I wait until a lot of books are out or it looks like the series is nearing it’s finale. I did this with KMM’s Fever series, waiting until two months before Shadowfever was due out to read books 2-4 because I saw on forums after reading book 1 that everyone was agonizing over the non-endings. It’s not that I mind waiting for a new book…But if I do wait, I want it to be for something that feels complete and fulfilling.

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  47. Jennifer Estep
    May 03, 2011 @ 13:29:32

    @srs: Thanks for the nice words about my books. I appreciate them. ;-)

    You’re right about what I do in my books. I have a main plot that’s resolved, but I also have a few plot threads that keep going into the next book. I think it’s a pretty common thing to do in urban fantasies like mine. But it’s definitely a tough balancing act to wrap most things up but still leave enough things unresolved to help drive the story in the next book.

    If it’s an ongoing series, I often like it when story arcs are resolved and new ones start. I think that helps to keep a series fresh and interesting, at least for me as a reader.

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  48. Sirius
    May 03, 2011 @ 13:37:48

    Hate them, hate them, HATE them. Have I mentioned that I hate them? In the world of mm romance Ginn Hale is one of my all favorite writers, but there is absolutely no way I am starting to read her serialised fiction project which supposedly ends in cliffhanger each month till all the parts are out. I may have mentioned it already but I cannot express how very much I was pissed off at Jim Butcher for the ending to book twelve of Dresden files. Book 13 is the first one ever I am not ordering in hard cover, yeah simply because of how mad I was after finishing that book. Cliffhangers in Fever series? Do not get me started. Thanks goodness I started reading it when four books out of five were already out, because trust me, there was absolutely no way I would have stucked it out. Yeah, I have no problem with large arc of the series being not resolved at the end of each book, because that is why they are called series, however show me reasonable completion of the smaller arc and for crying out loud do not let me figure out whether the main character is going to be dead or alive and leave it hanging *for years*. So, yeah, no do not like cliffhangers AT ALL, whether I am expecting it or not, if I started Fever series when only one book was out, I seriously doubt that I would have purchased book three and four. The other reason why I hate cliffhangers so much, is because every time I see it, I cannot help but think that author is using a cheap trick to try and make me come back for next book. I am not telling you (and I never feel I have a right to tell author what to write) what to write, but seriously you should make me invested in the characters and plot enough that I will buy the next book in the series *without* wanting to know whether the main character is dead or not. Make me come back because characters are that interesting, plot is that fun, not because you are dangling a carrot in front of my nose, saying nananana, wouldn’t you want to know?

    LOL, okay, rant is over :)

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  49. dm
    May 03, 2011 @ 13:54:24

    The Fever books weren’t a series, in my opinion, as much as a serial – multiple installments of the same story. They’re also the books that pretty much talked me out of serials altogether. Not at all masterful, they utterly failed to wrap up the major points. So many years spent pondering all these questions only to have the last installment spend a ton of time explaining why a good number of them weren’t important anyway? No thanks.

    Precisely. KMMs books didn’t function on their own as complete novels. I read the series, because like a lot of romance readers, there are certain tropes or fetishes–I think we elevate them to the point of being fetishes when we make them an autobuy–that I can’t resist reading. So I stuck with it for the Fae content. But when I tried to describe the series to someone else, I found that no individual book had its own complete plot. Every book could be described like this: Mac searches for an object of power, doesn’t completely trust Barrons, clashes with the Fae-seer hierarchy. Rinse, repeat. If each book had contained a complete story–and not the same story beats repeated without escalation or discernible turning points–I would have found the cliffhangers exciting. A good cliffhanger doesn’t leave you gnashing your teeth in frustration, it leaves you salivating for the next installment. It occurs after the dominant storyline of the current book has been resolved, and opens new avenues of conflict for the protagonist. None of KMM’s cliffhangers did this.

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  50. Isobel Carr
    May 03, 2011 @ 14:07:52

    Basically feel the same as many who’ve posted already. I don’t mind series where each book has a storyline that gets wrapped up, but there might be stuff that’s on-going and arcs over the whole series (e.g. Kate Daniels series). I’m not a huge fan of endless storylines though (love the GRRM books, but at this point I’ve lost the thread of the story pretty irrevocably), and I also get irked when romantic protagonists are still having the SAME fight/issue endlessly (you know, where they’ve had zero emotional growth and we’re now three books in).

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  51. Ann
    May 03, 2011 @ 14:18:37

    I voted “it depends”. I will often collect the books in a trilogy, etc, and read them once they’re done.
    However, I do love the OUTLANDER series by Diana Gabaldon, because I love her storyline. I have not read ECHO IN THE BONE yet, though I have it at home. I still have a few of her earlier books to read first.
    I also read the IN DEATH books by J.D. Robb asap, and I love her world-building. I have a history of re-reading books, but with the Internet, there are more books out there that I need to check out (before I can get back to older books).

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  52. Niveau
    May 03, 2011 @ 14:41:53

    @LG: There’s something about Fruits Basket that kind of makes it impossible to resist, imo. A friend reads only shounen and seinen, but even she made an exception for it. The good thing about its popularity is that if your library buys manga, you’re pretty much guaranteed a chance to read it free :)

    Yeeeeah, technically there are only 23 volumes out in English, and I’ve got 21 of those. Personally, I feel comfortable with reading it before it gets released here because I know that I do buy every single volume of it. But even with the lower numbers, I’ve spent an awful lot of money on it. The thing about long series is that, depending on where you shop, waiting might mean that you get a chance to buy some of the earlier volumes at a reduced price. But if that doesn’t happen and you’re buying it all at once, it’s tough. I actually went to Anime North a couple of years ago specifically to buy manga, because it’s generally slightly less than US cover price there, and you can get even more money off if you get a lot at once. As a general rule, though, I just pick up new volumes as they come out.

    @Julie: *glances at several volumes from CMX* *considers the Tokyopop section of the manga section of the bedroom bookcases* Why on earth would you be so concerned about a pub going out of business in the middle of a series? (I am so incredibly glad that the last volume of Karakuri Odette is already out, and very worried that the last volume of V.B. Rose won’t come out in October even though it’s slated to.) These days, I pretty much only buy from Viz, since they’re owned by Shogakukan and Shueisha, who I figure have a pretty vested interest in staying in the market even when it’s weak. The fact that they haven’t laid anyone off [yet] this year is… encouraging? I guess? Better than most, that’s for sure.

    Even though I’m not looking forward to the Akira movie (which is supposedly going to be just as whitewashed as The Last Avatar, because it worked so well last time *rolls eyes*), I’m hoping that it’ll stir up some new interest, because it sure would be helpful right about now.

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  53. Julie
    May 03, 2011 @ 14:55:18

    @Niveau:

    Viz has canceled Gintama (which I didn’t read, because I didn’t think it was funny). I mourn the fact that I will not be able to read to the end of Kamui (Broccoli), Two Flowers for the Dragon and I Hate You More Than Anyone (CMX) and Silver Diamond and Demon Sacred (the train wreck that is Tokyopop). This irks me more than reaching the end of a novel and discovering a huge cliffhanger that gives me no closure at all. As a reader, I feel used when the publisher doesn’t finish what they started, and when they feel no remorse leaving me hanging. It makes me want to hang up my reading specs and go back to playing RPGs again!

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  54. Sofia Harper
    May 03, 2011 @ 15:22:57

    I was never keen on cliffhangers to begin with. I have no patience. I hate that nail biting feeling. I don’t watch most tv shows because of this same reason. As my luck would have it a writer friend kept singing the praises of Karen Marie Moning. I picked up one of her Highlander books and LOVED it. I went out and bought her in hardback. That book was Darkfever. I had no idea that it wasn’t a traditional romance. I had no idea that it was the first in a series.

    It should come as no surprise that I ended up hating cliffhangers and series in general more than life itself. As people have said it does feel like a cheap trick to get the reader to buy the next book. At least with Moning’s epic cliffhangers they were not needed for me to buy the next book. She wrote Mac and Barron in a way that I was invested in their story. I wanted Mac to find her sister’s killer. I wanted Barrons to get his hands on the book. Even though I didn’t know what he wanted it for. Sigh.

    Cliffhangers are so rarely done well it just reads as a form of insecurity. I don’t think that’s what the “rule makers” meant by writing an ending that sells the next book. Yes, write a book that makes me want to run out of my house to the nearest book store, but not to find out how the first book actually ended.

    So a part of it does come down to expectation. That expectation isn’t genre specific for me. Romance is so much more than an HEA. It’s about the journey to get to the HEA.

    I’ve read books that had no journey with an HEA. Needless to say it fell flat on its face. Does the genre inherently promise that HEA on the last page? Yes. If the first and last book is only 300 pages long, yes. If the real last page is after 6 books, then again yes.

    Slightly related… The only thing I hate more is when at the end of a book an author introduces the next characters in the cue. I mean so much so it ruins the end because the focus has already shifted to the new characters. Can you resolve this book first? Maybe that’s the key for both cliffhangers and connected books. Give the reader a satisfying resolution or the promise of one.

    @ Jane

    Sidenote: The frustration with the ending of the Fae series had a lot to do with the cliffhangers. She never resolved anything during the first four books. You just kept on finding out more and more and more and never got anywhere with the information. You get to book five and all the information is wrapped up. Really, there were a lot of OMG! I didn’t see that one coming moments. A recipe for a really great read. You think there will be no hint of a cliffhanger. The characters I have been cheering for are happy. Finally. The series is done, right? No. Moning ends with “The End…For Now.”

    I’ll admit I totally took that personally. I spent many man hours reading these books with the hope that the heroine would finally be ok. And it’s implied she’s ok FOR NOW? If that ain’t flipping the bird to the readers then I don’t know what is. She may have intended it to be a wink. Not how it came across after four cliffhangers. I’m conditioned to think Mac’s pretty pink world will be screwed up in the near future. Amazing how two words can ruin a reading experience, because I know I walked away feeling like what was the point then?

    /crazy fangirl rant… For Now

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  55. DS
    May 03, 2011 @ 17:00:23

    I don’t going looking for cliffhangers, but I don’t mind them that much. I also really like long novels and multiple volumes. I only get annoyed when a publisher gives up in the middle of series.

    It’s something that has happened a lot in SFF. Emma Bull’s second volume of Territory is the one that currently has me fuming. I read and loved the first one four years ago. I don’t know if the problem is the author or the publisher, but I would bet it was Tor’s fault if I had to choose.

    I’ve never finished anything by Karen Moning, but I have a friend (who swears she hates cliffhangers) but who has read all of the Fae series. I guess it really does just depend.

    Oh, damn, I just checked Emma Bull’s livejournal and she has posted Joanna Russ died. The Female Man is one of the books that I keep on my shelf.

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  56. Sunita
    May 03, 2011 @ 17:01:41

    I have no problem with cliffhangers in SFF, although if I know the next book is going to take a while, I won’t read the last that is published until the next one comes out.

    In romance I think of cliffhangers as being similar to characters who exist primarily to advertise themselves because they will be starring in an upcoming book in the series. Or who return and suck up valuable page space with their post-HEA perfect marriage and children. So annoying.

    But I’m fine with relationships which play out over a series of novels, especially in hybrid romance, i.e., mystery+romance or romantic suspense or SFF-romance, probably because I’m used to it in the other genres.

    And I’m really intrigued by the Ginn Hale serial.I like the serial concept if it’s done well.

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  57. Angela James
    May 03, 2011 @ 17:22:06

    Someone above me mid-comments said this, but there’s a difference between an ongoing series, with a continuing storyline, and a cliffhanger. I think it’s important to the discussion to define the difference.

    For me, a series with a large storyline, overarching, multiple volume plot can easily be continued over many stories without making a reader feel as if they’ve been emotionally manipulated and as if the author feels the need to force them to buy the next book, not trusting the continuing storyline. These continuing storylines are ones that are developed and built over stories, although each book often contains subplots within that are resolved, the larger story is not resolved. That’s not a cliffhanger.

    A cliffhanger is a major change in that overarching plot, something that is a complete game changer to the characters, story, plot. It’s often something that will seemingly have an emotional impact on the characters and/or reader and creates a completely unexpected question or questions within the readers’ minds. This major change in the plot comes just as the book closes, offering very little information (or no information) about what to expect next.

    With a continuing storyline, of course you don’t know how it’s going to be wrapped up or end, but you’ve been given the opportunity to form expectations and make some educated guesses. Cliffhangers usually don’t offer that opportunity.

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  58. Angela James
    May 03, 2011 @ 17:26:11

    Oh @jane, I’m reminded by the comments at Smart Bitches that the other book that spurred our cliffhanger conversation was Discovery of Witches, which I had read around the same time as Hex Hall and the Chloe Neill book. And the Faith Hunter book. It was like my entire reading list was filled with cliffhangers.

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  59. Jane
    May 03, 2011 @ 17:37:01

    Interesting to read about everyone’s preferences. I’m not usually too upset by cliffhangers. I would define a cliffhanger as central characters being literally left in jeopardy like the Karen Moning Fever series. Once I knew that was going to be the case I was prepared going into each book so it wasn’t too upsetting. It’s possible though that that knowledge kept me from investing as deeply in the characters – not what an author or publisher wants to happen, after all, what if I wander away before the next book comes out?

    Case in point is the recent Connie Willis’ Blackout and All Clear duo. I had no idea going in to the first book that it was going to end on a cliffhanger. Because I was so fully engaged in the characters and their story, I was frustrated and cranky to have a 6 month plus wait for the second one. It felt very manipulative on the part of the publisher to me. I’m not sure what the alternative would have been since the story was clearly too long for one volume. After I read the second book all was forgiven as I wouldn’t want to have forgone a single scene. A lesser author than Willis would have lost my trust as one of the earlier commenters mentioned. (As an aside, I would recomend the books to anyone. I was shattered – in the best sense – for days after reading them.)

    I wouldn’t normally wait until the books were all published to begin reading a series. The Robert Jordan Wheel of Time series is an exception though. Because the last three books are being completed/written by another author based on the late Jordan’s work I decided to wait until they are all published to read them. I’ve been with the series since the beginning (over 20 years) and I want to finish it but I’m a little wary so I figure if I own all of them I’ll read them no matter what.

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  60. Angela James
    May 03, 2011 @ 17:40:35

    @Jane: I had to stop reading the Robert Jordan books and am waiting until the last one not because of cliffhangers but out of sheer self defense. I couldn’t remember details from book to book and would reread the entire series before each new book. That became impossible after awhile!

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  61. Jane
    May 03, 2011 @ 18:02:40

    @Angela – there is definitely some of that in my reasoning too! I don’t clearly remember details from my own life from 20 years ago let alone a fictional world.

    I probably wasn’t totally clear above. It isn’t really the cliffhangers that have me waiting for all of the Jordan books to come out. It’s more fear of not liking the new author’s voice as well as Jordan’s.

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  62. Andrea K Host
    May 03, 2011 @ 18:36:21

    I’m an “it depends” person. I don’t like series where what amounts to the beginning of the next book is tacked on to the end of the current book as a hook to get the reader to keep buying.

    I’m okay with stories which are told over multiple volumes though (being a fantasy reader, I’m used to trilogies). There have been a few books lately (Blackout and Pegasus) which have been released with every appearance of being a standalone book, but which turn out to be the first part of a very large book which has been split in two and which has no form of resolution whatsoever in the first volume.

    That I can live without.

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  63. Sylvia Sybil
    May 03, 2011 @ 19:05:20

    I also agree that there’s a difference between a cliffhanger and an ongoing series. An actual cliffhanger, with someone in life-threatening danger or one half of the romantic couple walking away? I had better trust that author like DAMN. But in a series, if each book ends with the resolution of a subplot, I’m fine with waiting half a dozen or more books for the final climax. Meljean Brook’s Guardians series, for example. There’s a war building up between Good and Evil, getting more intense in each installment, but each book ends with a HEA for that particular couple.

    There’s another kind of cliffhanger that I actually like, though reading the comments it seems I might be a minority. It’s when the main conflict of the novel has been entirely wrapped up, then two pages from the end a new conflict strikes. Kelley Armstrong did it in Waking in the Witch: Savannah solves the murder entirely and walks away, then BAM! New development and end of book. Holly Black did it in White Cat: Cassel solves the mystery of the white cat, everything looks rosy, then two pages from the end he gets a phone call about a new problem. I like these endings because the main conflict has been solved. I don’t have any questions about the murder or the cat; it’s all fixed. It’s like I’ve been given the first two pages of the sequel to whet my appetite, yet I still know when the sequel comes out that the new conflict will be re-introduced in full; I won’t be expected to remember chapters and chapters of information that wasn’t resolved from last time.

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  64. peggy h
    May 03, 2011 @ 19:20:04

    I voted that I want the entire story in one book, and by that I mean I want a self-contained story in each book, even if it’s in a series.

    The Harry Potter books have been mentioned, and I think they’re a good example of books that are connected with an overarching thread the runs through the books (and resolved at the last one, I don’t think that’s a spoiler to say at this point)–but the important thing is that each book still stands on its own. (I’ve heard of books that literally ended on an unfinished sentence, to be continued in the sequel—arrgghh!)

    As I mentioned in my comments at SBTB on a similar topic, I realize it takes very special skills for an author to do a tightly connected series and still manage to create self-contained individual books. I’m just glad as a reader to have options, and to have sites like this to point me in the direction I like. Thanks!

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  65. Nikki
    May 03, 2011 @ 20:35:29

    I am on the it depends in terms of cliffhangers. I am a long-term series reader and I think that allows me to be patient when an author even in romance ends on a cliffhanger of some sort. However, the biggest thing I noticed recently is that in some way, something has to begin and end in that particular book. We can have the overarching storyline at a cliffhanger but you have to finish something. I gave up on Robert Jordan because things just kept getting stretched out and I felt no closure. However, I will continue to read Michelle West because something begins and ends in each book while we still need to find out the next steps for the rest of the story.

    I have low tolerance for cliffhangers in romance though. For me at least, while a romance might finish in one book, often the author hasn’t really planned out the connecting stories in a way that you feel you must read the next book to get closure. I will not name anyone, but the plot of a betrayed group of soldiers or spies doesn’t work well if you don’t actually see the overarching storyline integrated well.

    Separately, can I add myself to the Skip Beat love list? That series is still pulling me in. With some other series, I was ready to be done around volume 18, but this woman keeps sucking me in with layered and detailed characterization. I do feel though part of it is because while there are the typical shoujo components, its really a shounen style series. I have been reluctant to start any new series because I can’t trust that I will be able to finish. Completion is an issue!

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  66. Heather
    May 03, 2011 @ 21:50:15

    “, the Chloe Neill fans are already rising up with their pitchforks over her ending to the Chicagoland Vampire series. I bet any number of them are wishing they had waited before buying into that particular series.”

    Actually the series hasn’t ended, book 5 of Chicagoland Vampires is due out this fall. November, I think. It’s getting great reviews so far, most are shocked by the ending but realize that the writing was great and trust her. Again so far, that could change as more people finish reading it. I read the latest
    today and I really enjoyed it
    Cliffhangers don’t really bother me. Maybe it’s because I read in Urban Fantasy and they seem to pop up more often. Maybe it’s because I don’t need a HEA. More likely its because I get distracted and move onto something else and don’t think about the book again until the next in the series is released or I do a reread.

    Heather

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  67. DeeCee
    May 03, 2011 @ 21:57:35

    I like a series if there is a definitive end in sight. In Urban fantasy or PNR I give it a bit more leeway for world building (usually 3 books to wow me), but in romance books I want a HEA in every book (with connected characters possibly getting their stories at a later date).

    I felt pretty betrayed by KMM in Shadowfever when she pulled the “…For now” crap too. Five years of waiting for answers and it’s a damn continuation.

    And when authors like Sherrilyn Kenyon, J. R. Ward and Janet Evanovich (I know the Plum books are technically mystery, but pick a damn man already-Joe or Ranger!!!) extend their series on, and on, and on…. it ticks me off. Suddenly favorite characters that have been promised stories are put off for filler novels with new ones to (I suspect) fulfill contracts and cash in. That blows. I quit buying them when they jump ship.

    Also don’t like multi-year wait periods. When C. L. Wilson extended her Tairen Souls books from 3-5 I gritted my teeth and loved the books. But after I read 5 I emailed her to ask about some unresolved plotlines only to find out that she plans to continue the TS series, not now, but in a few years (because she’s contracted to start a different series). WTF? In 2-? years I probably will have given the books to the local UBS to gather dust…tastes change and in the publishing industry they change every season it seems.

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  68. Keishon
    May 03, 2011 @ 23:12:49

    (I know the Plum books are technically mystery, but pick a damn man already-Joe or Ranger!!!

    See now that’s funny considering the Plum series did start out as a mystery series and now it’s devolved into who-knows-what. Sad if it’s still Ranger vs. Morelli circle jerk. I got off that ride after about five books in and the author all but said that the characters were never going to grow or change. What a shame.

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  69. Danielle Monsch
    May 03, 2011 @ 23:33:43

    *ears perk* Did someone say Skip Beat?

    Love that series, scared to death that for some reason they are going to cancel it before I get all the volumes. I swear, as soon as the kids get just a touch older, I’m going to go back to my Japanese lessons.

    I collected Samurai Deeper Kyo and Tokyopop lost the license 3 volumes before the end! If another pub hadn’t picked it up and finished the series, I’d probably still be crying.

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  70. sirisha
    May 03, 2011 @ 23:40:57

    I’m a through and through romance reader and rarely venture out my genre and if I’m going to be invested in characters till the end of a book/series, i need to know it’ll pay off. After getting burned plenty of times I’ve developed the most horrendous habit – i read the first bit or so to get acquainted with the characters and THEN I read the end (i know – awful!). If it excites me enough to want to know how everyone got there, I’ll finish it. Otherwise, it’s off the reading list.

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  71. Jane
    May 03, 2011 @ 23:43:22

    @Keishon I gave up around book 8? I think because it was just so repetitive. I understand that she’s boxed herself into a corner and obviously this works for her but gah, the redundancy!

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  72. SAO
    May 04, 2011 @ 00:33:05

    I’m disappointed that Evanovich hasn’t started a new set of books. The Plum thing got worn out by book 5 and the later books read like parodies of the earlier ones.

    My personal belief is that in series with romantic elements, most of the romantic tension is gone by book 3 or 5 at the latest. There’s only so many twists you can put in one person’s life without making it seem like their problem. Long ago, I wished that either Morelli or Ranger would find someone else and stop wasting time on incompetent and immature Stephanie Plum.

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  73. Lindsey
    May 04, 2011 @ 01:30:28

    Count me in with those who absolutely despise cliffhangers. I’ve been lucky enough not to run into many, as my reading tastes stay quite firmly in romance, with some slight straying into YA and SFF. However, I remember reading Rachel Morgan’s first Morganville Vampire book, Glass Houses, and enjoyed it moderately, enough to see how the series went. However, when it ended in a cliffhanger, I may or may not have chucked it at the wall, and refused to read any more books by her. It didn’t matter that there were 5-6 more books from the series already out at the time, as a reader, I felt betrayed, and since that author lost my trust, I don’t even care how short her turn around time for books is, I’m just not interested in an author that throws cliffhangers into her books in an attempt to get people to continue with the series.

    In that light, I think most readers can recognize the difference between a cliffhanger, and an overarching plot element. Things may end unresolved, but that’s not quite the same as killing off a character and then ending the book, or stopping the book in the middle of a climactic scene.

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  74. cate
    May 04, 2011 @ 05:26:01

    @Bianca….I’m another reader who wonders what the hell happened to book 10 of LJ Smith’s Nightworld series.
    As for The Wheel of Time…that’s the very series that put me off bloody cliffhangers forever ! By the time I’d realised what a ruddy con they were, I’d spent a not inconsiderable sum on hardbacks, & invested a lot of my valuble time reading the series.
    Needless to say,they landed in the Oxfam box, and I couldn’t give a stuff for the final outcome.
    I want a HEA at the end of my romance novels, I don’t want to be short changed by the author with a ” For now……” That’s two fingers to the readership, & a smirk by the publisher.
    Lynne mentioned Brockmann, & I would add Nalini Singh. Both write series, but, so far, satisfactorily complete each central characters story per novel, whilst managing to keep the overall story arc thriving & growing. The “teasers “for me with these writers is simply – which couple are next ?
    As opposed to “She’s down which well/bleeding to death under what bridge/trapped by bush fires/ been poisoned by what apple, Skippy !”(Many apol’s to Australian readers there….I grew up watching STBK)
    So, I will keep on reading the end of books first – & I will continue to avoid cliffhanging series like the plague – or until the series is complete – when I will read them in one hit

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  75. Nonny
    May 04, 2011 @ 05:32:23

    Have not read the comments yet but my first reaction is that it really depends. I’ve read books where the cliffhanger was really necessary because there was no natural “wrapping up” point between the volumes. I’ve also read authors that seem to treat cliffhangers as a matter of course. I actually stopped reading Rachel Caine’s Weather Warden series at about book five because every. single. book. ended on a progressively worse cliffhanger. She does it with her Morganville Vampires series as well. And it just gets frustrating, so while I buy her books because I will get around to them, I let them pile up until the series is either finished or I can read a bunch in one go.

    In Caine’s books, the cliffhangers are not necessary. Her method is to wrap up the immediate story and then introduce something progressively worse, and end with the characters at an “ohshit what do we do?” reaction. And I love her work, I really do, but AAAAAARRRRRRGGGGGGHHHHHHH.

    – spoilers for books in this paragraph –
    In genre labeled romance, I am decidedly less tolerant of cliffhangers. I remember reading Jeaniene Frost’s first Cat & Bones book and at the end, the heroine leaves the hero. They get back together in the second book and most of the series is about their relationship, but I was fucking pissed. Then there’s Colleen Gleason’s Gardella vampire series, where at the end of the first book, the guy who appeared to be the hero and that the heroine married turns into a vampire and the heroine has to stake him. WTF now? (I actually was so annoyed by the Gleason ending I didn’t pick up the later books.)
    – end spoilers –

    If a book is labeled as romance, it should have a HEA or at least a HFN at the end of the book. If it’s not romance, I’m not going to expect them to hold up to romance conventions and really get quite annoyed when people expect them to do so simply because they have romantic elements. But romances ending in the H/h breaking up or the heroine killing the hero? No. No, no, no.

    I know there is a lot of crossover between fantasy and romance right now, but I feel betrayed as a reader when I go into reading what is clearly labeled as a romance on the spine, and marketed as such, and get to the ending only to find there is no happy ending. And honestly, that’s become a disturbingly common “cliffhanger” ending in romance — for you not to know whether the characters that you have spent the whole book emotionally rooting for are actually going to get together.

    It might be a good story (Frost’s books are pretty awesome) but it does not work for me when I’m looking to read romance. If I’m reading romance, I want my HEA/HFN, goddammit. I do not want to be strung along until the next book to figure out if they are actually going to get together, and I really loathe the advent of the “romance” series where several books are dedicated to which man the heroine is going to choose.

    I’m pretty accepting of the changing definitions of romance, and I have no problems with a lot of different variations, but to me, if the book does not end with a HEA/HFN but instead a fucking cliffhanger, it is not a romance. It might have romantic elements, but it’s not romance, and labeling it such is setting a false precedent and lying to the reader.

    I’m a writer too so I realize that how the book is marketed is not always under the author’s control. I really try not to take it out on the author in cases where it feels like the books have been mislabeled, because that could just as well be the publisher. It’s why I keep buying Frost’s work, for instance. They’re wonderful books, even though they weren’t what I was expecting.

    I’m not really sure what’s to be done, because publishers seem to be very lax about labeling and try to shoehorn a lot into romance that really is not (IMO). I see a lot of “romantic elements” labeled as romance, and it’s rough sometimes, because if I’m specifically going out of my way to read a romance (as opposed to just picking up a book regardless of label), it’s usually because I am in a bad place and want the comfort of a HEA/HFN. Books can be therapeutic. I’ve read romances after bad breakups to reaffirm my belief in love, and I… well, if I’d read that book where the heroine leaves the hero at that point, it would not have done good things for my mental state.

    This kinda got away from me, but basically… yeah, cliffhangers are a frustrating topic, especially in romance and how they often present. They are annoying in other genres, but I’m not usually as viscerally upset by them in other genres as I am in romance, because when it happens in romance, the publisher has broken a promise to me as a reader.

    And now I will go back and read the rest of the comments. >_>

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  76. Auraya
    May 04, 2011 @ 15:13:21

    I’m very much int the It depends category. Don’t make me wait years for a resolvement. I’ll just lose interest or head to the bookstore after release, read the last few pages and call it done. On the other hand, I’ve been paying attention to series evolvement, especially in Urban Fantasy. This is what I’ve noticed.

    1. Love interests meet: attracted but not immediately involved.
    2. Get together
    3. Break apart again for some reason or the other (external conflict, trust issues, …)
    4. Spend time apart, but still thinking about the other. Missing the other.
    5. Get back together.

    Step 1 occurs in book 1. 2 is the ending of book 2 or 3. Step 3 occurs at the end of the book they got together. They spent one book apart. At the end of that book they get back together.

    This isn’t always the scenario, but it occurs fairly often in UF, Kim Harrison being a notable exception. The love interest in her books doesn’t remain the same long enough to follow the pattern.

    But this is why, despite the ending of Chloe Neill’s Hard Bitten, I’m willing to wait for the next book. I did the same with a lot of the other UF authors that I read. Lori Handeland Phoenix Chronicles also end at big cliffhangers and those books are
    some of my favorite rereads. I’m just sad (frustrated) that there is no indication whatsoever when book 5 is coming out.

    So give me a cliffhanger if it the right way to end the storie, but don’t make me wait years for the next book.

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  77. Jenn LeBlanc
    May 04, 2011 @ 16:08:51

    I do not like cliffhangers in romance. I expect that couple to be done with. I do not mind teasers, so another relationship blooming at the end of one that leads to a series. But I also want each book to stand alone for the most part.

    I just wanted to mention that distinction.

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  78. Lindsey
    May 04, 2011 @ 19:57:07

    Ah, Nonny’s comment reminded me that cliffhangers don’t always completely put me off a series, but only if there are people I trust who have weathered the cliffhanger, and assure me that it is safe/worth it to continue. This was the case with Jeanine Frost’s Night Huntress series, since the ending to the first book frustrated the HELL out of me, and made me turn to the friend who recommended it and yell “WHY DID YOU DO THIS TO ME?” He assured me that it was worth continuing, so I gingerly peeked into book 2, only to get completely sucked in by the series. So, I suppose, while cliffhangers enrage me (and I often see them as a cheap trick), sometimes I’m still willing to continue with the series, if I’m assured that things will turn out alright.

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  79. Nonny
    May 04, 2011 @ 20:00:12

    @Lindsey:

    Ah see, I read Frost’s when it first came out. I’m actually kinda amazed I picked up the next one six months or so later. Wouldn’t have been quite as bad if they were doing the whole “release three books in a series in consecutive months” dealie, but with a normal book cycle? Arrrrrrrrrrgh.

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  80. Tanya S.
    May 04, 2011 @ 23:49:54

    I can cope with a cliffhanger if there is some sort of closure. There has to be progress made in solving the plot to make me feel as if there was a point to the story I’m reading. So maybe it is not cliffhangers that bother me so much but unresolved plots. I know I can’t stand books where the characters never accomplish anything. KMM’s books drove me up the wall because the main character never solved ANYTHING (disclaimer: I have yet to read the last book). R. Cain’s novels do not bother me as much because she usually finishes the main plot of the book before teasing readers with hints of the next book’s adventure. Both of these series are not true or pure romance books for me. In romances, I better have my HEA. On another note, :( Tokoyopop’s death

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  81. Jennifer
    May 05, 2011 @ 18:48:50

    Hah, I was ticked by the first Gardella cliffhanger too. However, it did make sense with the series because clearly she was setting it up for Victoria to end up with Max at the end. (Though in all honesty I think Max is a dick to her 95% of the time and I did NOT root for him to win her at all. And I didn’t even particularly like the other guy either. I don’t care if her aunt told him to off her, that’s also still a massive squick and I did not like being asked to root for a guy that she watched kill her aunt.) But a later cliffhanger in that one that was REALLY bad was when she appears to have been vamped. And then the next book was all, “oh, she was wearing two vis bullae, never mind, she’s totally fine.” WHAT?

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  82. Cindy
    May 06, 2011 @ 14:34:22

    I’ve only recently begun to bump into cliffhangers…1 romantic suspense and 1 cozy mystery come to mind. They felt abruptly ended, both do not have new books until a year after (and in fact, I only recently found that the romantic suspense one indeed has a new one coming out).

    With the way the publishers are acting, I don’t like the cliffhangers because I don’t trust them not to cancel the series on me and leave me with no closure.

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  83. Stumbling Over Chaos :: Please stay properly hydrated and nourished as you peruse linkity
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    [...] Dear Author and Smart Bitches on cliffhangers. (Me? I hate them. I stopped reading Karen Marie Moning’s -fever series because of the cliffhangers.) [...]

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  85. Pack Rogue (Were Chronicles #4) by Crissy Smith | books, life, & wine
    Apr 18, 2013 @ 11:08:10

    [...] The ending made me so PO’d that I don’t think I’m buying any more books from this author. I can’t guarantee that I’ll get a full story and that just stinks. The writing was good and the action was interesting and normally I would have finished off the series (I’ve read the first book in the series)…but I noticed from the reviews by fans of this author that she mostly writes novellas and I can only imagine that she ends on cliff hangers quite often. Maybe the author should check out this article from Dear Author about how much readers hate cliff hangers. [...]

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