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I freaking hate the apparent Rom/Dram definition of HEA. What it boils down to is that while HEA is seemingly available to the characters the reader gets diddley. We have little chance to actually see the characters live happily. We get the conflict, the drama, the pain and, yes the resolution, but we get little opportunity to enjoy life shared, the happiness, the beauty of that resolution in situ. It is so frustrating to be left with only the hope that the author will revisit the characters, al la Joey W. Hill, in various vignettes posted on fan pages.
To be led to caring and even deep affection the characters of the books and left hanging with no real chance to see their happiness is the soul of frustration. Epilogues won't do. Would an extra couple of chapters really be so hard? Have a little mercy. HEA is insufficient if it is simply assumed.
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Anyone who remembers Sarah from her cameo in Unexpected could discern that sweet, naive, eager to serve Sarah, would be the giver in her personal relationships. So when her parents find out she's gay and disown her it's clear that they saw her as their good little Stepford child who'd never stray from her prepared script. Her commentary concerning her girlfriend 'Dar' makes it plain that her romance followed a similar course. It was always Sarah who reached out, it was Sarah who made the effort pretty much every time. Dar then ended their romance by letting Sarah dangle all summer, then shot down their plans to get together for the first time in three months at the last moment.
All this sets up Sarah to be as sympathetic a figure as possible as a character unless the author in question going over the top is Radclyffe. The metamorphosis our hero makes at the University of Rhode Island from being a programmed robotic one dimensional character into a woman growing into herself is an inspiration. Rory's fight with what she's feeling for Sarah seemed somewhat overblown to me, but then I'm a woman who realized she was at least bi, somewhere about the time I turned twelve.
The end of the story shows just how much things have changed in the last few years; it's easy to forget how far we've come, and how fast. I saw this story as a good solid 4.
About the first third is excellent, well written and setting everything up. But after that the the story becomes frustrating. There are too many points at which the protagonists get together and then fail to connect, in my view. And without other events or story lines this starts to drag on. Rather than just using all the other treads and characters as a reason to break up the moment they connect, it would be better to have expanded these out to become arches in their own right. Otherwise you're just left with a constant, 'oh great! They are going to kiss and tell each other they are in love-- oh... no... they're not', then this is repeated multiple times to in the last two-thirds of the novel.
That being said the narration is excellent, the story works and fits the standard mode of lesfiction. The characters are also great. Just too much of the 'they going to get together, oh darn' rollercoaster.