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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.