Vanessa Jaye has an interesting post over at her place about HEA and checking the endings of books to see what the author delivers. Which prompted me to clog up her comments with my views, among which I suggested that we create a symbolic rating system for the benefit of HEA-or-nothing romance readers, along the lines of those international stck figure picture symbols for road signs, bathrooms, etc.
My original suggestion was a pink heart for the novel with a traditional HEA, a black heart for the ones with non-HEA endings, and a heart with a ? mark in the center for cliffhangers, continuing romance (i.e. Alex and Michael from Darkyn) or Hopefully Ever After endings. But then there are all those other-than-romance genres, as Vanessa pointed out, that have romance subplots like Gump's box of chocolates -- you never know what you're going to get.
So, to expand on my original idea, I propose we institute the following:
Erotica: hot pink heart with odometer (love interests commit only after they have had sex [number on odometer] times), hot blue heart with chains (love interest falls for dominatrix), three pink hearts entwined (love interest has scorching romance with two other persons) hot pink heart with electrical outlet, assorted toys, bottles of lube and hanging basket chair (love interests are kind of busy right now, check back with them in the next book.)
Historical Fiction: pink heart edged with period-correct tatted lace with black ribbon (romance ends in advantageous marriage, but female love interest dies in childbirth), purple heart (romance ends in quickie marriage, immediately after which male love interest marches off to war, where he dies in unsanitary hospital tent of complications from wound infection), black heart with red fist (romance between lovers of unequal rank, never quite gets off the ground, then everyone is shot during a Socialist coup or revolution, and you don't quite know who dies.)
Horror: pink heart with chainsaw (female love interest dies, horribly) blue heart with hatchet (male love interest dies, horribly) anatomically correct heart, still dripping (romance is permanently railroaded when one lover rips/cuts out the heart of the other in bizarre sacrificial ritual at ancient Mexican ruins), rat-infested, mold-, pimple- and running-sore-covered heart impaled on tombstone-colored razor-sharp teeth surrounded by hungry zombies with cell phones (romance by Stephen King, or everyone who even thinks about falling in love suffers horribly, then -- you don't want to know.)
Inspirational: pink heart with chastity belt (a lot of romance talk but no actual physical contact), pink heart with cross (romance ends in church marriage), pink heart with white collar (romance ends with church marriage to minister), pure white unblemished heart (all characters forego romance in order to devote their hearts, minds and lives to Christ.)
Mystery/Crime Fiction: Ice-covered blue heart (love interest expired some years ago, no romance), red heart with black garter belt (lots of sex, no romance) red heart with bullet holes (killer shoots the love interest), bloodred heart with smoking handgun (love interest nabs the killer, then dies of GSW, always in the arms of the detective protagonist.)
Science Fiction: DayGlo green heart with slanted, all-black eyes (non-human romance subplot), half-DayGlo green and half-pink (interspecies romance suplot), pink heart exploding into a supernova (romance subplot that ends badly), Nebula award trophy (no romance subplot.)
Urban Fantasy: pink or blue heart with flaming edges (love interest goes to hell) blackened pink or blue heart speckled with ash (love interest comes back from hell), black heart with twin punctures (love interest is killed by vampire), black heart with unit of whole blood (love interest turns into a vampire), black heart with doggy bag (werewolf eats the love interest), hairy pink or blue heart distorted into the shape of a snout (love interest is the werewolf.)
What HEA rating symbols would you like to see out there in BookLand? Post your suggestions in comments.