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:~: Tuesday, February 06, 2007 :~:

What Is a Happy Ending?

I’ve noticed a difference between books and movies labeled as “romance”. (Yes, I’m sure I’m not the first person to mention this…:grin:…I’ve only been reading romance for a few years, so I’m still catching up.) A romance movie finishes with all the loose ends tied up neatly, and the resolution is generally happy, despite the fact that the hero and heroine may not end up together. The ending is still happy, but it isn’t the type of Happily Ever After a romance reader would expect when they pick up a book. In a romance novel, a reader goes in expecting the hero and heroine to be together at the end. The reader also wants to know the happy ending is going to last beyond the end of the book. If I'm reading a romance, I have different expectations than I do if I'm reading in another genre. I want my romance to end with the hero and heroine together.

I have to admit, I don’t often write traditional Happily Ever After endings. My own books most often end with a Happy For Now ending. The events that lead to this might be different—often “I love yous” are implied rather than spoken out loud, but the end result is the same. It’s a romance, so it’s a given that the characters are in it for the long haul, whether declarations of love are made or not. Sometimes it’s more believable if “I love yous” aren’t said. For me, as a reader and a writer, I want the story to have a realistic end as well as a happy one.

That said, there’s been a lot of talk online lately about less than happy endings, and happy endings that go south in subsequent books in a series—more specifically, when an author kills off a main character. If a reader has invested a lot of time and emotion in a set of characters, they might feel cheated when an author takes one of those characters away. It's a big let down, since the reader has been cheering for the characters throughout the book, living their ups and downs with them, all the while knowing everything will work itself out in the end.

Sometimes a character doesn’t die, but the happiness of the ending is still destroyed. One example that comes to mind is Janet Evanovich’s book Metro Girl. At the end, the two main characters end up together. Even though it isn’t a romance, I expected the characters to be together in the next book in the series. When I read the blurb for the next book and found out they weren’t—because he cheated on her—I decided to put off reading it. I guess most of the time, I still want to believe fairy tale endings exist in books, even if they don’t always happen in real life. I want that happy feeling that comes with knowing, despite the adversity the characters faced during the story, they managed to overcome it and find a way to be together.

What makes an ending happy for you?


Blogger Joan Swan said...

Hey Dawn,

Just want to say... WELCOME to our blogging sphere! Great to have you!

Your post reminds me of another series that takes a similar path to Janet Evanovich's Stephanie Plum. And, darn it, for the life of me I can't remember either the title or the author -- but if you've read the books, you'll recognize the characters.

Jamie is the heroine. Maximillion (Max) is the billionare hero with the talking car (Muffy). And he's got a sister with the Betty Boop voice and a gay "assistant".

The series has got a lot of sexual tension between the characters, but their individual inner conflicts and a busy, busy plot seem to keep them apart. The endings are happy, although not a typical happily ever after.

I like them. But I have to say, my personal preferences are a forever HEA. I like to hear the I love you's, but they have to be said in meaningful ways.

And I agree on the point that my HEA has to be both happy and REALISTIC. A forced HEA could ruin an entire book!

10:05 AM  
Blogger Elisabeth Naughton said...

Great post, Elisa! And I second Joan's comment - we're thrilled to have you join us!

I hate that bait & switch in some series books - and movies for that matter. I loved Speed (old movie with Sandra Bullock and Keanu Reeves). Loved the romance going on between them. When I heard they were making Speed II, I thought, "Cool". Until I heard Keanu hadn't signed on and they'd given Sandra Bullock's character a different boyfriend. I never saw the movie because that fairy tale ending I'd envisioned, obviously didn't exist. It ruined the whole thing for me.

If I'm reading a romance, I want the real HEA. I want the characters to say "I love you" at some point and mean it. They don't have to get married, they don't have to have kids, I'm okay with untraditional endings as long as we know they're going to stay together for the long haul.

10:16 AM  
Blogger Liz Kreger said...

Happy endings for me doesn't necessarily have to be marriage, 2.5 kids and a white picket fence. I just want that satisfaction of knowing the hero and heroine are gonna get together. Maybe not in this book, but in the sequel, if there is one. I want the ends all nicely tied up and that "ah" moment

7:22 PM  
Blogger Elisa said...

Thanks for the welcome, ladies. I'm so happy to be here. :)

J--I haven't heard of that series. I'm going to have to see if I can find out more about it. I totally agree on the forced HEA. A book I read recently was really good...right up until the end. The storylines were wrapped up too quickly and too neatly, and it didn't fit with the characters at all. Too bad, because up until that point I loved the book.

E--the bait and switch bugs me, too. I didn't watch Speed II for the same reason.

Liz--that's exactly how I feel. I want to know they'll eventually end up together forever.

7:38 AM  
Blogger Theresa said...

I don't need a declaration of love, or an engagement ring in the ending. I just need to have some hint that the hero/heroine have feelings for eachother--even if those feelings are unvoiced. I can fill in the rest for myself. (grin)

As long as there is some emotional connection between the pair, and as long as the h/h are in proximity so the rest can follow. I'm happy.

9:48 PM  

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