Most (all?) romance publishers insist that a romance must have a happy ending. Most romance readers read romance as a kind of escapism, knowing that all will end happily for the main characters, which sadly may not happen in ‘real’ life.
It’s interesting to note that ‘romance’ in the grand tradition, like Tristan and Isolde, Romeo & Juliet, Wuthering Heights, Gone With the Wind, Love Story, often didn’t have happy endings. It’s the tragedy in these stories which make them memorable.
However, women (and yes, it is usually women) pick up a paperback or download an e-book romance, and expect it to have a happy ending.
But is a happy ending the same as a ‘happy ever after’ ending?
Romance authors don’t write ‘fairy-tales’. They don’t wave a magic wand so that Cinderella and Prince Charming, after just one evening at a Palace Ball, are reunited and live ‘happily-ever-after’. I never did hold out much hope for that couple’s future together anyway!
Instead, readers of romance want the hero and heroine to work through their problems and conflicts and in the process learn more about themselves and about each other. They want a convincing and satisfying resolution of all those problems, because they feel the hero and heroine have worked hard to deserve it.
Maybe the romance author's job is to bring the hero and heroine to a place where the potential for happiness is restored. This is the happy ending.
They are on their way to creating a life together in which their new understanding of each other will help them resolve future problems. They’re not going to live ‘happily-ever-after’ (i.e. have perfect, easy lives from now on), but, at the ‘happy ending’ of the story, they are better equipped to develop a lasting and mutually satisfying relationship because of the struggles they've won and the life lessons they've learned.
PS I shall be away waving to Mickey Mouse in Florida when you read this, so apologies in advance for not being able to reply to any comments.
I wish a very Merry Christmas to all who celebrate this festival, and a Happy Holiday to all who don’t. See you all again in the New Year!