Paula looks at happy endings.
Most (all?) romance publishers insist that a romance must have a happy ending. Many romance readers read this genre to be entertained and also as a kind of escapism, knowing that all will end happily for the main characters even though, sadly, this 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, didn’t have happy endings. It’s the tragedy in these stories which make them memorable.
However, women (and yes, it is mainly women) pick up a paperback or download a romance e-book, and expect it to have a happy ending.
But is a happy ending the same as a ‘happy ever after’ ending?
Happy-ever-after conjures up an image of the hero and heroine living on Cloud Nine for the rest of their lives, with a perfect marriage, a perfect house and perfect children. I don’t think romance readers necessarily want or visualise this.
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 happy ending i.e. a convincing and satisfying resolution of all those problems, because they feel the hero and heroine 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.