“And they lived happily ever after.” In modern fairytales (not their original counterparts) it is often how a story ends. The heroes survive the darkness, vanquish evil and live together and grow old together. For some of us, it is what we unconsciously look for when we start reading a romance story.
When I first started reading romance, no matter the sexual orientation of the couples, I loved it. It gave that happy, feel good feeling you can’t help but love and secretly wish for yourself. It didn’t matter if the romance was combined with paranormal elements, fantasy, mystery or crime.
In romance we also require our heroes to undergo a trial before they have their happy ending. Something that transforms the hero to a better version of themselves.
Then there are some romances that are a bit on the darker side with explicit forms of torture or high drama, but the essence is still the same. In the end the hero(es) survive and have their happy ever after even if they are more than traumatized by having it.
After some time, if you have read as many romance books in many different guises as I have read over the past years – especially LBGTQ stories – you sometimes wonder if it doesn’t make a book better if there isn’t a happy ending.
One of the most powerful m/m story I have read is Reap the Whirlwind by Josh Aterovis. A coming of age story by a depressed gay teen who slowly finds his way in life along with a murder mystery. Along the way he finds that powerful first love and they are very happy together. But…. this book doesn’t end in a happily ever after for the main characters. Instead I cried many tears and the story still makes me cry every single damn time I re-read it.
Remember Romeo and Juliet? Shakespeare’s Romeo and Juliet is one of the greatest love stories ever told. At the same time it doesn’t end well for the lovers. Unless of course it is a paranormal romance and the lovers come back from the dead.
This brings along my point. Does a romance story require a happy ending or HEA as it is called?
Many people on the internet say yes. Especially when it comes to e-publishing. Publishers are afraid to publish e-books that do not have a happy ending for fear of retaliation from readers. even the ‘happy for now’ endings are often dreaded.
While I understand the need for that fluffy-feel-good Disney moment at the end of a story, stories that don’t have an happy ending shouldn’t be ruled out. I agree that it has to be written damn well for an ‘unhappy ending’ to be believable, but it can sometimes fit a story.
Let’s face it, in real life couple break-up, grow apart, cheat or die. Why not in romance stories?
But that’s not why we read romance right. We read romance to escape. To read about that perfect couple that just fit together and are each other’s soulmate. Reading romance is a form of escapism. What we can’t have in real life, we want in romance?
What do you think. Do the stories you read require a happy ending? Or do you also like a HFN or ‘unhappy end’ every now and again?