Is a Happily Ever Mandatory?

Photo: Couple by goodsophism (CC by 2.0)
Someone found a guest blog post I posted back in 2014, and asked if they could repost it on their blog, with credit.
I think that’s pretty cool. Mind you had to go and read it because I didn’t remember what I’d written for the post. I had been asked to write a post answering the question – Is a Happily Ever After Mandatory? And since I had never actually posted it here, on my blog, I thought it was high time that I did.
Is a Happily Ever After Mandatory?
“…and they lived Happily Ever After.” Sigh. When the final pages of the book are closed and your hand is resting on the back cover, there is such satisfaction at a Happily Ever After ending. But does Happily Ever After mean what it used to mean?
In short…I love it. I read romances because for the most part I am guaranteed a HEA.
Kind of like fairy tales as a kid. They go through all these adventures and struggles and they get to live HEA. If I don’t get my HEA from a romance novel, I feel cheated and let down. I picked up a Romance novel for a reason. If I wanted an Unhappily Ever After, I would have picked up a different genre.
In long… If you think of some of the classic romance novels, they certainly didn’t get their HEA. Heathcliff and Catherine, Rhett and Scarlett, Romeo and Juliet, Tristian and Isolde. Some of them had Hero’s I despised, Heroine’s I hated and a great deal of bawling my eyes out at
the close of the back cover.
I think that at the time these stories were written, books served a different purpose. Romance novels explained human character, taught a lesson and explored many facets of how life was lived. Books don’t serve that purpose today. Romance novels are pure fantasy, unadulterated escapism and an excuse to shut out the harsh cold reality of life for a few hours. Of course we want a HEA…because
so often in ‘real life’ we don’t get it. We get day to day drudgery, the daily grind, screaming children, work (be that house or paid), traffic, illness, taxes and a husband who may well have come from another planet.
But a HEA doesn’t have to be the ‘traditional’ expectation. HEA doesn’t necessarily mean that they got married, raised a dozen perfect children and rode off into the sunset. (Who thought riding into the sunset was a good thing anyway? You can’t see with those late afternoon rays glaring directly into your eyes.) However a HEA means that at the end of the story, there is satisfaction that the hero and heroine have acknowledged their insecurities, opened their baggage, faced their fears and grown as characters. There is hope they will make it together, and an assurance that their love is going to last. They may still have issues to face, questions to answer, demons to fight and obstacles to conquer, but they are going to do it together. Whatever it takes. And that is a HEA ending in my book.

3 thoughts on “Is a Happily Ever Mandatory?

  1. I love this perspective, TP. In the one fiction piece I wrote (I have another in the works) I didn’t have such a clean HEA, but the presence of hope. Do you think that’s a reasonable stand-in?

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