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What Makes It Happily-Ever-After?

November 1, 2010

Let me begin by announcing a new contest for November. Amanda Kelsey did such a beautiful job with the heather-covered field on my cover that I’ve decided to declare November Purple Month. On any blog post I do this month that you respond to, leave your e-mail. I’ll be doing a drawing for a .pdf copy of Highland Treasure for each blog three days after it’s posted. In addition, I’ll save all the names and on December 3rd, I’ll do a drawing for a gift basket. There’s no getting used to the time change here and my internet time is limited, but I will get back to make replies.

I owe an apology to Deeanne Gist for not getting back to my last post to address this topic sooner. In her book Courting Trouble, her spinster heroine ends, not in a relationship with a man, but with an understanding that a relationship can’t be forced and God will provide. What made the book an HEA for me was that it ended with hope. Deeanne did write a sequel to this book in which God provides the man of her heroine’s dreams, but what’s interesting is that after accidentally picking up and reading Courting Trouble, I went out and bought her entire backlist. This is not something I commonly do.

Let’s consider another book: Gone with the Wind. Often referred to as the greatest romance of the twentieth century, does it have an HEA? I would argue that yes it does, because “after all, tomorrow is another day.” Again, it ends on a note of hope with a heroine who knows how to get what she wants.

One of my favorite lines from a movie comes from A Knight’s Tale. The group is sitting about talking about how to end the letter from Will to Jacqueline. A paraphrase is: Love should end with hope. Hope leads us, hope guides us…” For a comedy, it is one of the most thought-provoking truths I’ve heard in a movie in a while.

So let’s talk. Do you need a union at the end of a romance or do you think hope is enough?

Happy reading and writing!

20 Comments leave one →
  1. November 1, 2010 3:19 am

    Mary, This blog is quite timely. Just yesterday I was in a discussion about romance literature and the happy-ever-after ending. The people with me were rather intreged to discover that the happy ending is largely an American setting. I used the example of Japan where endings can be quite shocking (by our standards). A ‘good’ suicide, or worse, is the norm. Personally I’m an all American softie, I like my hopefilled warm promise, as they ride off hand-in-hand towards the setting sun. Anything less keeps me awake for an iternity.

    Love the cover for Highland Treasure, it’s beautiful.

  2. November 1, 2010 6:58 am

    I think I have to have a union. I haven’t read many books that offer hope alone, but when I have I’ve been frustrated by the lack of finality. I want to know that the couple will ride off into the sunset and live happily ever after.

  3. Sarah Hoss permalink
    November 1, 2010 7:15 am

    I have to say I have never thought about it until I became a writer myself. I think I could deal with the book ending on hope, if there was a sequal and you knew there was going to be a match. I want my HEA to end with a match. There is something about watching the main character be rewarded for all of the trouble or turmoil they had to endure throughout the book.

    Great post!!!!

  4. Eclaire permalink
    November 1, 2010 7:30 am

    I always thought that the main purpose of a romance novel was to provide the happy ending as a completion to the story. Frankly, until your post, I never thought about hope as a final HEA. The more I think about it, the more I believe that hope is a better HEA than a union. As long as there is hope, there is joy. If the hero/heroine come out of the story as a stronger/better person and in a better overall situation, then hope is a great HEA.

    Thanks for opening my mind to new possibilities!!

  5. November 1, 2010 9:15 am

    Enjoyed this post, Mary. I like a hope ending just as much, as it allows the reader to imagine the rest for herself. Or allows scope for a sequel!

  6. November 1, 2010 9:28 am

    As a huge fan of romance, I much prefer the HEA endings where I’m certain the couple really will remain together. But I would be okay with a hopeful ending too in some situations. So long as it isn’t a depressing or sad ending I’m okay with it. Wonderful post!

  7. Yadira A. permalink
    November 1, 2010 11:02 am

    I’m a huge fan of the purple color, so November Purple Month is OK by me:)

    I guess everyone had their own definition of what HEA is. Some people think an HEA has to include the heroine and hero getting together, and then there are some that as long as everyone survives that’s an HEA:) Probably depends on what you’re reading too. For me, I used to think that it wasn’t an HEA unless the hero and heroine got together, but I have to agree with you Mary that a book has an HEA as long as there is hope and another day. I will say though that I would prefer a union between characters since for me part of the fun of reading is seeing people come together regardless of the obstacles they face.

  8. Terri permalink
    November 1, 2010 11:55 am

    No there does not need to be a union sometimes I think it is HEA when someone realizes their own self worth and importance in the world and knows that okay if this is not the person for me it is alright because I am worth so much more than settling for someone who does not think the world of me and someday I will find the right person and until then it is okay to have fun looking. Not everyone meets Prince Charming first time out and I think that it is great for books to let readers know that and to reinforce that it is okay and that you can be happy without being in a relationship don’t settle.

  9. November 1, 2010 12:09 pm

    What about Romeo & Juliet? Neither a reuinion (unless death qualifies) nor hope, yet how many romance novels follow this plot to some degree? When I finished my book, I left it without the union and got immediate flack from my critique group. They wanted my heroine & hero together, so I rewrote the ending. Then I split the book and left the end with a question (marriage proposal) and a promise of “hope,” but was attacked for not giving the answer. Again, I rewrote the ending. Geesh! Personally, if I know there’s another book following up, I kind of like a bit of mystery or intangible “hope,” but if its a single title, I want to know how it ends and not some vague picture of “maybe.”

  10. November 1, 2010 2:12 pm

    If I am reading a romance, I definitley need to see the reward of a union for the HEA. I mean, that is the fruition of the romance novel.
    To me, that is the “hope” of the whole story. Not for it to happen at the end, to be left with only hope that it will, is a downer.

    A thriller, or any other genre where the romance is not the main thread, I can deal with hope at the end–if that makes sense.

    Nice post, Mary.

  11. November 1, 2010 10:29 pm

    Hi Mary,
    My 3 favorite novels are Wurthering Heights, Jude the Obscure, and The Age of Innocence. None have happy endings. But when I read a novel labeled as ‘romance,’ I want the happy union. Hope is not enough. I want to know that they’ve grown and reached an understanding through love so that they can have a happy togetherness that will help them through beyond the story. I want to believe in love; I want to believe in a happy ending for love.

  12. November 1, 2010 10:30 pm

    P.S. I love your cover!

  13. kimmie lange permalink
    November 2, 2010 9:34 am

    I have to have a union. I love it when there is a pro;ogue at the end of the books, sometimes just knowing they are together at the end is fine. But I hate to be left hanging.

  14. November 2, 2010 1:07 pm

    Dear Mary,

    I’m busy reading your book and this question of HEA is definitely thought-provoking!

    As I’m pondering this issue, I recommend that coupling should be done AFTER all other basic needs are met.

    Too often, we see children having children.

    Yes, this goes back to Terri’s statement about self-worth.

    Self-respect … which leads to self-actualization … is important to strong bonds.

    Please do let our young adults know that it is okay to mate,

    but it’s preferable to wait until they can deal with basic needs first.

    HOWever, maybe we need to look at the crows who mate for life.

    Are we making HEA too big an issue?

    Maybe, I’m just here throwing more fuel on the fire!

    Of course, I just wrote about this in my own blog so it’s still fresh on my mind!

    Mary, and everyone …

    for more of my thoughts on this,

    please feel free to check out what I’m writing about your book on Wednesday of this week!

    Hope is a more than four-letter word, it goes hand in hand with love and romance!

    Best Wishes!

  15. November 2, 2010 1:22 pm

    Oh, …

    I forgot to mention my blog website in my previous comment!

    Now, I’ll be bold and ask you to join me on Wednesday, November 3rd, as I blog about Mary McCall’s heroine, Hope.

    And, please do leave comments on my blog as I explore Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs and how they affect the heroine in “Highland Treasure!”

    Thanks! Happy Reading!

    Rita Merlow

  16. November 2, 2010 2:03 pm

    Life is tough enough, in our reading we’d prefer HEA. Great article.

  17. November 2, 2010 9:37 pm

    Hi All:
    I’m popping in to say hi, and I’ll draw a name tomorrow. The topic seems to elicit mixed reactions. Big congrats to Rita! I use Maslow’s Heirarchy when I do character sketches. I must admit, I prefer a union at the end, but Ms. Gist opened my eyes to other possibilities.

    I love that line, “Hope is more than a four-letter word. It goes hand in hand with love and romance.” I wish I had written it!

  18. November 3, 2010 12:13 pm

    Most of the romance novels I’ve read have ended on with a note of hope rather than a union. Those that do end up with a union tend to feel somewhat contrived, very this is happening because it is supposed to not because the characters are really the type.

  19. Jeanne Miro permalink
    November 3, 2010 1:25 pm

    Let me start by mentioning that your cover with it’s heather covered field brought me back to a trip I took with my husband and my first experience of unexpected awe by the stark beauty of Scotland.

    When I read romance I don’t necessarily need a union at the end but I do need a closure whether it be a commitment, a parting or an understanding that brings peace.

    When I was younger I think I would have objected to a ending that wasn’t beauty and roses but as I get older I have obtained a peace with excepting that their can be beauty with pain, understanding with conflict and acceptance of loss of a great love that is actually never ending.

  20. Deidre permalink
    November 8, 2010 9:44 pm

    The purple is gorgeous on the cover and so is he I might add. lol

    I don’t think there always has to be a perfect union, so hope works for me.

    deidre_durance at hotmail dot com

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