Happily Ever Afters

Katherine's post yesterday got me thinking about my own views about the Happily Ever After and whether it's a necessary component of a romantic story.  I used to think so.  In fact, I may have begged Katherine for a HEA after I read her first published novel, GILT.  (Okay, I did. Shamelessly).  But, not having it didn't ruin the reading experience for me.  To the contrary, my mind still drifts back to that final scene and imagines what happens next. 

I love stories where girl meets boy, and you just know that they are perfect for each other, even when they don't.  It's satisfying to see them end up together, and I still love a happy ending.  But I have to admit that I no longer think it's required.

My Happily Ever After
When I think about some of my favorite romantic stories, I realize that I was kidding myself all along, because as much as I love Pride and Prejudice or Cinderella, I think that I am even more enamored with bittersweet romances. Some of the most epic romances do not end happily.  Romeo and Juliet?  Both dead at the end. Gone with the Wind? Scarlett realizes she loves Rhett too late. Love Story? The Notebook? And what about one of my favorite romances of all, The Time Traveler's Wife? Death, death and death.

Love, like life, can be messy and dirty and destructive.  It can also be intoxicating and easy and sweet.  Romantic stories can be all of these things.  Romance can be fleeting and intense, life-changing, even if the relationship does not last a lifetime. 

Maybe genre romances require a happy ending, but romantic stories come in all shapes and sizes.  All of my books have a romance, and most of them do end on a hopeful note, but certainly not all.  I'm more than okay with that.  I think that it's terribly romantic when two people come together and have a profound impact on each others' lives. 

For me, it's all about an emotional connection.  If I tear up at the end, whether from joy or sorrow, it means I fell in love with the characters.  And that is a true romance.

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