I had another amazing meeting with my local Romance Writers of America chapter. The speaker, Laurie Schnebly Campbell, said something off-handed, however, that opened a tangent door in my brain. I made notes and then went back to her talk.
The comment went along the lines of, Romance readers like their tropes. Early in life, most prefer a happily ever after ending. As readers deal with life, they understand that things don’t always work out that way and might prefer the happy for now endings.
I examined my own reading habits and my writing habits, and let me be perfectly clear. I have seen some stuff in my life. A lot had happened to me by the time I turned 21. Currently, I am awaiting the court date for a murder trial and likely to be called to the witness stand. I am planning to put all this loss and grief behind me after that.
Because of all that, I prefer happily ever after endings. My life is too full of the other endings or worse endings. I need my escapism. My writing is the same way. And fortunately, my characters go along with that goal.
Which doesn’t mean I can’t enjoy a different kind of ending. I do not expect HEA from everything I read. My science fiction and fantasy reads are open to any ending that follows the course of the plot. Some endings are really unacceptable, notably A Brief History of the Dead by Kevin Brockmeier. A well-written book, an interesting premise, and then . . . nothing. Blech.
I’m in the middle of the second book by Emily Foster, How Not to Let Go. Again, her writing is marvelous and keeps me in the story, but the first book, How Not to Fall, was not a romance. Technically. It had neither a HEA or HFN ending. So if you decide to read the first one, have the second one cued up to read immediately after. I took a break between them because I didn’t understand it’s really one long book divided into two parts.
Also, there is a wave of romantic retelling of fairy tales these days. Is this a rebellion against the Golden Standard of Happily Ever Afters? I haven’t read enough of them to weigh in but I suspect there’s a bit of that and a heap of feminist re-imagining.
I’d love to hear your preferences in the comments, both as readers and writers. Suggestions for good HFN reads are always appreciated, as well as good fairy tale retelling romances. Thanks for reading, I’ll be back on Sunday.