If there’s one thing most romance readers are clear on in real life, it’s the idea that happily ever after isn’t what anybody should be looking for the day after she makes a relational commitment.
Engagement, marriage, moving an emotional relationship to a physical one, deciding to share a home and life with a partner; these are some of the coolest points of some folks’ existences. But they’re beginnings, not endings, as in, the “The End” on the last page of a romance book.
Yet romance novels celebrate those relational high points and create whole-cloth fantasy tales out of getting to ‘em – after our hero or heroine’s mucked up and done some knees-to-the-hardwood grovelin’.
But nobody really believes real-life love matches will be perfect forever after happily begins, we just adore the promise of it, and demand it as part of what makes any well-constructed romance novel a satisfying
So what’s a romance fan to do when an HEA reads more like an “I’m pretty content with you for now – and I’ll probably want you for a long time – but let’s not go promise each other any ever afters, let alone happy ones” harbinger of curb kicking to come?
Recently I read a very good erotic romance in which the heroine ended up with a hero who clearly felt things for her he hadn’t for a lover, yet at novel’s end was saying the equivalent of “Come live w/me, but let’s not get too far ahead of ourselves; you know how I am.”
Our newly sexually liberated heroine basically vowed to herself, “I can brace myself for the possibility of heartache with this kind of man. But I love him, and now that I know how to please him in bed, I’m planning on keeping him there for a long time.”
I understand why this author made these choices, they work for the novel and make it a strong one. But this more real life-like ending leaves me a little let down by the reading experience because my genre
-reading DNA seems to be hard-wired for the joy-rush pheromone surge that accompanies the solid, facile, and-they-lived-happily-and-had-perfect-sex-and-children-ever-after ending.
Truly, I don't care whether the final declaration of commitment in a romance is something along the lines of, “We love you and want you to be ours for the rest of our lives." But those polyamorous paramours probably will be a-travelin’ a trios until death does them for me to feel well and truly emotionally satisfied with the reading experience.
How about you? Can you handle a less traditional ending in a romance? Or are you an HEA purist?