Happily Ever After?

I am a sucker for romances, especially if they end with, “…and they lived happily ever after…” However, I do think that there is a fine line between romantic and ridiculous. Where the ending comes wrapped up in a big, red bow tie and everyone lives … well, happily ever after. And you might say, you can’t have it both ways – you can’t not be ridiculous if you want everyone to live happy. But I disagree.

I’m currently reading a romance/erotica novel (don’t judge me) about a white supremacist gang-enforcer/gun-runner who is stunned by his attraction to a young, black woman who is enslaved to a cholo cartel leader wanna-be, and literally purchases her off the man (hang with me – it gets better). What follows is a six months of give and take as the two learn to unlearn bad things (like black and white don’t mix), trust and love one another. Love conquers all, including their pasts, and everyone gets the happily ever after they deserve.

Then, the author slaps a big, ole red bowtie on the story and ends it with an epilogue that includes both of them going on to be reality television stars and life is perfect. Now I do understand it’s someone else’s vision and words I’m reading, but I feel it cheapens the story. It takes a beautiful story and makes it something else all in the name of happy endings. Of course this is just my opinion, but I’m not alone – many of the reviews I read came to the same conclusion.

So, as the author, do I write what people will respond positively to, or how I see the story progress? That’s a tricky question. I mean you want to be true to you, but you also want people to read your stories.

Maybe this is why the fairy tales of old end with “…and everyone lived happily ever after…” – the bards and recorders of stories couldn’t come up with an ending that would appeal to the masses and so left it to the imagination of the audience to define what “Happily Ever After” is. Is it a declaration of love that is requited? Or a nice house in the suburbs courtesy of Hollywood?

Everything is relative, and in the end, I decide if I find the ending romantic and worthy of “Happily Ever After,” even when the author writes otherwise. Does that mean the book is bad? I don’t think so – just that we have different opinions and different methods of storytelling. And it’s that kind of diversity that fleshes out stories like these that warm the heart. I won’t lie: I’ll probably read the book again and give it a decent review – I’ll just skip the last chapter and make my own ending.

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