The Magic of a Happily Ever After (HEA)
Written by
She Writes
March 2020
Written by
She Writes
March 2020

Today's guest post was written by Allison Ashley, the author of Perfect Distractionavailable March 23, 2020.

The only thing we never get enough of is love; and the only thing we never give enough of is love.

- Henry Miller

I love love stories. My first romance novel was a Judith McNaught book, and when I cracked open that cover, I truly had no idea the journey I was about to embark on. I got caught up in everything that makes a romance novel—the tension, the feelings, those sweet moments that made my heart squeeze.

I never looked back.

I still read love stories, but I took it a step further: I started writing my own. When I tell people that, sometimes I get the side-eye. Unfortunately, there’s a stigma that surrounds the term ‘romance novel’ that writers and readers of romance can’t seem to break away from, but the truth is, the romance genre is one of the most widely read in all of fiction, and there’s just something about it that brings people back time and time again.

I’m a scientist by training, so it’s only natural for me to ask myself this question: Why? What is it about romance that keeps us wanting more?

I had my hypothesis, but I wanted to test it. I posed the question on a social media site—why do people read romance? I received dozens of responses, and by far the most common was:

A guaranteed HEA.

For those who aren’t romance buffs, HEA = happily ever after. There are a few things that a book requires if it’s to be considered a romance, and a HEA (or happy for now) is one of them. Little is guaranteed in this life, but a HEA from a romance novel is one. If an author doesn’t deliver, they’ll hear about it from the readers. And believe me, you don’t want to mess with romance readers.

But it’s the same every time, some might say. You know how the book will end, where’s the fun in that?

Bear with me for a moment, for an analogy. Imagine if people described going out to eat as “too predictable.” The server gave you the wine list and took your drink orders at the beginning of the meal? Well, that’s boring. The server from last week did the exact same thing. And why do they offer dessert at the end of the meal every single time? Shouldn’t they change that up every once in a while?

Of course we don’t say that. That’s not how it works. The predictability that comes with the process doesn’t have to make it boring—it’s the experience that defines our satisfaction. Was the server friendly and engaging? Knowledgeable about the menu? Was the food cooked to your preference, and exactly what you were craving that night? Was there a special dessert that wasn’t on the menu, but was offered by the chef that night only? It’s still dessert at the end of the meal…but it’s different. It’s delicious. It’s unexpected. 

It’s the same for romance novels. Pick any two. Will they both have a HEA? Sure. (They’d better). But nothing else will be the same. The characters, the circumstances, the author’s style and voice. All different. The journey the lovers take to get to the HEA is what makes that ending so sweet. How hard was it to get there? How many trials did they face, and how much adversity had to be overcome? The more, the better, if you ask most industry professionals. The more difficult the struggle, the stronger the triumph.  

Some may say that’s predictable, and that may be true. But I’d argue that regardless of whether it’s predictable or not, it’s what people who read romance crave (and probably what many non-romance readers crave, whether they admit to it or not). It’s the knowledge that no matter what happens throughout the book – we know it will end well.

It will end happy.

Love will always win.

And it’s why I’ll always write my love stories that way.

In today’s world, where everything is so unstable and unpredictable, it’s nice to be able to depend on something. Sometimes I want a little consistency in my life, especially when everything around me seems to be spinning out of control.

When I choose to read or write a romance, there’s comfort in knowing when I finish that book, I’ll be satisfied and optimistic. I might feel warm and fuzzy. I might feel like a weight has been lifted off my shoulders. Often, I feel as if my faith in humanity has been restored, even if just a tiny bit, and for a few seconds. Somewhere in the world, in that very moment, surely someone is choosing love, just like the characters did.

Even if the final endpoint is known, and it’s obvious we will get the HEA, it’s not obvious how we’ll get there. And I, for one, am glad to be along for the ride.

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  • I, too, enjoy romance novels, because they have a nice ending, but just as your article states, we don't really know how the couple will get to HEA from book to book or by each author. With each book, the journey is so much fun and so worth reading. Nice article. Thanks for sharing.