Reading,  Writing

Happily ever after

Borrowed from fairy tales, known as the HEA in romance–does it always work? Do you appreciate the book that ends like a slow fade on camera, moving away from h/h? Or do you prefer the full monty of explanations, apologies, tears, laughter, the whole package of loose ends and subplots tied up with a pretty ribbon , followed by an epilogue where h/h are surrounded by babies and all’s well with the world? I have to admit I can’t write endings worth a darn. I write and rewrite the last few lines, then shrug and type in The End, and put myself out of my misery (several nights in a row for a week or so).

Here’s a technique for The End which I’m rather fond of: Black Ice by Anne Stuart, where you realize the heroine is indeed going to take up with that thrillingly scruffy French psychopath. All in one sentence. Any/all of Judith Ivory’s thrilling throwaway one-sentence enders–yes, I rather like the sensation of leaping off a cliff, particularly if h/h have spent the entire book jumping off minor cliffs and are now going for the Big One, the Commitment–marriage, the final frontier. I don’t want cosiness and domesticity and the patter of tiny feet. Let the dysfunctionality thrive beyond the endpages!

Some readers got very upset about the end of Jennifer Crusie’s Bet Me where the h/h married but had a dog instead of children. It was seen as breaking the rules in some strange sort of way; even stranger is that Ms. Crusie claims she wrote it that way because the book is a fairy tale (lost shoes! Princesses in towers! Yes, the elements are all there). I think the only sort of dog that appears in a fairy tale would be a magic one, with eyes that roll round and round, for instance, and guards treasure. Well, maybe there was more to the dog than we knew.

Share your favorite endings–without giving away the plot, if you can.


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Cara King
16 years ago

I admit, I’m not the biggest fan of the epilogues that show the blissfully happy couple with a crew of darling children… Or even just the one. I’m happy to imagine for them a happily-ever-after that’s as sickeningly sweet as I please (if I’m in the mood), but if I see it on the page, it can be a bit too saccharine.

Though in some cases, of course, the story warrants an epilogue. And when an epilogue is called for, I don’t really want to see them throwing the crockery at each other. 🙂

I’m happy for a pretty quick ending. I do like things resolved — if we never find out who the villain was, or the hero never says “I’m wrong” when he needs to, then I feel cheated. But I’m not looking for the classic Star Trek ending where everyone sits around sharing a great bit belly laugh…:-)


Kalen Hughes
16 years ago

I’ll admit it. I like epilogues. Love ’em, in fact. They don’t need babies, but I like that final, calm, loving bit to savor. I especially like them if they’re used to tie up a thread that was unresolved at the end of the book. It’s like a little bonus.

However, I also hate when the end of a book is awash in “I love you” “No, I love you.” It makes me queasy. It never sounds or feels genuine (no one I know has EVER talked like that). But lots of my friends say this is their favorite part of the book. *SHRUG*

And I gotta say, BET ME has one of my all time favorite endings (as one of the happily child-free it’s so NICE to read a book where the ending didn’t revolve around procreating.).

Megan Frampton
16 years ago


I’m with you–I like ’em short and to the point. Too much after the ‘I love you’s, and I’m bored.

I really liked Stuart’s Black Ice, although I love everything she’s written. Except for the epilogue to To Love A Dark Lord. For your own sanity, do not read that epilogue. Gak. Saccharine. The rest of the book is brilliant.

How wrong is it that after the conflict is resolved, I kinda want the book to end? I don’t like seeing too many happy loving couples, I guess.

16 years ago

In Reality (that strange place), most couples do end up having kids–but not all, and it’s certainly not part of my definition of “happily ever after.”

I like different kinds of endings, depending on the kind of book. One of my favorites–though maybe this just means I’m weird–is THE GRAND SOPHY by Heyer, where the hero shows up, threatens to wring Sophy’s neck if she doesn’t marry him, and off they go. Happily ever after!


Elena Greene
16 years ago

In some of my books, I’ve written shorter endings, but I’ve done epilogues for two books. I’ve just realized those were my two books with darker elements: SAVING LORD VERWOOD and LADY DEARING’S MASQUERADE. Maybe it’s just that after the tough stuff I want to let the characters bask in some HEA.

I often do write kids into the HEA–it’s natural for me, since kids are part of my own HEA–but I don’t need to read about them in every romance. I recently finished BET ME and think Crusie did exactly the right thing for those two particular characters.


Pam Rosenthal
16 years ago

I like the end of Connie Brockway’s All Through the Night. Very very quick, elegant, and mysterious.

Moi, I practically have to give the h&h a 401(k) plan, not to speak of kids. Partly it’s because I want to see those romantic rogues working for a living like the rest of us. Also my non-romance-reading friends haven’t minded the happy-with-kids endings of my books; they find it part of the self-indulgent pleasure of reading my romances. Probably I’m unduly influenced by them and should realize that the romance audience is more jaded.

In my forthcoming THE SLIGHTEST PROVOCATION, I have an epilogue. To match the prologue. Both of which contain the halves of a framing story. No kids tho.

I dunno. I like a kind of formal once-upon-a-time structure.


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