A lot of times, when romance readers talk about why they read romance, they mention the “Happy Ever After,” or “HEA,” as we’ve shorthanded it.

And that is the same reason many of us don’t read literary fiction, because there’s often an UNHappy Ever After, and that is unfulfilling, not to mention depressing.

For me, however, I’ve come to realize that what I require is a Satisfying Ending. I don’t need it to be happy, I just need it to be resolved. And, sometimes, literary fiction doesn’t resolve things, it just shows us that our miserable lives continue on and on past the book.

I like reading genre books because the point of the book is usually reaching some sort of conclusive ending: The murder is solved, the battle is won, the fantastical planet is saved. Something that makes you feel as though you’re not missing anything, like the world will continue as you’ve come to understand it even though the last page has been read and absorbed.

For example, I was thinking of one of my favorite authors, Bernard Cornwell, and his trilogy of the Archer’s Tale; the overall goal of the main character is to find the Holy Grail, but there are just as large goals that are begun, and concluded, in each book. Fabulous, fabulous writing and plotting. Back to romance, Elizabeth Hoyt does a similar thing with her Four Soldiers quartet. Each story has a traditional HEA, with a larger goal drawn out over the course of the four books. Ken Bruen‘s Jack Taylor series reveals more about the main character over the course of the two books I’ve read, and also satisfactorily solves the mystery.

In some ways, a good ending is like a good dessert: It can make up for a lot of faults in the meal. A bad dessert can literally leave a bad taste in your mouth, just as an unsatisfactory ending can ruin all the hard work the author did in the first three-quarters of the book.

I have read one book where an open ending worked for me, and that was Michel Faber‘s The Crimson Petal And The White, a historical fiction book that was just luscious. I had been warned, however, that the ending wasn’t traditional, so I was prepared.

How about you? Do all your endings have to be happy? What book has been ruined for you by the ending? What authors end books particularly well?


PS: A new Risky is coming to town! Wait for her arrival sometime next week!