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How do you feel about epilogues? Does it seem to anyone else that there’s a “current trend” going on to include them at the end of every story? I think every recent book I’ve picked up lately has had one. Is it a fad, or a change in readers’ tastes and expectations? Or is having that extra glimpse into the characters’ happy-ever-after ending something readers have always wanted all along? Do romances always need to have one?

TCD Cover-FinalI have been noticing and thinking about this, because I decided to add an epilogue to The Captain’s Dilemma while re-editing that book for reissue. TCD (my third book, published in 1995) is out now, I’m excited to report, on Amazon for Kindle and B&N for Nook, and also for Kobo and other formats through Smashwords. This is my “prisoner-of-war” romance. Read on below for details on the giveaway!

Meanwhile, back to our topic. I used to feel that a good romance that ended properly shouldn’t need an epilogue. If all the obstacles were overcome, the loose ends were tied up, and the hero and heroine finally figured out they were in love, admitted it to each other, and committed to a future together, that certainly seemed very satisfying to me! “Trail off into the sunset” endings were considered bad form.

Yet I think we all enjoy thinking of the characters we come to know and love during a good story as continuing on with lives that last beyond the pages of the book. So the question becomes, do you want the author’s view of it, or would you rather imagine it for yourself? And has this changed over time?

I used to call the lovely but inaccurate Allan Kass cover for my second book, The Persistent Earl, a “visual epilogue”, explaining that it showed the artist’s vision of the hero and heroine together after the story was over. (The heroine, a young widow, wears half-mourning throughout the book, but as you see here, on the cover she is in a beautiful gold satin gown.) Readers always thought that made perfect sense! Can you imagine the rest of this scene without having the words? I consider reading a collaborative process, and even though as an author I give the reader the specifics of my story, each reader brings some of her own imagination into the mix as she reads. I think that’s one of the great pleasures of reading, and one of the (many) reasons movie adaptations of our favorite books don’t always succeed –one director’s view of the story may not match up well with the personal version we have envisioned in our own heads. Ah, but that’s another entire topic.

My decision to write the Captain’s Dilemma epilogue was fairly easy –I never felt the book quite ended with all the loose ends tied up. More information about how the future was going to work for my French hero and English heroine was needed, but for the old Signet Regencies we had some strict length restrictions, and I had no room to add more back then. It has been great fun revisiting my characters and adding the extra scene they so deserved!

So what do you think? Are we seeing a “trend” for epilogues in romance now? Do you like them? If you are a fan of story epilogues, have you always been one? Is the abundance a recent phenomenon, or have I just become more aware of it lately? I’m going to give away a copy of The Captain’s Dilemma to someone randomly chosen among those who comment, and if we get a lot of comments, I’ll give away a second one! Keeping it simple. Please jump in. I’ll be very interested to hear your thoughts!

And if you want to know more about TCD, you can click here to see it on my web site. Or you can click here to see it on Amazon.

“Mom?” asked Miss Fraser, age 8. “How’s the writing going?”

“Pretty good,” I replied. “Rose had some ideas for putting more conflict in my Christmas novella, so I’m working on fitting those into the story.”

“What do you mean, conflict?”

“You know–all the bad things and problems that make a book interesting, that the characters have to work through to get to the happy ending.”

“Oh.” She frowned thoughtfully. “I have a good idea. You could put an earthquake in the story.”

“Well, that would be exciting, only the story is set in England, and they almost never have earthquakes there.”

Miss Fraser shrugged and gave me a look that said, Do I have to do EVERYTHING for you? “Then put in something they DO have.”

I then tried to explain about internal conflict and all the baggage my hero and heroine have left over from when they last met five years before, but her eyes started to glaze over. Miss Fraser thinks my stories sadly lacking in wizards, Greek gods, and clans of warrior cats going on quests.

Snowy England

A few days later I got into a conversation with my husband about how sometimes problems are easier to solve than you think. I had a character in my aforementioned Christmas novella whose existence was critical to my other characters’ lives, so I couldn’t just write him out altogether. But he had nothing interesting to do within the few days of my plot, and having him around was pulling focus off the characters who DID matter.

At first I was stumped, but then I came up with a simple solution: I changed my atmospheric Christmas Eve snow flurries to a wind-driven storm that accumulated thickly, and I made my extraneous character’s wife heavily pregnant instead of halfway through her second trimester. Voila! Now Harry the Necessary but Uninteresting wouldn’t dare venture on the roads and risk having his firstborn delivered in a carriage mired in a snowdrift, and all was right with my fictional world.

Mr. Fraser wasn’t so easily satisfied. “What are you going to do when some reader comes after you with an almanac proving it didn’t snow that Christmas Eve?”

I shrugged.

“You don’t CARE, do you?” he asked, eyebrows climbing in indignation. (I should note here that Mr. Fraser is a bit of a weather geek. As a child his dream career was meteorologist.)

“Look, I’m all about historical accuracy–to a point. I wouldn’t write Waterloo without the big rainstorm the day before, since it had a huge impact on the outcome of the battle, or forget that 1816 was the Year Without a Summer. But looking up the exact weather of every single day is several levels of obsessiveness beyond where I’m willing to go. Besides, this is a CHRISTMAS STORY. A white Christmas is a TROPE. It snows in England NOW. No one is going to have trouble believing in a Christmas snowstorm in 1810–especially given that the more of a weather geek they are, the more likely they are to know about the Little Ice Age and how much colder it was back then.”

“But what if 1810-11 was the warmest winter on record? What if it’s the year everyone talked about the daffodils blooming in January and all the young rakehells swimming naked in the Thames on Christmas morning?”

“Hmph. Unlikely.”

“Hmph. Where is your story set, exactly?”


Mr. Fraser opened a new browser tab for Google and searched for weather in Kent in 1810. When nothing much came up, he searched on London and found a bit of data, but nothing that specifically remarked on Christmas. Peering over his shoulder, I spotted a reference to the Thames freezing over in January 1811. “Ha!” said I. “I stand by my story.”

“But what if it was a sudden cold snap?”

“I don’t CARE. A white Christmas is a TROPE.”

I hope you’ve enjoyed this glimpse of living a writer’s life in House Fraser. Does your family give you helpful advice whether you ask for it or not? And where do you draw the line between accuracy and obsessiveness?

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