Happily Ever After

by Nancy Northcott
How many fairy tales have you read that end “and they lived happily ever after?” A lot, I’ll bet. One feature that sets romance apart from other genres is that the characters will live happily ever after (HEA) at the story’s end. A lot of critics and non-romance writers mock the genre for this (and a lot of other things, each of which could be its own blog), but romance outsells all other fiction categories. We must be doing something right!

As we grow older, I think each of us redefines what HEA means to us. It isn’t necessarily moonlight, roses and champagne every night, nor does it require happy, happy harmony every day, as the fairy tales seem to imply. I think HEA means finding someone who’ll be there for you, in good times and bad, someone who won’t run for the hills when the going gets tough. Someone who’ll understand that you aren’t being snappy because it’s “that time of the month” or because you took a witchiness pill but because there’s something wrong. Someone who can’t wait to share his successes with you because he knows you’ll appreciate what they mean to him and is equally eager to share your triumphs because he understands why they’re important to you.

A lot of romance readers and writers haven’t yet found their HEA with their Mr. or Ms. Right, yet they come back to the genre time after time. I occasionally read more mainstream fiction, but I have limited interest in stories that end “they survived, scarred but at peace with themselves,” or some variation thereof. I want the heroes and heroines to triumph, no matter what the genre. It makes me feel good, picks me up after a bad day, and reassures me that at least one other person–the author–believes difficult situations can turn out for the best.

What brings you back to romance? Is it the happy ending? The emotion in the story? The optimistic tone? Let us know!

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  • Anna Campbell says:

    Nancy, that was a really lovely post. Thank you! I think I come back to romance for a lot of reasons. And no, not just the naughty bits ;-)Jennifer Crusie says people read romance because they want emotional justice. And I think that’s true. When the hero and heroine get their happy ever after, they’ve been through trials, they’ve been tested and found to be worthy. The happy ever after in a good romance actually means so much more than two nice people heading off into the sunset together.

  • Donna MacMeans says:

    Nancy, your post made me sigh – ahhhh…I love Happily-ever-afters.

    However, that’s not why I read romance (grin). I love the feeling of falling in love, of someone discovering what a worthy person you are and pursuing you (and not in a creepy way) because you give them something they can’t find within themselves. I love that falling in love feeling, and I relive it with every romance I read. Ahhhhhh….

  • Keira Soleore says:


    Life doesn’t have to be filled with the dreary and the mundane. Life can also be a pink frosted cupcake. Romance novels make me believe that.

  • Caren Crane says:

    Keira, I love pink frosted cupcakes! *g* Like Donna, I enjoy the feeling of falling in love. I also like seeing each character notice the lovely qualities of the other. The things that make the loved one special, unique, the one.

    I think, in real life, it’s easy to feel overlooked. In a romance, the heroine is not overlooked. She is appreciated and admired. That is the feeling I am after. The one that makes me sigh each time. They found each other!

  • Anna Sugden says:

    Aww lovely post – I love Happy Ever Afters, Nancy.

    Even though I’m one of the truly lucky ones who has found my HEA, that doesn’t stop romance from being my favourite type of book or film.

    Why? I love the journey – the meet, the development of the relationship, the trials and the resolution. I especially like to see the total of a pair being bigger than the sum of the parts.

    And I love that happy feeling of satisfaction at the end that makes you want to sigh.

    (though I’ll take one of Keira’s pink frosted cupcakes too! *grin*)

  • Helen says:

    I read romance because I love all the hero and heroine go through to be with each other the way they learn about each other and the trials they go through. They take me away to another place that I can loose myself in I love the way they support each other and the understanding they have for each other and a good author brings this all out for the reader. I love the optimisiam and the emotion in the book as well as all the other good parts of course thanks Nancy great post.
    Have Fun

  • Terry Stone says:

    Great topic.

    The reason I read romance? I love that spark when the h/h finally realize, OMG-this is the person that I want to be with forever! The anticipation, the long looks that make you experience that stomach flip, and the fulfillment of their expectations of each other, or even their disappointments in each other.

    It’s like falling in love everyday, a not so acceptable past time in real life ;0), but more than acceptable in a book. Hmm, looks like a windy way to say falling in love and happily ever afters, doesn’t it.

  • MsHellion says:

    Hope. I haven’t found Mr. Right (though I had some fun with some Mr. Right Nows on vacation)–but these books are a sort of validation, that if you’re your best true self, you will be rewarded. They remind me I don’t have to be Angelina Jolie to get the guy (Okay, though possibly being more of a humanitarian might get me more brownie points).

    There’s a bent lid for every pot. I just hope my bent lid looks a little bit like Orlando Bloom…or Jack Sparrow.

    Plus I love reading those sizzling “I’m falling for him” awareness moments. I love that feeling.

  • Christine Wells says:

    What a great post, Nancy! I think the word ‘triumph’ sums it up for me. There’s a great sense of catharsis in romance, when you’ve seen the hero and heroine fight the worst that life deals out to them and win.

    It’s not just a matter of the writer telling you they will have a HEA, she makes you believe it, because they’ve already shared so much throughout the book.

  • DownUnderGirl says:

    I read romance because I want to escape to a better place. Who wants to read about a hero who’s let himself go and has an annoying habit of cutting his toenails and eating them ie. real life? We can get the realities of life every day, all around us. I want to read about the stuff that comes before and up until the HEA (the bit before the hero thinks its perfectly okay to ingest his own toenails – in front of you). A hero that makes your toes curl and a heroine whose skin you can slip into and enjoy that wonderful feeling everyones talked about, of falling in love again. And also that can’t-wait-to-tear-his-clothes-off feeling that doesn’t last forever.
    What comes after the HEA is just life. And its what we live everyday. Who wants to read about that?

  • DownUnderGirl says:

    Sorry – that last comment was me. Amy Andrews

  • Keira Soleore says:

    Caren and V.Anna: Here’s the ballerina from Seattle famous cupcake store, which sells only cupcakes and coffee.

    Hellion: Yes, hope! That one word is the best descriptor, isn’t it?

  • Caren Crane says:

    Keira, those look divine! We have nowhere around here that really specializes in cupcakes. I made a special trip to a place in NYC which did that. They were divine! But The Ballerina looks even tastier. Dang, now I’m hungry…

  • Caren Crane says:

    Terry, that’s it! Falling in love is so addictive. Who wouldn’t want to do it every day?

    And Mshellion, keep the faith, girl. Your bent lid is out there. Maybe he’ll be a little Orlando, a splash of Johnny and something else so divine you can’t even imagine it. The part that was created especially for you. It will happen for you!

  • Caren Crane says:

    Amy, you made me laugh! I was talking to someone about that today. Romance is awesome, because it’s mostly pretty and new. Twenty years later, those flirty dimples might cause trouble, but at the beginning it’s all so charming! *g*

  • AndreaW says:

    What keeps me coming back? Heroes and heroines that I come to love … sexual tension between the two … and, of course, a happily ever after.


  • Anna Sugden says:

    Oooh those look almost as yummy as the ones from Magnolia’s bakery in NYC – the bakery featured on Sex and the City *grin*

  • hrdwrkdmom aka Dianna says:

    The HEA does it for me, I haven’t found Mr.Right and I may not, but everytime I read a romance, there he is, for someone. 🙂