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!