The Importance of Happily Ever After, or Why Romance Sells

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Happily ever after is the hallmark of fairy tales and romance novels. Lest it sound juvenile, fairy tales are enjoyed in many forms all around the world by adults. Romance is the best selling fiction in the world. Could there be a connection? It might be because innately, we need the reassurance a happy ending brings. Here’s what I think.

In a world fraught with problems, both in the family and in the world, it’s helpful to have something hopeful to look forward to. Sometimes a little escape into another person’s life with the guarantee of a happy ending is enough to get us over the rough bumps and jolts of our daily lives.

Even people who don’t believe in happy endings often spill happy platitudes. When a friend is going through troubles, often people will say, “I hope things turn out for the best,” or “Something good will surely come of this.” Isn’t that, in essence, hoping for a happy ending?

I recall a friend of mine whose husband was in the hospital for a long time battling a rare cancer. She is an independent, professional woman, with ties in the upper echelons of academia. The months she sat by her sleeping husband’s bedside, she read. She read romance. She devoured one book right after the other, going through several each week.

I told her, “I didn’t expect you to ever pick up a romance novel.”

She answered, “It’s the best thing for me. It gives me an escape from the nightmare I’m living in, and it always turns out happy. That’s what I need right now, a happy ending.”

I’ve never forgotten those words because that was the first time I realized what purpose romance novels serve. They help women sort through confusing emotional situations in relationships, and in life. They help us figure out answers to mundane problems, such as how to juggle a family and career. Literary fiction deals with more of the soul searching issues. Romance can take those issues on too, but in most cases, it deals with questions EveryWoman has about everyday life.

One of the first romances I read, long lost to the winds of time, was an historical romance. The story unfolded about a woman moving to Australia in the 1800s to support her husband in his vineyards. She was a mail order bride, and had never met him. She agreed to a contract with him, and she honored their contract, showing great fortitude in a strange land, fighting against nature to create an oasis in the desert. At times it seemed they would lose everything, the land, the employees, and each other. Of course, it had a happy ever after. They did lose the vines and employees in the end. However, they still had each other, their dream for the future, and the strength to replant and start over.

Since that day, I’ve been hooked on stories with happy endings. They don’t need to be romance, but they definitely must end on a positive note, or I feel cheated.

Share your thoughts:
What do you think? Why do people flock to stories with happy endings?




12 comments:

  1. I agree that it's a great escape. Happy endings make me happy. Because in real life that doesn't always happen.

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    1. Ah, if only happy endings were the norm in real life. But we can always hope.

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  2. I agree, a romance novel should end in a HEA, or a HFN. I don't need it to end with marriage, and an epilogue with a baby. But it is nice to read about their journey to find each other, and how they learn about the other, and learn to compromise, because the other is worth it.
    I do like reading other genres as well, but yes, usually there is a romantic interest on the horizon, or being pursued by one.

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  3. Aurian, when I think back to all my favorite movies, even if the topic of the movie isn't romance, there's at least a subplot of romance in it. I guess I just like people to get together. :-) I'm with you...I don't need to know all the follow-up with kids and marriage, unless it's a story about a marriage on the rocks and they get back together. Thanks for always coming by and commenting on our blog.

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  4. I think that's why I returned to writing romance - I love writing those sweet moments when the hero and heroine connect!

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  5. I agree, Deniz. The sweet moments are fun to write!

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  6. In my teens I read sweet Harlequin books that all had a happy ending. It was a wonderful escape during those years and I've always appreciated it. Even today, I might appreciate the artistry behind a unresolved or dark ending, but I don't love the story. My happy ending books -- I treasure them for years.

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    1. I agree, Bridgette. I do love books that are more arty, but the happy endings are the ones that stick in my mind.

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  7. Reading romances is like living a different life. There's no other moral way to feel all those great feelings of first real love without cheating. That's how I feel, at least.
    Happy endings raise endorphins. Our bodies crave them. :)

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    1. That's a good analysis, Kate. I've heard that about the endorphins before.

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  8. Oh, I agree. I think most of us have enough to worry about in our lives and we like to escape through books. So, not just happy endings, but books that take us to new places, either through setting, or in the emotional context of the book.

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    1. Your books do just that...take readers to new places.

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