There are lots of tropes in romance. One that I love, that lured me into the genre, is the promise of the happily-ever-after. That no matter what the author does, how twisted the plot becomes, I am going to get a happily-ever-after.
Yes, I know the real world doesn’t work this way. All I have to do is turn on the news to see that.
But reading is an escape for me. A chance to see bad people get their comeuppance. A chance to see characters learn and grow, rather than make the same mistake eighteen times and wonder why it’s still a mistake. Not that I know anyone like that…
Romance novels give this to me. It’s also why I choose to read them and to write them.
Lately, I have read a couple of books that were marketed as romance, but they lacked a true happily-ever-after. Seriously, if the heroine dies in the end, even to save her family, her lover, and the world, this is not romance. Perhaps it’s fantasy. Maybe it’s women’s fiction.
But it is NOT romance.
I have added the author that did this to my “never read again” list. Yes, harsh, but if I want a nebulous ending, I am completely capable of choosing another genre to read. Those genres may or may not give me a happy ending, and I know that walking into them.
Books like Uprooted are hard core fantasy, and while there is sadness and loss in it, we still get a satisfying ending. An ending that doesn’t kill off the heroine.
Certain tropes in romance will never appeal to me. I want my heroines to have agency, and rape is abhorrent. I will stop reading at this point.
This is part of the reason why I choose to write fantasy romance. I can create worlds where women can have power, own land, and fight wars. In addition to wielding magic, riding dragons, and having tea with elves.
Still, the happily-ever-after ending is more than a trope. It’s a keystone of the genre.
If a novel doesn’t have it, you don’t have a romance novel, no matter what an author tells themselves or their reader.
And frankly, I don’t need any more sadness. I want the happy ending.
My promise to you is that my romance novels will always have a happy ending.