Whether or not romance novels should always end with a happily ever after has had some pretty serious discussion. One erotica author, Remittance Girl, has even gone so far to as examine the HEA motif as the focus of her PhD studies. Some readers demand it or they don’t want to read your work. Others find it a cop out.
So what’s the right answer?
As a writer, I don’t think there is one. Studies have shown time and again that readers want to feel good. They want a satisfying ending. For the majority of the books I read, I do too. However, every now and again, I come across a book – or movie – that does not have a happy ending and find that I am just as satisfied.
The first movie that comes to mind is Message in a Bottle starring Kevin Costner. This story actually has a tragic ending, and yet for the development of the characters played by Kevin Costner and Robin Wright, the ending was necessary for the character’s ultimate growth. I really can’t see that movie ending another way.
In fact, my favorite book of all time, Dragondoom by Dennis L. McKiernan also has a tragic ending, yet the love that Thork bears for Elin is timeless and enduring. I cry every single time I read that book and love it just the same even though I know I won’t get the ending I want.
All of this is very long way of saying, that I think readers as a whole are intelligent enough to know that sometimes books, like life, don’t go the way you want them too, but this doesn’t destroy the value of a story.
Hell, Titanic remains one of the highest grossing films of all time and we all know how that story ended!
I love a good happy ending, but every now and then a not so happy ending is just what a story needs. Rather than avoid them, I say let a story go where it goes. Each tragic ending only makes us appreciate the happy ones all the more.