What is a Happily Ever After?
Today’s guest post is written by Magdalin Laine. Her stories focus on dark feminist themes that interweave with the taboo and forbidden.
It is a widely accepted custom that in order for a book to be considered a romance novel, the plot centers on a romantic relationship, and the ending must be a Happily Ever After, or in short, a HEA.
This last part has always tripped me up.
For a long time I thought the stories I wrote were romances. For one thing, they were inspired by romances. The plots were all emotionally driven, revolving around characters who fell in love or fought against falling in love but still did against their better judgment. Because love itself is supposed to be irrational.
But I never wrote my stories with a strong intention that these two people falling in love would be together forever. For the most part, I was more concerned with giving them the chance, and seeing where it led. So although every story I wanted to write about seemed to center around romance and the idea of love and relationships, Most of the stories I’ve written do not fit into the romance genre.
(Her Least Favorite Husband is the only exception so far as it managed to hit all the check boxes on the list.)
The problem is that I tend to think about the world too critically. It’s hard for me to believe improbable stories where millionaires fall in love with single mothers who can’t make ends meet. (Even though that’s exactly the reason we need stories like that. To remind ourselves there are always possibilities and hope to look forward to.) And some of the stories I was beginning with just didn’t lend themselves to a happy ending.
Take my first novella in the Mia Thorton series as an example. It is called Her Favorite Daddy and it recounts the summer that Mia Thorton turned eighteen years old and fell in love with her mother’s sixth husband. Just from the get-go, the story is set up where at least one of these three characters is going to be upset.
Most romances with similar plotlines villainize the mother character. I’ve read it time and time again that as long as she’s irredeemable then it’s okay. Sometimes these books manage to bend the laws of rationality and have characters “simply get over it.” Which is definitely something I wish could happen more in real life, but humans and their emotions are never that simple.
Because at the end of the day, these books involve secrets and shame and the taboo. They ask how far one can go and still retain their respectability. They have complicated family ties and sometimes cheating. The plotlines are driven by drama that cuts into characters’ trust of one another. These stories are juicy because they do not affect you personally. And the moment it did, the moment it wasn’t fiction, you might realize it’s not the kind of story you would want to live.
And they all have “happy endings.” Because they must in order to be a romance. And some of them are believable. Some of them I love. But most of them have cracks in them, they have glossed over plot holes and missing details, and unmentioned aspects that come with these kind of relationships. And the more of them I read, the more I realized I didn’t find the endings happy at all.
So when I decided to write my own version of the stepfather romance, I knew I couldn’t give it a happily ever after. I couldn’t take this young eighteen-year-old heroine and let her settle into a life with an older man who saw her as a child, controlled the money, and could ultimately mold her into the perfect partner that he couldn’t find in her mother.
But in taking away the HEA, I was giving my young heroine so much more happiness. The possibility to find a better match. To find a relationship that was more equal. The chance to grow, to change, to be more than the constraints of the relationship with her stepfather would have allowed.
That’s why each book in the Mia Thorton series features a new love interest for her. The first three books are out now with many more to come. Her Favorite Daddy, Her Least Favorite Husband, and Her Favorite Brother.
Will she get a real happy ending? One that doesn’t get undermined by the next book? Yes. Someday. Just not yet.
Because I haven’t earned it yet. There are too many cracks. I don’t want to gloss over any problems or leave stones unturned. The happy ending needs to be earned. And I need it to exist more than simply because that’s how books are supposed to end.
Magdalin Laine is an indie author of four novellas and two novels. She leads a boring life which is why she writes outrageous love stories. Many of them start with favorite cliches and quickly spin into one scandalous situation after another. The emotions are always high, the intensity builds to a fever pitch, and readers should expect that anything can happen. If you’re looking for a darker kind of romance in your life, then you need to read her books.
Outside of writing, she enjoys running, eating so much food, and drinking too much coffee. She has one cat named Marmalade, and one roommate named Cat.