ionR: Are HEA-Endings Overrated?

Posted March 5th, 2016 by in Blog, Features, ionR / 46 comments

ionR: Are HEA-Endings Overrated? Boring Even?

Today we are discussing the possibility that happily-ever-endings are overrated among authors and readers alike. Is it possible such endings can be boring among readers? Join us today and be sure to share your thoughts with us.

Without a single doubt have I ever thought a happily-ever-ending as ‘boring’ or dare I write the word ‘overvalued’ among readers. My childhood was spent watching countless Disney princesses fall in love with the heroes of their time. Together, both princess and hero lived a magical dream that made the young girls in my neighborhood believe in love. Yes, I love a ending that is filled with love, passion and to believe that two people are capable of spending the rest of their lives with one another.
A few weeks ago I was having a friendly discussion with a few close friends of mine both authors and reviewers alike when suddenly the topic turned to HEA-endings. I was surprised, perhaps shocked is the word I should use to describe my reaction, towards the sudden agreement that such an ending was becoming out of style. I was in disbelief that some authors (names will not be mentioned) would consider a happy ending to be growing dull.
As romance readers we expect to have a happy ending. Many publishers will not publish a romance without a favorable ending. As a professional reviewer I am required to grade a joyous ending. So why are such endings beginning to wear thin with some authors?
Well, as one bluntly pointed out to me that such endings are getting “highly predictable” and that nothing ever “changes” when reading a romance novel. A friend of mine (strictly a reader) suggested that she grew tired of the endings because she didn’t consider the theme to be “realistic” to the modern-readers. Lastly, someone mentioned the fact that “men aren’t able to live to hype” of romantic heroes.
I do not entirely agree with any of those statements, but I think such topics are worth examining. Am I old fashion? Possibly, but it is who I am as both a reviewer and an individual.
Regardless of what I think it is important for such topics to be made to the public because it is you guys, the readers that make the true difference.

So what are your opinions? Do you still love an HEA-ending? Or do you think romance authors/publishers should consider the possibility of new endings? Please share your thoughts with us.




46 Responses to “ionR: Are HEA-Endings Overrated?”

  1. Shelley

    No way! That’s the definition of a romance. Do they want their mysteries and crime novels to go unsolved at the end?

    I am glad that the trend is away from HEA meaning marriage and/or pregnancy, because I do think that is overrated. That’s not a happy ending for every couple. But yes, the couple must end up together and on a path towards a life together.

  2. Debra

    I live to read HEA endings. With the way my life has been I am glad that I can read a love story that has a good/great ending. I need, crave, happy endings. Love when I read epilogue s to the story line also.

  3. ELF

    I depend on my HEA endings. Why would I invest the time reading about somebody else’s drama if I didn’t hope (and expect) that SOMEBODY is going to have a happy ending? I have plenty of sad or unsettled endings to look at in real life, so escapism is important and I want to feel uplifted or at least quietly satisfied when I have spent a few hours immersed in somebody else’s life. I have even stopped reading an author’s books (despite her skill at writing a compelling story) because she consistently started off with an idyllic life for a character, ripped it apart and stomped on it, before allowing the person to eventually find a new love. Despite it being fiction, I was just too saddened by the initial shock! If I want to be depressed, I can look at the news. If I want to be cheered up, I bury myself in a good romance!

  4. Ellen C.

    I’m all for the happy ending. If I want unhappy, I can get it from regular fiction, non-fiction, or the evening news. As for men not being able to live up to romantic heroes, I don’t expect them to. I haven’t read a book in years where the hero hasn’t had flaws or baggage from his past that affects his relationships. Thanks for an interesting topic…food for thought.

  5. Kella Campbell

    I think the ending still needs to be optimistic for the couple (the “happily” part) in some way. But I’m not sure that it requires a firmly nailed down ever-after every single time.

    I’ve definitely read some romance novels where, once the conflict is resolved and the couple is feeling the love, they could reasonably have been left as a joyfully committed dating couple rather than rushing into an engagement/marriage just to emphasize to the reader that it’s “forever.”

    • Maria Rose

      I agree Kella! Nothing wrong with a happy for now ending! I find it strange in fact if a new adult romance ends in a proposal – what’s the rush? These kids are usually just finishing college!

  6. Lisa M

    I like HAPPILY EVER AFTER-ISH … I like to be left knowing that the guy got the girl … That they got over the bumps leading to true love … Left with the probability of the AFTER being loving and never giving up on each other!
    I’m not opposed to a sadder ending or not getting the gal/guy as long as the characters have learned something, grown as a person, learned to love themselves … It’s romance … You want something romantic when you read romance or it wouldn’t be romance … Right?

  7. alterlisa

    In certain types of books I expect a HEA but I don’t want it to be easy or boring. When it becomes totally predictable, I’m likely not to finish the book.

  8. Maria Rose

    There are plenty of books out there with non-HEA endings. They are classified as fiction. I think a book labelled as romance has the expectation that the couple will be a) alive at the end and b) together at the end of the story. People who want stories without happy endings can find plenty in the non- romance market. I personally think the idea of labelling a book as being a ‘romance with a non- traditional HEA’ is just a poor marketing ploy. If Romeo and Juliet, considered a tragedy by Shakespearean scholars, were being marketed today it would be called a ‘non traditional HEA romance’ by publishers. Yes, it has a love story in it. But that doesn’t mean it should be found on ‘romance’ shelves.

  9. Maria Rose

    My personal opinion is that a story like something Nicholas Sparks writes for example, is better marketed as fiction with romantic elements or women’s fiction. It has a love story in it, but no guarantees of a happy ending. And lots of readers like not knowing if the couple will end up together, hence the popularity of stories like those. But to call them romances is disingenuous to the person who is reading for escapism and expects a happy for now or happy ever after ending and then gets blindsided when it doesn’t happen ( hence the current explosion in Romancelandia over the whole ‘non traditional HEA idea 🙂

    • Leone (@bookishromantic)

      @Maria I love your comments. Romeo & Juliet is one of my favorite novels of all-time and it certainly did not have an HEA-ending although it still involved romance. Outstanding response! 🙂

  10. JenM

    I read LitFic in my bookclub and it is invariably depressing. One of those a month is about all I can handle. If I want depressing stories, all I have to do is turn on the news. I read romances to get away from all that and to have those positive feelings and happy sighs. I don’t mind angst or drama as long as it all comes right in the end. I’m fine with an HFN rather than an HEA, but I need there to be some hope at the end.

    I hope that the publishers don’t start trying to push “non-traditional” endings. If they do, I think they’ll get push back pretty quickly from the romance community. I feel like they are just trying to capitalize on how well romance sells, without respecting that for most romance readers, the happy ending is a non-negotiable plot element.

  11. Kate

    I’m an author and a life-long romance reader, and I heartily agree with several of the comments. Maria wrote: “a) alive at the end and b) together at the end of the story.” And, Kella wrote: “But I’m not sure that it requires a firmly nailed down ever-after every single time.”

    I love romance but I am annoyed when the story is too far fetched, and by this I mean the highly unlikely “proposal.” Stories often end at a point in their relationship that it makes no sense for him to propose (they should just move in together or promise to explore their relationship) but instead a forced proposal is made to wrap everything up nicely. For me, HEA can mean proposal, or just a proposal to explore their relationship, or even (gasp) a Happy For Now ending when any other ending would stretch credibility. Menage a trois stories are an example—sometimes the 3rd is suddenly written out of the story so two of them can get engaged or there’s some sort of threesome marriage, when just ending the story in a place where all three are happy together with no promise of forever but a promise of giving it all they’ve got would be a more realistic ending. For me, if it feels real and plausible I’m happy for the fictional couple however the story concludes (provided they are together or it wouldn’t be a romance), but if it feels fake then I just get annoyed.

    Just my three cents.

  12. Monique D

    I’m fine with a “happy for now” ending, but happy nonetheless. There are not that many HEAs in real life, but I want my romance novels to end happily, at least for now.

  13. lauraboon2014

    Absolutely, I love a happy ending. I am a great reader, and for a while, I was persuaded to ‘upgrade to literature’. I found I was reading less and less, and I couldn’t understand why. After all, I LOVE reading. Then I realised it was because the books were all so unhappy and depressing. I turned back to romance and fell in love with books, reading and life all over again. There is enough ‘reality’ ‘out there’. I trip over it every day. It’s unavoidable. When I read, I want to be reminded about the better side of human nature, not the worst. I want hope, inspiration, uplifting behaviours like courage, determination, grit, loyalty, passion, love, happiness. All these qualities are out there, but romance is the only genre that celebrates them.

    In my opinion, in the hands of a good writer, an HEA is never predictable or boring. As a reader, I think, how on earth are they going to work their way through this mess? It’s one of the reasons I hang in there and read to the very end – to make sure they do actually get to their HEA. It’s part of the thrill of the story and also an element of the genre’s real-life inspiration – if the characters can do it, why then so can I. Work your way through relationship difficulties. Don’t give up, but, conversely, no when you deserve better.

    Many romance novels are extremely well written and the only people that don’t know that are the ones who don’t read in the genre. It took a while before the best of detective fiction was acknowledged as literature and made it on to university curricula. Romance novels are already there in the hands of Jane Austen and Charlotte Bronte. We just need to persuade the powers that be to look more closely at contemporary romance writers!

    • Leone (@bookishromantic)

      @Laura Your response is golden. I agree with you that readers need to get use to romance before liking the genre. I also agree that when author knows how to pen a romance novel it is never boring to fall in love with an HEA-ending. 🙂

  14. ndluebke

    At the age of 61 and reading over 100 books per year, I still perfer the HEA. That is one reason I like harlequin books. Any fiction book should be part fantasy or it isn’t fiction. Even in non-fiction, you are going to get some predictable endings. So for me YEA for HEA’s.

    • Leone (@bookishromantic)

      @Ndluebke I think it is very exciting that you are still very much in love with romance after one hundred books. It is readers such as yourself that makes such a large difference for both publishers and authors!

  15. Banana cake

    I like a happy ending, I know that it does not always happen that way in real life. I like to escape when I read and I like romance because there is always a happy ending. If I read a review for a book and it said there wasn’t a happy ending most likely I would choose not to read that book.

  16. infinitieh

    As someone who only started reading Romances in the last few years, and who grew up reading mysteries and scifi, I demand a HEA/HFN. Anything else is *NOT* Romance and I will give 1-star reviews across all platforms if I read a book labeled as such, not to mention badmouth the author whenever I can (yes, this is a sore point for me, stemming from a movie I watched many years ago that was seriously mislabeled as romantic). If there is no HEA/HFN, don’t call it a Romance.

  17. belindaegreen

    Ok, I have to wade in on this topic….why on earth would you call a book a romance novel and then not have a HEA/HFN ending? If you want an ending other than those then call it something else. If an author is feeling bored with writing HEAs then they should explore writing other genres.

    I read romance novels for the interaction of the hero/heroine and to follow the dance to their happy ending, whatever that is. If an author chooses not to have a happy/hope ending then they shouldn’t label the book a romance. It always amazes me when these negative topics come up about some genres. Where does this come from? Whose throwing shade? Why cause the conflict?

    Romance novels are a very popular, best selling genre. Start messing with it, you lose a lot of readers & revenue! I remember a few years ago the big thing then, romance novels were on the decline and would soon be dead….surprise!

    Thanks for the opportunity!

  18. Kathleen O

    I believe in a HEA, but I am also realistic that not every thing in life ends with a HEA. Sometimes we have to read books that deal in reality in romance. I leave that for Woman’s fiction where not every couple get there HEA.

  19. Suzie

    I want HEA but will settle for HFN . I also read for a break from my hectic life and I demand happy! I will not buy a book that I know doesn’t contain a happy ending.

  20. kermitsgirl

    “Lastly, someone mentioned the fact that “men aren’t able to live to hype” of romantic heroes.”

    Comments like that always annoy me. I always want to ask the person “do YOU live up to the romantic heroine hype?” Because I can guarantee the answer is no – she’s a normal human being. Just like men are.

    That’s not the point in reading to me. It’s one of the reasons I won’t read things like The Fault In Our Stars. I care about character growth, but not to the point where a character has to die, or the hero and heroine don’t end up together. Those seem like cop-outs to me.

    Sure, my husband and I fight – because we’re normal human beings. That certainly doesn’t mean we haven’t found our own version of happily ever after. It is possible, and that is what I want to read.

    Don’t give me drama for the sake of “believability” – oftentimes THAT seems less believable to me than the cookie-cutter HEA.

    • Leone (@bookishromantic)

      @Kermitsgirl Wonderful comment. I too do not believe that anyone should try to live up to the hype of a fictional character. We are individuals and romance novels are meant to be fun and entertaining. The fact that you are committed to your husband and he to you is what a true HEA ending is all about! 🙂

  21. Ellie Gray

    I think life is tough enough and, when I’m reading a romance, I love to be secure in the knowledge that, somehow, it will all work out okay in the end. How they get there is down to the skill of the writer in keeping my interest. It wouldn’t be the same if I committed my time and emotions, rooting for tbe hero and heroine, only to be ultimately let down at the end of the story when they decide it hasn’t all been worth it and they go their separate ways. I love writing and reading romance, safe in the knowledge that all will be well at the end – I don’t need to know if they get married and spend the rest of their days together, just that they’re are happy for now and going to give it a go.

  22. Maria

    Must have a HEA/HFN ending or I won’t bother to read it or buy it. Neither a HEA/HFN guaranteeso that everything is going to be perfect all of the time. It just guaranteeseems that the couple will stay together and work through the problems.

  23. Terrill Harris Rosado

    It doesn’t have to be a perfect HEA or typical. I just like knowing that the characters that I have invested my time in (at least the good guys) are content with their ending (or beginning.)

  24. Leone (@bookishromantic)

    We would just like to thank every reader for taking the time to share your thoughts with us regarding the article of HEA-endings. Everyone has wonderful opinions and we love, love reading what you guys think! So please if you haven’t commented yet please feel free to do so! 😀

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