Before I begin, I’d like to clarify that the happy ending I’m going to write about is the one that happens at the end of a story and not the one in a massage parlour!
I am an avid reader of romantic fiction. For me, it’s pure escapism at the end of the day and helps to slow down my brain ready for sleep. I want to drift off thinking about happiness, love and hope – not blood and guts, some weird alien attack or wound up like a spring after reading a murder mystery novel which scares the pants off me.
I have a collection of ‘go to’ authors, whose easy style appeals to me: Jojo Moyes, Carole Matthews, Danielle Steele, Jill Mansell, Olivia Goldsmith, Freya North, Wendy Holden, to name a few. ‘Danielle Steele!’ I hear you gasp! ‘Surely, you don’t read her books?’ Yes, I do. Mainly because I get given them by my Mum who is an ardent fan. There was a time when I became bored by them. The formula was too obvious and the themes too repetitive but some of her latest books have captured me and I’ve enjoyed reading them.
There is a common misconception that romance novels are sugary, light and have no depth or it’s something older ladies read. I defy anyone to maintain that viewpoint after reading ‘Me Before You’ by Jojo Moyes. I cried so much I could hardly breathe and it raised so many interesting questions that are still whirling around my mind weeks after finishing it.
Modern romantic fiction is a broad genre, tackling a wide variety of issues. Sub-genres include romantic comedy (where you make a fool of yourself in the search for Mr. Right), paranormal romance (sex with a ghost?!), erotic romance (full-on steamy sex with no holds barred), romantic suspense (it takes until the last page for you to know if they got together) and contemporary romance, which reflects the ever changing lives of women today. These books are predominantly written by women who have probably experienced first hand or vicariously through their friends and family, the topics that women want to read. The quest for finding true love, divorce, juggling marriage with the constraints of modern life, improbable relationships and widowhood are common themes. I was surprised to discover that there are very few novels which tackle cross cultural relationships and so decided to write my own. Hence, ‘Seeing the Truth’ was born.
One of the concerns I had while writing my debut novel was whether, as I would market it as a romance, it must have a happy ending. My first draft had a shocking cliffhanger ending which I thought would be a refreshing change. However, after much research and asking the question on romantic fiction forums and websites, I learnt that not having a happy ending was a definite no no. The response was that women read romance to escape from the drudgery of their own lives and even if their own love life is not all they desire, they want to know that there is hope and that being swept off your feet by a handsome stranger with a fairytale ending does happen – even if only between the pages of a book. The reader needs to feel satisfied that all the conflict and tension has been resolved. But does that mean that the protagonists have to get together and live happily ever after?
This is the question I am dealing with in relation to my next book – a sequel to ‘Seeing The Truth’. Can Kaye have a happy ending to her story without being with Vedat? Does being happy mean that you have to have a significant other to achieve it? Is it unrealistic to expect that all relationships work out in a world where divorce is so common? Real life is not a fairytale. Should I stick to the norm for the genre or shall I break the mould and go for a more realistic ending?
I would be really interested to hear your views.