One thing that is non-negotiable in the Romance genre is the HEA, or Happily Ever After. That’s right, just like the fairy tales of old, readers expect a Happy Ending, although sometimes you can get away with HFN, or Happy For Now. But…
Why Is the HEA So Important?
Insistence on a happy ending is one of the main reasons the Romance genre is sometimes ridiculed, by those who are not regular readers or writers. Critics proclaim, “It’s not real life” and “It gives women unrealistic expectations”.
The common response from those defending the Romance genre is, “It’s just fantasy. Of course the Heroes and Heroines are larger than life; of course we want everything to work out in the end. It’s an escape.”
But Can It Really Happen In Real Life?
While it may be true that both sides have a point, I am here to tell you that the argument is irrelevant. Because Happily Ever After is real, it can happen in real life! It’s not just a made-up fairy tale. I’ve seen it, and I was reminded recently of what true love really is, when someone close to me passed on.
This woman led a turbulent, remarkable life. She married young, and had her first child at 19. By the time she was 20, she was a divorced single parent, at a time when that was not a cool thing to be. At 22, she remarried, and spent the next eight years in an abusive (physically and mentally) relationship with an alcoholic husband. She had three babies (daughters) in three years, at a time when there was no such thing as disposable diapers. With the help of her eldest daughter she managed to survive, dreaming of a day when she would regain her freedom.
Her second husband (the one described above) committed suicide when she was 30 years old and pregnant with her fifth child. Ready to start a new life, she moved across country (from the East Coast to the West Coast), and delivered a healthy son. Since she had been a stay at home parent most of her life, she drifted in and out of jobs the next several years, relocating her family numerous times, sometimes as often as three times per year. It seemed she was always searching for something, and never finding it; always hoping that the next home, the next job, the next man, would be the one to finally bring her happiness.
Though not conventionally attractive, she was vivacious, and rarely lacked for male company. By the time her children were grown, she had married three more times. All were short-lived, based on hope and companionship, and sometimes chemistry; but it seemed that true love was always just beyond her reach. She never gave up hope, though. Each relationship disaster just seemed to make her more determined.
Just When You Are ready To Give Up….
She wrestled with her own personal demons; she even battled cancer, and came out victorious. But it was at a time in her life when the fight had seemed to go out of her, when she was lonely and felt she had been abandoned by the rest of the world, that she met a very special man.
He too, was a cancer survivor; he too was alone. They had an instant connection, an attraction, but more than that, they had an understanding of each other. From the moment they met, they were inseparable, and for the sixth time in her life, she married at age fifty-five.
They settled down to a life in the countryside. They made a home, and spent the next twelve years happily enjoying each other. When family and friends came to visit, it was obvious to all this was a match made in heaven. The restlessness, the sadness, the searching was over for her; for she had found her true love.
True Love Is A Real Thing
But that was not the end, though it would have seemed the typical HEA. Sadly, the last eight years of her life were spent with a debilitating illness, which kept her in constant pain. Several surgeries and numerous medications did not help, and she slowly deteriorated, requiring more and more care. Her husband rarely left her side, and caring for her became priority number one in his life.
Until one day, when she took a turn for the worst. A massive stroke had taken its toll, and the doctors were not optimistic for her recovery. It was at this time I came to see her, to pay my respects to one of the dearest friends I have ever had. Illness, age, and the catastrophe of her stroke had rendered her a shell of her former self. For me, it was heartbreaking to see her in that condition, knowing how vibrant and feisty she had once been.
But her husband looked at her with such love in his eyes, she may as well have been a fairy princess in a fancy gown. He came to see her every day, talked to her, and told her he loved her, though it was clear she could barely comprehend her situation. But at times she did recognize him, and you could see for a fleeting moment, the love in her eyes, reflected back at him.
She passed away a short time later, leaving a void in the lives of everyone who knew her. But for all her struggles throughout her life, she finally had a Happily Ever After. In real life, there will still be illness, trouble, and danger, but if you find your one true love, you can get through it. My friend was married to her last husband, her one true love, for more years than all her other marriages put together. Their devotion to each other, their unconditional acceptance of each other, that’s what made it last.
That is the true definition of an HEA. Never give up hope, my friends.
Do you believe in Happily Ever After?
Update: Her husband only lasted ten months without her. He passed away right before the holidays, and now they are together. That’s true love…