These days, before a publisher signs an author, the author must show that the story has a ‘happily ever after’ ending. Why is this? Because books with happily ever after endings sell better, that’s what readers want. No one wants to read a book where the hero and heroine fall in love, live happily and then dies in the end- it’s depressing! Readers want to live vicariously through books and they don’t want the love of their lives, their soul mates to die in the end- it’s heartbreaking!
Women want to be Olivia an ill-repute actress in a torrid illicit love affair with Jasper, Lord Saxton the future Duke who then proposes marriage without giving his father’s threats a second thought in His Wicked Heart by Darcy Burke, or Taylor who spends a week with Dominic at a resort in an effort to get pregnant and in the end ends up with both the baby and the man in Irresistible Forces by Brenda Jackson. They don’t want to be a widow, standing at her soul mate’s graveside reminiscing about their happy moments before he was either shot, or killed in a freak car crush!
For a few hours of their lives, readers want to be someone else. They want to be swept off their feet and made love to until their toes curl by a caring and loving Adonis because so far, their love and sex lives in the real world have been disappointing. (And only to be fair, I don’t think men can live up to the sexual masters and perfect boyfriends/husbands described in some books). Also, readers envy the fact that their problems aren’t solved in the few hours it takes them to read that book, or that those same problems don’t get resolved and end the fairy tale manner they do in books. And once that kiss, or smile or touch or the image of their love child crawling around their feet in the last scene signifying the end of a beautiful love story, it means the characters will be happy and in love forever after the words ‘The End’.
I believe our need to have happily ever after ending is because we’ve already been conditioned to believe that, that’s how a love story should end and therefore expect it. By conditioning I mean that all the fairy tales we’ve read or watched as children had this poor, abused and timid girl who was saved from her horrible life by a strong, courageous, handsome, rich and assertive prince and they dance in a beautiful ballroom to celebrate their love.
And if you take a hard look at the romance books produced now, here is that ‘Cinderella and Prince Charming’ element. The man is usually a billionaire CEO of an International company with the body of a Norse god ever lusted after by women who go weak in the knees when he smiles, is Prince Charming. And Cinderella is a beautiful, strong and yet vulnerable and naive ‘nobody’ with little to her name until that fateful chance meeting that changes her whole world. Her story ends with her marrying the billionaire Norse god and she finally becomes ‘somebody’ with the world at her feet. An example of a Cinderella story is Ocean’s Between Us by Helen Scott Taylor.
In truth as much as I’m sure many other authors don’t like it, if you expect to get a publishing contract, no matter the fiction genre slap a happily ever after to the ending of your book. And if you don’t want to, you may be lucky to find a publisher who’ll publish your book as is, if not get ready to self-publish (which sometimes works for some authors).