Who decides a happy ending?

I’ve been told that one of the qualifying rules of a good romance is that it has to have a happy ending, where the hero (or heroine) gets the guy/girl (or whatever couples permutation the romance takes) in the end. But who decides what makes an ending happy or not?

I enjoy a fine romance, myself. Or, at least, I enjoy examining the relationships that exist between people, whether they be family, friends, or lovers. (Enemies count here, too, I suppose, but they don’t exactly fit into my topic of romantic relationships.) Just as relationships come in many forms, though, so, too, does what constitutes the “happy ending.”

Disney-fied romances tend to happy-end with the heroine (it’s usually the heroine on the quest) marrying the hero, the man of her dreams. Tragic romances, of course, end with the hero and heroine falling in love but then losing each other in some way, usually death. (Here it could be said that death ends all love affairs, whether successful or not, but that’s a topic for another day.) For my own tastes, I like seeing the hero and heroine finding happiness…but what brings happiness to one couple might be very different for another.

Ross, the hero of my (first? real?) novel, Fearless, starts out a rather typical self-centered young man, who finds himself falling completely in love with a girl, for whom he’d overcome damn near anything. (And he’s got to overcome a lot, over the course of the story. But then, that’s where the title comes in.) But sometimes the happy ending for which many of us long just…isn’t what’s meant to be. Life gets in the way; events interrupt. And people change. A hero should change for the better, through his story, and whatever his quest may be: a challenge from the heavens, a challenge from a rival, a challenge from without or even within. But even a changed hero sometimes just doesn’t fit into the stereotypical happy ending.

For the characters in this book, being fearless is about more than just facing up to the challenges that block your path to the happiness you seek. It’s also about letting go, even when it hurts you more than anything.

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