What Defines a Happy Ever After? by Rachel Dove

Rachel DoveUrsula Bloom was a celebrated novelist who wrote over 500 books, an achievement that earned her a Guinness World Record. She wrote countless happy endings, tales of loss, of love, of new beginnings, and of tragic endings. Reading about her own life is astonishing in itself – losing a husband to illness just two years into their marriage, faced with the prospect of widowhood and  raising a son alone. She wrote her first book at the tender age of 7, and later in life danced with the Prince. An actual prince. It’s a story that should be shared with everyone, and shared on the big screen, but at what point would Ursula have written the words The End in her own life? Where would she have declared her happily ever after to have been found?

JoJo Moyes recently penned After You, a book based on the aftermath of an ended love affair, and Helen Fielding crushed us all when she wrote About A Boy, years after the fantastic Bridget Jones books. (I still haven’t quite forgiven you for that, dear Helen, I love your books – they lay dog eared on my shelf, re-read every year, but still – Darcy? Really? My lip still quivers when I think of it.) The question is, was the happy ever after when she finally got with Darcy, or at the end of the last book?

As writers, we put our characters through the mill. We kill their spouses, their children, their parents. We enable relationships to break down, be ripped apart. We take their jobs, their homes, their security. Sometimes, after all that, we even kill them off. I have even in the past ripped people apart by wolves. And thoroughly enjoyed every minute.

Anyone who has heard of Game of Thrones will tell you, don’t get attached to the characters. Don’t trust, don’t fall in love, and the same can be said for romance. This is where the other side of the coin present its shiny face. Who wants to read 200 + pages of people ‘getting on’?

The truth is, no matter at what stage of life our characters crash into our world, either on the laptop, the notebook, or on the page, the journey is the key. Whether it is first love, last love, learning to love again, learning to love themselves, we join them at the beginning of the story, and we ride the rollercoaster right along with them.

I remember sobbing in bed for a whole hour at the end of Me Before You, wailing and gnashing so much that my husband actually feared for my health, but you know what? I read the sequel, and my friends and I will be there at the cinema when the film comes out. Why, I hear you say? Why, when you know the pain that is to come, the feeling of loss?

I know the answer to this. It’s the journey, it’s the first touch, the first kiss, the gradual falling in love. The jumping over obstacles, defying your family, finally realising the nice guy in the background IS the loving, sexy man that will still thrill you, body and soul, 9, 18, 27 years later. The pain is worth it, for the happy ever after. Because we all want that, deep down. We all crave the cheesy run through the airport to declare our love ending. We all want the underdog to win, the nice guy to finish first for a change, the woman to find that love does indeed conquer all, and that a broken heart can be kissed back together.

Of all the genres out there, romance is one that is dear to many hearts. We all want to be wooed, wowed, stunned, and swept away. Travis Maddox, heck, any of the Maddox brothers had me at ‘I belong to you’, Heathcliff would have me scratching at the window post death, and I would still manage a sly wink in Rhett Butler’s direction before I hit the deck. Ursula Bloom knew this, and weaved tales that kept us turning the pages, book after book.

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The Chic Boutique on Baker Street by Rachel Dove