Romancing the Happy Ending

iStock_000005852895XSmallCome a little closer.

No, that’s still too far away.

There’s something I want to tell you and only you.

I have a confession to make.

Please do not judge me too harshly!

You see, it’s all Davina’s fault.

She started it and now I must make this confession.

So, lend me your ear because I want to tell you that I …

Just adore reading romance novels:~)

A Novel Approach to Happiness

Some might say romance novels have too much loving and too little literary merit, but that’s not the purpose of my confession. I love romance novels because they always have good endings.

They’re kind of like Hershey’s Kisses. You know what you’re going to get and it usually makes you feel good.

A dialogue in a recent romance novel captured my attention. It’s at the end where the characters “live happily ever after.” In this book the author has a rather philosophical take on happiness.

The hero, Aidan, is responding to a question from his new wife, Eve, about whether or not there’s such a thing as “happily ever after”. Aidan answers as follows:

“No,” he said. “There is something infinitely better than living happily ever after. There is happiness. Happiness is a living, dynamic thing, Eve, and has to be worked on every moment for the rest of our lives. It is a far more exciting prospect than that silly static idea of happily ever after. Would you not agree?”

These lines sum up my belief in happiness better than most of the textbooks I’ve read on the subject. This got me thinking about what else romance novels have to say about happiness. Turns out, I think these books have features that are important to learning happiness. For example:

Happiness Thrives with Positive Thinking

In most romance novels the main characters have to let go of their doubts, fears or anger before they can truly be happy with the one they love.

This is also true about happiness. Negative thinking makes it very hard to be happy. Just as these characters do, we have to choose to let go of our own fears and doubts to experience happiness more often.

Happiness Needs to Be Acknowledged

Characters in a romance novel spend a lot of time being afraid to declare their love. However, by the end of the book they usually acknowledge their true feelings.

Happiness also requires recognition and acknowledgment; we must be willing to declare our happiness. By acknowledging it openly, we teach our minds to recognize it and file it as something important and valuable.

Happiness Requires Faith

Every romance novel has a time when one or both characters lose hope in their future happiness. Usually, there’s a situation or problem that seems insurmountable. Once resolved, however, their happiness prevails in the end.

There are times when we lose hope in our future happiness. This may be one of the hardest lessons we have to learn; having the faith that happiness is always a part of us, even when we think we will never be happy again.

I believe the characters in romance novels aren’t that different from you or me. They are seeking happiness and love, and they usually find it because they make an effort to work at it.

I think the same can be said about us; we also must work for happiness. This isn’t always easy, but it can be done.

Once again, Aidan’s words to Eve say it best…

“Happiness is a living, dynamic thing and it has to be worked on every moment for the rest of our lives.”

I believe Aidan’s got the right idea. Would you not agree?

P.S. Just in case you’re also a “secret lover” of romance books, the lines in this post about happiness were excerpted from a novel by Mary Balogh called “Slightly Married”.

37 comments on “Romancing the Happy Ending

  1. What a great post! (and what a provacative intro!!!)

    Yes, I am a romance novel lover, too. Yes, they are usually a little formulaic, but so is Law @ Order, that’s part of the appeal. I want to invest in the characters and go through all of the things you mentioned with them, because we have all felt those things, and we all want love. I want happy endings, too, and would feel hard done by without one! (I have read a couple that didn’t end well. In one, the entire thing was a remembering of her first love, so you knew from the start it wasn’t going to end well. The other was an ambush. No fair!) I love closing the book with a sigh and a smile.

    I am a little different in one respect, though. The romance novels I like are girl-meets-girl. Yes, there are such things. Are you kidding? Two women, hello, it’s like romance overload. *laffin*
    .-= Fireblossom32´s last blog ..Malus Domestica =-.

    • Sara says:

      @ Shay — I hate books that ambush you!!! I once read this mystery series and I absolutely loved the characters, a man and his wife. The series started with them, then getting married and then had a child. I patiently followed their family until the day the author killed off the husband. I was so upset and angry! I mean couldn’t she have just send him off to Timbuktu and at least let him live!! I never read another one of her books after that.

      I agree about closing the book with a sigh and smile….it’s the same feeling I get when I finish a bag of Hersey’s Kisses, only without the guilt:~)

      Hey, love is love. It doesn’t matter whether its different sexes or the same…it’s still LOVE:~)

  2. talon says:

    Loved this post, Sara. I used to devour my Mom’s romance novels when I was a pre-teen – the old school harlequin’s where almost every female character was a nurse and the male character was always a doctor. There would be a “nice” woman who was being ignored, while the “not so nice” woman was winning the heart of the dark-haired hero until he realized that “not so nice” isn’t the best choice. I imagine they have female doctors now and maybe a few male nurses even. I have to confess, though, that formula writing always bores me and I left the romance novels behind. The first novel I ever wrote (when I was 13 – lol) was a romance novel, but I didn’t realize it at the time.

    Happiness…to me it’s transitory. Certain moments stand out to me in my life as being purely and completely happy. And I’m glad that I know when it’s happening so I revel in it and I recall it when things aren’t so happy. When all is right in my little world with my family and friends, then I am content and at peace and couldn’t ask for more than that.
    .-= talon´s last blog ..Winterscape… =-.

    • Sara says:

      @ talon — I loved what you said about happiness. To be happiness, it almost has to be transitory or we would appreciate it for it is. I also agree that it’s very important to keep track of happy moments or times and use them when you need a boost.

      Being at peace and content is the best form of happiness I know of. Thanks for sharing your thought about this:~)

  3. Patricia says:

    I just love to read…and lots of things in our community are Davina’s fault these days – aren’t we so lucky! 😉

    I love Debbie MacComber’s (not sure of the spelling) Romance’s because I know all the places she mentions in the stories and they usually include fun knitting patterns in one set…my kids love her Christmas one each year just for the Happy Ever After…

    I just can’t limit myself…
    .-= Patricia´s last blog ..A Divine Listener =-.

    • Sara says:

      @ Patricia — I love what you said about Davina…it’s so true and so sweet:~) I’ll have to check out Debbie MacComber even though I don’t knit. I can’t remember which one I read, but one of the romance novels featured food from the Regency Period. Things like jellied eels and brains….yummy, right:~)

  4. I am a true believer, as Aidan, that happiness is a way of life from moment-to-moment, each and every moment. And I know you live your life that way too. And being grateful for what we have. We create out own happiness by accepting everything. “Slightly Married,” is that like “A Little Pregnant?” Intrigued!!

    xo
    .-= Jannie Funster´s last blog ..Harbinger Of Great Things To Come =-.

    • Sara says:

      @ Jannie — I wondered if anyone was going to comment on the title. If I remember right about this book…it was a forced marriage because they were caught in a compromised way…meaning they were probably kissing. Back then, it didn’t take much to end up married:~)

      I agree with you about happiness and that really is the focus of this post. In my case, happiness is something I work at, but it’s good work. I remind myself to stop and notice a happy moment. A few years ago, I wouldn’t have done that and missed the moment:~)

  5. Wilma Ham says:

    Hahaha Jannie, yes slightly married sounds interesting.
    Hi Sara and all.
    As romance novels are written by people, who live life and thus observe and have the same thoughts as I do, I do think romance novels will have a lot in them that I can experience too.
    I like to think that the writers allow themselves to imagine what we would like in real life but do not dare.
    When I was young they must have been a way to help my imagine what life could be and as a result I live my own romance now in real life, ha.
    Mind you not with a doctor and i am not a nurse but romance it is.
    xox Wilma
    .-= Wilma Ham´s last blog ..Wilma on Fear of Losing Love =-.

    • Sara says:

      @ Wilma — I’m glad that your found your own special “romance.” I hope the writers don’t act out their romance novels in real life…they’d be really exhausted all the way:~)

  6. Davina says:

    Hi Sara.
    As you know, I love romance novels too. My mother used to read a lot of them and I guess she got me into them. Haven’t read any in a while though… except for one last September while I was on holiday. I love reading Danielle Steele’s books. And yes, I can’t recall reading one romance novel that didn’t have a happy ending. Thank you for the mention 🙂

    I see you have a new puzzle game in your sidebar. Hmm… off I go now.
    .-= Davina´s last blog ..Getting Sensual with Creativity =-.

    • Sara says:

      @ Davina — You’re welcome about the link….I had a great time with that post and filling in the “rest of the story.” I’ve read Danielle Steele’s book, but prefer Regency Era romance.

      Regarding “happy endings,” I believe we all have the opportunity to find them, except they aren’t usually endings…rather the ebb and flow of life’s happy times:~)

  7. Davina says:

    Woo hoo. Puzzle done in 1:10! 🙂

    Here’s a tip… before you start moving pieces around and the timer starts… look at the pieces. Pick out the 4 corner pieces and get a sense of where all the edges are. Then start by placing the four corners; build the frame and fill in the rest.
    .-= Davina´s last blog ..Getting Sensual with Creativity =-.

    • Sara says:

      @ Davina — Thanks for noticing the new puzzle and posting your time.

      Also, JC sends his thanks to you for your puzzle hints. He was struggling a bit with this puzzle and still hasn’t beaten your time….but he’s working at it:~)

  8. Hi Sara – That’s an amazing description of happiness. I love that we often find the deepest understanding of human emotions through literature. I read a lot of romance novels when I was younger; now I’m more into family sagas, kin to romance novels if you ask me. But these days I’m rereading Pride and Prejudice, which could certainly be classified as an early version of a romance novel. I read it first years ago; then read it again recently, and as soon as I finished I decided to read it yet again immediately! Can’t get enough of this 19th century dance between Mr. Darcy and Elizabeth, I guess! Thanks for this, I really enjoyed it.

    p.s. I know you were wondering at my last comment, so I just wanted to tell you that I sure am on my working vacation in the woods. But right now I’m in a wonderful little coffee house in the town of Sebastopol, CA. It’s great to be able to take my secluded getaway but still keep up with my favorite writers!
    .-= Patty – Why Not Start Now?´s last blog ..Being Alive =-.

    • Sara says:

      @ Patty — I know Jane Austen would be horrified, but let’s face almost all the Regency romances are very loosely based on her books:~) Have you read any of the Linda Berdoll books, like Mr. Darcy Takes a Bride: Pride and Prejudice Continues?” I haven’t read them, but my older daughter, who is a great fan of Jane Austen loves the series!

      I agree with you about getting our “deepest understanding of human emotions through literature.” I’m sure there are people who would upset with the idea of putting romance novels in the category as literature, but these books help me get in touch with being happy…a feeling that makes me feel very good:~)

  9. Chris Edgar says:

    I like that way of putting it — that it doesn’t work to be constantly fixated on the goal of happiness in the future — we need a way to enjoy the process of getting where we’re trying to go.

  10. Haha Sara,

    I thought you were showing us what a vixen you are – in the photo. Is that you?

    I’m a sucker for happy endings. I get disappointed if I read a book or see a movie and they don’t end how I think they should. It’s like they let me down. BooHoo! 🙂
    .-= Barbara Swafford´s last blog ..I Want More Comments =-.

    • Sara says:

      @ Barbara — NO. That is not me. I wanted to use a photo that gave the “come hither” look:~) Oops…I didn’t realize I forgot to give credit to the photographer, something I always try to do even when I use stock photos:~(

      I agree with you about unhappy endings in books. I will read nonfiction books about people overcoming difficulties that may or may not have good endings, but not fiction books. Even mysteries, which are my favorite fiction book genre, I want to have a good ending…they’re not always “happy”, but fair:~)

  11. Caity says:

    I love how you are thinking about this. I feel the same way about most of these points. Maybe I should start reading romance novels. You should make a post of recommendations of once you’ve read recently that you’ve enjoyed for people who might want to start reading some! I wouldn’t know where to start!
    .-= Caity´s last blog ..I wanted soup! =-.

    • Sara says:

      @ Caity — I tend to read a specific type of romance novels that’s called “historical” romance, but there are tons of options. The best place to start is with Jane Austen’s books — they are the most remarkable stories in that they were written a long time ago, but the characters’ personalities are appropriate for any age! My favorites are Pride and Prejudice and Persuasion. For more modern day books, the author I mention in the post is also a good example.

      One of the funniest authors I’ve read is Julia Quinn, specifically her book “The Viscount Who Loved Me.” There one scene in this book where they’re playing a game called Pall Mall (kind of like croquet, but NOT), which I love. I have read this book again and again and each time I get to this part, I can’t help but laugh because it is really funny:~) See, I’m already feeling happy just telling you about these books!

  12. suzen says:

    Hi Sara! I went thru a phase of reading romance novels I think in my 30’s. That said, I haven’t read one in at least 30 yrs. but I HAVE said I need to write one!!! haha! I read voraciously but it’s primarily all non-fiction, biography, etc. and while it’s “nice” if a book has a happy ending, it’s often so predictable it loses its zing. I have hurled books across the room for lack of a good ending but that is the very story I remember the most – hmmmm.
    hugs
    suZen

    • Sara says:

      @ SuZen — That is downside of romance novels…they are predictable. The frame of the story is pretty much the same, but I find that the ones I willing to read again (and yes, I do read them again) have something special in the characters.

      I would love it if you wrote a romance novel, as long as it has Millie in it somewhere:~)

  13. Mama Zen says:

    What an interesting take on the romance novel!
    .-= Mama Zen´s last blog ..Destination Unknown =-.

  14. Keith Davis says:

    Hi Sara
    Came over from Barbara Swaffords site after reading your thoughts about getting comments. You made some great practical points so I had to discover what you blog about.

    Happiness! Not a small or trivial topic and one that we will be discussing in a thousand years time.
    I don’t have any answers but I Guess I’m happier now than I’ve ever been. Perhaps content would be a better word than happy.

    Everyday things make me happy:
    Being with the family.
    Having a nice meal.
    Relaxing with a drink.
    Relaxing and watching telly… good old BBC.
    Finding a great graphic on Flickr.
    Sitting and writing a good post.

    Yes… content might be a better word, but being content makes me happy.
    .-= Keith Davis´s last blog ..Practice, practice, practice… =-.

    • Sara says:

      @ Keith — You picked a very interesting post to land on!!! I am pleased, however that you came to visit.

      Regarding happiness, the one thing I’ve learned it that it has so many variations. Certainly, contentment is one of them and something we all seek in our lives. May you continue to be content and happy being so:~)

      BTW I visited your site and like it very much. Your approach to public speaking makes it seem a lot less daunting:~)

  15. Tony Single says:

    In the words of Albert Schweitzer: “Happiness is nothing more than good health and a bad memory.” 😛

    Seriously though, I do like that character’s quote about happiness. Very nicely put actually. I guess romance novels aren’t a total waste of time after all!

    Kidding! I’m just kidding! I don’t think I’ve ever read a romance novel in my life except for the aforementioned Pride and Prejudice by Jane Austen. What a terrific writer she was! I have yet to sample any of her other works though.

    A romantic movie I saw once was Lost in Translation starring Scarlett Johansson and Bill Murray. That movie is one of my all time favourites and is one of the most romantic things I have ever seen, and the ending was just perfect. Anyone who’s seen that will know what I mean! 🙂
    .-= Tony Single´s last blog ..Of Jaywalkers and Hitlers =-.

    • Sara says:

      @ Tony — In addition to being “happy” books, romance novels can also be very funny.

      I agree with you totally about Jane Austen. You should try her other works. I also liked the movie, “Lost in Translation.”

  16. Hilary says:

    Hi Sara .. I loved the picture .. but I thought the caption was a bit much .. no room on the sofa, or chair, .. but I love her calf .. beautifully depicted in the picture – oh where are mine??

    I haven’t read many romance novels .. for years – but up at the Nursing Home I read a Russian ballet one about life at the time of the Tsar’s demise .. that didn’t end happily as such .. though she continued to dance in America, without her lover ..

    Your points on happiness are well made and I often pick up sentences, words or phrases as I scan through various articles – not many books at the moment. It is a work in progress ..and always should be – it’s not something we can be complacent about ..

    Good thoughts and a good post to read through ..
    .-= Hilary´s last blog ..Alpha, Treacle, Beta, Dogger, Snow – what do they mean to you? =-.

  17. Hey Sara,
    I loved this post! So hot and loving 😉
    Ok..i used to be an avid romance novel reader…but somehow grew out of it.
    Irrespective i am still a hopeless romantic….and i think most of it culminated in those first few years as a teenager when i read about chiseled abs and undying love 😉
    Happiness the romantic novels style is such a novel approach..i love it…:)
    Much Love,
    Z~
    .-= Zeenat{Positive Provocations}´s last blog ..Three Feathers Today for My Little Angel =-.

    • Sara says:

      @ Zeenat — Thank you for your nice comment. I keep expecting to grow out of romance novels, but it doesn’t look too promising. Just writing this post made me re-read a few of my favorites. The novels I read aren’t about women fawning over half-naked men, but rather are humorous views of human character.

      I’m pleased that you are a hopeless romantic. I think everyone should be one:~)

  18. Keith Davis says:

    Hi Sara
    Thanks for visiting my site and leaving a super comment.
    Much appreciated.
    .-= Keith Davis´s last blog ..A helping hand… =-.

  19. I must admit any romance I’ve written has been edgy. Many thanks for the visit to my blog.
    .-= Anthony North´s last blog ..GRADUATES =-.

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