And They All Lived…Together, Apart, or Not At All?

For this week’s topic, one of the foxes asked, “Do you prefer Happily Ever After endings or Happy For Now… and how about Tragic Endings?”

Depressed housewife and an iron.As a romance writer, my definite go-to is HEA. I think that stems from my experience with reading romances. I didn’t start reading them until I was a super-busy working mom. Ever since I was in grade school I’ve had trouble turning my brain off and going to sleep. When children came along and my responsibilities multiplied, there were so many details to attend to, so many things to worry about, and when I’d fall into bed I would always remember one more thing that should have been done. (Actually, I still struggle with this, but now that I’m retired it’s not always crucial for me to be well-rested in the morning.)

woman reading

There’s no better way to end the day than relaxing with a good book!

I found one way to deal with my insomnia was to read. I discovered paperback romances at my local library while my daughters were there for story time. I read one, got engrossed in the heroine’s struggle, and rejoiced with her happy ending. And then I slept. Soundly. I read another one the next night and enjoyed another good night’s sleep. On nights I didn’t read I didn’t sleep well. The next week I went back and signed out several more paperbacks to last the whole week, and by the end of the month I’d rearranged my weekly schedule so that on weeknights I had at least a couple of hours at the end of the day to read.

Of course, I wasn’t able to read every night, but I found that on nights I couldn’t read it was easier for me to relax and go to sleep when I thought about a book I’d read previously. It finally dawned on me that what helped to me sleep was the emotional journey of the main characters: they had a conflict, dealt with it, and by the end of the book all was well. That feeling of being able to let go of a major problem is what allowed me to empty my mind enough to let go of the current day and re-charge for the next one.


I met Rita Clay Estrada, founder of Romance Writers of America!

Later on, after I started writing, I wanted to emulate those stories that helped me get through that challenging period of my life. Inside one of the paperbacks was a note about the author, Rita Clay Estrada, and her organization called Romance Writers of America. I went online and found a local chapter and started attending meetings. And I started plotting out stories where the hero and heroine always end up together. I also continued to read – and found out there are many types of romances.

I learned not every book has to end with a wedding or even a promise of one. There are books labeled “Happily For Now” (HFN) in which the protagonists end up as a romantic couple, but no mention is made of a permanent relationship. In one book I read the two people live on opposite ends of the country and they’re satisfied with that. They did make it through whatever major conflict they had to deal with, but they don’t actually end up married or even engaged. I admit I was disappointed with that ending, even though I know this happens in real life. It didn’t have the kind of resolution that helped me let go of the day’s concerns and relax.

Puccini_ToscaAs for tragic endings, I tend to avoid them. There are several movies I haven’t watched because I know they end badly. The exception to this would be when I watch tragic operas – last week I went to a production of Tosca, and while the musical performance was wonderful, the rather depressing storyline didn’t affect me the way that movies like Ghost and Love Story did. Maybe it’s because I was listening to the performance rather than watching and getting wrapped up in the plot. I found Romeo and Juliet more heartbreaking than West Side Story, even though they’re basically the same tale. But maybe that’s the musician in me. When hubby has the TV on I can tune it out – until someone starts singing!

As a reader, do you have a preference for how the stories end?


About Patricia Kiyono

During her first career, Patricia Kiyono taught elementary music, computer classes, elementary classrooms, and junior high social studies. She now teaches music education at the university level. She lives in southwest Michigan with her husband, not far from her five children, nine grandchildren (so far), and great-granddaughters. Current interests, aside from writing, include sewing, crocheting, scrapbooking, and music. A love of travel and an interest in faraway people inspires her to create stories about different cultures. Check out her sweet historical contemporary romances at her Amazon author page:
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14 Responses to And They All Lived…Together, Apart, or Not At All?

  1. Jeanne says:

    Definitely HEA for me. It’s a lot more satisfying. I never cared much for Danielle Steele, although I know many others love her work. That whole ‘triumph over tragedy’ thing just doesn’t appeal to me.


    • Patricia Kiyono says:

      I never cared for Danielle Steele or Diana Palmer either, though I think a lot of that is because the way those heroes treated the heroines basically amounted to abuse. It made me wonder what happened after the wedding! Thanks for stopping in, Jeanne.


  2. jeff7salter says:

    What I’ve mostly written, in the 11 complete novels and 3 complete novellas (so far) is HFN. To me, that settles most of the “business” and gets the couple together on a positive note. So they — and the reader — can hope for the best. But it doesn’t nail down exactly how they’ll be together… plus, it leaves open the possibility of a second episode!.


    • Patricia Kiyono says:

      Very true, Jeff. And I suppose one or two of my stories leave the door open for a breakup – or a sequel. And the one I’m struggling to finish definitely does not a traditional romantic ending. Maybe that’s why I’m struggling!

      Liked by 1 person

  3. Stacy McKitrick says:

    For a romance, I expect (DEMAND) a HEA or HFN. No deaths. I read one where the hero died at the end–and it was labeled a romance! I nearly I threw the book away. I like happy endings and I would prefer the couple be TOGETHER at the end. Whether or not they’re married is immaterial.


    • Patricia Kiyono says:

      I agree, Stacy. If it’s going to be promoted as a romance, then the couple needs to be together – as humans, no ghosts! Thanks so much for stopping in!


  4. Ann Kilter says:

    I enjoy happy endings, but I remember books with tragic endings that speak to meaning. The good earth. The fault in our stars. Gone with the wind. The notebook. Also books about overcoming difficulty. The help. Nor just romance, though romance can be an element in the story.


    • Patricia Kiyono says:

      Yes, I enjoyed all those titles, Ann – except the Notebook. As I mentioned, I avoid romantic stories that I know end badly. I guess I should have been more specific and asked about whether a romance can truly be labeled as such if it doesn’t end happily. Romance is definitely a thread through most of these. Thanks so much for weighin in!


  5. Therein lies the difference between a novel that is considered a ‘romance’ and one that is a ‘cozy romance’. I will have to gather my thoughts for Friday, but I have to disagree with you that “Ghost” has a tragic ending. The tragedy was that Sam was killed at all, the ending was filled with hope of eternal love, and life after death, in another realm… and HERE, for Molly. But I agree with you that “The Notebook” has a tragic ending.I guess it’s all in the way it is presented, and there is the BIG Question:How to tell a story well.


    • Patricia Kiyono says:

      I guess you’re right about Ghost. It’s been a long time since I’ve seen it. Maybe this would be what they call a bittersweet romance. Still, even though it ends on a relatively high note I don’t care to see it again because the couple doesn’t end up together. Thanks for keeping us honest, Tonette.

      Liked by 1 person

  6. pjharjo says:

    For the most part; I guess I prefer HEA, but not always. I thought both Ghost and Love Story were great movies. I even went right out and got my own copy of Ghost. Probably the only reason I don’t have a copy of LS is bc it was back in the day. Of course, I haven’t enjoyed all stories with a tragic ending.


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