Some romance novels do not need to end with a happily ever after and that’s OK.

One of my favorite things about being a 25 year old in 2019 is that I am alive at a time where women are more sex positive than before. We are owning our spaces, demanding orgasms and acknowledging that there are more ways to exist in relationships, than the pressured rat race to slap on a label, get a ring and live happily ever after. So why aren’t our novels reflecting this?

I admit that part of the sell of a romance novel is the escapist effect. Person meets person, we get some insight into their background and slowly map our way with them as their paths inevitably cross. Then the dance begins, you know the slow but building banter, even if they hate each other first, we know they will still love each other so we smile indulgently, these kids do not know what’s about to hit them.

Then lust creeps in, the hot steamy, magnetic kind; if the characters aren't asexual or celibate, sex happens, good sex happens because bad sex can’t happen in a romance novel. Each character is very redemptive in the way they perform their love, they have to marry each other because who else will be that good to them? How can they ignore this grand grand gesture happening here? They have to take a break to think about it and then obviously get back together and live happily ever after. Right? Right?

Yesterday, I read this book where a city girl (let’s call her Susan) went to this small town, met her love interest (let’s call her Jane) who had mommy issues, abandonment issues, always inserted herself into every situation to make herself champion of the story and at every turn mocked the city girl’s love for her job and for the big life. The author, desperate to make this character work, ignored Jane’s very obvious flaw and played the card where Susan sees the “beauty” in the small town”, fall in love with the very manipulative Jane, give up her job and move. I couldn’t reconcile this ending because I couldn’t accept a story where this is painted as love in 2019.

I couldn’t accept a story where a woman couldn’t be successful and be enough by herself without having to justify her financial success at every turn (which she did, constantly). While this book centered queer characters, it still pandered to the notion where poverty was virtuous and being a single successful woman had to come with the responsibility of proving softness. I also hated, hated the fact that Jane never dealt with her own issues, that no one recognised how unhealthy and potentially toxic she was.

Would I have been fine if they had sex, recognised that they were too different to be together and went about their lives without being heartbroken? Yes, first because Susan would have dodged a bullet and second because it happens and that’s OK. Most people we meet are more likely to hook up to satisfy a temporary need, more people are not planning to ever get married and that’s OK. More people have more shit to deal with than seek happily ever ever in the form of romantic love, and that’s OK. So about this book, yes to including a toxic character, those exist, yes to giving them intense sex and make out sessions (more of that please), but please don’t paint their happily ever after, as the ideal. Don’t try to make us OK with it, too much work has been done in 2019 to try to sell us on that. Some romance novels do not need to end with a happily ever after and that’s OK.

Illustration by Tobi Fakile (@onlyteda)

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Writer, Clinical Psychologist

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