I have done it! I have finished my latest historical romance!
Hooray, I hear you say. At last.
It has been polished, re-polished and sent winging its merry way to The Editor, the god-like creature who will pronounce judgement upon my baby. As some old writer hack said, “parting is such sweet sorrow.”
It is an anxious time.
But while I wait, chewing my nails to the quick, I have been pondering on Life, the Universe and…
The end, the finish, finale, culmination, conclusion. It sounds so, well, final, doesn’t it?
But we know it isn’t.
In a romance, when the hero takes the heroine in his arms at the last page for the Happy Ever After ending, we know that in real life that isn’t the end at all, it’s just the beginning of another chapter but it is left to the reader to make of that what they will. Either to leave the characters to their HEA or to imagine them caught up in future trials and tribulations.
Unless, that is, the pesky author writes a sequel, which we then just have to read, to satisfy ourselves that our cherished hero and heroine are still safe and happy.
Of course, some authors help us out.
At the end of P&P dear Jane ties up everything very neatly in a couple of paragraphs, describing Lydia and Wickham’s precarious lifestyle, the reconciliation with Lady Catherine and generally suggests that All Will Be Well.
That is good enough for me.
Life Is Full of Endings…
Leaving school, quitting a job, moving house, divorce, the loss of a loved one…
In the great scheme of things, perhaps coming to the end of a project is a pretty minor thing, but for any kind of artist, you have put time and effort – your heart and soul – into creating something. When you finally decide it is done, there is always a reaction.
Anyone who has been involved in a stage show knows that after the euphoria of the last night party and relief that all that hard work is over, there comes a period of low spirits, of feeling lost. Aimless.
Bookish endings can have vastly different effects, depending on whether you are the reader or the writer.
In my own case, with my writing hat on, getting the story down is the first priority and that can be difficult. When I actually get to the end of that first draft, my initial reaction is usually, “Thank **** that’s done!”
Of course, once it is revised, polished, edited and actually published, I am much more sanguine. Writing a book is very much like giving birth, joyous, yes, but also long, painful and messy. Thankfully, in most cases, the tedium, pain and mess are soon forgotten and only the joy remains. So much so that writers can’t wait to start the process all over again!
As a reader…
As a reader my reaction upon finishing a book is very different. My favourite books are those that I do not want to end.
Also, books that I can return to, time and time again, getting more out of them with each reading.
This applies to almost all Georgette Heyer’s historical romances. These Old Shades, to name but one. Or Sylvester. Cotillion maybe? Or…..
Then there are the books where one can heave a satisfied sigh upon completion. Well-crafted crime novels fit this category for me, Dorothy L Sayers, for example,
and the Anne Cleeves Shetland series. I recently listened to Cleeves talking about her books, describing them as “village noir” and herself as a human geographer, using the culture and communities of the islands as well as the landscape as the backdrop for her crime novels. I can disappear into her world very easily.
Romance, of course, should allow the reader that satisfied sigh, even if the story doesn’t always end happily. Romeo & Juliet must be one of the most famous romances of all time, and yet we all know It Did Not End Well for the star crossed lovers.
However, Shakespeare knew a thing or two about customer satisfaction. His lovers were united in death and their feuding families were reconciled.
Not the happiest of endings, but satisfying.
This doesn’t only apply to books that end tragically.
In a romance, if I am not convinced the characters deserve their HEA ending, then a book does not work for me. It is not only in crime novels that I like a certain justice to have been achieved by the end of the book.
I have avoided mentioning specific titles here, as I would hate to spoil anyone’s enjoyment (and books are so subjective, aren’t they?) but the ending of one book is so well known that I will take a chance on mentioning it. Margaret Mitchell’s Gone with the Wind.
Now, I read this in my early teens and haven’t touched it since (it’s so long and there are millions of other books out there, waiting to be read!). Perhaps I was too fixed upon the love interest rather than the book as a whole, but it left me very unsatisfied. The constant bickering between Scarlett and Rhett wore me out. And Scarlett was so full of herself! She might declare that “Tomorrow is another day” but I never believed that Rhett would come back.
It didn’t help that I had seen the film, and didn’t take to Clark Gable. To a young teen he was, well, old. (Oh dear, now I have probably offended someone. Sorry. But we can’t all like the same types, can we? What a boring world it would be if we did).
Cue a bit of gratuitous eye candy.
You know, to start researching it, getting that first draft done, then writing it up. To the End.
So, dear Reader, how about you?
Are there any books that stand out as particularly satisfying? What are your go-to comfort reads?
And if you have read something with an unsatisfactory ending, have you been brave enough to try something else by that same author, in case it proves to be an absolute gem?
Do tell, dear friends.
And talking of HEA endings, my latest Melinda Hammond Regency Romance, Duke’s Folly, is out now on Kindle…