When I first started writing—back in the days when Silhouette existed and Amazon didn’t—I thought a happily ever after (HEA) ending meant a declaration of love from the hero and heroine followed by a marriage proposal. Then a wonderful editor told me that my HEA needs more. She said when a reader reaches “The End” they should believe the couple is in it for the long haul no matter what happens after the story ends.
Talk about a light bulb moment for this newbie romance author! I’ve tried to take the advice to heart on my subsequent titles. As I have, I've also noticed my personal view of HEAs has changed as I've gone from a single-twentysomething aspiring writer to a married-with-three-kids published author.
When I heard the song Thinking Out Loud by Ed Sheeran a few months ago, I tried imagining the hero and heroine of my then work-in-progress saying similar words to each other. At first I couldn't. Oops, but during rewrites I finally got to the point where they could, and I knew I had the HEA I needed. For those who haven’t heard the song, here’s the video:
Today at the funeral for my sister’s mother-in-law, I saw a real life HEA. Two people who made a seventy-three year marriage work. Seventy-three years! Talk about the long haul! Ed Sheeran sings about seventy. This couple was in their nineties. I asked my brother-in-law if I could blog about his parents who I first met in 1991, and he said yes. He thought his mom would have loved that.
When I arrived at the funeral home with my oldest daughter, my sister
greeted us. She mentioned the photos set out on a nearby table and how
one of them amazed her—a black and white photo of a much younger Wilma
and Herald in a passionate embrace. By the time my sister got married,
her in-laws were in their seventies so this was a new way of seeing them. I found the photo, and it
was a romance cover worthy embrace.
During the service,
Wilma’s children spoke about the last few months of her life. Wilma
couldn’t always remember things or people, including Herald. Once as she
was sitting next to him on the loveseat, she asked if he was really her
husband. Upon being told yes, she said then it was okay for them to
hold hands. Another story was how Herald had described Wilma shuffling
across the floor, but how she used to run and play. When Herald said
goodbye to her at the casket, I had tears running down my face. I can’t
remember his exact words, but he mentioned he’d be seeing her sometime.
Was Wilma and Herald’s life perfect? No life is, but through seventy-three years of good times and bad times (including the loss of a son and a grandson), their faith and love stayed strong.
For me, HEA means no matter what life throws at you, you and your beloved will get through it together. And in the case of Wilma and Herald, now separated by death, their love will remain until the "sometime" Herald mentioned when they'll be together again.
What does a “happily ever after” mean to you when you read a romance novel? I’ll randomly pick one commenter to win a mystery swag pack that includes an autographed book and other fun stuff.
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