Sun
May 13 2012 10:00am

Epilogues: Yea or Nay?

Somebody to Love by Kristan HigginsMegan:
Epilogues, authors tell us, are a way for us to glimpse what happens after the Happy Ever After. In the epilogue, all is right with the world, the hero and heroine have adorable children being adorable, they are still madly in love with each other, and you can close the book knowing All is Well.

In one of my favorite books by one of my favorite authors, To Love A Dark Lord by Anne Stuart, there’s an epilogue. An epilogue with many, many children and a specious amount of billing and cooing between the two formerly spiky and delicious hero and heroine:

“It’s hopeless,” Emma said, tugging the twins close. “Your father’s too tenderhearted for the likes of you. Let me warn you, children, that there’s nothing more dangerous than a reformed blackguard.”

compared to when Emma and Killoran first meet:

“Logic impels me to assume you’re a doxy, set on robbing one of your customers....I could be mistaken, though. Are you?”

“No.”

“Pity,” he murmured, letting his green eyes slide down her disheveled body. “You could make a fortune.”

Did I need to see this hero and heroine all spoony about each other, not to mention their multitude of children in the epilogue? No. I do not. I do not care. In fact, I actively loathe epilogues. I do not read romances to read about people being happy. I read romances for the journey of falling love, the conflict and agony of heartache. Not so I can see wee moppets that look just like the hero or heroine (your choice! sometimes both!) romping about while the parents sneak off to get some because they’re still that into each other. I don’t believe it, I don’t like it, and I don’t want it.

Myretta:
Oh, come on, you curmudgeon. Of course you care. You might not want to read about it, but admit it. You’re reading romance. And what’s more, you write romance. You want the happily ever after. You just don’t want to be slapped in the face with it.

And, while we’re admitting things, I will admit that the epilogues that slap you in the face with the hot-for-each-other couple and their 2.5 well-adjusted adorable clone-of-their-parents kids are more than I want to read as well. But I will not tar all epilogues with that brush.

I just finished reading Kristan Higgins’s  new Romance, Somebody to Love and – gasp – it has an epilogue. Not an epilogue with cute kids (although the heroine’s son does make an appearance, but he’s been around throughout the whole book, not to mention throughout The Next Best Thing, his father’s story). The epilogue in this story is the hero and heroine’s wedding. It wraps up the action, sets up the Happily-Ever-After, and, at the very end, makes you laugh. It’s not Chapter 39, because there’s a hiatus between the proposal and the wedding – not an unusual occurrence. But, if it were Chapter 39, would you like it? Read the book and find out.

Julia Quinn’s The Viscount Who Loved Me has what I think is a completely necessary epilogue. It takes place many years after the end of the book and, yes, it has one cute kid and hot-for-each-other parents and, does the other thing that I usually hate in an epilogue, which is set up the next book. However, what it does right is show us the hero, who throughout the novel believed he would not live past the age at which is father died, celebrating the birthday his father never reached. It was a short, touching scene reported by Julia Quinn’s venerable Lady Whistledown. Maybe what came after was stuff that Megan would find annoying, but that first part was absolutely essential.

The Epilogue in Judith Ivory’s The Proposition takes place not long after the hero and heroine’s wedding and is, no doubt, meant to show a couple happy with their circumstances and expecting their first child (I can hear Megan shudder from here). But I mention this one because of the beginning in which Winnie brings her husband a puppy from the beloved Rat Terrier he gave up when he went from rat catcher to duke (this situation requires a separate blog). Mick’s delight in the new dog and Winnie’s joy in the gift make this a wonderful addition to the story, bringing life back to normal after Mick accedes to the dukedom and returns Winnie to her ancestral home. This is possibly another epilogue that Megan might accept as Chapter 30.

So, yes, Megan. Sometimes epilogues are too pat and too twee. But sometimes you need them to answer questions that are left hanging after the end of the story. What should we do about that?

 


Myretta is the co-founder and current manager of The Republic of Pemberley, a pretty big Jane Austen web site. She is also a writer of Historical Romance. You can find her at her website, www.myrettarobens.com and on Twitter @Myretta.

Megan Frampton is the Community Manager, Romance, for the HeroesandHeartbreakers site. Her epilogue reads, “She lives in Brooklyn, NY, with her husband and son.” You can find her at Twitter @meganf, or on her website, http://meganframpton.com.

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18 comments
Saranna DeWylde
1. Saranna DeWylde
I think it depends on the story.

Not every book needs an epilogue, but some do.

I am guilty of using the epilogue. *hangs head* I use it to show that the baddies do get punished beyond the immediate capture/foil of their dastardly plots and to hint at future stories.

I even used it in my memoir.

I love the HEA, that's why I write/read/breathe romance. But I will agree sometimes it's too sweet and makes my teeth ache more than if I'd been eating frosting with a spoon.
Carmen Pinzon
2. bungluna
Some books desperately need epilogues. Others are just too cute to stomach. I like the ones that tie up lose ends and give me a glimpse of the future. I loathe the ones that parade the rugrats and are so sweet they give me a stomach ache. One of my favorite epilogues is 'Chapter 17' of "Bet Me" by Jennifer Crusie. 'In case you were wondering' gave me closure and an idea of the future of these characters that I'd enjoyed so much.
Janga
3. Janga
I agree that some epilogues are needed to put the final touch on the "cake" that is the story and others just pile on the frosting. But I adore most of them. What can I say? I have a sweet tooth.

I am far more likely to complain about an ending that leaves the HEA in doubt than I am to gripe about an epilogue. A hearty Yes! to all Myretta's examples, but the epilogue of Jill Barnett's Bewitching is my all-time favorite. I need that epilogue with its floating chair and pink rose petals and six children who are a mix of mortal and witches to assure me that the dour Alec has really changed enough to value all the magic in his life.

It should come as no surprise that I'm a big fan of JQ's second epilogues, especially the one for When He Was Wicked, and the extra chapters of Eloisa James. And Mary Balogh's added epilogue for The Christmas Bride--I love that one.
Miranda Neville
4. Miranda Neville
Some readers love epilogues, some don't. I say to the latter: don't read them.

I love them - though I'll grant that some are oversweet. I enjoy a glimpse of what the HEA is like, and in some cases - as in the JQ one Myretta cites - they are necessary to tie up loose ends. I'd rather have the rugrats in the epilogue than cluttering up the next book in the series.

Janga: I had no idea there was an added epilogue for The Christmas Bride, one of my favorite Baloghs. I couldn't find it in quick look at her website. Where is it?
Lindsay Beeson
5. lindsayb
I love epilogues in historicals, heck, sometimes I like them in movies! They can be cheesy at times, but for the most part I prefer them. If the book is a part of a series I don't necessarily think they are needed, although I usually enjoy them even then. If the book is a stand alone I really do want an epilogue.
Saranna DeWylde
6. dick
Romances have to end happily, but the "ever after" can only be glimpsed in an epilogue, and, if one believes, as I do, that romance fiction is a repository of traditionalism, even the babies play a part.
Cristina P
7. krissapl
I agree with @Janga. I like epilogues. Better to have one and be very sweet that to leave a book without proper closure.
Janga
8. Janga
Miranda, The Christmas Bride epilogue is in the Excerpts and More section of Balogh's web site. Here's a direct link:
http://www.marybalogh.com/bride-epilogue.html
Saranna DeWylde
9. Janet W
I'm voting for epilogues -- for all the loose ends to be tied up suits me fine. Sometimes they can be too sickly sweet but usually they just leave me with a smile.
Vanessa Ouadi
10. Lafka
I just love epilogues. All of them, even when they are definitely not necessary, even when they introduce us to the hero and heroine's little clones, even when the once tortured hero and the once witty heroine get all lovey-dovey. All of them.

Of course, it's even better when the epilogue actually brings something to the story or stays true to the characters _ Julia Quinn's The Viscount who loved me is in deed a good example, given than a good part of the book is based on Anthony's certainty that he'll die before reaching 39 of age.

Another epilogue I loved was Jennifer Crusie's Bet me's. It didn't focus only on the hero and heroine, I guess it was more like a "what have they become" section : we know what all the characters of the story, including the bad guy, have made of their life, and I loved every word of it!

I even go for "second epilogues" stuff _ like those special christmas novellas that bring the hero and heroine back after their HEA for another round. Julia Quinn made me so happy with her Bridgerton's second epilogues! So did Lisa Kleypas with her Hathaways 2.5.

It just makes me happy to witness the real HEA of a hero and a heroine I've seen struggling for love.

Epilogues are to a book what the candy-coating is to a chocolate cake. They just make things even yummier! ;-)
Akinna E
11. Akinna
I love love love epilouges! But they can get a bit too sugary..I remember one I hated (don't remember the title of the book) where the epilouge was in the form of a Christmas letter that the heroine had written. They had four children (I think) and they were all lawyers, doctors or something equally prestigious and everything was ridiciously sweet and perfect. It was just too much and I remember rolling my eyes a LOT during this epilogue. Still, as I said, I love them. Especially if the heroine is pregnant, I want to know if they had a boy or a girl (don't ask me why, I just do), what they named it, I want to "see" their reactions and wouldn't mind finding out if they added a couple more kids and a dog to the mix. I feel cheated if a book with a pregnant heroine ends without at least a scene at the maternity ward or an epilogue :)
Tori Benson
12.
I am an epilogue ho. *hangs head* I always want to know the "after" in the "happy ever". Though, I have read a few that totally went off the reservation and only confused me.
Wendy Lewis
13. wsl0612
Count me in for the epilogues too, I love them!
Saranna DeWylde
14. slfoster01
I LOVE epilogues! They're like the cooldown after a vigorous workout. You've been 'working hard' and 'building up a sweat' to the HEA, then it's time to slow down, bring down the heart rate and take a deep breath. The epilogue gives the details of the HEA.

I read a book recently that didn't have an epilogue! I read the last chapter, turned the page and was like, "where's the epilogue?" I paged back to make sure I hadn't misread the last chapter. Very disappointing; the book didn't feel finished to me.

I enjoyed Anne Stuart's expanded epilogue for the book "Ruthless." I'm waiting for JQ's 2nd epilogues to come out in paperback (she said they would).
Saranna DeWylde
15. rdsangel127117
Epilogues are fine as long as they tie up loose ends and give a glimpse into how the H/h's relationship has developed over time. For me, the longer the better. I don't want to read a two page short epilogue. I need something with a little teeth to it. I just finished a book where the epilogue concentrated on the heroine's sister and what happened to her and relationship. That was fine, but it didn't give much about the two main characters lives enough for me. I was totally disappointed.
Saranna DeWylde
16. Karen H near Tampa
I also love epilogues! I'm nosy and want to see what happens later. I've never felt that one was "too sweet." I think of them as an extension of the HEA, so I sort of get 2 HEAs for the price of 1! And I agree with Miranda Neville-if you don't like them, don't read them (nobody's looking over your shoulder to make sure you read every single word in the book--you bought it--you decide what you want to do with it). I very much hope authors continue to add epilogues to their books.
Saranna DeWylde
17. Tabbanie
I like the epilogues. I love the happy endings and I hate any doubt about the happy ending.
Saranna DeWylde
18. Kathlynn
I love Epologes. But then I do read for the romance, love, and happiness. The togetherness. I want to know if they have kids, if they don't, how they are fairing etc.
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