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?”
“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.
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, meganframpton.com.