As a reader I want to close a romance so completely invested in this HEA that I can visualize myself at the Golden Wedding anniversary party raising my glass in a toast while saying sagely, “I always knew these two would make it.”
Here are my thoughts on what makes a perfect ending.
1. It’s specific to these two people and their romance.
2. It resonates with the theme of the book, and ties up all the loose romantic threads in a pretty bow. Her liking for chocolate, his need for independence, how he solves her allergy to his cat.
3. It pulls another rabbit out of the hat in terms of intensity or humor or meaning.
4. It makes me believe in soul mates.
5. I can picture exactly how the rest of their life together will play out.
6. I desperately want to read more but recognize it stopped in exactly the right place.
7. I rush to glom the author.
When I ran a version of this blog on eharlequin a couple of years ago, Super author Mary Sullivan made a good point. She said, “For me, the ending has to feel a bit like the author is performing magic...She makes the conflicts in the novel, both external and internal, so difficult and seemingly insurmountable that I can't believe there could possibly be a happy ending. Then, when the author's imagination kicks in and there is that great believable resolution, it is such a relief and a joy.”
Checking out my keeper books for some examples of great endings I discovered that the punch isn’t always in the last paragraph; sometimes there’s a build of emotion through the last scene to a big moment and then a paragraph or half page of ebb to gently transition the reader to the real world (like movie credits giving you a chance to dry your eyes before the lights go up). Epilogues also give the reader a chance to catch their mental breath.
So what makes a perfect ending for you? Do your keepers end abruptly or float you down to earth? Any great endings you’d like to share?
Here are a few examples from great romances that do hit the high note on the last paragraph.
“He rolled her onto her back and, looking into her eyes said: “Mel, you’re the best thing that ever happened to me. I’m going to make you so happy, you won’t be able to stand it. You’re going to wake up singing every morning.”
I already do, Jack.”Virgin River, the first in the phenomenally successful series by Robyn Carr.
“First I have to get one thing straight.” His groan didn’t deter her in the slightest. “Understand that I am madly, crazily in love with you, Jared. If you marry me, that’s it for life. You’ll be as tied down as it’s possible for a man to be.”
He hauled her into his arms with a suddenness that robbed her of her breath. Holly felt the wild beating of his heart against her breast. Wild. That about summed Jared up.
“So tie me down,” he breathed against her mouth.Whose Lie Is It Anyway by Abby Gaines
She came closer. “Aren’t you going to say something she said. “Ask me why I’m here? Tell me to go away?”
“No,” he said.
“Because this is where you belong.” And he reached for her, in the bright summer sunshine, and she came into his arms, into his heart, and into his life. Forever.Cold As Ice – Anne Stuart
Tilda stopped struggling. “Are you proposing?’
“Yes,” Davy said. “I love you. Marry me, Matilda, and make me the most confused man on earth.”
She blinked at him, her lips parted, and for one horrible moment, he thought she was going to say no.
Then she smiled that crooked smile, and he breathed again.
“Ravish me, Ralph,” Tilda said.
“I’ll take that as a yes,” Davy said, and did.Faking It by Jennifer Crusie
He felt himself vanishing, fading away like the mist that drifted over the gargoyles and monsters carved on his father’s house.
And then something touched him: a soft touch on his hand and then on his face. He turned toward her, trying to swallow down the emotion. She came into his arms. He couldn’t speak; he knelt on the ground and held her against him.
“Sheridan.” Her lips were trembling, her voice a feeble breath next to his ear. “My terrible lonely wolf.” Her arms tightened, and he could feel the wetness on her face against his throat.
He stroked her hair with shaking hands.
“I’m here,” she said into his shoulder. “I’m here and I love you. I love you no matter what.”Seize The Fire by Laura Kinsale.
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