Okay, so I admit it, I switched out Meg’s title – it should be Meg Benjamin on P.L.H.E. But doesn’t it read better as H.E.L.P.?  Sorry, Meg …

Meg and I had our first release the same day back in January. Meg’s latest book, Be My Baby, the third book in her Konigsburg series releases next Tuesday. So I’m thrilled to have her back on my blog, talking about …

What’s So Funny ‘Bout Peace, Love, and Happy Endings?

The biggest, most frequent complaint against romances that I’ve gotten from non-romance readers (other than all the sex scenes, of course) boils down to this: romances have happy endings. Always. No matter how much angst the hero and heroine of the romance endure in the story, they’ll end up together and it’ll be happily ever after. And this, we’re told, is a Bad Thing.

As to why this is a Bad Thing, well, opinions vary. “It’s unrealistic” (and, of course, all other forms of popular fiction rigidly adhere to realism). “It’s simple-minded” (so apparently only misery is intellectually pure). “It leads to expectations that can’t be fulfilled” (and all readers of romance get their life lessons from fiction).

The only one of these complaints that seems to have any real validity, as far as I’m concerned, is the idea that the required happy ending is limiting to an author. But while it’s true that we romance writers can’t violate this convention, most romance heroes and heroines still go through a lot of anguish to get there. Even writers like me who do comedy still have to work in a Big Black Moment somewhere along the way. And some comic writers, like, say, Susan Elizabeth Phillips or Loretta Chase, can make those moments pretty black indeed.

So what’s really behind this extreme aversion to happy endings, particularly from non-romance readers? I’m going out on a limb here and saying it’s related to the way “happy ending” is defined, or rather the way one of my favorite genders defines it. Because the biggest complainers about the happy ending rule, in my experience, are male. And the problem seems to be what they consider “happy.”

Let’s take an example here—Casablanca, the great forties movie. Now I’m really fond of Casablanca (in fact, I’ve managed to work references to it into several things I’ve written), but there’s no way I’d see it as having a really happy ending since Rick and Ilsa can’t possibly end up together. That can’t actually happen without getting rid of Victor, and without Victor there’s no beating the Nazis. So both Rick and Ilsa have to be noble and have that lovely, heartbreaking scene at the airport.

However, in my experience some men argue that that the ending of Casablanca is completely satisfying, happy in fact. Rick and Ilsa get a chance to work out their differences (and have one last roll in the hay), Rick renews his belief in heroism, and Rick and Louis head off to fight the Nazis while Ilsa heads off to America to raise money with Victor.

Although I have a lot of “yes, but’s” here, I can also see how, from a guy’s point of view, this constitutes the ideal happy ending. Rick gets to have sex with Ilsa, and then gets to leave her without any commitment to come back later and try to have a life together. Instead, he gets to go off and shoot bad guys while she’s not longer around to complicate things. Bliss!

So, okay, women (who make up the vast majority of romance readers) like to believe that it’s possible to have a long-term committed romantic relationship. And we like books that back us up. Men seem to prefer books where the hero gets to have a lot of sex, but doesn’t end up tied down to anybody in the end. And if you’re not sure about this, check out the numerous mysteries and thrillers written by male authors where the hero is always having bittersweet, short-term relationships with women who either die or take off.  Women readers may not find this kind of ending particularly satisfying, but I’d argue a lot of men think it’s pretty neat.

Potato, potahto. Happy endings can be defined however you want them to be. Just don’t tell me the books I read are simple-minded because the hero and heroine end up together rather than heading off to troll for the next sex partner. If you can manage to do that, I promise I’ll refrain from even mentioning the words Peter Pan Complex in connection with happy endings that are hopelessly male.

Be My Baby
by Meg Benjamin

There’s no room in her life for love. Love has other ideas…

Konigsburg, Texas, Book 3

If Jessamyn Carroll had only herself to consider, staying in Pennsylvania after her husband’s death would have been a no-brainer. Her vindictive in-laws’ efforts to get their hooks into her infant son, however, force her to flee to a new home. Konigsburg, Texas.

Peace…at least for now. She’s even found a way to make some extra money, looking after sexy accountant Lars Toleffson’s precocious two-year-old daughter. She finds it easy—too easy—to let his protective presence lull her into thinking she and her son are safe at last.

Lars, still wounded from enduring a nasty divorce from his cheating ex-wife, tries to fight his attraction to the mysterious, beautiful widow. But when an intruder breaks into her place, and Jess comes clean about her past, all bets are off. Someone wants her baby—and wants Jess out of the picture. Permanently.

Now Jess has a live-in bodyguard, whether she wants him or not. Except she does want him—and he wants her. Yet negotiating a future together will have to overcome a lot of roadblocks: babies, puppies, the entire, meddling Toleffson family—and a kidnapper.

Warning: Contains Konigsburg craziness, creepy in-laws, a conniving two-year-old, a lovelorn accountant, a sleep-deprived Web developer, and lots of hot holiday sex.

Be My Baby releases from Samhain Publishing on Tuesday, December 8th.

Meg Benjamin writes about South Texas, although she recently moved to Colorado. Her comic romances are set in the Texas Hill Country in the mythical town of Konigsburg. When she isn’t writing, Meg spends her time listening to Americana music, drinking Colorado and Texas wine, and keeping track of her far-flung family. She recently retired from twenty years of teaching writing, Web design, and desktop publishing. Meg’s Web site is http://www.MegBenjamin.com. You can follow her on Facebook (http://www.facebook.com/meg.benjamin1), MySpace (myspace.com/megbenjamin), and Twitter (http://twitter.com/megbenj1). Meg loves to hear from readers—contact her at meg@megbenjamin.com.

I’m giving away an e-copy of Meg’s Be My Baby (you’ll have to wait until next Tuesday for its release before I send it to you though).  Leave a comment about your favorite on-screen couple who haven’t had their happy ending (yet, or maybe they have according to a guy), or your favorite in-print couple and why you want them to have a happy ending. Or not. 

Meg Benjamin on H.E.L.P.
Tagged on:             

13 thoughts on “Meg Benjamin on H.E.L.P.

  • December 1, 2009 at 10:53 pm

    Hi, Meg and Leah! Meg, congrats on Be My Baby! I'm blanking on some onscreen couples w/o happy endings, maybe because I just don't enjoy those ambiguous endings! While they do make for some great tension (love, LOVED David and Maddie of ages-ago Moonlighting fame!) but having that drawn out ad infinitum is not my idea of an HEA. Yep, I'm a sap, but I love those endings where they go off into the sunset, and then I get a little glimpse of them in a epilogue enjoying their beautiful babies and still occasionally bonking like bunnies when they can manage a sitter 🙂

  • December 2, 2009 at 1:19 am

    Hi! Good post today! I totally agree with you 🙂
    My favourite on screen couple without the happy ending would be Rhett Butler and Scarlett O'Hara, why? Because they are so real couple and I just have to believe that everyone deserves and gets its happy ending

  • December 2, 2009 at 3:53 am

    Oh yeah, I'm with you on preferring those sunset endings! Just finished Eloisa James's This Duchess of Mine, and I had tears in my eyes. I'm a little less taken with Rhett and Scarlett (largely because Scarlett always seemed like such a witch), but you're right that it's a famous unhappy ending in need of fixing.

  • December 2, 2009 at 5:05 am

    At this point of time Manny and Payne from the BDB series. But they will have their happy ending according to the author, we just have to wait a book in the series until that.

    Oh, and Be my baby cover is pretty. I love the colors!

    umeagreen at gmail.com

  • December 2, 2009 at 7:12 am

    No need to enter me, ladies. I'm dropping in to say thanks for the e-mail, Leah. I've got this posted at Win a Book for you.

  • December 2, 2009 at 7:24 am

    I would say Van Helsing and Anna in the Van Helsing movie. Van Helsing killed Anna just as she injected him with the werewolf cure. So sad. I would love to see a HEA for them.

  • December 2, 2009 at 7:49 am

    Oh gosh- I'm going to have to take host's and say I demand Rhett and Scarlet have their happy ending.
    The book ends slightly differently than the movie- but I've always… well I need to believe Rhett comes back. (Deep down inside though, I wonder :X)

    As for another couple I want to have a happy ending… Bones. Booth and Brennan have to get together 😛

    And for the complaints… don't listen to them. They shouldn't read romance then 😛 The whole point of a romance is a happy ending. I'm tired of reading romances where the ending is basically tossed away, and open ended. Hmph.

  • December 2, 2009 at 7:53 am

    Oh yeah, I'd like to see Booth and Bones get together. Of course, that might be the end of the series. Sigh. Charlaine Harris has done that with a couple of her series. So if Sookie has a HEA with any of her supps, watch out for the end of the Southern Vampires!

  • December 2, 2009 at 8:59 am

    Wow, drawing a complete and total blank here. Does it count that I stopped watching X-File before Mulder and Scully got together? Cause I always thought they had great tension together. But I heard that the show (and movie) sucked once they did. However, I choose to remember it as it was when I watched it in its heyday. Great sexual tension and wonderfully written 🙂 And since I never saw them together, that's my pick. Heh.

  • December 2, 2009 at 9:22 am

    Lori – I'm going to jump in for Meg here and say that Mulder and Scully count. (Isn't it annoying how once they get the couple together on TV the show usually dies? That shows how sexual tension can ramp the story line up.)

  • December 2, 2009 at 2:13 pm

    An on screen couple I'm rooting for in from the USA show Psych. Sean sssoooo belongs with Juliet. His constant flirting with her is cute and they've come close so many times to a dating commitment that I jus want to scream–Do It Already!

  • December 3, 2009 at 2:34 pm

    My favorite bittersweet ending is that of Audrey Hepburn (Princess Ann) and Gregory Peck (Joe Bradley) in Roman Holiday. It's such a cute, happy-go-lucky movie, but at the end, Ann still holds true to her duty to her country, and Joe has to give up a large sum of money to stay true to himself. It's one of my favorite movies of all time, even though it makes me cry.

  • December 4, 2009 at 5:21 am

    Hi Meg,
    My fave on screen duo who really need to get together is Bones & Brennan from the show Bones. I really really want them to get together…It kills me that they're teasing the audience mercilessly.

    Happy Reading
    Anna Shah Hoque

Comments are closed.