Is Marriage Really a “Happily Ever After”?
Romance fiction is all about the “happily ever after.” Readers love watching the heroine and hero as they fall for each other, sort through all their various issues and angst, and grow into stronger, better people who deserve and win each other’s love. They’ll get married and live happily ever after.
Because, after all, if you get married, you and your spouse will be happy together forever, right? You’ll always love each other and no major issues will break you apart.
Uh, wait a minute. Reality check! Something like half of marriages end in divorce. Of the ones that don’t end in divorce, how many are truly happy and loving?
Okay, but bad stuff won’t happen to our romance novel heroine and hero, right? Over the course of the book, we’ve seen them disagree, face issues, problem solve, and face all sorts of challenges to their growing love. We believe they’ve moved beyond “chemistry” (oh, let’s just call it lust!) to a true, deep love that will grow and strengthen over time.
Hmm again. That’s a heck of a lot to ask from a 300 page book! Especially if the heroine and hero meet for the first time at the beginning, and the book spans only a few weeks or months.
That’s one of the reasons that many of my “meet the sexy stranger” books don’t end with an engagement, much less a wedding. I write pretty intense books and they often take place in a short time frame. It’s just not believable that the heroine and hero can be sure their love is the kind that will sustain a happy lifetime together.
For example, take the first two books in my Dirty Girls Book Club series (Berkley Heat). For marketing exec Georgia and hockey star Woody in The Dirty Girls Book Club, there’s an immediate and powerful “attraction of opposites” chemistry that has them (totally uncharacteristically for her) going at it on a boardroom table shortly after they first meet. For artist city-girl Kim and rodeo star Ty in Dare to be Dirty, it’s a similar kind of attraction, fueled by a day at the rodeo and sexy dancing at a Western bar.
These are erotic romances, and yes, the initial attraction is largely erotic. How could it be anything else, when these people are virtual strangers? But as they keep seeing each other, sharing not only their bodies but their minds and hearts, love blossoms. So do problems, and it takes strength and love to overcome those problems. By the end of each book, the couple is ready to confess their love and commit to exploring the possibility of a future together. But for me, it’s simply not believable that they’re ready to get engaged.
The third book in the series, Bound to be Dirty, is very different. Family practice doctor Lily and bush helicopter pilot Dax were each other’s first love. They dated for years as each pursued their education, and now they’ve been married for ten years. But even though they meant those wedding vows, they are not living a “happily ever after.” They’re miserable.
Can two people who were once passionately in love but have drifted apart and have major trust issues ever hope to find that “happily ever after”?
Well, what are their problems? Initially, they were opposites: a well-educated, rule-following society girl and the boy from the wrong side of the tracks. At the ten year point, Lily has established a practice in Vancouver, while Dax is more comfortable flying in the wilderness and living in remote mining or logging camps. They’re still opposites in many ways, and yes, that’s causing problems. But sometimes spouses’ similarities can also cause stress—and Lily and Dax are extremely independent people who each want to control their own lives.
Sometimes as a marriage develops, the spouses don’t grow together, but walk parallel or divergent paths. That’s true of Lily and Dax. Yet deep down, even if they aren’t consciously aware of it, even if they’re afraid to admit it, they truly love each other.
The bottom line, for so many couples in trouble, is a failure of communication, sharing, and trust. That’s particularly true for Lily and Dax, since they’re each so independent and they’ve always lived quite separate lives. They’ve never had much opportunity to develop true, deep intimacy, and neither has good family role models to assist.
Now, let me turn to the premise of the Dirty Girls Book Club series. Each time the club chooses an erotic novel, one member has a sexy romance that in some way parallels the story they’re reading. So, what kind of book should the club be reading, that will play into Lily’s marital problems of separation, mistrust, and lack of intimacy?
I chose BDSM. It was a logical choice for the club. Since the success of Fifty Shades of Grey, it seems most female book clubs are reading BDSM. My club wants to understand the immense appeal of these kinds of books.
Turning again to my unhappily married couple, how will the club’s book, Bound by Desire (not an actual book; I wrote the excerpts myself) help Lily and Dax resolve their marital issues? Yes, borrowing a trick or two from the book can spice up their sex life, but obviously sex isn’t all it takes to save a marriage. On the other hand, if a little experimentation in bed raises issues of trust, communication, and sharing . . . I bet you can see where this is going!
Bound to be Dirty is a romance, so yes, rest assured Lily and Dax do earn and receive their “happily ever after” ending. The fun is in how they get there—and I hope the lessons they learn prove useful to other couples, whether they’re embarking on a life together or are in the middle or later years of marriage.
What are your favorite kinds of “happily ever afters” in romance fiction? Enter below to win an autographed copy of Bound to be Dirty.
Award-winning author Savanna Fox, who also writes as Susan Fox and Susan Lyons, writes “emotionally compelling, sexy contemporary romance” (Publishers Weekly). She is published by Berkley and Kensington, and also self-publishes. Her writing has won numerous awards and has been excerpted as a Cosmopolitan “Red-Hot Read.” Susan is a Pacific Northwester with homes in Victoria and Vancouver, British Columbia. She has degrees in law and psychology, and has had a variety of careers, including perennial student, computer consultant, and legal editor. Fiction writer is by far her favorite, giving her an outlet to demonstrate her belief in the power of love, friendship, and a sense of humor. http://www.savannafox.com; http://www.facebook.com/susanlyonsfox