A Glimpse of the HEA

How do you feel about epilogues? Does it seem to anyone else that there’s a “current trend” going on to include them at the end of every story? I think every recent book I’ve picked up lately has had one. Is it a fad, or a change in readers’ tastes and expectations? Or is having that extra glimpse into the characters’ happy-ever-after ending something readers have always wanted all along? Do romances always need to have one?

TCD Cover-FinalI have been noticing and thinking about this, because I decided to add an epilogue to The Captain’s Dilemma while re-editing that book for reissue. TCD (my third book, published in 1995) is out now, I’m excited to report, on Amazon for Kindle and B&N for Nook, and also for Kobo and other formats through Smashwords. This is my “prisoner-of-war” romance. Read on below for details on the giveaway!

Meanwhile, back to our topic. I used to feel that a good romance that ended properly shouldn’t need an epilogue. If all the obstacles were overcome, the loose ends were tied up, and the hero and heroine finally figured out they were in love, admitted it to each other, and committed to a future together, that certainly seemed very satisfying to me! “Trail off into the sunset” endings were considered bad form.

Yet I think we all enjoy thinking of the characters we come to know and love during a good story as continuing on with lives that last beyond the pages of the book. So the question becomes, do you want the author’s view of it, or would you rather imagine it for yourself? And has this changed over time?

I used to call the lovely but inaccurate Allan Kass cover for my second book, The Persistent Earl, a “visual epilogue”, explaining that it showed the artist’s vision of the hero and heroine together after the story was over. (The heroine, a young widow, wears half-mourning throughout the book, but as you see here, on the cover she is in a beautiful gold satin gown.) Readers always thought that made perfect sense! Can you imagine the rest of this scene without having the words? I consider reading a collaborative process, and even though as an author I give the reader the specifics of my story, each reader brings some of her own imagination into the mix as she reads. I think that’s one of the great pleasures of reading, and one of the (many) reasons movie adaptations of our favorite books don’t always succeed –one director’s view of the story may not match up well with the personal version we have envisioned in our own heads. Ah, but that’s another entire topic.

My decision to write the Captain’s Dilemma epilogue was fairly easy –I never felt the book quite ended with all the loose ends tied up. More information about how the future was going to work for my French hero and English heroine was needed, but for the old Signet Regencies we had some strict length restrictions, and I had no room to add more back then. It has been great fun revisiting my characters and adding the extra scene they so deserved!

So what do you think? Are we seeing a “trend” for epilogues in romance now? Do you like them? If you are a fan of story epilogues, have you always been one? Is the abundance a recent phenomenon, or have I just become more aware of it lately? I’m going to give away a copy of The Captain’s Dilemma to someone randomly chosen among those who comment, and if we get a lot of comments, I’ll give away a second one! Keeping it simple. Please jump in. I’ll be very interested to hear your thoughts!

And if you want to know more about TCD, you can click here to see it on my web site. Or you can click here to see it on Amazon.

About Gail Eastwood

Gail Eastwood is the author of seven Regencies that were originally published by Signet/Penguin. After taking ten years off for family matters, she has wobbled between contemporary romantic suspense and more Regency stories, wondering what century she's really in and trying to work the rust off her writing skills. Her backlist is gradually coming out in ebook format, and some may also be available in print editions soon. She is working on a new Regency, the start of a series.
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23 Responses to A Glimpse of the HEA

  1. Elena Greene says:

    Congratulations on getting this book back out there! It is one of my favorites, up there with THE LADY FROM SPAIN and I’m so happy new readers can enjoy it now.

    As for epilogues, it’s an “it depends” kind of answer. I usually enjoy them and have written them into some of my stories. I think they’re good if there are some loose ends, the conflict resolves quickly or doesn’t fit the happy ending mood in some way. In one of my stories, the resolution scene involves the hero and heroine surviving attempted murder. Everyone’s still a bit shaken at that point so I added an epilogue to end on a happier note. I also don’t mind epilogues that just extend the HEA afterglow a bit, as long as they don’t go on and on.

    • Elena, that’ a really good point about the “mood” of a story ending. Even if all the loose ends are neatly tied up and all the aspects of the romance journey have been completed, I agree that an epilogue might be needed if an HEA feeling hasn’t been established!

      Thanks for your kind words about TCD. It’s hard to have “favorites” among one’s own children, but this story was so different to do (not to mention the adventures I had researching it), I have to admit it’s a favorite of mine, too! :-)

  2. Ella Quinn says:

    As a reader, I love epilogues. Having and ending where the hero and heroine admit their love and that’s it always bothered me. When I started writing, I wrote what I wanted to read. Ergo many of my books have short epilogues. It also gives me an opportunity to bring back other characters, if they’re not already there, and let the reader know what’s going on with them, as well as to launch the next book. I’ve read two books recently that, fortunately, had epilogues, because I would have been left feeling unsatisfied if they hadn’t been there.

    • Ella, thanks for commenting! You raise a good point about epilogues that serve the purpose of launching a next book. When stories are related or are part of a series, I think an epilogue can be a great way to whet the reader’s interest and remind them that there will be more to come!

  3. Satu M. says:

    If depends. I don’t mind a good epilogue, but usually they are unnecessary. I’ve read only a few books that really benefited of their epilogues.

    • Satu, thanks for joining the conversation! I agree with you that the need and suitability depends …on a lot of factors!! Do you think genre is one of the factors? I’m wondering if the ones you read that did benefit from their epilogues were romances, or another genre? My son says epilogues are also used a lot in science fiction and fantasy, for instance. But, then, those are often series stories, too.

  4. Beth Elliott says:

    As you say, we have our interpretation of the characters and story in our heads and can imagine any extra bits as we wish. In some cases we enjoy the added pleasure from being reassured that all went on well for the hero and heroine after they reached their happy ending. I don’t think you can have a hard and fast rule on the matter. I confess I wrote one story where the hero’s best friend went away heart-broken because the girl he loved couldn’t love him. He was on my conscience so much I wrote a second story to find him his soul mate. That was an extreme form of epilogue. It taught me to tidy things up more strictly.

    • LOL, Beth! Don’t you love it when characters won’t leave you alone until you “fix” their situation? Thanks for commenting! Sounds like your “extreme epilogue” was actually a sequel. That can be great –I’ve heard of entire series getting started that way. Even though you didn’t plan it, readers of your first story probably thought you planned to leave that one end hanging, to lead to the second story!

  5. Jessica says:

    I like an epilogue, but I will admit that some of them add nothing to the story. I guess in those instances it might just be part of a trend, but for all I know that author’s publisher told them to write the epilogue scene and they had no choice in it.

    • Good point, Jessica! It’s true that as readers we never know what aspects of a book may have been outside of the author’s control, if the book isn’t independently published. Book length is a big one, and I can imagine if someone’s story came out a little short (that was never my problem), an editor might easily suggest tacking on an epilogue to meet the word count!!

  6. bn100 says:

    sometimes like epilogues; don’t like when one of the main characters die in the epilogue or decades pass

    • Hi bn! Thanks for your comment! Have you actually read epilogues where a main character dies? Yikes! I would think the reader would feel betrayed by the author to get hit with a loss like that at the very end. And yes, I agree, I wouldn’t like an epilogue that is set too far into the future. I think I would feel like I had missed out on too much if decades had passed since I’d last “seen” the characters!

  7. I tend to agree with a few of the thing already said. If the story ends with some near death experience then an epilogue with a nice secure HEA is something I enjoy.

    And if the book is part of a series I always like a hint of what is to come and how it is linked to a now happy couple.

    • Hi Louisa! (waving) Thanks for stopping in to comment! I suspect Elena and I (both starting our first attempts at series) are both thinking now about how we may need to plan epilogues for the books each of us are beginning. :-)

  8. Linda says:

    I’ve read lots of books which didn’t have an epilogue & I was perfectly satisfied with the way it ended. I like a nice long ending tho & not just the “declaration of love”.

    I’ve read a few books where the epilogue was totally unnecessary & ended up somewhat tarnishing my enjoyment of the book & the author’s writing.

    • Linda, thanks for joining our conversation! We pay so much attention to how we begin our stories, but I think your experience goes to show how many ways authors can go wrong with the endings, which are just as important! Hmm. No one ever said that writing -isn’t- a challenging business! (I was going to say “scary” but decided that’s too negative for something we love so much!)

  9. Kristen says:

    I can’t decide! Guess I’ll have to re-read TCD and see if I like the new ending!!

  10. katie kofemug says:

    Unless an epilogue is a preview for the next in a series, I don’t like them at all. That said, I, selfish reader that I am, want the ending to be more than the ‘HEA embrace & sigh’ now beat it, books over! Abruptly ending books with a rushed final chapter of “crossing Ts & fancy bows” is a way to guarantee I don’t re-read the book. I’m not sure that’s the measure of success anymore. Keepers and RE-Reads were the terms we used back in the day to describe a Good Book, not whether it promised us that HEA was without grouchy neighbors, sick children, financial trials and bad hair days. And that’s why I don’t like epilogues, they tend to gloss over the life I, again being selfish, want to imagine for the romantic couple as being plausible and alas, this does include all of the above plus goofy jokes, exhausted arguments and joy in the simplest things that make connection to another so very, very sweet. Conveying all that in a quick epilogue is like writing the annual Christmas letter without mentioning you dog, stinky, you utterly amazing children and how indispensable you are to your boss, social group, spouse and well, humankind in general, nigh on impossible, which is why I don’t do the annual Christmas Letter either, and isn’t everyone glad! :g:

    • Katie, thanks for posting. I love your comment! It comes directly at the challenge of writing a “good” epilogue, in a case where one is really needed. How does an author capture all that in just a short scene? I think we have to hope the author has already built a sense of it into the characters’ relationship by the book’s end, so there’s a foundation in place for the quick glimpse an epilogue gives. If you read TCD, I’d love to know if you think the epilogue captures some of what you are talking about!

  11. I love epilogues, but only if they add depth to the story, namely in tying up loose ends, especially the loose ends of subplots. If it’s just to confirm the HEA, then it becomes a little unnecessary.

    I don’t mind epilogues that bridge over to another book in the series, as in a teaser. I love being hooked.

    • Heidi, thanks for joining our conversation! I love being hooked, too. Except when the related book isn’t going to come out for another year….that’s too long to wait!!

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