To wed or not to wed

What does it mean when a flight attendant is wearing a wedding ring at the start of a flight, but for some reason he isn’t wearing one as the plane is about to land? I noticed this on a recent trip and it led me to a question I’d been pondering – When it comes to the characters of a romance novel, is marriage inevitable?

It depends who you talk to.

If you were to ask Jane Austen, you probably wouldn’t get an answer. However you can guess what she’d say. Yes, marriage (at the end of a novel) equals a happy ending. But let’s face it, if you were courting another 200 years ago and you didn’t receive a marriage proposal within a few weeks of dating, it basically meant the end of your courtship. So at the time, readers of her novels would have expected just that.

But for readers of contemporary romance novels, the happy ending may have a different meaning. Some may be hanging on every word as if they themselves are draped in lace and silk while their prince is waving proudly at a crowd of onlookers before stealing a second kiss on the balcony. (Yes, I watched the royal wedding on Friday and it was extraordinary). But other readers may want something else.

So how do writers of these novels ensure that their readers are happy? Should the ending be left open ended? Personally, I hate not knowing exactly what happens at the end of a novel or a film. I don’t want to read between the lines and I definitely don’t want to pick between two endings either. I like to know that the main characters of a romance novel have a definite future together. The marriage part, for the most part, is optional.

But at the end of the day, it ultimately depends on the characters. Whatever the circumstance, it can’t seem forced. Unless you can add authenticity to a wedding, there’s really no point in including it in your novel.

I’d hate to think that the flight attendant scenario would seem more likely in something I’ve written, than the intended happily-ever-after.

I wouldn’t worry though.

The plane hasn’t landed yet.

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