An epilogue is a pretty common staple of the romance genre and it’s rare to come across a book that doesn’t have some type of epilogue at the end. I love to see a glimpse into the future for our couple but it needs to fit the story and the characters that we’ve been presented with up to that point. And this is why some readers are not fans of epilogues, especially ones showing the stereotypical married-with-kids scenario.
Oftentimes, readers are looking for themselves in a story, they want to see a character that reflects their personality, their dreams, their struggles, or their characteristics. If a reader doesn’t consider marriage and children to be the ideal dream, then seeing every romance book end that way can be frustrating.
When it comes to a Happily Ever After (HEA), the only thing that’s really required is a central love story and a happy ending with the main characters alive and together.
And that HEA comes in many different forms for different relationships. Not every couple has to end the same way with marriage, a white picket fence, and 2.5 children. Yes, it might mean marriage, but it could also just be saying “I love you.” Yes, children might be a result of that romance but for many, children are not a desired outcome. And when it comes to LGBTQ+ characters or relationships that incorporate more than two people, the traditional idea of marriage might not appeal or even be an option. As a reader, I want to see other types of endings reflected in epilogues, not just the same old thing.
Sometimes the marriage or engagement epilogue is a perfect fit for the story. The characters are serious about marriage, it’s something they’ve thought or talked about and having kids is a welcome outcome to their relationship. But when the characters have expressed, let’s say, zero interest in children, then an epilogue showing them announcing a pregnancy or having a baby just doesn’t make sense. The events of the book and the characters themselves should dictate the type of HEA we see. Marriage and children are not a natural fit for every story, so why should it be used in every story (I’m aware that it’s not, but just go with the point here).
And don’t even get me started on the miracle baby. It’s ok for romance book characters to not want children and it’s ok for them to be unable to have children. We shouldn’t be reinforcing the idea that the only happy ending is a marriage and a baby because for many, many readers that’s not an ending they want or can relate to.
I’m not saying that epilogues are bad, after all, I love having an epilogue to end the story on a really emotional high note. But I don’t think that every epilogue should end the same way because relationships aren’t all the same.
How do you feel about epilogues?
Share your thoughts in the comments below.