Monday, June 29, 2009

Happily Ever After

I was all set to write up today’s blog on the Lathan summer vacation plans. I had the first paragraph written in my head and was going to open it up for folks to talk about their favorite holiday spots. But then I came home from teaching the preschoolers at church, a typical Sunday morning of no special significance, and discovered sitting on my desk the carnations you see in this photo with a card that says: “Just thinking about you and how much I love us.”

Inside my husband wrote: “I could say these flowers and this card are for no special occasion, but that would be a lie. You’re my heart’s constant thought. XXOO, Steve”

OK, say aah! Yes, he is a really wonderful guy and I know I am incredibly blessed. And yes I could brag on and on about how often he expresses his love with similar gestures. He would LOVE to hear you all praise his thoughtfulness! LOL! It is entirely true and I do not have to exaggerate in how marvelously romantic my own Mr. Darcy is. But I am not writing this to boast my good fortune or exalt my hubby or to make anyone feel sad if they haven’t found their Prince Charming. It is just that his words and these simple flowers struck me forcibly.

We writers of romance are inspired for different reasons, I am sure. We come from varied romantic backgrounds and have widely diverse beliefs in what a male/female relationship entails. And most likely we are not all married happily and have suffered serious emotional hardships along the way. But we must have one thing in common, I think, and that is the hope that “happily-ever-after” – however we may define it – does exist. Can there be a romance writer who envisions their hero and heroine NOT living together forever? Can a reader of romance be a true fan of the genre if she expects the relationship to whither and die soon after the book ends? Correct me if I am wrong, but the answer to the first question has to be NO. If asked the second question a few years ago, before I began writing, I would have shaken my head in bafflement, certain that the answer was an unequivocal NO. What would be the point in reading a romance novel if one did not desire the couple to be happy and beat the odds?

The reason these flowers and my husband’s poetic words seared my heart and compelled me to write this essay is because I know too well that the answer to the latter question isn’t a clear NO. I know full well that the real world of marriage and love isn’t always what we write or read in a novel. There are a huge number of frogs mixed in with the princes! Not everyone is so lucky in love. However, my marriage, and many many others that I know personally, proves that romance is alive and well on planet earth. But we aren’t necessarily talking about the real world here.

I am talking about ladies who pick up a romance novel.

I wrote my sequel to Pride and Prejudice because I believed with all my heart that Fitzwilliam and Elizabeth Darcy would have a good life together. That they powerfully loved each other. That Jane Austen was strongly conveying that message. That they would live happily-ever-after. How I have chosen to weave that future may not be everyone’s ideal, but why would anyone wish grief upon this literary couple? Why would a reader wish misery, tragedy, and a swift dissolution of the romance to ANY literary couple? Yet time and time again I receive comments from disgruntled readers who clearly anticipated and desired unhappiness for the Darcys and are downright angry that I gave them a content, sexually fulfilling, bonded relationship. Yep, I am still shaking my head in bafflement and am sure I will never understand the attitude. Thankfully I receive FAR more comments from satisfied readers! This gives me hope that not everyone is jaded into believing true love is impossible. Or at least that they have the outlook one would expect from a romance reader.

Then I come home on an average Sunday to discover a sweet gift from my soul mate, who is as I write this expressing his devotion by preparing a delicious dinner for his family to enjoy. And of course I love the flowers and will treasure the card and thanked him profusely - sigh After a reverent period on display, it will be added to the enormous box containing all his cards and poems written for me. I will rifle through some of them as I always do when storing away the latest, reading the sentiments spanning the 24 years we have been together, and it will rejuvenate my heart, bolster my spirit, and sustain my inspiration in writing Fitzwilliam and Elizabeth as I do. Thank you, Steve, for daily showing me what love is far better than any romance novelist, even me, can write it.

16 comments:

  1. That is exactly why I believe in the beautiful happy ever after you gave the Darcy's. It does exist and it's a beautiful thing!

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  3. Yes, I've got my HEA, too, Sharon, and I'm reminded of it daily! My DH and two sons are the loves of my life, and without them, it wouldn't be nearly as fun or as sweet!

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  4. Sweet... what a nice welcome to come home to!

    I can't imagine anyone who has read Pride and Prejudice thinking that Darcy and Elizabeth won't have a happy marriage. Weird! They are so well-matched.

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  5. I have had two horrible marriages, so no soul mate for me. But I know that soul mates exist (my parents for one) and so in my stories, that's what I concentrate on--that knowledge and I'm glad to see HEA's wherever I go. :)

    One of my mother's friends had breast cancer and she had a mastectomy to save her life. Her husband divorced her because of her "disfigurement". But it has a HEA...a man who was wealthy and loving married her. She lived like a princess in a castle. Which she so deserved! :)

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  6. Thanks Alaine! I know that your life is another example I could point to as proof that my sequel isn't a total fantasy.

    Excellent Cheryl! I am so happy to know you have a HEA and aren't ashamed to proclaim it!

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  7. It still baffles me too, Donna. Yet, I'm not exaggerating when I say readers have been seriously angry, to the point of violent action like throwing my book against the wall and cursing, because I allow Lizzy and Darcy to express their love. I get told that it is impossible, that no one could be that enamored (after a few months of marriage, mind you), that endearments and poetic words are unreal, etc. Weird indeed.

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  8. Terry, I am very sorry that you haven't found your perfect mate. It makes me very sad! But it also shows that a person/writer can believe in the possibility of HEA even if they haven't found it. The real tragedy in the negative comments received is in knowing that these sad gals no longer believe or have hope. It breaks my heart!

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  9. Wow Sharon,
    I'm as cynical as the next person... Okay probably more cynical! But I am stunned that readers would WANT a miserable future for Lizzy and Darcy! OMG! That is just inconceivable to me! Those two were so well matched, and I thought you portrayed the giddy, starry-eyed wonder of newly weds so very well in Mr.& Mrs...Two Shall Become One.

    AC
    Cynical but firm believer in HEA!

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  10. Thank you Cindy! I don't think you are as cynical as you think you are! :)

    I know it seems unbelievable. But it isn't just the nasty comments I have gotten. I have seen the same exact people who reviewed my book and gave it low marks turn around and review other sequels that I know are filled with L & D arguing, unhappy, separated, encountering numerous tragedies, so on and give them high marks! Then they say it is more believable, inspired, or like Austen, etc. I just shake my head and wonder if I read a different P&P than they did! LOL!

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  11. Oh wow. How very very lovely.

    (Me, I've just come back from a romantic weekend away with my dear husband.)

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  12. If there's one thing I've learned, it's that there are people with souls so shriveled they would rather sneer at love than find it.

    They think people who would choose to be happy in a world that is clearly a mess must be a little dim-witted.

    If they ever found HEA, thinking it a weed, they would destroy it as quickly as they could, lest it set fruit.

    We romance writers scare the heck out of those people. We challenge the basis on which they have built their lives. If we are right and they are wrong, then all their bitterness, all their anger, all their clutch-fistedness has been for nothing.

    As for me, I rejoice with you.

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  13. Mary Margret, as always you so poetically and succinctly say what I tried to do in several paragraphs! Thank you. :) And I totally agree that we scare them.

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  14. Lovely story, Sharon. Your Steve sounds like Mr. Darcy himself!

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  15. An absolutely beautiful post, Sharon! I am a Cinderella kind of girl, and I love all romancy stuff, can't have too much of it.

    I do believe some people are not destined to have soul mates, and I don't think there is anything wrong with that. Fate has a different plan for each of us.

    Amelia

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  16. Hey, I'm still on top! Where is Judi?

    Thanks Marie! Yes, he is totally Mr. Darcy. Very inspiring.

    Glad to see you Amelia! I completely agree that fate is different for everyone. And even the "soul mate" title can be a bit misleading. Finding happiness in one's life - with or without a mate - is the top priority. But the hope of love is important, I believe.

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