I think the difficulty with understanding the paradigm of ‘Romance’ –> ‘has to have a happy end’ comes from the word being used for anything involving romantic things.
But a romance and a love story are two different things for writers.
Just to make this super clear to everyone…
Romance novels: Have to have an emotionally satisfying ending
Love stories: Don’t
@thebibliosphere does “emotionally satisfying” necessarily mean “together romantically” in the context of Romance as a genre?
In the context of the Romance Genre there are a few things that can mean. One is the “Happily Ever After” which is romantically together presumed forever and that’s your closure. And “Happily Ever After For Now”, which tends to be the “they didn’t know where they were going to wind up, but they had a feeling it would be good” sort of thing you see a lot in authors who intend to write sequels (meeee) or who just like to end on a happy hopeful note where the happy ending is fully implied because that’s the real fantasy of the Romantic Genre. Happiness.
More recently I’ve seen some authors claiming to write what they are calling “Liberated Romance” (*gag*) in an attempt to distance themselves from being like all those other silly romance writers (“I’m not like other girls!”) and do the whole “and she realized she didn’t need a man and lived happily ever on her own as a true empowered woman” plot twist at the end, which, as a trope is not a bad thing in of itself, it just needs to not be done at the expense of shitting on the entire genre currently holding their rude asses afloat.
Also some people will argue adamantly that that kind of ending makes it a Love Story and not a Romance because we read Romance with the expectation of some sort of togetherness, if not outright stated, then is at least tacitly understood as being the end goal. We’re simple creatures, we like our endings and we like them hopeful and happy.
As a side note, I just can’t get over the irony inherent in the name of “liberated romance” which is actually oppressive in taking the idea that women are free (liberated) to own their own interests (including their sexuality) without fear of judgement and turn it into something negative by saying nope, you can’t be with a man and still be considered empowered. It’s basically taking one set of judgemental ideals (a woman is nothing without a man and needs a man to be considered complete) and turning it into an entirely new judgement by saying “the only way to woman is to woman alone. You can only be empowered if you’re relying on yourself. If you have a man offering support, you’re just bending to his will.”
I mean I might’ve blown that out of proportion, but yeah, just sayin’…
Nah, I think you hit the proverbial nail right on the head with that one.