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What Constitutes a HEA?

Whisper of Desire by Bronwen EvansDecember first saw the release of A Whisper of Desire, book four in my Disgraced Lord series. It’s lovely to see the reviews flowing in, most of them are very positive. However, there are a couple of reviews that are causing a little bit of controversy and uneasiness across some of my readers and also myself.

Some of the readers seem to think the book doesn’t have a satisfying happy ever after, and this is related to one plot point within the book. They are of course, entitled to that opinion, but I thought I’d mention something they may not have considered.

Marisa, my heroine, has a carriage accident and is gravely wounded. Her injury results in a partial hysterectomy. This of course means she cannot have children. I wanted to show that women can have a really great life, even if they cannot have children.

The fact that she can no longer have children seems to be pressing readers buttons. Can Marisa have her Happy Ever After now? Some readers say no. It’s not a true happy ever after, and I have to agree it’s sad, but not every woman is lucky enough to have children. Does that mean they can’t have a happy ever after?

It’s a personal topic because I’m an endometriosis sufferer and have never conceived. Endometriosis is a common gynecological condition, particularly among women of childbearing age, affecting an estimated 2 to 10 percent of American women in this age group. Endometriosis can be a debilitating disease for some women who experience ongoing pain, while others may be asymptomatic. It is also a factor in infertility. According to the American Society for Reproductive Medicine, endometriosis can be found in 24 to 50 percent of women who experience infertility.

What’s been pointed out to me, from those readers in a similar situation as myself, and something I have experienced personally, is that there are many women who cannot have children and they certainly don’t feel that they have not got their happy ever after.

Having children, or not being able to have children, or even choosing not to have children, is a very sensitive subject for many women. Another friend of mine, Susan, who also can’t have children, pointed out how stressful it is when people outright ask us why she didn’t want children. Often, it’s not that we didn’t want a child, but that we couldn’t. How would you feel always being asked that question when you’d loved to have children, but you’re not one of the lucky ones?

Susan was most indignant about the readers saying Marisa doesn’t get a real happy ever after. She wins the love of Maitland, a Duke, who thinks she’s his world, even though she cannot have children. He doesn’t care; all he cares about, is that he gets to spend the rest of his life with her.

I know if I asked my friend Susan if she had her happy ever after with your husband, the answer would be a categorical yes!

To say you can’t have a happy ever after just because you cannot have children, is a little simplistic. I think it’s a little unkind to those women who either choose not to have children, or for those women who can’t have children.

Does not being able to have children mean a book no longer has a satisfactory Happy Ever After? What are your views? Perhaps it’s each reader’s perspective….but I hope it makes you stop and think about this issue…

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7 thoughts on “What Constitutes a HEA?

  1. Meghan Edwards says:

    I think that saying a woman has to have children for a HEA is, quite frankly, disgusting.

    1. Bronwen says:

      I don’t think they meant it nastily, I just think they might not have thought about what it signifies for those of us who cannot have children….

  2. Kay Michel says:

    Lots of people claim they’ve found their soul mates, but I’ve known only two whom I believe truly have a “soul mate” relationship. And neither of these couples had children. Children are the icing on the cake, not the cake itself.

  3. I have a prequel out (and I am not saying which one, because this is a huge spoiler), where we are given to understand, at the end of the book, that their married life will likely be *excellent* and will serve needs the heroine didn’t even know she had, but the sex is always going to be non-eventful. Is it an HEA? I already have a “not really what I look for in a romance novel.” It is what it is, in part, because it leads into another book that had already been written, but also because… sometimes there are more important things.

    Also, I chose not to have children, and I am celibate by choice. Happy ending? Oh, yes. Oh, yes, yes, yes.

  4. I have a prequel out (and I am not saying which one, because this is a huge spoiler), where we are given to understand, at the end of the book, that their married life will likely be *excellent* and will serve needs the heroine didn’t even know she had, but the sex is always going to be non-eventful. Is it an HEA? I already have a “not really what I look for in a romance novel” 3* review. It is what it is, in part because it leads into another book that had already been written, but also because… sometimes there are more important things than orgasms, and there certainly were for her.

    Also, I chose not to have children, and I am celibate by choice. Happy ending? Oh, yes. Oh, yes, yes, yes.

  5. Karin says:

    I understand why some readers want their romance book fantasy to be perfect, and include the possibility of children, and that’s their choice to read those kind of books. But it’s terribly hurtful to carry that over to real life. And it’s ironic too, because I’ve never heard anybody say it’s not an HEA because the hero was scarred or maimed in some way, yet the heroine is supposed to be perfect? Personally, I like to read about people who are physically or emotionally damaged but still find their HEA.

  6. Julie Fetter says:

    To me, the HEA is reflective of the relationship between hero and heroine, not the implication that all life circumstances will be “perfect.” It is a state of assurance that, regardless of circumstances and situations to follow in the future, two individuals have found a life partnering that will bring them mutual strength and support to face whatever life brings. The ability or likelihood of the union producing children is not a determining factor in my satisfaction with the story.

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