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On the State of the Epilogue

I’m not certain when the first epilogue appeared in romance.  You can’t blame it on the category books because I’ve read hundreds of old time categories and epilogues were far rarer in the “olden days.”  I think, but don’t know for a fact, that the epilogue became de rigeur in single title books.  Back in 2009, I ran a poll about epilogues and the great majority of readers who answered the poll loved epilogues. In the comments, though, readers agreed that the baby filled epilogue wherein happiness is proven through procreation is their least favorite way to close out the book.

I’m not opposed to epilogues and in fact there are books in which I wish there were epilogues, primarily because I liked the characters so much that I really can’t bear to let them go or because I felt that the romance was so tumultuous that it needed some non tumultuous happy times.  Kind of an author’s note to say, “see they are living the happy ever after.”

Yet the epilogue can sometimes do more damage than good.  Take, for example, the following three epilogues from the stories: Breaking Point by Pamela Clare; Icebreaker by Deirdre Martin; and My One and Only by Kristan Higgins.  Because I’ll be talking about the epilogue, I’ll be spoiling the ending of these three books.  You’ve been warned.

Let’s start with  Breaking Point by Pamela Clare.  This book was the subject of some discussion between myself and another reader at RWA.  The reader pointed out that Pamela Clare had the tendency to intersperse precious moments throughout the story and particularly in her epilogue such as one of my least favorite scenes in romance where the heroine is looking at some landscape and mentions how beautiful it is and the hero affirms this only he’s not looking at the landscape, he’s looking at her.  Cliche alert.

The epilogue is particularly pernicious, though, because it features the retirement of a totally capable journalist so that she can stay at home and have babies with the hero.  There is no indication at any point prior to the epilogue that the heroine is tired of her job, that she longs to have a family, that her life wish would be to marry and raise kids and bake pies for her husband.   This, combined with several scenes throughout the book including one toward the end which has the heroine serving coffee and drinks to a bunch of  men as they plan how they are going to get the bad guys and save her, kind of places the nail in the anti feminist coffin for my friend.   (The mantra that having babies is the ultimate in female activity is furthered by the heroine from a previous book revealing that she and her husband aren’t going to use birth control for the first ten years of their marriage and an epilogue in Unlawful Contact which features babies and barbecues.)

This epilogue ruined the book for a friend of mine and while it didn’t impact my enjoyment of the book, I can totally see her point. In fact, it started my own recollection of the very twee epilogues in previous Clare books and I am a bit remorseful I didn’t mention the epilogue issue in grading the Clare book.

I can relate to the epilogue problem.  In My One and Only by Kristan Higgins, the epilogue drove me over a cliff.  Admittedly I was standing on the cliff as a result of much that had gone on before, but it was like a slap in the face.

I wasn’t ever convinced that Harper was the evil witch that it seemed I was supposed to think she was.   Instead I saw her as a lonely, heartsick young woman whose love never got any sun.   She matured into a cynical woman but part of her change was caused by Nick and the story’s glorification of Nick’s character juxtaposed with the villification of Harper’s character was very offensive to me.     In fact, part of the character change that I wanted to see in Nick occurred in the frigging epilogue.   To have that was like rubbing salt in my exposed wound.

The story is a reunited lovers trope wherein two formerly married individuals learn from their past mistakes and fall in love and remarry.  The problem is that the entire book was an indictment on how the female protagonist didn’t give enough during her short marriage to the male protagonist.  Their marriage was really her fault and the book pushes to the climactic moment where she jumps into the water to swim after the ferry that is carrying her man away. This is a sign that she is ready to not only compromise but go the extra mile to make him happy.  What infuriated me about the epilogue is that describes how the male protagonist was leaving his practice in New York and moving to Boston to be closer to the heroine.  Cripes, this was the compromise that needed to be the culminating event, not some tacked on detail in the epilogue.  Again, the epilogue exemplified flaws in the story and actually made the story so much worse.

In Icebreaker the hero ends up quitting hockey to be the stay at home dad.  This was great. In fact, when Robin and I talked about this book (and we did for about an hour on the phone one day), we both agreed that what we saw in Adam, the hero, in the epilogue was what we needed to see in the text of the book. It totally suited both characters for Adam to stay at home and Sinead, the heroine, to commute to her job in the city.  Adam was patient and Sinead was not.  Adam was at the end of his career, Siobhan was in the peak part of her career.

Robin liked the epilogue:

In fact, despite my general wariness of epilogues, I felt that the one in Icebreakerwas the most original I’ve read in a long time, a true and pleasant surprise that for me justified epilogue status.

But I felt the epilogue showed what the relationship could have been in the book.  From Robin’s review again:

And while I understood clearly that these were two characters who were resisting intimacy with almost everything they had, the issue from Adam’s past that Sinead uncovers is so compelling that I really expected the book to make more use of that, both inside the romantic relationship and in general. When that did not happen, it felt to me like an opportunity for a much more interesting, much deeper book was bypassed, and that only accentuated the superficiality of Adam and Sinead’s relationship.

If only we had seen in the main story those characteristics there were revealed in the epilogue. In some ways, the epilogue both made the story worse instead of better.

Has there been an instance where you have thought the epilogue made the romance better? Worse? Can an epilogue ruin an otherwise good story?

 

Jane Litte is the founder of Dear Author, a lawyer, and a lover of pencil skirts. She spends her downtime reading romances and writing about them. Her TBR pile is much larger than the one shown in the picture and not as pretty. You can reach Jane by email at jane @ dearauthor dot com

136 Comments

  1. Selene
    Jul 12, 2011 @ 05:25:13

    I’m always extremely leary of epilogues. I come at them sort of squinting, and if it seems to be one of those babies-equals-true-love ones, I quickly stop reading. (I find the baby ones particularly annoying, probably because I don’t really like children and don’t want any of my own.) The Pamela Clare book would drive me nuts.

    I can’t think of a single romance where I thought the epilogue made the book better.

    Selene

  2. Mary Anne Graham
    Jul 12, 2011 @ 06:02:36

    I’m much more apt to read an Epilogue than a Prologue. However, I can do without them.

    If an author wrote her story well, then the reader should be able to imagine her own version of an Epilogue. Having the writer impose one on the reader takes away some of that creative freedom, IMHO.

    I’ve never put Epilogues in my books for the very reason that I hope the reader “writes” them.

  3. Jill
    Jul 12, 2011 @ 06:15:26

    The only “baby” epilogues that really get me is when the heroine has fertility troubles, it’s an issue throughout the book, and the epilogue has her “miraculously” pregnant. I realize this does happen occasionally in real life, but I don’t understand why having your own biological children = true love and happiness.
    Just once I’d like to see the happy baby ending involve adopted children, foster children, or heck even the acceptance that the couple will not have children of their own.

  4. Mari
    Jul 12, 2011 @ 06:21:17

    The Breaking Point epilogue was the subject of much discussion over at the AAR forums a while ago, and some people had the same problem with it that you’ve articulated here. I have to say I disagree; I felt that Clare had foreshadowed Natalie’s decision to leave journalism, and that it was clear that she was burned out and did not love it like the previous heroines in the series – all of whom remained in journalism, whether as freelancers or as investigative reporters, after starting families. Different women make different choices about their lives and careers, and I didn’t see anything wrong with having one character make this choice, even if it’s not one I’d have made myself. I also thought that Natalie may not have been kicking bad guy ass at the end of the book, but she did so earlier in the novel, and made her own contribution to the investigation. I believe you even remarked about it the Navy Seals/let me take care of you post a couple of months ago?

    As for the previous heroine who doesn’t use birth control, my take on it was that it was a religious choice for a character whose faith was integral to her character. For her to deny that this was important to her would not have been true to her beliefs and I don’t see that as being the feminist thing to do. Now, Clare has said she likes to have babies in the epilogues, but I don’t think everything is easy for her characters once they get their HEAs by any means, which to me is true to life: people often do have babies once they get married, and it doesn’t make their lives perfect.

    I haven’t read the other books mentioned in this post so I can’t comment. I’ll tell you which book had a babies epilogue that drove me nuts, though: the last Bridgerton book by Julia Quinn, in which the family baby record is broken. That was really not necessary and added nothing.

  5. LG
    Jul 12, 2011 @ 06:23:13

    I do read epilogues when they’re there, and I can’t, at the moment, think of any that I hated, but I kind of prefer it the way Mary Anne Graham said – I want to be able to “write” them myself in my head. Yes, I might finish the book and say, “Oh, I really wish I could read more about these characters, they were that great,” but I’m pretty sure the HEA I’d picture in my mind would be better (for me) than the epilogue the author might write, as I tend to be one of those people who’s tired of the “HEA as demonstrated by the birth of a baby” epilogues. Actually, I can’t think of a single epilogue I’ve read that didn’t feature babies, or at least pregnancy.

  6. KarenH.
    Jul 12, 2011 @ 06:25:47

    Can an epilogue ruin an otherwise good story?

    Oh, God, yes. In a debut fantasy (Beyond the Rain, Jess Granger), a book that I actually liked a lot (despite it being a fairly obvious first book), the epilogue created such a needlescratch of WTF, that I haven’t yet bothered to buy her sequel. Unicorns. Fucking (well, not literally) unicorns. That’s how the hero and heroine know they’ve achieved HEA nirvana. GD fucking unicorns.

    (It’s possible I’m still eversoslightly bitter…..)

  7. Molly O'Keefe
    Jul 12, 2011 @ 06:55:17

    The prologue works for me only if the the HEA is to some extent doubtful. The books I wished most had an epilogue are some of Laura Kinsale’s (she did some epilogues which I loved, but some books, no) – I want to know the quaker and the mathmatician are doing all right – babies or no. I want to know if the two caught in the desert truly survive his return to civilization. And of course the war hero and the exiled princess.

  8. becca
    Jul 12, 2011 @ 06:55:47

    There’s an epilog in one of the Laura Griffin books – the one where the heroine’s really stupid behavior in taking stolen drug money to fund her infertility treatments – that ends with the hero and heroine in Russia adopting a special needs child (fetal alcohol syndrome, I believe). The heroine’s drive to have children, and her ultimate choice of a child who would never mature into a functioning adult was so pathological that I gave the book away (other Griffin books are on my keeper shelf) and have totally blocked all memory of the title.

  9. GrowlyCub
    Jul 12, 2011 @ 06:56:00

    I’ve definitely read epilogues that I wanted to bleach from my brain immediately and usually they are the ones where the heroine miraculously gets pregnant when she couldn’t before or the message is so clearly that the only good woman is a one who gives up everything to become a baby machine. As I’m voluntarily and very happily childless that just annoys me no end.

    That said, for many old Signets I’ve wished that there had been an epilogue, either because I didn’t want to let the characters go yet or because they had so many obstacles to overcome that having 250 pages of strife and 9 pages of HEA lead-up just made me feel that the two deserved more in the book not just in my imagination.

    Overall, I like epilogues and I notice more often if they aren’t there than the other way around, but there certainly have been total screechers where I wondered why oh why the editors let the author do that to their readers.

  10. DS
    Jul 12, 2011 @ 07:13:29

    Epilogues in my memory started showing up in historicals that were part of a series. There would be all the characters from the prior books still in honey moon glow with their progeny. I quickly was nauseated by this.

    Then there is the epilogue in an Anne Stuart historical that I ended up tearing out. The hero and heroine end living in penury on his Irish estate, They have a bunch of kids (12?) and the heroine is barefoot(by choice probably) and pregnant. And the only thing I could think of was that the Irish potato famine was going to turn up in a couple of decades.

    @Mari:

    As for the previous heroine who doesn’t use birth control, my take on it was that it was a religious choice for a character whose faith was integral to her character.

    While I haven’t read the book in question or the discussion on AAR, I honestly can’t think of any religion that discourages birth control for a set period of time. It’s either all go or all no.

  11. Las
    Jul 12, 2011 @ 07:31:50

    Well, damn, I think I’m going to have to read Icebreakers. That epilogue sounds awesome.

    And ditto on Clare’s books being…problematic. Didn’t one of her heroines from that series also have a home-birth? Because, you know, real woman are all natural and shit. I really don’t get Clare, because her characters and plots are overall well-done and enjoyable, but she throws in these awful cliches about love and femininity. I almost want to believe that her publisher is forcing her to do so, because otherwise the contradiction is just mind-boggling. I can’t read her anymore.

    I usually range from indifferent to hate-filled when it comes to epilogues. Too many have the tendency to Disney-fy the HEA. The only epilogue that stands out to me is the one in Sherry Thomas’ Not Quite a Husband. *SPOILER* I loved every word of that book, but as I was reading it I knew, just knew, that Byrony, who had every reason to believe she was infertile, would end up pregnant, because their love was just that powerful or whatever other nonsense authors like to put in when infertility is an issue. So I was bracing myself to have this wonderful book ruined for me at any moment, and then I get to the end, and…no baby! In fact, it’s pretty clear that they never have children! That ending instantly made Thomas my favorite author, because she wrote an incredibly moving story about a trope I hate, made me love and sympathize with all the deeply-flawed characters, and didn’t cheapen the story with a cliche-riddled epilogue.

  12. Mari
    Jul 12, 2011 @ 07:38:09

    DS, to be more accurate, I don’t know if I should characterize it as religious, cultural, or a combination thereof – but I felt it was true to the character, her values and her beliefs. She makes it clear early in her own book (Naked Edge, the one before Breaking Point) that she wants a large family and that the traditions she was raised with are important to her, and the hero accepts this.

  13. Ursula Whistler
    Jul 12, 2011 @ 07:52:05

    The epilogue that sticks in my mind that soured me on the story came at the end of the Harry Potter series. In fact, it ruined me for watching any of the movies. I can’t wrap my mind around Hermione being with Ron Weasley. It’s wrong. She’s smarter, better, and stronger than that.

  14. Chelsea
    Jul 12, 2011 @ 07:58:16

    @Jill:

    I totally agree. Any woman who has struggled with fertility problems (and we all know someone who has) knows that no amount of love in the relationship or desperate wishing is going to magically make a baby. And it’s a slap in the face if part of the heroine’s character arc within the book was coming to terms with her infertility, and than its all undone by the miracle baby.

    Overall, I like epilogues IF the story calls for one. But I would say far more stories have epilogues than is necessary.

  15. Bianca
    Jul 12, 2011 @ 08:15:32

    @Molly O’Keefe: Totally agree. I love Laura Kinsale, but I could definitely use an epilogue on some of her books. Her books are 500+ pages of angst, angst, angst…and, like, a paragraph on the last page where everyone is finally happy. For books like that, it’s nice to have a little satisfaction in the form of an epilogue. Otherwise, I feel kind of cheated.

    @ Chelsea, Jill: HATE the sunshine, fat puppies and babies epilogues, though. Especially, as others have said, when the baby epilogue happens to a heroine who is supposedly infertile. I mean — if you have the guts to use infertility as a character device, then follow through! “The Raven Prince” by Elizabeth Hoyt is the ultimate culprit in this, for me. The heroine and hero spend the whole book coming to terms with the heroine’s infertility…only for her to miraculously have a baby in the epilogue. Completely invalidated the entire book’s message of acceptance and loving someone even though they may not be a perfect fit for you. Ugh, even typing about it makes me mad again!

  16. Cathy KJ
    Jul 12, 2011 @ 08:20:39

    I’m generally not a fan of the procreative bliss epilogue, but it worked really well in a recent Sarah Mayberry (?) book I read – the heroine was facing fertility issues and considering artificial insemination, until she and the hero decided to see what happened naturally. In the epilogue she had miscarried once, but was newly (?) pregnant again. It worked really well with the tone and theme of the story.

  17. Mari
    Jul 12, 2011 @ 08:28:27

    @Las: I thought the NQAH epilogue was marvelous in showing how happy Leo and Bryony were together and in their careers. I definitely agree that a baby-filled epilogue would have ruined it.

    As for other books with (supposedly) infertile heroines, I think for me it hinges on whether or not it’s clear in the book that the heroine was indeed infertile and that there was no possibility that the partner she had before the hero had been the one with fertility issues. I’m sure in the past many women were made to believe that being unable to conceive was their fault, when the problem might have been their husbands’, so it’s plausible that some heroines would have a very nice surprise. But if it’s a miraculous conception, that’s definitely not my thing.

  18. Jan Oda
    Jul 12, 2011 @ 08:43:49

    I’ve read a couple of cringe worthy epilogues, but as someone above me mentioned, I notice it more when I really want one and there isn’t one. To stick with Sheryy Thomas, her Private Arrangements really ended with a bang, and after all the harsh things the hero and heroine did to each other, I needed a bigger glimpse of them being together to let out the romance happy sigh. I was still hungry (but then, I’m mostly always still hungry after reading a Sherry Thomas, because they are soooo awesome.)

    The magical babies after hints or straightforward fertility issues are diabolical, and I really hate them. But I find them easier to erase from my mind when there’s a sufficient enough HE before.

  19. Keishon
    Jul 12, 2011 @ 08:45:18

    Heh, prologues are just as bad. I’ve always thought that epilogues should be used to close loose ends (and that’s usually the case in mystery as I just finished one that did just that). The function of them in romance is different from what you stated above. I can’t recall any bad epilogues outside of the examples you mention where there are babies and barbecues or the miracle birth. If the epilogue isn’t going to add any value to the story I say leave it off.

  20. EGS
    Jul 12, 2011 @ 08:47:10

    I don’t mind baby epilogues even though they can easily fall into the super cheesy category. I think Lisa Kleypas does a good job with the baby epilogues – they generally fit what’s happened in the story but aren’t so nauseating that you want to throw the book across the room.

  21. Emily
    Jul 12, 2011 @ 09:09:32

    I like epilogues in general. Sometimes you need of more the happy couple being happy or settling.
    I sometimes like baby epilogues. I am not always sure why they work or don’t work.I totally agree I don’t like the idea of the heroine magically throwing away her job. Also I tend to prefer one baby in epilogue. It really throws me if the heroine seems to have popped out three or four little darlings in five or six years.
    One epilogue I loved breaks all these rules. I am not sure why I loved it but the epilogue from SEP’s It Had to Be You. Spoilers
    In the epilogue, they have a lot of kids, but somehow that didn’t bother me. Maybe because they both talked consistently through out the book about wanting kids.Maybe because it seemed like they chose to have so many kids rather than not taking precautions. Maybe because Phoebe still works, although she did cut back. Maybe because it shows how they compromised and worked things out.
    In the end the epilogue sometimes bring out the best and the worst like in the examples you mentioned. I think in general I usually like or can make it through the epilogue. When the epilogue is really awful, the rest of the book wasn’t that great to begin with.
    Is the heroine of Icebreaker Sinead or Siobhan?

  22. Jen
    Jul 12, 2011 @ 09:20:47

    I’m perplexed that a lot of erotic romances (especially ménage)that have baby epilogues— it’s like you just finished a big piece of cake and then they’re shoving broccoli in your face. Blech. (Just finished a quickie ménage à trois novella and the epilogue was the heroine marrying one of the guys, and having both their kids. It was just a quickie story–literally their first night together–so I don’t understand the need to tie up a story like that.)

  23. Chicklet
    Jul 12, 2011 @ 09:27:39

    Generally, I think that anything an author wants to accomplish in an epilogue should be handled within the previous chapters. If you haven’t made me believe that the hero and heroine are Meant To Be within pages 1-300, then you probably won’t be able to make me believe it within pages 301-309. If the angst/happiness ratio feels uneven (pages 1-292 are All Angst, All The Time; pages 292-300 are a microscopic drop of happiness after All That Angst), fix it in the book proper; don’t try to tack on a ten-page epilogue instead.

  24. dick
    Jul 12, 2011 @ 09:38:09

    Well, hey, romance fiction IS a bastion for tradition, isn’t it? And babies following marriage are traditional, aren’t they? In some ways, babies symbolize the completeness of the union which the HEA brings. They probably occur in epilogues more often than in the story itself to keep time straight, don’t you think? Just as with the stories themselves, some work, some don’t and unfortunately, as with most things, we remember those that don’t more often than those that do.

  25. Sabrina H
    Jul 12, 2011 @ 09:42:18

    Sherry Thomas’ Not quite a husband. Perfect epilogue, best I’ve ever read. No miracle baby, the heroine didn’t give up her passion in life just cause she got the hero, and both characters worked and had a happy home life.

  26. Kristal
    Jul 12, 2011 @ 09:53:30

    I didn’t have any problem with the Clare book with the no birth control for ten years thing, because I felt it was consistent with the character and her culture as shown earlier in the book.

    But Breaking Point I had a problem with – I think “twee” is the perfect description for that ending. I could have seen her go part time or become a free-lancer, but I couldn’t see a connection between the epilogue and previous behavior.

    It’s odd, because Clare’s books are generally more dark in tone – how about the one where the hero loses a leg during the book, you don’t see that everyday – but then there are these Care Bear epilogues that don’t fit the tone of the books.

  27. Annabel
    Jul 12, 2011 @ 09:56:50

    I don’t know. I think starting a family together is a very common progression with a lot of loving couples, both in books and real life, so I don’t mind babies in epilogues at all.

    I’m not sure how to say this without annoying people, but I also have no problem with women abandoning their careers for the man they love. I did it and chose motherhood and staying home and I found it to be important and fulfilling work. It’s certainly an acceptable choice for any woman to make without incurring the judgement of loser or doormat. If the story and relationship is good and well told, I would support the heroine making that choice. (Or the hero, as in Icebreaker.)

    It would be different if the guy was overbearing and making the choice for her, or guilting her into babies and staying home. But if she wants it, she should be able to pursue her personal happiness like any other woman. That is what I really want for a heroine to do.

    So for all those reasons, I kind of like epilogues because I want to see the heroine happy and living the life she hoped to have.

  28. Allie
    Jul 12, 2011 @ 09:58:41

    After reading a few reviews about Breaking Point, and finding out what was in the epilogue, I cancelled my order for that book.

    I love epilogues generally, as long as they stay true to the characters.

  29. Allie
    Jul 12, 2011 @ 10:00:52

    @Selene – “I find the baby ones particularly annoying, probably because I don’t really like children and don’t want any of my own.”

    I’m glad I’m not the only one…

  30. Jane
    Jul 12, 2011 @ 10:06:37

    @Kristal I think that is what makes Clare’s epilogues so jarring yet easy (at least for me) to overlook. They don’t fit in the tone of the books at all. They are really toss away material.

  31. jane
    Jul 12, 2011 @ 10:07:29

    As I think about it, there was a Lisa Marie Rice epilogue in which she goes on to describe the hero/heroine’s future life together including their children and then how the hero and heroine die of old age close in time together.

  32. Jane
    Jul 12, 2011 @ 10:09:19

    As an unrelated aside, the “edit comments” feature is back and is no longer right justified. Yay!

  33. LG
    Jul 12, 2011 @ 10:09:22

    @Annabel: “So for all those reasons, I kind of like epilogues because I want to see the heroine happy and living the life she hoped to have.”

    See, my problem is that it hasn’t always been established in the story that the couple will want children and that the heroine would be happy to leave her job and become a full-time mom. If there was evidence of that in the book, then I don’t necessarily have a problem with those kinds of epilogues, either, but it seems like it’s often just assumed that, at the very least, children are what being a happy couple is all about. When this isn’t true for the reader (as is the case with me), the “children = HEA” ending can be a bit tiresome. I don’t assume that children mean happiness, because they aren’t for me, so I would prefer the author not assume it for me. Unless there was some evidence throughout the book that this is really what the hero and heroine want, the HEA I picture for them in my head might actually not include children.

  34. Corina
    Jul 12, 2011 @ 10:16:18

    As some commenters have already mentioned, where an epilogue really works for me is where the story and the characters are complicated enough that while I can imagine a HEA at the end, I want just a little more to really settle into that. For me this is especially true in romantic suspense where the romance develops in a hyper stressful slipstream outside of one or both of the characters’ normal lives. Where that’s the case, I really appreciate a little glimpse, a few months or a few years later, into what became of them, to see that they really did make it work when the bullets stopped flying and the danger was over. A good example of this I read recently was Zero at the Bone. Those characters had so damn many issues that an epilogue was practically mandatory, just to show that they were still working through them six (or whatever) months later.

  35. LoriK
    Jul 12, 2011 @ 10:26:20

    I agree with Las about the problems with Pamela Clare books. There’s some weird disconnect in them that is starting to really bug me as I read more of them. After Braking Point I decided that if I read more of her books I’ll just skip the epilogues. I’ve hated them all because they’re way too Disney happy, especially for romantic suspense. However, I can see why some people would enjoy them individually because babies and fat puppies are their idea of an HEA. However, I think that when you look at the series as a whole it becomes obvious that the epilogues are problematic.

    @becca: OMG. I never knew how that Laura Griffin book ended. I DNFed it after only a couple chapters because the heroine’s out of control baby rabies made her so very TSTL, and now I’m so glad that I did. That epilogue would have given me an aneurism.

  36. Elyssa Papa
    Jul 12, 2011 @ 10:38:28

    Sorry if I’m repeating what others have said; I haven’t had the chance to read through comments yet.

    I’m not really sure I would say the epilogue of BREAKING POINT is anti-
    feminist. Just because someone stays at home to raise her kids doesn’t mean she’s not a feminist. But I also see your point in that giving up a career isn’t exactly progressive.

    As for epilogues that tend to mar the book for me–I really cannot stand the epilogues for SEP’s books. Especially the one for DREAM A LITTLE DREAM, which is my fave SEP book but one where I have to forget the epiloghe. And I absolutely hated the one in CALL ME IRRESISTIBLE, where the heroine, who gives up her education because the hero “needs” her more at home. What. The. F**k.

  37. Mary G
    Jul 12, 2011 @ 10:41:43

    I love epilogues. Sometimes the epilogue takes place days or months later and sometimes even years later. An indictment of romance novels has been that one never knows if the relationship will survive after the hot sex wanes and real life (even though it’s fiction) intrudes. That may include a family.

    I also love it when it’s a series like Clare’s and you see what the other beloved characters are up to. I’m with Annabel. It should be an acceptable choice for anyone to stay home with the kids if they so choose. It was no surprise in Breaking Point as Natalie said she was burned out. This was such a bone of contention for some that I wonder if they actually read the book word for word because they missed that integral fact.

  38. Mary G
    Jul 12, 2011 @ 10:45:40

    Sorry I’m talking about when Breaking Point released, not during today’s discussion.

  39. Kate Hewitt
    Jul 12, 2011 @ 10:47:40

    I’m not a huge fan of epilogues as either a reader or a writer, although I have written a few. I think it’s mainly because I want to imagine the ongoing HEA for myself, rather than be told just what it entails, whether it is babies, no babies, career or no career, etc. An epilogue often feels preachy/messagy to me–as if the author is saying ‘This and this only is how the hero and heroine can be happy in the longterm.’ But maybe that’s me coming to it with some cynicism…

  40. Kim in Hawaii
    Jul 12, 2011 @ 10:55:09

    Regarding Breaking Point, you refer to a scene where Natalie is serving coffee to the men who are assigned to protect her. Natalie is not trained in security but the men are … it seems logical that she would extend some courtesy to them … or at the very least, give her a reason to hear their discussions about her. BTW, the men fall under the command of a female Colorado Marshall. Thus it is a matter of training, not sex.

    As for the epilogue, Natalie made a choice – being a mother is just as “feminist” as being a journalist, Colorado Marshall, etc. In fact, it seemed a logical choice for as much trauma Natalie experienced as a journalist – I think I would want to take a break, too.

    Didn’t Zach make a choice, too, in the epilogue? That’s part of the HEA – choices are made to support the couple, not the individuals.

  41. Jane
    Jul 12, 2011 @ 11:06:24

    @Emily Sinead, sorry.

  42. dm
    Jul 12, 2011 @ 11:22:22

    Well, hey, romance fiction IS a bastion for tradition, isn’t it?

    Huh? A bastion for tradition? Since when? Romantic novels, both in the 18th and 19th century usage of the word and in our contemporary sense, have been a battle ground for the female psyche since at least Pamela.

    And babies following marriage are traditional, aren’t they? In some ways, babies symbolize the completeness of the union which the HEA brings.

    Only in the most generic sense. And that’s why baby epilogues mar otherwise good books. Because great characters are not generic, and their happiness is not generic, not a one size fits all ever after.

    Thomas’ Not Quite a Husband is an outstanding book. Her characters are both highly unusual people, remarkable among their peers. Their happiness, when they find it, is not their neighbors’ happiness. It is their own.

  43. chanceofbooks
    Jul 12, 2011 @ 11:24:57

    I’m in the minority here–I love epilogues. When there isn’t one, I often end up really wish there was. When I finish a keeper book, I often go to author websites looking for “bonus” epilogues because I don’t want to let characters go. I see epilogues as our reward for sticking through the ups and downs of the book.

    @Jill et al on the miracle baby epilogues. I agree that the “miracle baby” epilogues can be a little grating, particularly to those who struggle with real-life fertility issues. In historical romances, especially Regencies, it seems essential b/c having an “heir” was so all-important. Unless hero is a second son, I think authors feel like the miracle baby is a requirement. The Raven Prince epilogue grated on me, not so much because it was a miracle baby (I saw that coming) but because it was so darn quick AND she was pregnant again. I would have preferred to have seen it be 3 or 5 years later and then surprise! Julia Quinn’s When He Was Wicked (which has a bonus epilogue in e-form) and Liz Carlyle’s Tempted All Night both deal with fertility a bit more realistically.

    In the contemporary realm, there are books with non-traditional epilogues with adoptions and happily childfree epilogues. Lorelei James’s Shoulda Been a Cowboy (erotica) has an excellent adoption epilogue.

    And Laura Griffin’s One Wrong Step (romantic suspense) also has an adoption epilogue. I differ from @Becca with my read on this one–I loved the epilogue so much because it fit the story so clearly. Heroine’s obsession with having a child drove her to do some really stupid things. Her infertility was eating her up inside and after all her IVF and natural method failures, a miracle baby would have felt like a slap. But so would a childless epilogue–this heroine held out motherhood as a life goal, which while readers might not share, was who she was. And she was willing to take on the *risk* of FAS, which isn’t the same thing as a certainty of having a severely impaired child. I know several people who have adopted from Russia and other Eastern Europe countries–the risks associated with FAS and institutionalized orphanages are very real, but they are just that–risks. I know several adopted kids with significant drug/alcohol exposure and effects of early neglect, who turned around and ended up having much less impairment than predicted. I totally saw the family in OWS as going to defeat the risks.

    And I liked the Breaking Point epilogue, although it took me some time to do so. But in the end, I saw it as less about her rejecting her career and more about her embracing the chance to have a family again. Natalie lost EVERYTHING once before and used her career to bury her grief. She’s got a chance to have that with Zach, but he still has very significant PTSD issues. If she wants to have a family with *this* man, something is going to have to give. It’s the reality for a lot of families, particularly those with military/police parents with highly demanding 24/7 jobs. Natalie knows what Zach–not all men, but this particular wounded hero whose own issues can’t be HEA’d away–needs to make HER dream of a family come true. So she sacrifices her career to make that dream come true. Considering everything she lost, it totally makes sense to me. She’s got a chance to have what she never ever thought she would get again, and she doesn’t want to try to manage 60 hour work weeks while living that dream. Clare does adore her baby and homebirth epilogues, and I actually had more of an issue with the Unlawful Contact epilogue–way too much sunshine and puppies and everything is perfect in contrast with the dark hero presented in that book and his amazing journey.

    The most disappointing epilogue ever for me? Karen Marie Moning’s ShadowFever. YEARS of waiting. YEARS. And I won’t spoil it, but MAJOR disappointment. Book weighs over 5 pounds and I still threw it across the bed when I finished.

  44. kaylea cross
    Jul 12, 2011 @ 11:25:30

    I actually love epilogues if they wrap up the story well. What I don’t like is when they show conflicts and other major issues as being magically resolved when they were not addressed thoroughly enough in the book.

    However, I think a good epilogue can be a way for an author to show some special progression of the relationship between the hero and heroine, in a manner that leaves the reader more satisfied than they might otherwise have been without that final glimpse.

  45. Jill Sorenson
    Jul 12, 2011 @ 11:28:40

    I’m with @Mary G: and

    @Annabel:!

    Why is working at home or raising children seen as less important than having a professional career? Maybe it’s because, in general, WOMEN are the ones who do it. Our contributions to society are often downplayed/ignored.

    Feminism isn’t about eschewing marriage and children. It’s about gaining respect and equality. But where are we if we can’t respect women who decide to stay home or see that as an equally valuable option.

  46. GrowlyCub
    Jul 12, 2011 @ 11:31:21

    @Jill Sorenson:

    But where are we when the only viable progression of a relationship *is* painted as giving up a career and/or popping out babies, if that’s not what we want?

  47. Gwen Hayes
    Jul 12, 2011 @ 11:34:06

    The epilogue at the end of Karen Marie Moning’s FEVER series nearly ruined the whole series for me. I’ve had some time away now, so I feel better–but rereading may never happen because I don’t think I could enjoy Barrons again after that.

  48. Jill Sorenson
    Jul 12, 2011 @ 11:40:16

    Slightly OT: I have a hard time reading “bold” comments, as in the style of @dm above. It hurts my eyes.

  49. Jane
    Jul 12, 2011 @ 11:44:49

    @Jill Sorenson It’s not just the baby epilogues that created an anti-feminist feel to the Clare book, it’s the totality of circumstances. Now I liked this book but I’m not blind to its flaws or Clare’s propensity for Care Bear epilogues. If you read her journalism series, every single book features an epilogue filled with babies. Breaking Point has a woman who is devoted to her job and if the hints were there that she wanted to give it all up, they were so so subtle. The baby epilogues simply highlight the overall feeling a couple of my friends (and apparently commenters on AAR) had about the book. There is not just one, but several instances in which the female takes a subordinate position to the hero and to the other men in the story. It’s not simply that she chooses to give up a career and “bake pies” at home (the baking pie reference comes from the text of the story). She doesn’t intend to write a book, do freelance work, or anything associated with her career. These choices are made in the epilogue with very little to no forethought given to them. If any one should have quit his job and stayed at home, perhaps it was the hero who was suffering burnout and PTSD.

    The problem is that in the epilogue those choices are never really explained in any meaningful manner so there is no discussion of why this choice by this heroine was “equally valuable” as opposed to the other choices available.

  50. LG
    Jul 12, 2011 @ 11:47:57

    @GrowlyCub: Or somehow having both the career and the babies. I’m pretty sure that happens a lot in Nora Roberts’ books (I just realized it’s been several years since I last read or reread one of her contemporary romances – I should fix this). It is very rare that choosing not to have or adopt children is presented as a perfectly viable HEA.

  51. Jill Sorenson
    Jul 12, 2011 @ 11:48:16

    @GrowlyCub: I don’t see this in the the majority of romances I read. Giving up career to have babies is the exception, rather than the rule these days IMO.

  52. Heather Greye
    Jul 12, 2011 @ 11:48:51

    I just finished a trilogy and the epilogue of the final book featured the children of all the couples something like 12 years later. It didn’t seem to have much point (although one couple had lost a baby years earlier and this was probably the miracle baby scene) and while it didn’t ruin the book for me, it did kind of leave a blech taste in my mouth.

    I read epilogues because they’re there and usually don’t really care one way or the other. The baby ones can be annoying, but the ones I hate are the ones that tell me the couple lived happily and then died of old age. WTH?! You just spent hundreds of pages getting them together. Yes, people die but I don’t want to read about that! I don’t care that they were buried together under the old oak by the river. You should have left me basking in the glow of their I Love Yous or whatever.

  53. P. Kirby
    Jul 12, 2011 @ 11:49:04

    I prefer epilogues to prologues, although, in my limited experience, prologues aren’t the norm in romance.

    I’m not particularly ga-ga about kids or babies, but I don’t necessarily mind them in an epilogue. For me, it’s a matter of tone. If the babies are presented as some kind of end-all path to female fulfillment, it’s going to annoy the sh*t out of me. I have a very little tolerance for parents, fictional or real, who think that making babies makes them the bestest, most amazing human beings ever. People who say, “I’m a mother,” in a self-righteous tone. Ugh.

    OTOH, people who write/talk about children in a wry, “kids, sometimes you love ‘em; sometimes you want to sell ‘em,” kind of way, are a-okay by me. So I wouldn’t mind a funny and cute snapshot of life happily ever after with kids.

  54. GrowlyCub
    Jul 12, 2011 @ 11:52:19

    @Jill Sorenson:

    I saw it in pretty much every single contemp I was reading which is why I stopped reading them altogether.

  55. MARIA.MARIA
    Jul 12, 2011 @ 11:52:43

    I LOVED the epilogue in Bet Me by Jennifer Crusie. I really felt that it matched the characters that had been given to us in the story. The wanderer was still wandering, the couple that wanted children had them, and Caleb and Min, who had discussed not wanting children the whole book, did not have them. It’s less important to me that the characters not have babies in the end. Children can often be a part of married life, and as time goes on, priorities and views on the subject change. What I don’t like is unnatural character development.

  56. library addict
    Jul 12, 2011 @ 12:00:50

    I usually enjoy epilogues. But that’s when I like the h/h and want to read more about their HEA. Like Jane, there are some books I wish had epilogues, if only to truly convince me of the HEA. Not so much that the h/h are in love, but that they can overcome the differences or whatever obstacle was keeping them apart in the book.

    The babies = happiness can be treacly when it’s overdone or doesn’t fit the storyline well. But I love to read about the h/h and their family, be it if they have babies of their own, adopt, or are just thinking about the possibility of maybe getting a pet.

    I want that glimpse of what their life is like after they’ve finally gotten together.

    I agree with the previous posters who have stated they dislike heroines who are infertile having “magic” babies. One of Quinn’s Bridgertons second epilogues had this scenario and I wanted to throw the book against a wall. Since it was an ebook, and I was reading on PC, I resisted.

    The Harry Potter epilogue is not well written, but I loved the idea of it and wanted more details, not less. And I was very happy Hermione and Ron ended up together as them as a couple seemed so obvious to me from the very first book.

  57. Mari
    Jul 12, 2011 @ 12:05:30

    @Jane: a lot of us did pick up on the hints that Natalie was not satisfied with her career in Breaking Point, so I’m not sure I’d call them subtle. I guess it’s more an issue of what individual readers pick up on when reading; I’m sure there are things I didn’t notice when I read it.

    I don’t know that it’s fair to say Clare is sending a specific message with her epilogues; well, other than everyone having home births. Most of my friends did not have an easy time of it with their first babies, and most would have ended up in the hospital if they tried to give birth at home, so that does require some suspension of disbelief for me. But Breaking Point doesn’t have babies in the epilogue. Hard Evidence had a h/h who were still waiting to have kids in the epilogue. It’s also kind of interesting to note that in Naked Edge, Kat continues as a journalist, while Gabe is the one who chooses to work his new job around his family. You have two heroes who leave high risk, stressful careers in favor of less dangerous work (Zach and Julian). I think Clare’s an equal opportunity author, in that sense.

    @Elyssa Papa: SEP’s epilogues tend to be cringe-inducing for me, too. Was Dream a Little Dream the one where all the female characters ended up pregnant at the same time?

  58. Jane
    Jul 12, 2011 @ 12:08:20

    @Mari I’m not saying that Clare is anti feminist. I think she isn’t. What I am saying is that there are things in Breaking Point that can lead a reader to argue that it has an anti feminist feel and that the baby epilogue is part of the overall statement, not the only piece that would lead a reader to that conclusion.

  59. CourtneyLee
    Jul 12, 2011 @ 12:08:31

    The best epilogues are the ones that fit the couple and make sense according to what we learned about them in the main part of the story. If that means she ends up staying home with the munchkins, it’s all good. If we had no inkling that was going to happen and in fact had evidence to the contrary, it’s not all good. For all that I happily chose to be a stay at home mom (it was what I wanted to be when I grew up for all that I’m only 29 and was often told that I should aspire to something “more useful” *eyeroll*), it’s not a one-size-fits-all conclusion. If it doesn’t fit the characters, then epilogues detracts from the story instead of contributing to it.

    I agree about the epilogue for Zero at the Bone; I don’t think I would have believed their HEA if I hadn’t seen them six months after the dust settled navigating everyday obstacles like work, money, and the aftereffects of previous events.

  60. Ros
    Jul 12, 2011 @ 12:12:58

    I think almost every epilogue to a romance novel that I’ve read could have been ripped out with no loss to the book. I wish authors would ask themselves whether the epilogue is truly necessary before writing them.

    The only kind I really approve of are where the epilogue effectively functions as a teaser for the next book in a series. Give me something new in the epilogue, show me an unexpected consequence of the HEA, indicate a possible future development. But don’t just slide into a world of babies and sunshine that leaves a bizarrely bitter taste to a happy ending.

  61. Tina
    Jul 12, 2011 @ 12:13:09

    For me, it depends how the story ended on whether or not a epilogue is wanted. In some cases I’ve felt the story ended so abruptly that plot elements needed to either be furhter explored or I felt like I was missing closure.

    But of course, since when you close the book a lot of your impression is based on how you left things, especially with a romance, so a bad epilogue can sour even a good book.

    One type of epilogue I do generally like is to see how an ensemble group of characters turn out years later especially if the body of the book takes place around/drying some really transformative events. Off the top of my head, Maggie Osborne does this in her Brides of Prairie Gold. The story is about a fairly largish group of mail order brides and all the stuff they endure during a wagon train west to meet their grooms. So it was nice to see how they all ended up years down the road.

  62. DS
    Jul 12, 2011 @ 12:14:06

    @P. Kirby:

    If the babies are presented as some kind of end-all path to female fulfillment, it’s going to annoy the sh*t out of me. I have a very little tolerance for parents, fictional or real, who think that making babies makes them the bestest, most amazing human beings ever. People who say, “I’m a mother,” in a self-righteous tone. Ugh.

    OTOH, people who write/talk about children in a wry, “kids, sometimes you love ‘em; sometimes you want to sell ‘em,” kind of way, are a-okay by me. So I wouldn’t mind a funny and cute snapshot of life happily ever after with kids.

    Nicely said. I used all my maternal urges up when I was a preteen and ended up taking care of a cousin’s toddler for an entire summer. Very good birth control. I’m not uninterested in reading about children, I’m just not interested when the children are a badge of romance, not real characters in themselves.

    I kind of wonder if sometimes the author isn’t encouraged to tack on the carebear epilogue by agent/editor. I remember one particular book I read that was published by Harlequin that had a baby on the cover– apparently Harlequin had done some sort of marketing thing and found that babies on the cover increased readership. However, there was no baby in the book until I reached the very end and one popped up unexpectedly in the epilogue set some time in the future. It was an odd epilogue because the hero wasn’t in it at all– the heroine and the baby were looking out the window waiting for him to come home.

    I always wondered if the author thought– there’s the baby you wanted, Harlequin, as she printed that page out.

  63. Jill Sorenson
    Jul 12, 2011 @ 12:19:06

    @Jane: I haven’t read the book so I can’t comment specifically, but I assume that most epilogues are a glimpse into a happy *moment* in the future, not a summation of the couple’s entire life together. Does she give up her career forever?

    I’d like to read a stay at home dad epilogue. I think I would find that very satisfying. :) One of my favorite characters of all time is the scruffy boyfriend/babysitter in Erin Brockovich.

    I agree that baby epilogues are more common than the “let’s never have kids!” ending of Crusie’s Bet Me. But many times babies aren’t mentioned at all.
    Maybe the reason this subject gets me so worked up is because I didn’t think I wanted children until…surprise! My girls have been such a blessing to me and now I can’t imagine life without them. There is a little part of me who wants that happiness for everyone.

  64. Jane
    Jul 12, 2011 @ 12:19:25

    @DS Here’s what I think is kind of fascinating. Of the three epilogues I highlighted, I only complained about the babies in the Clare epilogue. The Icebreaker epilogue also had a baby in it, but that isn’t why I used it.

    Yet, the comments seem to have defaulted to discussing babies in epilogues. We seem to tie epilogues together with babies.

  65. Jane
    Jul 12, 2011 @ 12:21:48

    @Jill Sorenson Who knows what she is going to do or not do but the epilogue is focused on her choice of staying at home (there is no discussion about giving it up and for how long which is part of the problem).

    There is a little part of me who wants that happiness for everyone.

    But having kids isn’t a “happiness” for everyone. I have one and I tell all my friends who say that they don’t want to have kids that they’ll be just as happy without them because I don’t think every marriage or a coupledom or even singlehood is made happier with children.

  66. Las
    Jul 12, 2011 @ 12:24:30

    @Jill Sorenson: Why is working at home or raising children seen as less important than having a professional career?

    I thought it was pretty clear that the problem many have with the baby-filled epilogues is that 1)they are so ubiquitous in the genre, and 2)when a particular author does it every single time, especially in the same series, it turns from just one of many options a woman can make to an almost mandate that there is only one true way to be happy. Worse, it’s a sign of a really lazy author. If every book I pick up from an author has virtually the same ending of babies!babie!babies!, I won’t touch another book of hers (I’m looking at you, Lorelai James!). Romance, with it’s defining characteristic of an HEA, is inherently cheesy and predictable (in a good way, but still). Authors should at least make an effort to be creative within those constraints.

  67. Mari
    Jul 12, 2011 @ 12:26:18

    I think the system might have eaten my last comment. Take 2, then:

    @Jane: I definitely agree that different readers are likely to have different reactions to that epilogue, as this discussion clearly shows, and of course there’s no one valid interpretation of it. The one epilogue by Clare that really didn’t work for me was actually in Naked Edge – that’s the one that was rather too baby-centric for my tastes (and I had other issues with that book, but that’s really tangential to this discussion).

    Sorry about the confusion with the comments. Any chance of adding a preview option? :)

  68. Mary G
    Jul 12, 2011 @ 12:31:46

    I think it’s safe to say that if the story suits having an epilogue, then the epilogue should suit the story, biological babies or not, pets or not, working mom and dad or not.

  69. Las
    Jul 12, 2011 @ 12:36:53

    Another issue I sometimes have with epilogues is that I’m actually a fan of being left wanting a bit more. The HEA has to be there, of course, but I don’t need every facet of that HEA spelled out for me. Let the couple have their happy ending…let me imagine how it goes from there.

  70. Linda Winfree
    Jul 12, 2011 @ 12:38:12

    @DS:

    My editor (not at Harlequin) has suggested the addition of epilogues for some of my works, not to give the Carebear effect, but to maybe offer resolution or insight into something that couldn’t be explored well in the timeframe of the book. For example, I had closed a manuscript with a commitment/HEA shortly after the heroine experienced a traumatic loss. My editor suggested I add a short epilogue to show the couple beyond that sad moment. I did, also managed to drop in some foreshadowing for the next book in the series, and it worked, I think. Again, really short, about three pages. In another book, I’d added an epilogue and she suggested cutting it. I did, and she was right — the work didn’t need it.

    On the Clare epilogue, it wasn’t so much the job/baby thing, but the sheer length of it coupled with the population of former characters. Granted, I had not read the previous books, but the epilogue felt long and drawn out, especially when I was seeing all these couples with whom I didn’t have a connection.

    As a reader, I like an epilogue that is a natural progression of the story, a kind of capstone moment. I don’t like tacked on epilogues any more than I like ill-conceived and unnecessary prologues.

  71. LG
    Jul 12, 2011 @ 12:38:51

    @Jane: “But having kids isn’t a “happiness” for everyone. I have one and I tell all my friends who say that they don’t want to have kids that they’ll be just as happy without them because I don’t think every marriage or a coupledom or even singlehood is made happier with children.”

    This is off-topic a bit, but: As someone who has told people that I don’t want children, I’d find your response refreshing. Unfortunately, the response is to usually overrule what I said and assure me that I’ll change my mind one of these days, and I really shouldn’t wait too long or I’ll regret it when I can’t have babies of my own anymore. I used to argue with people about this, but now I just let it go because it gets to be more frustrating than it’s worth. It’s like telling someone who’d like to be a stay-at-home mom that they’re being old-fashioned and will regret it if they miss out on the path of “successful career woman.” No one likes to feel that their choices are somehow “less.”

  72. Robin/Janet
    Jul 12, 2011 @ 12:44:14

    I totally agree that the baby in the epilogue device can be EXTREMELY problematic. But I also wonder if many authors (and readers) see that kind of epilogue as a sort of final punctuation mark in the story.

    That is, the idea that women want to marry and have babies is so deeply ingrained in the Western consciousness that these epilogues are at some level seen as no big deal, when, for a number of us, they ARE a big deal, especially when they undermine or otherwise eclipse the independence of the female protag in the rest of the book.

    NOT that there’s anything wrong with choosing to marry, give up a career, and stay at home with children. But it SHOULD BE a choice, with consequences and implications that need to be considered, and not just a punctuation mark that everyone just assumes should or will be there.

    Yeah, the “baby and barbecue” epilogue wraps a neat little bow on a book, but at what point does that bow become a garotte, systematically and almost mindlessly strangling other options out of the genre?

    Also, do people think that the b&b epilogue is getting more or less frequent?

  73. dm
    Jul 12, 2011 @ 12:54:43

    There is a little part of me who wants that happiness for everyone.

    Missionaries in the 19th century felt much the same way about Christ.

  74. Jill Sorenson
    Jul 12, 2011 @ 12:57:10

    @Jane: I agree that parenthood isn’t for everyone and I respect the decision not to have children. For me it turned out well.

    @Las: I don’t read a lot of “sweet” romances, which tend to be more traditional, so perhaps my perception is skewed. I don’t see one author’s choice as a mandate to all women, either. But I support originality and staying true to a *characterization*, not necessarily an author’s personal belief system. I’ve written characters with religious or other beliefs I don’t share, for example.

  75. Moth
    Jul 12, 2011 @ 12:57:36

    @KarenH.: Oh, GOD! The unicorns. Why? It wasn’t even a fantasy novel. It was supposed to be science fiction. I say, no crying in baseball and no effing unicorns in my SF!

  76. Jane
    Jul 12, 2011 @ 12:59:27

    @Mari Sorry Mari. I will look at adding a preview button. I think Naked Edge is the original babies and barbecue book, right? Where the characters are all sitting around a picnic table, ogling a muscle car, and rubbing big bellies? The funny thing is that I really enjoyed Breaking Point and actually hosted a giveaway here at DA but I totally see where other readers are coming from on this.

  77. Carly M.
    Jul 12, 2011 @ 13:05:40

    I’ve enjoyed many a baby-logue. The one that comes to mind is Julia Quinns “On the Way to the Wedding.” It was perfect in tone and wit, with the hero missing one of the births as he popped out for a newspaper, etc or the heroine explaining the process in detail. It was a sweet extension of their characters and some snark on the Bridgerton reproductivity.

  78. GrowlyCub
    Jul 12, 2011 @ 13:08:30

    @Jill Sorenson:

    “now I can’t imagine life without them. There is a little part of me who wants that happiness for everyone.”

    I totally understand that you feel that way, but having kids would not be happiness. It would be one of the most awful things I could imagine happening to me and, quite honestly, to the kid.

    Children should be wanted wholeheartedly and I feel once one becomes a parent that means one’s desires need to take second seat. I’m not willing to do that, so having to have a child would be a horrible thing all around.

    I’m 40, so it’s not like I might change my mind. I remember frequently getting patted on the head and told that I’d be first to be married and popping out the anklebiters when I was in my late teens and early 20s and on another occasion asked what good my life would be if I didn’t make babies. So reading a rom novel epilogue that clearly implies that I can only be a happy member of society and worthy of a happy relationship if I produce little Growlys really pushes buttons hard.

  79. DS
    Jul 12, 2011 @ 13:11:32

    @Jane:I hadn’t read any of the books you wrote about. However, most epilogues I have run into involve some idealized future involving babies. I remember one Joanne Simon time travel where the heroine is dying surrounded by grandchildren and the memories of her deceased husband/hero. Although that wasn’t as useless as it sounds. Considering the h/h had been brought together then swept apart and brought together again by some sort of time problems, it was good to know that they both stayed in the same era for a significant period of time.

    I cannot think Why the Higgins book would have had the information you mentioned tacked on the end rather than worked into the main plot, espeically given several reviews I read that thought there was an inequity of responsibility for the breakup of the relationship the first time there. I just hoped after reading your post that the heroine was an Olympic class swimmer.

    Bad epilogues for me generally provide information that is not needed– usually the baby thing or my god,they are poor and in the path of a disaster.

    Providing important information about the relationship in an epilogue just seems to be a mistake. If I like the twist provided in the epilogue, there’s a good chance I wouldn’t have read the book all the way to the epilogue.If I don’t like it then I’m probably going to find the author unreliable and not buy more of her his/her books.

  80. Moth
    Jul 12, 2011 @ 13:12:57

    @library addict: The Harry Potter epilogue annoyed me mostly, I think, because it didn’t answer the questions I really wanted answered about their futures. Like, what did Harry do with himself after his career as the Boy Who Lived was over? So much of the Hogwarts stuff seemed to be pointing to what careers the kids would have and then ol’ JK decided to tell us what they named their kids instead.

  81. Mari
    Jul 12, 2011 @ 13:15:32

    @Jane: No, the barbecue epilogue is in Unlawful Contact; I believe nobody was actually pregnant in that one, though there were quite a few kids. But none of them just popped up out of nowhere, so it didn’t bother me too much. In Naked Edge, the epilogue is mostly focused on the heroine giving birth, with some extra stuff on Navajo customs.

    And now I see that someone enjoyed the epilogue in On the Way to the Wedding, which I so disliked. To each her own, I guess!

  82. Honeywell
    Jul 12, 2011 @ 13:35:47

    I wonder if most of the backlash against Clare’s character quitting her job is about feminism or if it’s really about the American work ethic (60-80 hour work weeks is a good thing, not taking a lunch is a sign of a hard worker and the person who hasn’t taken a vacation in twenty years gets a plaque).

    Looking back at the AAR thread it seems people were really just horrified that she didn’t have a job. Some said it would have been fine for her to quit her job to take care of the children (that’s hard work) but she didn’t have any children so what was she going to do all day? Others argued it was fine she was taking a break after her traumatic experiences but of course she’d get a job again later even though it wasn’t explicitly stated. Or that it would have been fine for her to quit her job as long as she got another one even if it was only part time writing a book.

    So is the reason for the backlash really about feminism or is it just that Americans have been conditioned to place work above any and everything else? I just can’t buy the anti feminist argument when a successful, educated women makes a decision to make herself happy–that’s the ultimate goal of feminism isn’t it?

  83. Robin/Janet
    Jul 12, 2011 @ 13:51:04

    I just can’t buy the anti feminist argument when a successful, educated women makes a decision to make herself happy–that’s the ultimate goal of feminism isn’t it?

    How do you know she makes the decision “to make herself happy,” though? That’s the point Jane is making in her post:

    There is no indication at any point prior to the epilogue that the heroine is tired of her job, that she longs to have a family, that her life wish would be to marry and raise kids and bake pies for her husband.

    For me, that’s the main problem with so many of these epilogues. These choices are not treated as CHOICES — they’re not made deliberately, thoughtfully, and with any consideration of their consequences and implications (which may connect to the complaints of readers who weren’t convinced she could be financially secure without a job). Sometimes they come completely out of left field and contradict everything we see in the heroine’s character previously. And that, IMO, isn’t feminism, at all, but mindless subservience to patriarchal expectations.

    If the heroine does want to put her career on hold for a family, why not show her consciously and deliberately making that decision — accepting that such a decision will likely set her career back, that it will change her marriage, that it entails physical, emotional, economic, and other consequences (both positive and challenging), etc. etc.?

    We routinely (and IMO rightfully) give the heroine flack for passively putting up with an a-hole hero, so why shouldn’t we question an unconsidered decision to abandon her career aspirations to be a SAHM?

  84. Honeywell
    Jul 12, 2011 @ 14:03:24

    @Robin/Janet: How do you know she makes the decision “to make herself happy,” though? That’s the point Jane is making in her post:

    There is no indication at any point prior to the epilogue that the heroine is tired of her job, that she longs to have a family, that her life wish would be to marry and raise kids and bake pies for her husband.

    I think Jane is wrong actually. Clare took pains to lay out a road map leading up to her decision. It was so clear to me from the first chapter. Here’s the thread at AAR where I posted some quotes and places I think Clare foreshadowed the epilogue:

    http://www.likesbooks.com/boards/viewtopic.php?t=8828

  85. Nicole
    Jul 12, 2011 @ 14:06:30

    I love kids. I think they’re the greatest, and one day I may even pop out a couple. Maybe. I just really hate it when everything in a romance novel is all about the kids. It’s not cute, it’s lazy. I feel like I can usually tell by the cover or a blurb when a book is going to be that way, and then I avoid them. I’m not the target audience, and if I don’t read them, I won’t hate them. Everybody wins.

    What I hate is when I’ve invested hours of my free time in the relationship of two interesting, complicated adults, only to have the story end with an epilogue that reduces them to generically happy parents, fawning over their magnificent, exceptional, uncommonly good-looking and usually treacly-cute offspring. If you are an author and this is secretly what you see when you look into your characters’ futures, more power to you. I just wish you’d keep it to yourself.

    When the book is about people who are actively seeking spouses with whom to raise a family, that’s one thing; this type of epilogue actually never bothers me in regency and historical books, where love matches are supposed to be rare and marriage is still largely about procreating.

    When you take two successful, sexual beings who never even mention children in their talks of the future, I find it painful to read about them becoming slavishly devoted parents – especially in contemporaries, where there are a lot more roles open to everybody, not just women. I know lots of people who love being mothers, and I have a large number of friends and relatives who have stayed home with their children without giving up their feminist principles or any interest outside their families. I just don’t see that reflected in the epilogues that I’ve read lately. And if authors don’t feel that a couple of pages is enough time to get across whatever it was they were trying to convey about the later lives of their characters, then maybe they need to lay off the epilogues.

    I for one would like to see more sexy! fun! times! epilogues, and fewer sniff! my infant’s! skull!

  86. Annabel
    Jul 12, 2011 @ 14:09:33

    @Robin/Janet

    I think the B&B epilogues are growing less frequent.

    I guess anything that does not feel “authentic” does not belong in a book, whether it’s an out-of-the-blue baby or a woman suddenly bailing on her career to stay home. It has to make sense for the characters and it has to fit in the story. I totally agree with that.

    On a related topic (the homebirths in the epilogues made me think of this), I would love to read an opinion piece on how readers feel when they are subtly (or not so subtly) prodded with an author’s social agenda in the course of a book. On another board we were discussing authors writing interracial books where it started to feel like they were checking off some political-correctness checklist rather than telling a love story. Same with the hero/heroine’s choices–if they are filtered too much through the lens of say, feminism, or political correctness–does it begin to grate or distract rather than entertain? Or do you feel that authors have a responsibility to include social commentary in their work? (for instance, depicting the h/h as adopting rather than conceiving) I think about this a lot.

    From the writer side, I had to go check all my books. Five out of ten had epilogues. Two of the epilogues were proposal/wedding related, the other three were just wanting to send the book out with a hot sex scene. LOL. No babies just magically showing up in the epilogue as a HEA indicator. Phew!

  87. Mari
    Jul 12, 2011 @ 14:18:54

    @Annabel: I don’t mean this as criticism of your books, Annabel, but I tend to find sex scene epilogues much less appealing than even the more saccharine baby epilogues. The sex scenes often seem gratuitous and don’t really further the relationship or my understanding of the characters. Not that there’s anything wrong with hot scenes, but I prefer them in the book itself, where hopefully they advance the relationship or story in some way, and not in the epilogue. I haven’t read your books, though, so I am open to the possibility that you made it work :)

    Re Breaking Point (again), I think Honeywell makes a good point about Natalie’s decision being contrary to the work ethic that’s expected in the US. Or at least, the work ethic that seems to me to be emphasized in the US, as I’m not American. I’d also like to add another foreshadowing quote that appears later in the AAR thread:

    If she got through this, she was going to live her life to the fullest. She was going to date and spend more time with her I-team friends. She was going to take art classes and learn how to ski. She was going to learn to make beignets just like Tante Evangeline had made them.

    If she got through this.

  88. lazaraspaste
    Jul 12, 2011 @ 15:28:12

    The purpose of prologues and epilogues, is the same purpose as bookends: they are meant to hold together the story in the middle. Therefore, the epilogue is not simply a reiteration of what already occured in the body of the story–that is, it shouldn’t be an extension of the narrative arc. I think of it more like casting off in knitting. It involves a repetition of certain stitches but then you tie everything up. It doesn’t necessarily mean that the author must answer all the questions brought up in the story, it only means they are casting off for this particular narrative pattern.

    The problem I have with epilogues is when they function as another chapter rather than as an actual epilogue. In short, they bring up other issues, introduce new stories or charcters, or resolve major conflicts that should have been resolved within the actual body of the story.

    Take the Harry Potter epilogue: the reason that Rowling didn’t tell us about Harry’s job or whatever was because that was never Harry’s goal or desire. He didn’t dream of being a professional man. He dreamt of having a family. The epilogue gives him what he say in the Mirror of Erised all the way back in Book One. Moreover, some of the major themes of those books are love and forgiveness vs. power and greed. Therefore, talking about what Harry does for a living or just leaving it in the aftermath of the battle does not finish those themes. The last chapter finishes the body of the adventure, but the epilogue ties together the themes, character arcs, and emotional threads that have been running througout the series.The epilogue finishes the thematic pattern.

    I would argue that most romance epilogues are intended to do the same thing. However, I think that soemtimes the proliferation of babies is not a thoughtful casting off of narrative themes/arc but a sloppy, quick finish. Like gluing up hemline instead of sewing it. I think this is partially what Jane was pointing out in the Clare book–which I have not read. The epilogue cannot bring things up that were not there beforehand.

    The other problem with epilogues is when they function as a deus ex machina, solving problems and miraculously bringing about a HEA, usually, I think because the writer wrote themselves into some untenable corner.

    Or, alternately, they are just gratuitous and tell us–AGAIN–what we just learned in the body of the story.

  89. Ridley
    Jul 12, 2011 @ 15:43:54

    I haven’t read Breaking Point, but I did read Extreme Exposure and I despised that epilogue. That, I think, may be the best example of ruining a good book with a babylogue.

    The entire book was about how she could be a mom and a serious career woman at the same time. She fought her boss to prove she could do it all. She gets her story and takes her kid to the museum…then gives it all up to have Reece’s baby in the epilogue and do freelance work from home.

    My issue with that is not that she stayed home to have more kids, but that quitting her career was just a total 180 out of the goddamn blue. I was left wondering what the hell the book was about. “So, a woman can’t be a mom and a reporter at the same time? What was all that conflict with her boss, then?”

    I have my own background and politics and concept of feminism, but I don’t expect romance characters to match them. I only expect them to act true to themselves from what I saw of them in the book.

    Tacking on a SAHM babylogue when babies and work were never discussed in the novel feels like author grandstanding. Like, this equals True Love because real women have babies and drop everything else in their life to care for babies. This needed no discussion in the book because That’s How It Is.

  90. Sirius
    Jul 12, 2011 @ 15:44:01

    I absolutely agree about Harry Potter epilogue Lazaraspaste. Hmm, I am in general perfectly fine with epilogues as long as epilogue as you said ties up main themes.

    My least favorite epilogue in the gay romance that will not be named was the one where the author decided to kill off one of the main characters. Yeah, that was unpleasant to put it mildly. I knew it was coming, but not because I saw the foreshadowing, I was just forewarned in advance. I just thought people were kidding when they said that.

  91. GrowlyCub
    Jul 12, 2011 @ 16:45:45

    @Sirius:

    Seriously? An author killed off one of the h/h in romance in the epilogue? /headdesk

    That’s worse than the one I read where one of the hero cop partners decides that it’s just not cool to be gay and goes back to fucking women leaving the other one heartbroken.

  92. Robin/Janet
    Jul 12, 2011 @ 17:05:56

    @Honeywell: I’m not sure what in that AAR thread clarifies the issue. I didn’t see any textual evidence that demonstrates clear foreshadowing, but I did see a lot of speculative debate, which to me, at least, suggests that there was no clear path to her retirement. Because I haven’t read the book I can’t say that definitively, of course, but I do wonder how much reader interpretation and expectation play a part in arguing for either side.@Annabel:

    I think Romance is all about social agendas, but I’m not sure I’d equate the social agenda of a book with the social agenda of an author. Although I recently read a book where IMO the author blundered straight into the narrative to make a certain point. And certainly there are books that seem really heavily weighted with a Lesson or a Moral.

    One thing I have noticed is that when books are accused of having an “agenda” it’s often when they reflect more, uh, progressive or liberal values. That is, I see more arguments for the naturalization of conservative values (take the whole ‘all women want to get married and have babies’ debate in this thread). I suspect there are many who would argue that the “average” Romance reader is more socially and politically conservative, but it might be more that the ASSUMED average reader fits that description. I actually think the Romance readership is pretty diverse, and that the online community has demonstrated that. Which will make the whole social project of Romance writing and reading kind of interesting in the future, IMO.

  93. Jennifer Leeland
    Jul 12, 2011 @ 18:06:10

    I don’t have a horse in this race, but I had a thought and I wanted to share it.

    I think the reason “having babies” is often an epilogue topic isn’t so much because that’s the ulitimate fullfillment for women, but perhaps because it’s a testament to the love, the strength of a relationship. Honestly I think the Thomas epilogue shows that infinitely better, but to bring a child into the world requires HUGE commitment. Showing characters willing to take that step may be part of the author giving the reader reassurance that these two (or three) people are deeply committed to each other.
    I’ll admit it. I’ve written the babylogue. I don’t write them because “that’s the ultimate happiness” for my heroines. I do it because many women (certainly not all) do want home and family–that ultimate sense of belonging and love that CAN culminate with a child.
    Like ANY topic, when done well, a babylogue fits. When done poorly, it’s annoying.
    I don’t think it’s the same for every author. In general, I hope that a HEA means that two (or three) characters find joy and love and ARE WILLING TO SHARE IT. If that means a baby? Awesome.
    If it means something else? Very cool.
    It’s when the babylogue cops out, takes the easy way, that it doesn’t ring true.

  94. Honeywell
    Jul 12, 2011 @ 18:29:19

    @Robin/Janet: In every scene the heroines career was mentioned the author made a point of saying or showing that the heroine was tired, stressed, or not happy. At one point she even flat out said the benefits of being a journalist meant nothing to her. How is that not clear foreshadowing given that the heroine does, in fact, quit her job?

    I can agree that reader expectation plays a huge role in how we interpret what we read and in this case I think readers just assume that women will work (because that’s what everyone is supposed to do, “get a job”) so when she left her career and didn’t have any other plan for work in place it came as a shock–even with the clear, imo, foreshadowing. I don’t even think there’s one scene in the entire book where you can look back on it and say, “She was so happy I can’t believe she quit or gave that up.”

    I’m not sure if this would be a book you’d be interested in or not but if you do plan on reading it I’d be interested in what you think about it once you have. (I actually didn’t like the book myself and it would have been a DNF for me if not for the AAR thread.)

    P.S.
    For what it’s worth, my husband and I have decided not to have children. There’s still a year or two left for us to change our minds but it’s not likely we will–we like our life and we’re happy. So I don’t think my reaction to the book is coming from an all women really want marriage and babies mindset.

  95. peggy h
    Jul 12, 2011 @ 18:39:44

    I’m another one who’s a little tired of the epilogue that guarantees HEA via the heroine giving up a high-powered job (because that = bad) and living away from the big city (because that = evil) and happily having as many children as humanly and scientifically and legally possible.

    I know women for whom that truly sounds like the perfect ending (and are living that life very, very happily), but I sometimes wonder if a majority of writers believe that romance readers *all* secretly hope to give up a job outside the home and live in the country to raise a lot of children? Not that I’m implying that’s not a big and difficult and rewarding decision and work, because it is. But do most writers really think it’s the only one we’re all secretly or openly hoping for?

    Another vote for intense and insane love for Sherry Thomas’ Not Quite a Husband. The epilogue is one of the reasons it’s my favorite Sherry Thomas book (and I love all four of them thus far).

  96. John
    Jul 12, 2011 @ 18:40:55

    I’m with those who say they don’t really mind baby epilogues. They depend on a lot of factors, so it’s different for each story.

    Such as with the Linda Lael Miller trilogy I’ve been reading. Even if the stories don’t have epilogues…you know the couples would end up with mucho babies in them if they occurred. In those, I can understand it, because the author makes it perfectly clear that the couples bone with children in mind.

    There are times that I prefer it not happen at all. That’s why I’ve enjoyed the few Blaze books I’ve read, because epilogues haven’t been common for me in them. Least of all baby epilogues. Presents, however, can frustrate me when it ends up giving me a baby epilogue Especially when I feel the heroine has made a point to be independent and not looking for a baby, yet POOF a B&B epilogue. Sometimes with several babies. That’s how my first Presents – a Lynne Graham title – ended, and I was like, “Really?” It seemed ridiculous.

  97. Ridley
    Jul 12, 2011 @ 19:04:55

    If the hero and heroine talk about wanting children and she expresses some desire to stay home with her kids in some capacity, then I love a babylogue. I want to see the characters get what they want.

    So I’m not categorically opposed to them. It’s only when they appear completely out of the blue that I arch an eyebrow.

    Epilogues work best for me when they add punctuation to something that factored heavily in the story: finding out what sex the baby was if the heroine had been pregnant for much of the book, seeing them in their new home after the town rebuilds if some great catastrophe had fueled the plot, watching one of them get rewarded/promoted from their efforts during the book, etc. In short, it shouldn’t add anything new so much as reinforce what we already know.

  98. Tina
    Jul 12, 2011 @ 19:39:54

    @lazaraspaste:
    I agree 100% this interpretation of the Harry Potter epilogue. I loved that epilogue. All throughout the entire series the kid was in mortal danger so It was just so nice to know Harry so happy with a real family of his own. I swear I closed that book on such a contented sigh.

  99. Sirius
    Jul 12, 2011 @ 19:44:50

    @GrowlyCub: Oh yes I am very serious unfortunately :(. And I loved several stories by this author before reading that one and still think she is quite talented. But I have not bought any book by her after reading that one and not because I want to punish her or anything. If she felt that such “innovative” epilogue fit her story, that was certainly her decision, but I have no desire see the guys dead in the epilogue (I can barely tolerate death of protagonist before epilogue lol) and i just do not trust her not to pull “repeat performance”.

  100. LG
    Jul 12, 2011 @ 19:54:51

    @Sirius: Hm, I perhaps know which book you’re talking about. Is it part of a fantasy trilogy?

  101. Moth
    Jul 12, 2011 @ 19:55:31

    OK, RE: The Harry Potter epilogue. YES, family was huge and important throughout the series, but I maintain that the kids’ professional destiny was on the table too. Otherwise, what was all that stuff with the OWLs and the NEWTs and all the tests they were taking to determine what they would be doing as adult wizards? And Ron and his brothers were always so concerned about money, about how they wouldn’t be poor when they grew up. A lot of energy was expended in the writing about what kind of future they would all have. Not just family’s but whether they would even be able to have jobs or if the world be over because of Voldy.

    I’m not saying the jobs of the three kids should have been the only focus of the epilogue, but I do think it was a thread throughout the series and I think saying their future jobs could have been a more interesting piece of information for the epilogue than the fact Harry named his kid Albus Severus.

    And I think that’s why that epilogue disappointed me so much because the Potter series was about more than family and babies but that was ALL that the epilogue was about.

    Maybe that’s one of the big problems of the baby epilogue, it distills this complicated, dynamic person into one want, one desire. It’s overly simplistic.

  102. Las
    Jul 12, 2011 @ 20:02:41

    @Annabel: I, for one, HATE social commentary in fiction. I don’t want to be preached to, and very few authors can pull of social commentary without coming off as preachy. This applies even when I agree with what’s being said.

  103. Sirius
    Jul 12, 2011 @ 20:08:49

    @LG: No LG, it is not fantasy at all. The book is called Riding heartbreak road by Kiernan Kelly.

  104. Angela
    Jul 12, 2011 @ 20:22:11

    I understand your point of view that on some epilogues what’s written does more bad than good, even though it’s not often my case. In Breaking Point I don’t share your point of view because it’s understandable she wants to support the man she fell in love with after the tragedies that affected her life by staying at home, she has the means, so why not? If you could, would you not do the same? Furthermore she was not satisfied with her job and she mentioned it. It’s not anti-feminist at all. Referring to the other heroine that mentioned not birth control for the first 10 years of her marriage it’s a culture thing. Epilogues for me are very important, because the establish the happily ever after of the story and cement the belief in romance. Nice discussion, hope I didn’t tough any sore spots with my opinion.

  105. Emily
    Jul 12, 2011 @ 20:43:20

    I’m really glad this discussion came up because I’ve read two Clare books and then read the epilogue of Breaking Point in the bookstore. I think there were at least three characters who quit the newspaper to write freelance and/or a book and I didn’t understand the financial justification for it. In Unlawful Contact, in their epilogue the HEA included the purchase of a house right after **SPOILER** the hero was released from prison. By the end of the series, who still works at the newspaper?

    So really it’s about the non-sequitor. If there is no indication that heroine wanted to stay at home and raise babies, I need to see her evolution to understand how she arrived at her HEA. If I read a whole book that mentions the heroines financial troubles the the heroine is in jail/on the run for 75% of the book, how did you buy a house less than two months after he got out?

    On that same vein, why are Clare heroines quitting their jobs all the time. IRL you cannot quit your job and be a stay at home mom unless the finances can be worked out, so for a lot of parents it’s not even a choice. If I’m suspending my disbelief to read a work of fiction, I need money to not fall out of the sky to facilitate your HEA.

  106. LG
    Jul 12, 2011 @ 20:44:01

    @Sirius: Ok, not the one I was thinking of then. I was guessing the last book of The Last Herald Mage trilogy by Mercedes Lackey, which I think might be her only books where the main character does not get a HEA (while still alive anyway).

  107. Emily
    Jul 12, 2011 @ 20:48:51

    @Moth I remembered that J.K Rowling revealed in an interview right after Deathly Hallows what career Harry, Ron and Hermione picked. Link below!

    http://www.beyondhogwarts.com/harry-potter/articles/jk-rowling-goes-beyond-the-epilogue.html

  108. Sirius
    Jul 12, 2011 @ 20:49:47

    @LG: Heee, that is what I thought you were thinking when you said fantasy. Yes, but that one did not really felt as unhappy especially when they popped up in the later books (Vanuel and Stephen). I think, I think I am not hundred percent sure now, but I may have read later books first and that is why I was not that upset? They pop up in the book about Elspeth yes?

    I definitely remember that I have read valdemar books out of order just do no remember in which order exactly.

  109. Emily
    Jul 12, 2011 @ 20:49:50

    @Moth I remembered that J.K Rowling revealed in an interview right afte rDeathly Hallows what career Harry, Ron and Hermione picked. Link below!

    http://www.beyondhogwarts.com/harry-potter/articles/jk-rowling-goes-beyond-the-epilogue.html

  110. LG
    Jul 12, 2011 @ 20:56:27

    @Sirius: Oh, I was very upset. After everything Vanyel went through, I wanted him to somehow live and be happy. I didn’t know he and Stefan were going to pop up in a future book, so it was just depressing. I knew to expect rough times after having read some of the other books in the series, but I figured everything would turn out just fine in the end. I still reread the first part of this book, but I like to pretend that everything after Van and Stefan first become a happy couple never happened.

  111. Sirius
    Jul 12, 2011 @ 21:01:04

    @LG: I think I was more upset when Stefan’s first reincarnation died? What was his name? I think that because in these books reincarnations are so easy and companions are spirits of past heralds I did not take the final resolution as hard as I could have take. But definitely I felt bad for vanuel, just not as bad as I could have?

  112. LG
    Jul 12, 2011 @ 21:03:47

    @Sirius: Oh, and yes, they pop up in the books with Elspeth (Winds of ___). I’m pretty sure I read the books in chronological order, or at least in chronological order considering what was out at the time, so I still had a ways to go before the Winds books.

  113. Kaetrin
    Jul 12, 2011 @ 22:47:37

    I agree with Jane re Breaking Point and My One and Only and for pretty much the same reasons. I wasn’t convinced of the HEA before the epilogue in My One and Only and the epilogue didn’t help me – it only made me grind my teeth more.

    I enjoyed Breaking Point very much and I don’t have a problem with the staying home to raise the kids thing at all – if we could afford it, I’d do it myself in fact. I know Natalie could afford it but I must admit, I was a bit surprised by her decision at the end – for me, there wasn’t enough to telegraph the decision in the actual book – maybe I need things to be more obvious! :)

    I read epilogues and prologues and I’m usually happy to do so even though I feel some of them are misnamed (ie, they are chapters) or unnecessary. Some bother me, mostly the miracle baby in infertility stories – that is one of my hot buttons though.

    One of the best epilogues was in Julia Quinn’s The Viscount Who Loved Me. The whole set up for the book was that Anthony thought he was going to die before he was (I think) 40 (?). *mild spoiler* the epilogue showed Anthony and Kate celebrating after he had survived beyond the age he’d worried about – it made sense in the context of the story, it was something I would have been very disappointed to not know after I’d finished the book but it really didn’t fit in the actual story – so it was the perfect epilogue for me.

  114. Robin/Janet
    Jul 12, 2011 @ 22:49:44

    @Honeywell: I complain about being stressed and tired all the time in my current career, but I also know I’m fiercely devoted and quitting would be an extremely radical choice for me. Also? why nothing in between like changing jobs, especially if the heroine has a passion for journalism?

    Also, I don’t think the social programming that it’s “natural” for women to want marriage and children is limited only to those women who, indeed, want marriage and children. I think it’s much more deeply embedded than that, actually. Which is not to say your reaction is generated from that, but I do suspect that women are less likely to question the marriage and children epilogue because of that social norming. It reminds me of Naomi Wolf’s work on the “perfect” mother and the extreme guilt women feel for not living up to some illusory ideal of what a mother should be. Even women who KNOW it’s an illusion experience guilt. That’s some deep social programming at work there.

  115. Niveau
    Jul 12, 2011 @ 23:25:17

    @Annabel:

    Back in April, Robin(/Janet) wrote a letter of opinion about feminism and sex in the genre, and hapax left a comment that I (and many other commentors on that thread) loved:

    I find it very interesting that when I repeatedly request less aggressive heroes, and vociferously express that dominant, “alpha”-type heroes are an enormous turn-off for me, that preference is usually dismissed as somehow forcing my political, “real-world” ideals repress my natural inclinations and sexual fantasies.

    Your comment, to me, is heading into the same territory – it feels like you’ve defined “social commentary” as “values more traditionally associated with liberals and progressives.”

    Having a heroine choose to become a stay-at-home mom when she gave no prior indication that it was something she wanted to do is just as much of a social commentary as having a couple who don’t really want kids choose not to have any because they’re more interested in their careers. In fact, it’s more of one, as the couple is acting according to their characters, whereas the heroine who becomes a SAHM is doing so out of the blue because it’s what the author thinks is right.

    @Honeywell: I agree with what Robin just said above – I, and many other people, complain about jobs we love and have no intention of quitting. All the time. Going from complaining about them to leaving them completely – not even switching to something else, but quitting entirely – is a pretty huge leap. The passages you`ve quoted really don`t provide much foreshadowing of the epilogue, imo.

  116. Honeywell
    Jul 12, 2011 @ 23:38:29

    @Robin/Janet: @Honeywell: I complain about being stressed and tired all the time in my current career, but I also know I’m fiercely devoted and quitting would be an extremely radical choice for me. Also? why nothing in between like changing jobs, especially if the heroine has a passion for journalism?

    The heroine wasn’t devoted to journalism and didn’t have a passion for it at all. She was just going through the motions and Clare showed that brilliantly by contrasting her career apathy with the photo journalists dedication and passion. When faced with a life and death situation she just wants to get out of it alive so she can change her life and the photo journalist is trying to get pictures. When the photo journalist is staked out on a roof, risking his life trying to get a shot she’s serving coffee while the men are discussing the case she’s supposed to be writing a story about. Every single solitary chapter points that out or something like it. And while I can see how it could be missed on the first read through I’d be really surprised if someone missed it a second time on a re-read.

    Also, the heroine was aware of options that were much less stressful but would still keep her writing and rejected all of them because she just wasn’t interested. What she wants to do is create a comfortable home for herself and family–she’s a caretaker. And again I think Clare showed that part of her personality as well.

  117. Mari
    Jul 12, 2011 @ 23:51:11

    @Kaetrin: I agree about the Viscount Who Loved Me, it was a wonderful epilogue that really fit with the book.

    @Robin/Janet: I didn’t get the sense that Natalie had a passion for journalism. She kind of drifted into it, and she was a good writer, but it was never described as her dream or ambition to be a journalist (unlike Kat and Sophie, who were the ones to continue working as reporters). She didn’t even appear to enjoy it much.

    Since it came up earlier in regard to another epilogue, I have to say, not just about Clare books, that I don’t see freelance journalism as a somehow lesser choice than working for a newspaper. Freelancing gives a journalist more degrees of freedom in organizing his or her time and choosing what to write about. There are journalists whose work I admire who work freelance and ones who work for more traditional media outlets. I think it’s actually pretty common for writers, including journalists, to freelance, and it does offer flexibility for someone with young kids. The only journalist friend that I have has done both at times, depending on what was right for her professionally and personally at the time.

  118. Kaetrin
    Jul 13, 2011 @ 00:06:46

    @ Mari – I didn’t see Natalie as drifing into journalism at all. The I-team is an elite journalistic team and Tom Trent recruited Natalie specifically for the team. That, to me, says that she’s very very good and that doesn’t fit with “drifting” in my opinion.

    @Honeywell – I’ve read the book once and perhaps if I were to read it again, knowing how it ends, I would read certain sections differently. But, having read it once, it was a shock to me that Natalie decided to give up a career she was clearly so very good at. I never took the idea of her making beignets and learning new things etc as being something she would do full time – I thought it just meant that she would start living her life instead of shutting herself off – not that she would give up work. It’s horses for courses, but not everyone saw what you did when you read the book. As much as I liked it, I certainly didn’t.

    I liked how Kara’s book ended – I thought her freelance journalist/author option suited her perfectly and she’d built up the professional reputation for it to work – as she hadn’t had the opportunity to enjoy just being a mum to Connor because she was a single parent working full time, it made perfect sense to me that she would want to spend more time with other children if she had the opportunity and clearly her and Reece had the means to do this.

  119. Mari
    Jul 13, 2011 @ 00:18:07

    @Kaetrin: I meant she drifted into it in the sense that it wasn’t her first choice of her career – remember, she wanted to be a vet but couldn’t handle the math – but she was a good writer so she went with journalism. She was good at it, but it wasn’t her passion by any means (again – unlike the previous heroines in the series) so I could accept her wanting to do other things.

  120. Robin/Janet
    Jul 13, 2011 @ 00:28:08

    @Honeywell: I’ll have to read the book to come to my own conclusion, but I got my impression when I read a quote from the book on the AAR board indicating that Natalie “loved” her job.

  121. Honeywell
    Jul 13, 2011 @ 00:43:52

    @Robin/Janet: Yeah, I remember her saying she loved her job two times–I think I quoted them both in that thread. Once in the beginning when she said she loved her job but needed a break and she said it again when she was saying how journalism wasn’t what she wanted to do originally but found she was good at it and loved it.

    I think by the time the story starts Natalie was pretty much out of love and just saying it out of habit at that point because that’s the way she’s supposed to feel about this awesome career.

    If you do read it I hope you’ll take the time to post your thoughts. I’d really love to hear what you think.

  122. LoriK
    Jul 13, 2011 @ 09:03:29

    Seconding what Niveau said. There is plenty of social commentary in romance novels that goes unrecognized as such because it’s “just the way things are”. I don’t like ham-handed preaching any more than the next person, but I feel like discussions of social issues in romances tend to ignore the fact that things like the B&B endings are preaching in their own way.

    There’s one other thing I want to point out. I don’t say this to criticize anyone or discount anyone’s feelings, but because the issue is important to me. I did social work for a number of years with at-risk teenagers, runaways and youthful offenders. The main lesson I learned from that job is that people who don’t want kids shouldn’t have kids. We always hear stories about people who said they didn’t want children until they had them and then they fell in love and everything changed and it was wonderful. I’m glad for those people that things worked out, but it’s not the whole story by any means.

    What we don’t hear enough about are the people who had kids because they thought they were supposed to and then hate being parents and are terrible at it. No child should be raised that way, but there are millions of kids living every day with the rotten consequences of their parents’ decision to do what they’re “supposed” to do.

    IMO it’s better for a hundred adults to live with some regrets about not having kids than for one child to be raised by lousy parents who never felt the miracle love that they were told would happen once the baby arrived.

  123. Isabel C.
    Jul 13, 2011 @ 11:06:22

    LoriK: YES, oh my God. Not to get TMI or anything, but this is one of the reasons behind a couple of my breakups–I don’t want kids, the guy did, he was all “but you’ll change your mind when you have them” and…no. I mean, I might, but it’s not for sure, and it’s not like there’s a free trial period on a kid.

    In general: I’m not entirely opposed to epilogues–my first book has one, the sequel doesn’t–but I don’t see the need in a lot of books, and the babies-ever-after thing does not appeal, for obvious reasons. I’ve never felt strongly enough that the trope detracted from an otherwise good book, but…meh.

  124. Deb
    Jul 13, 2011 @ 20:59:58

    I’m probably too late to the discussion, but will add my 2 cents anyway. I’ve only read the Pamela Clare book.

    Considering the high level of “adrenaline” suspense, I found the epilogues to be a soothing out to end each. In all of the journalist series, by the end, each heroine suffers from PTSD in some form. The career changes seemed appropriate to each character as written over the course of the books. I read them as nurturers. Family, including children, were part of who they were as people.

    Career burnout, depression from loss of fiance and parents, kidnapping, beating and the threat of death would make the decision to be a stay at home housewife an easy one for me. The hero also makes a significant career change for Natalie, as she became more important to him than his career.

    As far as the “barbeque and babies”, epilogue, I found it more of a resolution for the hero actually. He had been a convicted murderer (not guilty for those who haven’t read the book) and the epilogue gave him community and family, something he assumed he would never have again while in prison. I rather enjoyed that ending.

    For every reader who doesn’t like an epilogue, I’d bet there is another reader who enjoyed it. Authors can’t please everyone.

    Neil Gaiman once indicated during a reading, that he had received criticism for including poetry in one of his books. He questioned whether it was his poetry or poetry in general, the answered was, just leave them out. He finished the talk by reading a poem in Fragile Things, indicating all the poems were free in the book. With that in mind, epilogues all come free with the books.

  125. Annabel
    Jul 13, 2011 @ 21:56:31

    *For every reader who doesn’t like an epilogue, I’d bet there is another reader who enjoyed it.*

    I can say that readers often write to me and say “I wish there had been an epilogue” for my books that don’t have epilogues. So much so that I do feel inclined to include them now. I think there is just some part of the romance reader that longs for that nice neat wrap up and that glimpse, however brief, into the characters’ happily ever after. Not every romance reader, of course, but I think a lot do crave it.

    And the glimpse doesn’t have to answer all the questions either, or be exhaustive in detailing everything that happened in the next twenty years, I don’t think. It just has to be a little peek into the future so you know that yes, it really did all work out for them.

  126. Janine
    Jul 13, 2011 @ 23:35:38

    Count me as another one who thought Natalie in Breaking Point was burned out and needed a break. She wasn’t quitting to have a family, she was taking a year off before starting a family and given all the trauma she’d lived through, as well as the fact that she started out in Mexico because she feared work burnout, I could understand her decision. I did feel that the “baking pies” line had something of a 1950s feel to it, and I think Clare could have made Natalie’s burnout a bit clearer, but on the whole, this epilogue didn’t annoy me nearly as much as some others have.

    I’ve read umpteen epilogues in contemporary romances where women give up their careers to stay at home without even a hint of career burnout. Maybe there is no anti-feminist intent in any of the authors’ minds but as a trend, especially in contemporary romances, it does not reflect the diversity of choices contemporary women make so it does come across as anti-feminist.

    As for miracle pregnancy epilogues, I find many of them offensive. I’m childless and the unspoken implication seems to be that childless people aren’t deserving of love and happiness, and couples aren’t complete without a baby.

    To name a couple of baby epilogues that annoyed me no end, there was the miracle pregnancy in Pam Rosenthal’s Almost a Gentleman and the six (!) miracle babies referred to at the end of Balogh’s Slightly Dangerous. Not only had poor Christine thought herself infertile, but she was in her thirties when her first child was born. I can’t imagine giving birth to six children in my thirties in the Regency era as a sign of bliss.

    I can think of exactly one miracle pregnancy epilogue that I liked — Patricia Gaffney’s in Crooked Hearts. It worked for me because it took place seven years after the HEA. Grace and Reuben had seven happy years together running their winery before their one and only baby came along. That made it more more believable — what I really can’t buy is that within a year of marrying, all these infertile heroines are cured by the heroes’ super sperm.

    Another trend I don’t care for is the huge family epilogue. I think Connie Brockway wrote one in My Dearest Enemy and Anne Stuart had a couple of books like that — I think maybe To Love a Dark Lord and The Devil’s Waltz? To me ten children doesn’t necessarily mean ten times the joy. I always wonder how these children can get enough love and attention from just two parents.

    I’m not categorically opposed to epilogues, there have been some that I’ve loved. For me Kinsale’s epilogues are some of the best because her characters’ happiness is hard won and she doesn’t overdo the sugar.

  127. DianeN
    Jul 14, 2011 @ 16:22:56

    A question I really have to ask those who are childless by choice is this: Do fictional women actually have to share your feelings on this matter for you to enjoy their books? Because, while I perfectly understand making the commitment not to procreate, I also understand that the majority of women feel differently about that. And I have no problem also understanding that for many writers and their characters, the birth of a child is a physical manifestation of the love said writer has just spent x number of pages selling to me. I don’t have a strong feeling either way about epilogues, with or without babies, unless something in them just isn’t true to my assessment of the rest of the book.

  128. Jane
    Jul 14, 2011 @ 16:29:23

    @DianeN: Of course not. As I stated up thread and in the post, the epilogues did not fit with the overall story. In the case of the baby epilogue, the debate has largely been whether the heroine signalled in the book that the choice she made at the end of the story fit her overall narrative.

  129. LG
    Jul 14, 2011 @ 16:31:21

    @DianeN: No, they don’t. As far as an individual book goes, all I ask is that where the character ends up feels natural. If that means babies, then so be it. If there wasn’t evidence in the body of the book that this is what the character wanted for herself, then I may take issue. At the very least, I’ll heave a sigh and think to myself, “Eh, another babylogue.”

  130. Ridley
    Jul 14, 2011 @ 16:41:43

    @DianeN: If you read the responses, you’d have an answer.

    I’ll repeat it for you, though: it’s not the babies, it’s the assumption that babies = real family/true happiness.

    If a desire to have and raise a family plays a role in the book, then a baby epilogue is great. It shows us that the couple got everything they wanted and are happy with it all.

    If children are never mentioned in the book and suddenly there’s five of them in the epilogue, it’s just weird. Are we supposed to assume this is a good thing for them because marriage and babies is Just How It Is?

    Then the miracle baby after an infertility plot is another beast entirely. Way to hit reset on their character growth with some deus ex machina. Not to mention the clear message that an HEA isn’t possible with their acceptance of infertility, it requires babies.

    The issue isn’t with the babies, it’s with the assumption that there’s only one way to complete happiness, and that’s to make a baby. When you tack on a babylogue to the end of a story that doesn’t mention babies at all, or that wrestles with infertility, it sends the message that a childless couple is less committed to each other and less happy.

    I love babylogues when they make sense for the characters, but I detest them when they’re just shortcuts using conservative norms to show true happiness.

  131. LG
    Jul 14, 2011 @ 16:45:19

    @Ridley: Apparently I should have waited before I responded, because you said it perfectly. Very nicely put.

  132. Annabel
    Jul 15, 2011 @ 17:54:40

    Just to play devil’s advocate…a lot of women don’t decide they want babies until they meet that perfect someone who brings out that procreative urge.

    So I don’t need for someone to be hoping for babies throughout a story to accept that she has a baby in the epilogue. Actually, in real life I remember my guy friends always finding it really creepy if a woman was all about babies babies babies during the formation of their relationship, LOL.

    Just putting forth the idea that a woman doesn’t necessarily have to be ga-ga for babies to decide she wants a baby once she’s in a relationship. In fact, sometimes the most romantic thing can be a sudden urge to procreate with a man when a heroine has been against the idea her whole life. I don’t think that means the author is trying to push some “babies-are-a-symbol-of-HEA” thing. Not every time anyway. It’s just one of many romantic plot choices.

  133. Ridley
    Jul 15, 2011 @ 19:50:30

    @Annabel:

    a lot of women don’t decide they want babies until they meet that perfect someone who brings out that procreative urge.

    For christ’s sake, Annabel, WE KNOW. The issue is WHY BRING IT UP AT ALL IN AN EPILOGUE IF IT WASN’T PART OF THE NARRATIVE? You choose not to see it as conservative messaging because it validates your own choices. But to other people, who don’t see babies as the assumed outcome of marriage, the sudden appearance of children in an epilogue is jarring. I mean, you prove my point with the “sometimes the most romantic thing can be a sudden urge to procreate with a man when a heroine has been against the idea her whole life.” Again, you’re equating baby-making with Ultimate Romance. That’s not a fair assumption to make.

    The epilogue is not for introducing something big like children. Someone changing his or her opinion on children should not happen in a blink in an epilogue. It should happen over the course of the book, or not at all. To just drop kids into an epilogue as shorthand for commitment and joy requires the assumption that childless couples are somehow less than. That shit’s bogus.

  134. Sunita
    Jul 15, 2011 @ 19:53:06

    @Annabel: Yes, but this is about what makes sense in a story, not about how attitudes and desires play out in real life. In a novel, I want the big decisions and events to be foreshadowed, even if only subtly, earlier in the storyline. I want to be able to go back on a reread and see where the author gave me the signals that the later stuff was going to happen. If a heroine suddenly pops out six children in an epilogue, when there was *nothing* in the previous 250 pages to suggest that was a goal, I’m going to think it’s ad hoc.

    Or, as Tom Clancy said, “The difference between fiction and reality? Fiction has to make sense.”

  135. Monday Midday Links: A New Fave Cover and Book Group Sale Sites - Dear Author
    Jul 18, 2011 @ 10:38:53

    […] reading software.****A new-ish blogger, Lux Lucas, had a great epilogue post in response to the discussion we hosted at DA last week.  She suggests that epilogues are the price of sentiment but also brings out a really interesting […]

  136. Ian
    Jan 08, 2012 @ 20:29:33

    I quite agree with the epilogue to the Potter series. Hermione ending up with Ron is one of the most revolting things I’ve ever seen; she spends the entire series being entirely devoted to Harry way beyond the call of duty for a friend and ends up with the doofus who does nothing but make her cry for 7 years?

    Sick. Pretty much killed the whole series for me.

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