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In These Books, Happily Ever After Is Just the Beginning

Romance is a billion-dollar industry. In 2016, these novels made up 23% of the overall fiction market, and they consistently out-perform all other genres. But while we’ve reclaimed the rom-com in film, these books are still often relegated to being “guilty pleasures,” or considered “mommy porn.” This week we’re discussing these overlooked, often powerfully feminist books—that just so happen to have a happy ending.

There are many hallmarks of a good romance novel. Meet-cutes, fiery chemistry, strong heroines, sex. But one thing that’s a must-have? Happy endings. It’s a genre mandate.

IRL, readers know that happily ever after doesn’t necessarily mean forever. But in books—from Jane Austen to Nora Roberts—the marriage plot has been part of the allure: picture perfect ending, roll the credits, no fights over who does the dishes. Which is why it might come as a surprise that in the past few years there’s been a rise in romance novels that solely focus on couples in the post-“HEA” stage of their lives. A marriage or relationship is in trouble, leaving couples attempting to overcome these real-life issues and fall back in love.

Post-happily ever after is something New York Times bestselling author Colleen Hoover explored in her 2018 book, All Your Perfects, which centers on a couple having fertility issues. Their struggle to conceive rocks their marriage and forces them to find their footing again. Hoover, who is also the author of the upcoming novel Regretting You, argues, “A person doesn’t need the perfect marriage or the perfect spouse or the perfect family to find fulfillment, and I think it’s important to portray that.”

Readers agreed. “I’ve received many emails after writing All Your Perfects from readers who state the book helped them open up communication with their spouse, and even saved their marriage,” says Hoover.

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