Recently several readers commented to me that they wished I had written an epilogue for my Scottish novella, The Laird’s Bride, and one asked me why I hadn’t, because I normally do. And you know what? I had no answer for her.
I think it was partly because I had expanded a short-ish story into a longer novella, and I don’t think I’ve ever written an epilogue for a novella. It certainly wasn’t because I don’t like epilogues — because I generally do. I suspect it simply never occurred to me—I wrote that story years ago. But now it has been suggested I keep wondering what kind of an epilogue would suit that book. I’m not going to write one, by the way, so don’t expect it. Once a book is published that’s it for me — it’s finished.
But I can see what those people were getting at. I reread a couple of Georgette Heyer novels recently, and oh, there are a few where she ends them so suddenly it’s almost like a bucket of cold water, shocking me out of her story world and leaving me wanting more. I know what’s going to happen, that the central couple are going to be happy etc, but I want to see it and feel it and enjoy it.
A lot of people — writers as well as readers — really don’t like epilogues in a romance novel. Some people (shock horror) don't even read them! Me, I love ‘em. If I’ve loved the book, I want to spend just a little more time in that world with the characters. I love seeing the happy couple some time after the ‘I love you’ declaration. I want to be convinced that it will be happy ever after for them, that their love will last. And grow. A good epilogue is the icing on the cake.
What kind of scene? I don’t mind if it’s a wedding, or a christening, the promise of a baby, especially if that has been an issue in the book, or simply some scene where the hero and the hero are together, being happy in their new life.
The other thing that epilogues can do is to finally tie all the threads of the story together. You can’t always do that with the main part of the romance, but often you can with an epilogue.
I’ve written lots of epilogues — and quite a few weddings — and I can tell you now, it’s always tough trying to come up with some fresh way to end the book. In The Heiress’s Daughter (out in May next year) I almost handed the manuscript in with — shock! — no epilogue, because I felt I’d written so many wedding epilogues that one more would be boring. But my editor said she loved epilogues, so I ended up writing one anyway.
In Marry in Scarlet, I was in a bit of a dilemma when it came to writing the epilogue. I was feeling a little bit sad, as it was the last book in the series, and as well as showing the hero and heroine being happy together, I wanted to bring in a glimpse of the other characters in the series. A kind of farewell to them all.
In addition, throughout the series there had been a hidden romance going on, which was only revealed in any detail in this, the last book of the series, so I wanted to share a snippet of that as well. So I wrote an unconventional epilogue. There’s a ball, a speech by the heroine, and a glimpse of the others in the series. Some people liked it, others not so much.
The kind of epilogue I don’t like is when the hero and heroine are shown as parents of adult children, or even grandparents, but they’re still acting as if they’re newlyweds which I just don’t believe. Loving and affectionate—yes, but not newlyweds. Love deepens and matures and if you’re going to show me them twenty-plus years on, I want to see that mature love in play. But in general I’d prefer to see them not long after they’ve married — a year or two at most.
But some people prefer those “next generation” or “twenty years on” epilogues. And some people hate epilogues with babies. Or weddings. You can’t please everyone.
And speaking of not pleasing everyone, a trend I’ve noticed recently is an “epilogue” that’s actually a teaser for the next book in the series. I don’t mean an excerpt — it’s labelled an epilogue, and comes before THE END, but the characters in the romance don’t appear — just the characters in the next book to come. I don’t like that. I’m happy to have a teaser after the book ends, but it needs to be separate from the main novel, not a “faux epilogue.”
What about you? Do you like epilogues or not, and if you do, what sort do you like? And if you don’t like them, any thoughts about why not?
Is there any book for which you wished the author had written an epilogue?
And have you come across any of the “faux epilogues” that are really teasers? What do you think?