Saturday, April 02, 2011

Grand Passion or Happy Ever After

Nowadays we kind of expect romantic novels to have happy ever after endings. After lots of disagreements and misunderstandings our hero and heroine disappear into the sunset to live a life of harmonic bliss. Jane Austen's novels certainly did. Think Darcy and Elizabeth, Emma and Mr Knightly, the Dashwood girlls and...well, I'm sure you get the picture.

But one of my favourite authors of historical fiction, Daphne duMaurier, had other ideas. I suppose we can't consider Mary Anne, the biography of her relation who was mistress to the Duke of York, in that category because she was telling a true story. Even so, it was never going to end well. Mary Anne Clark was a bit of a gal. Always short of cash, she made ends meet by selling promotions in the army. Quite easy for her to do since her lover was commander in chief. She didn't do anything as crass as discussing these matter with him but simply pinned a list of names and promotions required above their bed. In the morning it was gone. It couldn't last, of course, and eventually the duke was tried in the House of Lords by a jury of his peers. Mary Anne gave evidence and, by all accounts, made quite a stir. The affair couldn't survive the scandal but the duke was supposed to have said on his death bed that he'd never found another as good as Mary Anne. His grand passion?

I know what you're thinking. Daphne duMaurier. She's going to bang on about Rebecca. You wound me! I'd never do that to you. Personally I have no time for the second Mrs deWinter, creeping about Mandalay like a mouse, hiding behind doors and being afraid of the admittedly formidable housekeeper. Her predecessor, Rebecca, sounds like she was much more fun. There, that's all I have to say about Rebecca.

But Frenchman's Creek...well, how long have you got? A bored socialite escapes London with her children and runs off to her husband's estate in Cornwall. A French pirate  is terrorizing the area, sailing into a hidden creek in a stonking great big boat with billowed sails but none of the local worthies are smart enough to catch him. Glossing over that disparaging fact, our pirate naturally meets the lady of the manor and there's an immediate connection between them.

It can't last, of course, and when her pirate is captured Donna must decide between effecting a daring rescue, knowing she'll never see him again if she does, or leaving him to hang. Obviously she doesn't hesitate, content to return to her routine life with her family afterwards. She's had her grand passion, it will have to last her the rest of her life. But at least she'll be able to tell her grandchildren in years to come that she kept a dozen or more gentleman at dinner for hours in order to save the man she loved.

So what does it for you? Happy ever after or a short, blissful grand passions?

12 comments:

Judy Croome said...

Am I asking too much if I ask for both? How about a blissful grand passion AND happy ending? I still haven't recovered from the shock of Rhett Butler really and truly letting Scarlett go.
Judy (South Africa)

Lesley Cookman said...

First Daphne DuM I read, followed by Jamaica Inn. I didn't read the R book until some time later, after I'd seen it on stage. I think Frenchman's Creek is probably my favourite - although then there's The House On The Strand...

Claire Robyns said...

In most cases, I want my happily ever after, I will admit. I've read grand passions books (like, as Judy mentioned, Gone with the Wind) and I've read them over and over and absolutely love them, but even when I know how it's going to end, I always end up feeling very glum when I put the book down.

Let's just say that I'll forgive a lot in a book if there's a happily ever after. If there isn't, the book had better be spectuclar in so many other ways.

Taryn Kincaid said...

I dunno. I've never really considered GWTW a grand passion book -- perhaps because Scarlett never seemed aware it was all about Rhett -- until he declared he no longer gave a damn.
Most of the grand passions w/o HEAs I can think of end tragically. I will except that in great literature (where other points are being made and themes explored and the writing is stunning) but not in your every day potboiler or beach read, no matter how much lipstick is put on that pig.
If the book is all about a great romance, than I want a grand passion AND an HEA!

Sandra Sookoo said...

I think it depends on the book and the characters, but I've written both. I love the idea of having a character experiencing a grand passion that she can look back on as the secret of her heart and know she actually "lived" for that one time. But, I always like to think if the passion burns hot enough, it'll find its way into a HEA :-)

Patricia Preston said...

Happily Ever After works for me, especially in romances. But, it is the emotionally wrenching books that stay in my memory. Lonesome Dove is one of those unforgettable books.

Wendy Soliman said...

I'd forgotten about Jamaica Inn, Lesley.
The hea's seem to have it so far. That and having both, which is cheating!

Taryn Kincaid said...

How in the world is that even remotely "cheating"? You've set up a question -- either/ or -- that most of us don't agree with in the first place!

Wendy Soliman said...

Taryn, If it's either/or it can't be both!

Susanna Fraser said...

If I have to choose, I'd pick happily ever after. But I really don't see any reason not to have both--either give the grand passion a happy ending, or have the person move on, still looking back fondly on those days/weeks of passion, while being happily, lovingly, and regrets-free-ly committed to someone who can stay for the long haul.

Wendy Soliman said...

Well put, Susanna!

Katherine Bone said...

I have Frenchman's Creek. It's a cool movie. The pirate is such a scoundrel and tall, dark and handsome too. Though I know the heroine went back to her husband for her children, she sacrificed everything to have happiness for the short time it found her. Which is typical of women of that period, don't you think?

I love writing about independent women who strain against society's norms.

Happily ever after is what we're all looking for, isn't it? Perhaps the heroine in this instance did live happily ever after knowing that she made the right choice for her children. Me? I'm a have cake and eat it too kind of girl. ;)