Do we need a Happily Ever After?

Kissed by Venus has an interesting post about the over-representation of the romance genre in lesbian fiction, and about the domination of the Happily Ever After ending in lesbian fiction.

What do you look for in lesbian fiction? Do you need a happy ending?

What makes something a lesbian book? How much lesbian content does it need?

Is there something to be said for happy endings when not long ago all queer books were required to end unhappily?

6 thoughts on “Do we need a Happily Ever After?

  1. Thanks so much for coming and commenting on my blog as it led me to YOUR blog :-)

    I admit I don’t read a lot of lesbian fiction, but I think if I did, it would annoy me in some ways that things always ended happily. Unless, of course, lesbian fiction is “romance” only. In which case… I suppose most romance books have happy endings. But the books that often stick with me or really touch me are the ones that are almost SHATTERING. Not always happy but just… fitting somehow. Or just amazing in some other way. I think it depends on why you read a book. Is lesbian fiction only categorized as books with lesbian relationships as the central theme (i.e., “romance” type books?), or just ones with lesbian characters doing all sorts of things? I feel that different endings are appropriate, depending on the theme.

    1. No problem, thanks for having such a great blog! I’ve been watching it for a while.

      Well, there are different genres of lesbian fiction, like anything. In sheer numbers, it’s dominated by publishers like Bella Books and Bold Strokes, which I’ve heard, though I haven’t read any of theirs yet, is mostly light romance novels with happy endings. There are, however, other books from other publishers that break that mold. I definitely count lesbian characters just doing whatever without a focus on romance as lesbian fiction, but other people might have other definitions.

      I agree that generally I enjoy devastating books (I’m a sucker for tragedy), but I think I gravitate towards happy endings in lesbian books because historically, it’s a new phenomenon. In the pulp fiction days, kind of the birthplace of lesbian fiction, all books with lesbians/gay men had to end unhappily so that they weren’t seen as endorsing homosexuality and therefore being obscene and “unamerican”. So now it looks like the pendulum swung in completely the opposite direction.

      Still, though, I think a lot of readers don’t want to see the doom and gloom message they see in real life about gay relationships (whether that’s from family or religious institutions or politics) reflected in their fiction. I think a lot of people use it as an escape from that.

      Overall, I think now that I’ve read quite a few HEA lesbian books, I would be happy to read the sort of tragic/heartbreaking stories I read in other fiction, but I have to keep it a little more regulated than my general fiction just to keep from having that gay = doomed connection.

      Thanks for the comment, it was thought-provoking! :)

  2. I like to think it counts as a lesbian book if there is a lesbian relationship or has an activly portraying lesbian main character. I’m not gonna say that something isn’t a lesbian book if it doesn’t have those characteristics, but those certianly help.
    Also, yes, I do think I need a happy ending. I know that I was a little afraid to read lesbian fiction because I was afraid that they would all end badly. As it was, I had to have my girlfriend practically spoil the endings of all the lesbian books she got me to read because I didn’t want to read the story where it ended badly, especially if it was because one of them was gay and the other wasn’t or was mean, or just left, or whatever.
    I feel terrible that all lesbian books used to be required to end badly. Feels too much like a pretext for real life, and that shouldn’t be real life.

    1. Yeah, I mean, I’m pretty loose with my definition of a lesbian book. If the main character is mentioned to be a lesbian, but never has a relationship the whole novel and it doesn’t come up again… it really depends, but there’s a good chance I’ll say that it’s still a lesbian book. I think a lot of us readers are looking for books like that, that aren’t just “I’m gay and that’s an issue”, but “I’m gay, but it’s not a big deal, and here’s the real issue of the story”.

      I definitely started out needing a foundation of happy endings. Now I think I could stomach some unhappy ones, but I needed the majority of endings to be happy because we’re always hearing how we’re doomed, I don’t need that in my fiction. Like I said, though, now I’m more open to unhappy endings because I have happy ending books to fall back on, but there’s no shame in keeping to HEA all the time.

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