There are two ways every female driven romance ends: in marriage or the main character popping out babies. Since the days of Snow White, it is what society has deemed the only happily ever after that is worth having. This prolific troupe of endings tells the reader “There is only one way to a happily ever after and it involves a ring and a baby.”
In reality not every woman wants to be a mother. Some of us can’t be mothers. Still others love their single lives and don’t want anything to do with having a husband. And they are happy. When a genre that targets women only has one set formula it undermines the happiness of the reader and is a total turn off.
So what’s a girl to do? Well, I have compiled a list of books that buck the standard happily ever after troupe.
- The Alpha and Omega Series by Patricia Griggs. In the world that Patricia Briggs created female werewolves are unable to have children and it is plausible in her world. There is an underlying sub plot where Charles and Anna have to deal with their options since Anna can’t have children but because of circumstances out of her control she contemplates other options available to her.
- The Semper Sonnet by Seth Margolis The leading character Lee, has great game. Like her male counterparts in other thriller/mystery books she doesn’t settle down with just any Joe that comes along. Lee finds her happily ever after on her own terms…and it doesn’t involve marriage.
- Outlander by Diana Galbadon In this popular series fertility is a constant issue. Claire is worried about being able to even get pregnant and there are complications of other characters throughout the series. The historic dangers of what happened to women after and during pregnancy brings the whole “happy ending with children” into a proper historic perspective.
- Portable Veblen by Elizabeth McKenzie Though the premise of the book is the lead up to a marriage it questions the whole institution and shows just how dysfunctional the whole circus can be. Our characters are forced to define what their own happiness idea of happiness is.
- Promised to The Crown by Aimie K. Runyan In this historical fiction Aimie looks at a little known period of Canadian history. Aimie looks at what marriage and children was for women in the 1660’s. From fertility issues to deciding whether or not it would be better to join the convent or get married. This realistic look at history moves beyond the happily ever after. (think historical soap opera)
- The Lemoncholy Life of Annie Aster by Scott Willbanks Because sometimes ones happily ever after is about the family you form with the people around you, not the family you are given biologically.
- The Rook by Danielle O’Malley Part spy thriller part sci fi fantasy this fast paced book doesn’t have time for hot and heavy romances or silly things like babies. Myfawny Thomas is a strong woman who makes her own rules.
- Circling the Sun by Paula McLain Beryl defies convention of the time to choose to live a life on her own terms not tied down in marriages that made her unhappy. She challenged the status quo and held her head high against nasty society gossip. Full of adventure and the romanticism of colonial Africa.
- The Daughter of Smoke and Bone Series by Laini Taylor Perhaps the best feminist YA series out there or at least in the top 5. In this series Karou learns to stand for herself and create a happy ending that suits her and her people. Karou’s never once let the men in her life interfere with her sense of right and wrong. Nor did it compromise her duty to her people.
- I Shall Be Near to You by Erin Lindsay McCabe Rosetta is a bossy stubborn girl who won’t be left behind when her husband leaves for the Civil War. She dresses as a boy and enlists in the army to serve alongside her husband. Through Rosetta’s story Erin explores 19th century feminism during the time of war. Rosetta’s fierce independence is not tamed by anyone.
- Dido’s Crown by Julie K. Rose The best way to describe this book is Casablanca meets Indiana Jones. Strong female characters, old loves, dashing World War 2 drama makes for a that is easy to get swept away in. However, this story is about the unbreakable love of friendship.
All of these books redefine the Happily Ever After troupe. They are reflective of the diversity of women and tell stories that allow the female characters that can stand on their own