Give the happy ending a little respect!

I’m not talking about that kind of happy ending, but whatever consenting adults do on their own time is just A-okay with me. I do wonder about the places advertised on I-95 billboards with names like “Asiana Spa–Truckers Welcome.” Now I’m sure these places are legitimate businesses and there are many truckers who go in for a salt scrub and a paraffin wax treatment, but I digress….

In fiction, there are two archetypal themes that many would consider the same thing, but upon closer look, they are not. Just like a veteran character in a soap opera who is revealed to have a secret twin. These themes are the Romance and the Love Story. Ah, the Love Story. Anna Karenina, Heathcliff and Catherine, la Dame aux Camelias. Classic literature. That’s the stuff most people think of when you say Love Story.

When you say Romance, people think Fabio. Now, I’m not going to delve into this topic, the Smart Bitches have already done a much better job than I could do in a million years. Check it out in my links if you’ve been living under a rock lately.
The real difference between the two has nothing to do with a cover featuring Chesty McPerm, and there is just as much appalling writing in the literary world as the genre fiction world. It’s the happy ending. Romances have it, love stories usually don’t. It especially seems that way in modern commerical/literary fiction (I’m looking at you, Nicholas Sparks). You get invested in a character, root for them as they find love like they’ve never known before, and then they die?! Three hundred fifty pages and COME ON! Seriously? It’s emotional manipulation, is what it is. Not that I don’t enjoy a good cry every now and then, but does a love story have to be tragic to get respect? Does suffering make it better? Which do you prefer? Should a reader feel like enjoying a happy ending has to be a dirty little secret, sort of like that other happy ending?