Headshot Large~ By Julia Kelly

One of the cardinal rules of romance is that a story has to end with a happily ever after. But does that mean a couple has to say, “I love you,” at the end of every romance? Maybe not.

It’s a question I asked myself when I wrote “Seduction in the Snow”. The story unfolds over a week at a ski resort. Both Evan and Lydia tell themselves that their sexy hot tub encounters are just a vacation fling. Lydia is particularly tough to sell on the idea of love. Having seen relationship after relationship fall apart after a few short months, she’s scared of the big “L” word.

Of course, this is a romance so we all know where the story’s heading—for the happily ever after—but given Lydia’s resistance to the very idea of love, I didn’t feel that a big, “I love you,” exchange at the end of the novella would be fitting with her character. Instead, I decided that Lydia and Evan should show us their deep commitment and potential for future happiness in a different way.

As authors we have a responsibility to really get to know our characters. What are their fears? How can we push them out of their comfort zones? Would they actually say the words that we’re writing on the page? While “I love you,” is the backbone of many happily ever afters, it doesn’t have to be if it doesn’t fit with your character’s personality.

Another thing to consider is your book’s timeline. Romance authors tell stories that unfold over decades, months, weeks, days. There’s such vast variation in the timelines in our genre that a one-size-fits-all approach to the happily ever doesn’t always work. If a character is more in touch with their emotions and open to the idea of falling in love, the, “I love you,” exchange rings true. But we know our heroes and heroines will continue to grow after our stories are complete. If that’s the case, “I love you,” may realistically take them longer to get to.

Whether you decide to have your hero and heroine say, “I love you,” or not, the most important thing to remember is that it’s our job as authors to write a convincing love story. That means you’re not just telling the reader that the hero and heroine love each other. You’re showing their deep commitment through the actions and emotions. Write your story with that in mind, and you’ll have your readers falling in love.

Julia Kelly writes sexy historical and contemporary romances about smart women and the men who love them. When she is not writing, Julia is an Emmy-nominated TV news producer. Her second book One Week in Hawaii releases May 2015. More information is available at juliakellywrites.com.

6 comments to “Do You Have to Get to “I Love You?””

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  1. Katie McCoach - March 4, 2015 Reply

    Great article! This is something I haven’t actually put a lot of thought into before, and it’s great to be reminded that in the end it’s really the characters make the rules, not the writers. 🙂

  2. Julia Kelly - March 5, 2015 Reply

    Thanks, Katie. I think you’ve got it exactly right. The characters drive the stories we tell (even when they don’t behave the way we want them to).

  3. Elizabeth Dudak - March 12, 2015 Reply

    Dead on! I am writing the second in the series to my book and I was just discussing this with a friend of mine. While I think it’s headed to an “I love you” because that’s what my mind’s outline is saying, I don’t know if the characters will agree. And, why it may be an “I love you” ending, I am grappling with if the characters HAVE TO get married. It doesn’t seem to fit either but I don’t know if it will turn off readers. Great blog Great timing for the blog. Thank you.

  4. Julia Kelly - April 5, 2015 Reply

    I’m so glad to hear it was helpful, Elizabeth! Best of luck with your new book!

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