The best thing about reading Happily Ever After is knowing that there’s definitely going to be a happy ending. But Happily Ever After isn’t your average contemporary romance novel – it reminds me of a down-to-earth but sexified (is that a word?) version of Disney’s Enchanted, and its unique and interesting premise grabbed me right off the bat. It definitely met my expectations for a lighthearted and insightful story, and made me think about how love in romance novels is depicted and how fictional characters are developed.
Forty-six-year-old Sadie Fuller is a contemporary romance author by day, and popular erotica writer K. T. Briggs by night. In addition to writing her brains out, looking after her eleven-year-old daughter and her broke, gay ex-husband is tough… but at least Sadie’s got Jason, her friend-with-benefits whom she found after placing an ad in the local newspaper. Her life seems pretty normal until she bumps into a disoriented hot guy while shopping at Target – and it turns out that hot guy claims he’s Aidan Hathaway, which isn’t possible because Aidan Hathaway is a character in Sadie’s draft for her new book! Under some magic voodoo phenomenon, someone has gone in and written 20,000 extra words in Sadie’s draft, and it’s up to Sadie to bring Aidan back to where he came from before she has to explain to jealous Jason and her swooning neighbors about why she’s harboring a young hot guy.
Sadie is what I’ve always imagined the typical romance author to be like – a normal woman like the rest of us, craving the kind of love and happily-ever-afters that only show up in books, movies, and our imaginations. Sadie’s narrative is practical and down-to-earth, and she has great taste in men, if I do say so myself.
A man who reads is profoundly sexy. A man who does not is just some guy.
And Sadie’s obviously a seasoned writer – it’s pretty eye-opening to see how a full-time writer lives and works, and Maxwell’s descriptions of Sadie’s day-to-day events are insightful and interesting. Despite the hot and smoldering romances that she writes, Sadie’s own love life is lacking. So what does she do? She places a “looking for” ad for a sex buddy. I don’t know whether she’s brave or desperate (probably both?), but her ad works, and she finds Jason, who is similar to Sadie in many ways. Even though they had a somewhat awkward start (I mean, how is it not awkward to have sex with a stranger?), Sadie and Jason both gain confidence from being with each other, and their relationship grows more sweet and normal over time.
When Sadie’s character Aidan Hathaway is magicked into Sadie’s reality, my brain went into overdrive thinking about the potential endings. Would Sadie fall in love with this hot young thing and go off into Aidan-land with him? (This is what Disney movies tell me!) Does Aidan fall in love with Sadie and stay in her world? (Again, Disney movies!) Is there a fight between Jason and Aidan with an unexpected winner? So many possibilities!
In the end, I’m glad that Maxwell chose a plotline that wasn’t too extreme or unbelievable, and that still ended in a happily-ever-after despite not being the typical Disney princess happily ever after that most romance and erotica books speak of. It also hints at the unrealistic portrayal of romance that we’re exposed to in books and movies, so I’m really happy that this book broke away from that mold while still making me feel mushy and satisfied inside.
Happily Ever After is a little bit of magic and a lot of exploration of what romance really is. I really liked its book-within-a-book concept and the down-to-earth protagonist, and I think this is a great story for anyone who likes contemporary romance and erotica. (Erotica readers might be a bit disappointed by this though, haha.)