My need for a happily ever after is one of the reasons I decided to write romance; I can’t help myself, I love watching two people fall in love. From a writing standpoint, the most important thing about the ending of a book is that the issues between the hero/heroine all be resolved in a way that’s logical and satisfies the reader.
Two people who’ve hated each other through the course of the story and all of a sudden decide they’ve fallen in love halfway through the book, isn’t logical and doesn’t make sense. To prevent a contrived ending a writer must make sure the core vales of the hero/heroine are extremely different to the point that it’s impossible for them ever to compromise. For example, if he’s a cattle rancher, and she’s a vegetarian, there can’t be a middle ground for compromise.
In order for a happy ending to be believable and satisfying, the hero/heroine must make sacrifices for the sake of their love. Doing this establishes a basic equality, or meeting point. It also makes sense as to why they couldn’t solve their problems early in the story before they had a middle point and began to make sacrifices. Having your hero/heroine compromise gives a writer an opportunity to add an element of surprise to their story where the reader is left to think, ‘that’s a great ending, why didn’t I think of that?’
A clearly resolved ending doesn’t mean that only one of the characters can make a vow to act differently. A resolved ending must be when the hero/hero make sacrifices for the sake of each other and not just for themselves. This ending gives the reader satisfaction that the characters will be resentful later on about what he/she has given up. Also, the resolved ending must come about by the actions of the hero/heroine not through the interference of other secondary characters.
I like to test my happy endings by having a beta reader read the manuscript and ask them: Do you feel the hero/heroine are truly committed to each other? Do you think they’ll be happy not just next year but in fifty years? Was there anywhere in the story where you weren’t satisfied? I find this feedback monumental to my editing process. Happy Writing!