Getting to “happily ever after” may not be easy for characters in romance novels, but it is always guaranteed. Unfortunately, that’s far from the case in real life, of course, which is the basis for Elizabeth Maxwell’s wryly funny debut novel Happily Ever After.
Sadie Fuller is divorced, closer to a size 14 than a size 8, and longing for lust. Not love, not anymore—she gave that up the first time the “perfect” man unceremoniously dumped her. In fact, she’s convinced that the real-life happily ever afters that she’s been writing about as a romance novelist are just a fantasy. Look at her marriage to Roger. It wasn’t bad—it produced her beloved 11-year-old daughter, Allison, and her ex is still one of her closest friends. But it certainly wasn’t perfect, since Roger eventually realized he actually prefers men.
But Sadie’s not throwing in the towel just yet. When her sweeter romance novels start to dim in popularity, she creates a new writing persona—K.T. Briggs. Sadie’s suburban neighbors believe she’s just another stay-at-home mom who writes the occasional romance on the side. Meanwhile “K.T. Briggs” is burning up Sadie’s computer screen with the kind of steamy erotica (hilarious excerpts included!) where less is definitely more, especially when it comes to clothing and inhibitions.
Unfortunately, all those writhing, sweaty bodies only serve to remind Sadie of her own lonely bed. So, to satisfy her own needs, Sadie takes out an ad for a friend with benefits—even though she’s really just looking for some reliable no-emotions-attached bumping and grinding. The man who answers is named Jason, and if he’s no sex god, he is at least friendly, kind and punctual. For once, Sadie’s got something close to what she wants.
That is until a heat wave coincides with two bizarre incidents—half a chapter Sadie can’t remember writing, taking the plot of K.T. Briggs’ latest novel in a startling paranormal direction, and a run-in with a confused but gorgeous man who looks suspiciously like the hero of that book, Aidan Hathaway.
This is where Maxwell takes the ideas of true love and happy endings and turns them inside out. Faced with a fictional character in her guest room, and the possibility that she may not be the only woman in Jason’s life, Sadie is suddenly confronted with the reality that romance means different things to different people—and that her own real-life romance doesn’t have to be moonlight in Paris if she really prefers snuggling on the couch in her own living room.
Maxwell takes readers on a clever, fast-paced adventure as Sadie tries to figure out how to solve the problem of the imaginary people in her very real life, all while discovering that her own happily ever after isn’t as impossible as she once believed. Sadie’s honesty about who she is and what she wants is often funny, but it’s also touching. Happily Ever After is a novel about female empowerment at its best because it reminds us that perfect love is not one-size-fits-all, and that our imperfections are so often what make us right for the people we love.
Amy Garvey is a freelance editor and also the author of several romances and two novels for young adults. She lives in Pennsylvania.