Happy Ever Afters…

I first got hooked on the TV show Married at First Sight back in 2015. As a hopeless romantic, how could I not watch these all-inclusive blind-dates unfold, hoping that against all the odds the couples found their happy ending?

So when none of the marriages did end up a Happy Ever After, it was inevitable that my author’s imagination was going to start dreaming up its own marriage at first sight story, which eventually became my new novel, Take A Chance On Me.

Part of the planning and plotting for this book included delving into why people decide to marry a stranger. In our 21stcentury, Western culture, most of us would hope and expect that we get married for love. But, as any historical romance fan knows, up until relatively recently a ‘love match’ was a brilliant bonus, but by no means a prerequisite for a wedding.

For thousands of years, people have got married for all sorts of reasons – security and protection, money and status, at their family’s insistence, for convenience or companionship, pregnancy, lust

When we think about it, those reasons aren’t unheard of today.

But somewhere over time emerged this narrative that everyone (or, dare I say it, every woman) needs a Mr Right in order to have their Happy Ending, and along with that expectation can sometimes come the kind of pressure that has thousands of people applying to ditch the fairly modern notion of a love-match for the ultra-modern wisdom of science and not only marry a stranger, but do it in front of millions of people on TV.

So, my meanderings through all things marriage resulted in a story that explores all sorts of reasons for marriage, and what might prompt a man and a woman to risk everything on a blind-date wedding.

Perhaps more importantly, all this pondering left me certain that when it comes to a Happy Ever After, perhaps we need a few more options. Getting married is, thank goodness, rarely necessary for a woman’s security or status these days – but does society still imply that it is necessary for their success?

Does our culture still promote the story that little girls (and grown up ones) are incomplete until they find their prince (or princess)?

I’ve had friends who resisted the relentless pressure to find a life-partner, instead choosing a happy ending that included falling in love with a career, investing in deep-spirited friendships, or embracing the freedom to please themselves. But they’ve told me how this required fighting off lifelong assumptions about finding The One, instead finding the courage to create a future of their own invention.

I love being married. I’m so grateful to have found a man who is right for me. But I don’t want my children to believe this is their only option for happiness. That as their mother I will be holding my breath like Mrs Bennet until they’re all married off.

Take A Chance On Me is about marrying a stranger. It’s also about staying married to the one you chose to love. There’s five fabulous sisters, some dubious science and a ridiculous bet. It’s also about how when we take a chance on ourselves, we might end up with a Happy Ending that’s completely unexpected.


This month my publisher, Boldwood Books, invited their authors to provide some encouraging thoughts to help us through lockdown. Here’s mine…

If there’s one valuable lesson that my 44 years have taught me, it’s that life, more often than not, comes in seasons.

I’ve had busy seasons, productive times where I’ve felt like I was running downhill faster than my legs could carry me. I’ve learnt to get through these with strict work-life boundaries, figuring out what matters in the long run verses what seems urgent that day, and reminding myself of the life I really want (which doesn’t include grinding myself down to the bone to please other people).

I’ve had quieter seasons, and whereas in my younger days I found these frustrating, growing restless and bored and anxious that life was trickling by without me, I now treasure the opportunities to rest and replenish, to breathe in for a while instead of giving out. These pauses are to be guarded fiercely and savoured deliciously.

I’ve had times of joy, when all was right with the world I found myself on top of. And I’ve again learnt to relish these moments, to unashamedly mark them with special meals, a fancy dress and with laughter and music and the people I love.

And yes, there’s been seasons that have felt like the harshest winter. Three stand-out seasons, when life was just hard:

The first, when in fourteen months I graduated university, moved city twice, started my first full-time job, got engaged, then married, and had a baby. I was 21, nudging into 22 – an age when just one of those things would have been a big deal. The next fifteen years seemed almost a breeze in comparison.

Until the second, the year my father died – anguished months of helping take care of him as a brain tumour wreaked its evil havoc. That year I learnt what true heartbreak feels like.

And then, we have 2020/21. A global pandemic. Eleven months and counting of long-covid’s fatigue and breathlessness and tasteless cups of tea. A personal family situation that has at times knocked me to my knees. My first year as a foster carer – a role that swiftly brought everything else into sharp perspective.

But this is meant to be an uplifting thought. So what’s my point…

These were seasons. Horrible, exhausting, at times devastatingly lonely, stressful and overwhelming times. But they were times.

In a book of philosophy called Ecclesiastes it says this:

‘For everything there is a season…

A time to cry and a time to laugh.
A time to grieve and a time to dance…’

It even says, ‘A time to embrace and a time to turn away’ – words that have become startlingly true on a grand scale. Who could ever have imagined that we would be unable to hug our friends?

Looking back, my toughest seasons have made me who I am. I’ve dug deep down within myself and found strength and courage I never knew I had. They’ve shaped my values and sharpened my priorities. The challenges have imparted more wisdom than I could ever have learnt from a book or a training course. I have more empathy for other people’s suffering because I’ve experienced similar struggles.

This season is dreadful, for so many reasons. It’s lonely, scary and gruelling and utterly relentless. And at times it seems like it’s lasted forever, like parties and holidays and being able to see people smile are some weird dream we once had.

But it is a season. The end is coming. It is almost in sight.

And while it is a terrible tragedy that far too many people will not walk out the other side of this valley, for those of us who do, even as we emerge battered, bruised and battle-scarred, we will do it together. And we will love, and laugh and hold each other like never before.

And one day, we will look back and remember this seemingly-endless winter was not endless after all. And we will discover that we are stronger, and wiser, and braver and more loving than we would have been without it.

Spring is coming. I’ll see you there.