Lately, I’ve been thinking about an issue in regards to romance in books. I’ll read YA books where the main story is the romance(see Kasie West’s contemporaries), and enjoy them, but I have trouble with adult romance books.
I don’t want to have trouble with adult romance books. Romance is a genre written mostly by women, mostly for women, about a topic that society sometimes derides but yet most people desire. And there are times I pick up a romance book and enjoy it(maybe three or four times a year). But for some reason, romance books often make me uncomfortable. Not because of steamy content or the writing, but there’s this certain PRESSURE I feel when it comes to romance books written about adults. . . and that’s the pressure of the love interest being “The One” for the main character.
I know, I know, that’s mostly the point of romance! It’s the same with romantic comedy movies, after all. Because romance, by definition, has either a “happily-ever-after” or a “happy-for-now” ending. I don’t want to invest in 300 pages of a romance just to feel the couple will break up years down the road. I don’t think any romance reader wants to think that way. But for me, this creates a pressure in my mind where I am SUPER critical of the relationship being portrayed. Is it just the obsessive start of a whilwind romance, or is there actually something of substance beneath the surface? Are there clues in the book that this might not be a happy-ever-after down the road?
It’s possible that I’m just critical of portrayals of romantic relationships in general(I think I definitely am). And maybe that’s just a “Me” thing, because I am a very, very not romantic person, which I’ve talked about before. Because reading is so personal, I apply my own worldview on to the books I read, even when I *do* try to be more objective. Which means that I just don’t understand why the characters enter into a romantic relationship unless it’s an improvement over where they started the book. I think this is the *goal* of all relationships in romance books, but some books succeed better than others. I have to REALLY believe in the romance to enjoy the book. There’s no room for ambiguity. . .
Which means I have better luck with YA romance, because I *can* allow for ambiguity about the end result of a relationship there, especially in contemporary YA. Even when I LOVE a couple in contemporary YA and ship them, I never feel that there’s the same pressure for the love interest to be THE ONE for the main character, love of their life, soul mate, etc. Even when I love a couple together, the goal generally isn’t for them to be together forever(sometimes I like to think they will be, but it’s not as at the forefront of my mind). If the relationship is all whirlwind and doesn’t have the same lasting power, that’s generally okay with me because the focus is more on the immediacy of the feelings of the people involved, especially since most of the time it’s generally “first love”. I don’t mind spending my time reading about the relationship even if I don’t believe the couple would still be together 1o+ years down the road(though this applies more to contemporary YA than fantasy. Since fantasy worlds are often so different and people get married younger, most of the time I DO want the “happily ever after” for the couple. . . but because it’s also not the main plot of the novel, it doesn’t bother me as much).
LET’S CHAT: Do you feel that there’s the pressure of “THE ONE” in romance novels? What about in YA? Does this bother anyone else besides me?