Thursday, April 17, 2008

Love-Love-Love

"And it occurred to me, too, that if this was a great love story, I had no idea where we were on its timeline. For all I knew, we might be nearer its beginning than its end." ~ Richard Russo, from She's Not There


A couple of days ago, Marianne brought up the question of “how soon is too soon” for a hero and heroine to fall in love, in a romance novel. She got a great response from her blog readers, and I think she’s probably going to discuss it again today.

Most people who responded didn’t have a problem with suspending their disbelief and even welcomed two people falling in love over a period of days – a couple of weeks at the most. But I just can’t buy into it. Falling in lust at first sight – absolutely. But love? Love that leads to a lifelong commitment to another person? That involves discovery, a slow, fascinating peeling away of layers until you see who’s standing in front of you (or lying beside you) and want to be with that person all the time anyway.

Now, I know people who’ve met their significant other one night, thought “He/she’s the one” and ended up happily married for umpteen years. But I’m willing to bet that, in most cases, that relationship still evolved over a certain length of time…and there wasn’t a marriage proposal after a week.

Part of the problem, I think, is that the genre requires it. You have to have a Happily Ever After – it’s what the readers expect. And no, I don’t think there’s anything wrong with an entertaining story that makes us trust that true love can happen. But most of the romance novels I’ve read recently suffer from a lack of character development. As a result, the strong, sexy hero suddenly finds himself thinking he can settle down with the heroine after a couple of dates, during which she’s laughed at his jokes, maybe stood up to him in an argument, and of course walked down the sidewalk beside him with her perfectly curvaceous body. And the heroine? She’s gun-shy of relationships but somehow decides she can trust the hero after those same two dates because…well, I don’t know, exactly.

So, can a fictional hero and heroine fall desperately in love and want to spend their lives together, in a relatively quick period of time? For me, yes – but only if the author has convinced me that a complete devotion is the natural, in fact the only, outcome for these 2 people, through their character development: I have to see these 2 people grow together and toward each other as a result of the conflicts that happen in the course of the story. Then I will happily cheer for them and feel ultimately satisfied by the ending. But to put the characters together just because the genre calls for it? That’s harder to swallow.

Actually, that’s why I’m glad the genre is changing, and why the HEA doesn’t have to include an engagement but instead an interest, a serious attraction, a desire to pursue a commitment. I’m also glad the genre of women’s fiction exists. In that world, I think, the story can be more about the main character’s journey, and while love and romance might be part of it, the author isn’t forced to shoehorn in a walk down the aisle.

Finally, I’ll leave you with this poignant passage from the book I just finished reading, She’s Not There. It’s a magnificent, complicated, touching, and at times angering memoir by a trans-gendered English professor. This is a tremendous testament to love:

Years earlier, her heart had inclined in the direction of another soul, and now, against the advice of many friends and well-wishers, she’d had the wisdom to understand that when our hearts incline – often in defiance of duty, blood, rationality, justice, indeed every value we hold dear – it’s pointless to object. We love whom we love. In the past two years, for Grace, everything had changed and nothing had changed. Her heart still inclined, as was its habit…

So...what do YOU think?

9 comments:

Marianne Arkins said...

Hmmm.... I'm not re-discussing today, but tomorrow. I didn't have myself together enough for today! LOL...

That's what I think. Tune in tomorrow for the rest of the story. :-)

Mom said...

I am more than halfway through "She's Not There" and have felt many emotions while reading it:anger, shock, sorrow and admiration for the main characters. This is a book about the endurance of love, and the descriptions of the development of the main characters (real people in a real world) are what keep me reading on and on.

LaskiGal said...

I just ordered "She's Not There" from my library . . . can't wait to read.

I'm with you, Allie.

I need some development in the characters beyond the "love" relationship. I need to buy into who they are before I buy into their love. They need to be REAL in my eyes.

Virginia said...

You know I am not sure about love at first site I believe sometimes it does happen, but I think in most cases it has to develope over a period of time. The same thing with a romance noval.

windycindy said...

Yes, there are those unusual relationships where lust turns into a deeply committed long-term one. For the most part, I totally agree with you, you have to see the many sides of a person/character and how they and the other person grow together. Cindi

L.A. Mitchell said...

I wrestle with that question all the time in my books. In my WIP, my hero is just beginning to wrestle his "what if" to the ground, but I'm always questioning the timing. For the author, who's loved the characters and the idea of the love story for so long, it's easy to trip into it early. It take an objective eye to help us see it.

Loved your site and blog, Allie. Take care! :)

Devon Gray said...

I think that it does take time for true love to take hold. I do believe, however, in "instant" connections with other people- male or female. I have had too many people enter my life that have become vital parts of it. I have felt a bond with them almost instantly, and am a firm believer in people being put in your life for a reason. Hmmmm....in the romance genre, could that be considered a paranormal?!

Allie Boniface said...

Devon, I definitely believe in those kinds of connections - that's what I like about my "24 hour" novels. the fact that 2 people *can* feel drawn together, enough to change their paths. But I still don't think that's the same as novels where both H/H swear undenying devotion after the first couple of dates or phone comversations.

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