True Romance

>> Thursday, March 25, 2010

A surprisingly large portion of my favorite books, from classics to all genres, involve a measure of romance. Not just romance, but romance the way that I define it.

Sadly, in my opinion, many romances, at least today, have lost sight of that same romance.

See, when I speak of romance, I mean loving someone more than yourself. Not letting yourself be destroyed by them, but willing to sacrifice yourself on their behalf, which is something different.

Most of today's romances have heroes that demonstrate their love by losing control of their lust, even raping, with a woman, no matter what the consequences to her and/or tossing her aside with prejudice at the first hint (however meager) of infidelity or betrayal. Female protagonists seem to either be a male version of such a scumbag or a limp doormat ready and willing to be kicked around by the hero because she's set on fire by his touch (no matter how intractable she is otherwise).


The notion, central in my opinion to true romance, of making sacrifices or adaptations for the well-being of another, including restraining one's own lustful urges if they will do harm (as they frequently do in romances) seem very much the exception and not the rule in today's romance...and more's the pity. Romance means trust. Romance means working for their happiness rather than obsessing on your own jealousy. Jealousy is not romantic. I will note that at least two of the most successful romance authors ever write true romance the way I see it.

That should say something, if only I'm not the only one out there who is more enchanted by love between partners, where sex is friendly, consensual, and even foregone if it will do the other harm than I am "love" that is basically unstoppable, even brutal, sex in graphic detail between two people who do nothing but hate each other when not in the sheets together (and sometimes there, too).

I love love, believe in it, live it. Nothing makes me fall in love with a character like being truly romantic (per my own definition). Nothing makes me shut a book faster than sacrificing your lover to your own selfish interests.

There, I said it.

Now I feel better.


  • Jeff King


  • Project Savior

    I hate the opposite as well, or am I the only one who thought the "Little Mermaid" was the first chapter of the scariest horror movie ever. With the lead giving up absolutely everything to be with a guy she barely met. I'd like to see the sequel where the guy turns out to have human flaws and when she realizes what she gave up she go into a homicidal rage killing everyone in sight.
    In love and romance people have to have their boundaries that nothing can cross and work out the rest through compromise. Two houses equal in valor and all that.

  • Stephanie Barr

    Project Savior, I understand where you're coming from (and, in fact, wrote a short story on the subject - might let you read it if you're interested).

    But I didn't see Little Mermaid that way, at leas tnot the movie. She was obsessed with the land of the living long before she found her prince and giving up "everything" isn't always a bad thing, depending on how important "everything" is. There are people who pick up and move because a spouse is in the military or gets jobs overseas. Is that a tragedy? Not if what you're moving for is more important than what you're leaving behind. Trading one world for another isn't tragic, as long as it's the one you want.

    In my novels, men who marry into my band of women are effectively giving up their birthrights (primogeniture world - Jenri can only have girl children). Is that horrible? Not if what you gain is worth what you lose. (In my opinion).

    What is tragic is giving up "everything" for the wrong reasons, for someone who doesn't love or appreciate you, for a life that's empty. What's not healthy is giving up yourself entirely to become a slave to someone else's vision or designs or dreams, losing yourself in the process.

    After all, a lopsided relationship where one only takes and one only gives isn't really romantic either.

  • Project Savior

    I'd love to read your story.
    I like picking on Disney movies so I picked it as an example, but I do hate the "Giving up everything to prove your love" that some romance stories have, when that kind of one sided relationship would be terrible in the long run.

  • Stephanie Barr

    I'll send you the story.

    One sided relationships are a recipe for disaster.

  • The Mother

    I agree that romance is a great selling point for a book, at least for me.

    I will disagree on the basic idea that such grand romances are plausible, or even possible, in real life. Long-term relationships are built on friendship and trust. Romance and candle-light are great add-ons, but they go up and down with the times, the kids, and the world. Too much reliance on story-book romance leads to disappointment, philandering, and divorce.

    I'm not saying it isn't fun to think about, read about, or hope for. It's just that, in the real world, it's not all it's cracked up to be. And people who don't understand that are often in for a great shock.

  • Stephanie Barr

    I almost argued with you, but then it occurred to me that we are likely not talking at cross-purposes.

    There is a great deal of passion between my husband and myself, but it's hardly red-hot 24/7. Mostly :)

    However, that's not what keeps us together.

    He is infinitely precious to me (and says he feels the same). My parents had problems, too, but I know/saw my father cherished my mother, know/saw my grandfather cherish my grandmother. I know how deeply my sister and her husband cherish each other.

    In the end, that's what romance is, in my opinion.

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