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Something else I'd like to see in a romance - Input Junkie
June 19th, 2009
07:57 am

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Something else I'd like to see in a romance
For whatever reason, I don't like conventional romance novels, even though there are some love stories (McKinley's Sunshine, Bujold's Komarr) that romance readers like that I like very much.

For the most part, though, romance novels seem to be about falling in love with someone you have good reasons to mistrust, and having it all work out anyway.

Some of this crystalized for me when I read Durgin's A Feral Darkness, an otherwise pretty good science fiction and horror mix. The heroine even has a small business, which is always a plus for me. However, she's in love with Scary Infuriating Guy. This is more annoying because Scary Infuriating Guy has a younger brother who doesn't withhold important information from her. (All this is from memory.)

I want stories where the heroine figures out that a romance hero is more trouble than he's worth, and chooses someone who is better news. One time when I was ranting about A Feral Darkness, a woman told me she'd lived my preferred version.

I realize that what I want is probably not crackfic for the general public, but I've never seen a example of it at all.

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From:arashinomoui
Date:June 19th, 2009 12:39 pm (UTC)
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I think the problem is that your preferred romance is boring to write about. Now admittedly, there is fantasy that while I love the main line, I have to will myself to read because the romance sections are just bone-headed stupid (Elizabeth Hayden, I'm looking at you); but as a rule if there's a romance choice that'll add conflict, or one that'll remove it, an author will go with the conflict-ridden one every time. It's why Peter Parker had to get single again, it is why Archie chose Veronica over Betty, because in a story, the author wants that conflict.
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From:nancylebov
Date:June 19th, 2009 01:26 pm (UTC)
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There should be a story that goes on outside the heroine's emotions, of course. Additionally, much of the novel could be spent on her figuring out that she doesn't want a romance hero and dealing with some ambivalence about wanting a man that all the romance hovels she's ever read told her shouldn't even be on her radar. All her friends think choosing the man she loves is just settling, too.

It doesn't quite seem to fit, but if the romance hero has some stalkerish tendencies, that's another potential source of conflict.

Not quite what I'm describing, but Jennifer Weiner's Good in Bed has a perfect man in love with the main character, and for most of the book she's too busy with other parts of her life to notice. It works well enough.

Almost the same for Donna Andrew's Murder with Peacocks-- perfect man written off for most of the book because she was told early on that he was gay, she's planning three weddings simultaneously, and she has horrible narcissistic parents.



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From:kgbooklog
Date:June 20th, 2009 01:22 am (UTC)
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Almost the same for Donna Andrew's Murder with Peacocks-- perfect man written off for most of the book because she was told early on that he was gay, she's planning three weddings simultaneously, and she has horrible narcissistic parents.

Now that you mention it, one of the brides did do what you want. (And I think the problem isn't that the heroine's parents are horrible but that her entire extended family are idiots.)

And here, have a webcomic.
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From:nancylebov
Date:June 19th, 2009 03:21 pm (UTC)
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Thanks for the recommendation of Sense and Sensibility.

Maybe I just haven't figured it out adequately. There's something that sets my teeth on edge about romance-flavored fiction, even the Sharing Knife novels (which I've given up on)-- in that case, it's boredom rather than hating the man, though.
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From:sartorias
Date:June 19th, 2009 03:55 pm (UTC)
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I think part of the problem is that there is a deep, deep-running draw to "Beauty and the Beast" through fiction that many females respond to. Not all.

The scenario you describe is actually in a LOT of books, but very seldom popular ones. "She makes the sensible choice" is a phrase I picked up from reading an essay about this, commenting on romances of the twenties and thirties, after the wave that "The Sheik" spawned, ditto Du Maurier's Svengali in "Trilby."

For an example that I think works, Georgette Heyer's COTILLION.
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From:nancylebov
Date:June 19th, 2009 04:07 pm (UTC)
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I wonder if Gone with the Wind is an anti-romance. And why (considering its wild popularity) that no one (or is it just that I haven't heard of any) has tried that sort of moderate realism.
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From:sartorias
Date:June 19th, 2009 04:14 pm (UTC)
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Oh, the realism has been around. For a much sharper degree, there is Forever Amber, which was forbidden reading at my mother's high school. Historicals used to be more about the grit, but they didn't stay popular. I tend to think that Samuel Johnson was onto something when he talks about realism, in the Rambler.
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From:nancylebov
Date:June 19th, 2009 04:40 pm (UTC)
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I'd only heard of Forever Amber as an early racy (pornographic?) novel. So there's more to it than that?
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From:sartorias
Date:June 19th, 2009 04:53 pm (UTC)
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As I recall (haven't reread it for years) it not only gets into sex, but it's bad sex--the main character is married off young, as girls were, to a slovenly guy with rotting teeth, whose mother regards her as a servant. So she turns into a bad wife and runs off; she makes Scarlett O'Hara look romantic by comparison.

I'm trying to remember if The Devil in Velvet was more realistic, or more toward the Leslie Whyte/Sabbatini end of things.
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From:tomscud
Date:June 19th, 2009 08:50 pm (UTC)
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Oddly, the male equivalent of this (sort of) is pretty much a staple of YA fiction - the guy who's out to woo a princess/someone else unattainable, goes on adventures to do this, then realizes he's actually in love with his sidekick who he picked up somewhere along the way. STARDUST comes immediately to mind, but I've seen it many many places elsewhere.
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