Monday, February 6, 2012

TCWT! February Blog Chain: Ramblings on Romance

Today is my turn to post for the Teens Can Write Too! monthly blog chain.  This month's question is:  What are your thoughts on romance for your particular genre?  Do you tend to have a little, a lot, or none at all?  Perfect for Valentine's day!

First off, let me define the kind of romance I like and write:  The clean kind that makes your heart do pirouettes and makes you say "AWW!", where all parties are honorable and well behaved, but not cheesy.   I don't like the icky physical attraction kind where both parties can't keep their hands off of each other, or the super dramatic kind worthy of Katherine and Heathcliff or Romeo and Juliet.  We all know how those ended.  My feelings for romance covers all genres. 

When I read, I prefer romance and mystery/adventure in a 1:2 ratio, so that's how I write it.  The majority of the story is centered on the mystery, with a few sweet spots in between.  In my Lizzie Evans series there is only a little romance.  Lizzie's boyfriend, Jim, is such a gentleman. *sigh*   I have three couples and only a little romance between them.  Not enough to overwhelm the mystery, but enough to be realistic and charming.  I think the most romantic thing that happens in The Black Cat Diamond (the first Lizzie book) is Jim going with Lizzie to eavesdrop on a black market meeting.  No dramatic rescues, no messy get-together-break-up-get-together-again cycles, just my characters being themselves and loving each other for it.

In my opinion, romance can be overdone.  For instance, the following scene is overdoing it:

"My Darling, Patricia, I love you more than my house in Paris!"
"Oh, Baron, you know my heart belongs only to you!"
"How long we have waited for this!  But please, call me Pollard.  Your Pollard."
"Oh, Pollard!"
"We shall ride into the sunset, ours souls harmonizing with the song in our hearts!"
"Oh, Pollard!"
"We shall live in my mansion, and your presence, the presence of my angel, will dispel the evil presence my father left behind!"
"Oh, Pollard!"
"Our love will seep into the walls and create a paradise of warmth and happiness!"
"Kiss me Pollard!"
The couple kissed.  All the love they had ever felt was there at their lips.  They lived happily ever after blah blah blah.

Ick.  I apologize if that made you throw up.  This is overly sweet.  Like rotten fruit.  Or anything made by Little Debbie.  A good romance should be like a good curry or red bean ice cream.  There has to be flavor, the more complex the better, and not just sugar.  The lovers have to be compatible and complicated, like red curry with cilantro and pineapple, not just a waxy chocolate icing over a sawdust-like cake.
Okay, enough with weird food analogies.  This is what good romance looks like in my eyes:

I blinked.  I was free.  Free to run away.  Free to live my life with the one I loved.
It had worked.  The court had found Prince Jack guilty.  I didn't have to marry him, and there was no potential war hanging over my head.  I could marry George with a clean conscience.
My parents had lost.  I was sad for them.  They were losing their youngest daughter, a princess, to a gardener.
I caught sight of George, and the smile on his face clearly expressed his happiness.
As soon as I got back to the palace, I met him in the gazebo.  He was still smiling.
"We did it.  We can marry."  His smile fell.  I let mine drop.  "What's the matter?"
"I want to marry you, but I do not want to force you to live a life as a peasant. You have been royalty all your life. If you marry me, you'll have to give it all up, and I don't want you to be miserable. I won't sacrifice your happiness for mine."
"What makes you think I'll be miserable?  I'd rather be a chambermaid and married to you than be forced to marry someone of my parent's choice and be a queen.  It will be a learning curve and take some getting used to, certainly, but I will do it.  I will only be under the tyranny of my parents as a subject, not a daughter.  I will be free to make my own decisions and choices.  And my first choice is you."
His smile returned, making his eyes shine.  "And my choice is you, Princess."
"Do not call me Princess.  From now on I am simply Odessia, your Odessia."
We were married that fall.  It did take me a while to get used to life as a peasant, but I got it.  My sisters may look down on me now, and I may no longer be glamorous, but I am happy, and free.  We have lived happily ever after, so far.

Still a bit sappy and cliche, but also adorable and charming, and the message of freedom and happiness makes the sappiness more tolerable.  Notice how both the upper-class lovers in each scene ditch their titles, but Odessia doesn't sound nearly as pompous as Pollard.

So that's my two cents worth.  Want to follow our blog tour? Here are the participating parties, day by day

February 5-- --Novel Journeys
February 6-- --Lily's Notes in the Margins
February 7-- --Kirsten Writes!
February 8-- -- Comfy Sweaters, Writing and Fish
February 9-- --A Farewell to Sanity
February 10-- --The Word Asylum
February 11-- --From My Head
February 12-- --Esther Victoria1996
February 13-- --Embracing Insanity
February 14-- --Red Herring Online
February 15-- --Go Teen Writers (Honorary Participant)
February 16-- --This Page Intentionally Left Blank
February 17-- --Oh Yeah, Write!
February 18-- --The Incessant Droning of a Bored Writer
February 19-- --Here's To Us
February 20-- --Teens Can Write Too! (We will be announcing the topic for next month's chain)


  1. Your sample of overdone romance didn't make me vomit--but it did make me laugh. I love how you wrote little samples of romantic prose to demonstrate your point. Great post!

  2. Good view! I can't say I agree with you; the first example made me laugh (that "I love you more than my house in Paris" was brilliant), but the second example... Well, let's just say I'll let my sister clean up the mess. I don't go for that stuff very often. My idea of a great romantic ending would be where Odessia thinks up a huge complex plot to get herself to a place where she can live nobly while bringing... who was it, George? up with her. Of course, it would probably involve her mother disinheriting her sisters, making her the sole heir, which forces her mother to agree to the marriage (and make George a duke or something). Of course, that's another story. See, I don't like *any* cliches, and I think romance is a cliche in itself. But of course, that's me. I won't encroach on your views.

    1. Yes, I'm quite proud of the Pollard scene.
      Your idea is good, but I'm not sure it would work with these characters. Odessia doesn't want to live with her parents anymore. I do have an idea where Odessia's parents don't want to look bad by kicking their daughter out, and they don't want her to live in the gardener's house (did I say that George was the palace gardener? Well, he is), but they don't want the gardener to live in the palace either. Of course that could be resolved by giving Odessia a nice house somewhere on the castle grounds. And if Odessia ending up as a peasant is bothersome, either she or George could invent something or switch from gardening to something more profitable that lands them in the middle/business class. I guess my problem with her devising a complex plot to stay 'royal' is that it, to me, would infer that you have to be rich/royalty to be happy, which I don't agree with; and to me a peasant rising to royalty is cliche. I mean, how many Cinderella spinoffs have there been?
      And thank you for not encroaching on my views. I hope I was able to express my opinions without encroaching on yours.

    2. Thank you for airing your views. I was interested to see how other people think.

  3. "Or anything made by Little Debbie."...LOL! I like that description of sappy romances. ;)

    I normally stay as far away from romance as I can. The only one I absolutely love is The Princess Bride...the book, that is. It's kind of over-the-top but in a really funny way.

    1. Thanks!
      I haven't read the Princess Bride book yet. I think I may need to haggle my assigned reading some more. Though I think I only have one of my original assigned books left on my list, and mom may consider it to much fun to read to be assigned. It's worth a shot at least!

  4. Very interesting. I liked how you did a more unique angle on the romance; many people focused on the love triangle. Good job!

  5. "When I read, I prefer romance and mystery/adventure in a 1:2 ratio, so that's how I write it." I love this insight! I haven't seen it phrased like that before.

  6. You seem a little more lenient towards 'slightly sappy' romance scenes (your words!) than I am, ha ha... mine are more like, "Aghh, we're going to die, and I kind of really, really like you! What do we do?"
    And then I kill them because it solves all the problems.
    Hmm, I'm going to go. Nice post, though.

    1. Yeah, a little sap doesn't hurt my feelings, but can easily be over done. The sample of good romance I wrote is about as sappy as I get.
      I've never killed a character before, but you're right about it solving all the problems. I'll keep that in mind.

  7. Great post! I definitely agree with you in that romance can be overdone. Nice examples, too!

  8. Great post. I made the rotten fruit comparison also. And as for this:

    "We shall live in my mansion, and your presence, the presence of my angel, will dispel the evil presence my father left behind!"


    "Oh Pollard!"

    1. Thanks! I'm pleasantly surprised at the response I've gotten from Pollard and Patricia. I may have to bring them back...