Valentine’s Day is one of those iffy sorts of holidays for me. Commercial indication implies we’re supposed to drop everything and profess our love for our Significant Other (if we have one) through such traditional gifts like candy, flowers or jewelry. (And obviously , YMMV) But the reality is that true love doesn’t usually just make itself known in a single instance. More often than not, it’s made up of the small things that affect our daily lives – flowers are pretty, but they die. Long term commitment isn’t always easy, but it’s how a couple deals with those bumps in the road that indicates if a relationship will survive. For me, paying lip service to love because a holiday tells us we must seems rather hollow.
When writing romance, the emphasis is usually placed on if there will be a HEA (Happily Ever After). In fact, the HEA is standard for most romance books. Having said that, while I’m certainly not opposed to an HEA, I definitely like the couple in question to have to work for it. On the surface, it can be very appealing for the reader to imagine him/herself in the place of one of the characters. Love seems effortless and exciting. Many stories have what I call a “just add water” approach to romance. For whatever reason the hero/heroine are thrown together and even if they initially rub each other the wrong way, their ultimate relationship is often chalked up to a mysterious destiny or fate (at least in Urban Fantasy or Paranormal romance).
Although I have no issue with this particular trope – it can work if it’s well written – I sometimes think that authors take the easy way out by using it. Instead of showing a couple dealing with real issues, any possible long-term differences are often swept under the rug and never looked at again because said couple is a mated pair (or whatever fantastical equivalent is evident in the world building.) Frankly, I find it disappointing in some ways because as much as I enjoy reading fantasy, there has to be an element of realism for it to work for me. Most of the time, three days of knowing someone and awesome sex isn’t really a solid foundation to base a relationship on (particularly if these are immortal, or nearly immortal beings we’re talking about.)
I struggled with this a bit in my own book, A Brush of Darkness. Even though Brystion and Abby are definitely attracted to each other, she questions herself as to the quickness of their relationship. In his case, as an incubus, most of his previous relationships were solely based on sex. At the end he realizes that’s probably all he’ll be able to give her, simply because that’s what he is. (Of course, Abby knows better, but he’s a stubborn sort of creature and it will probably take him a while to figure that out.)
And for those of you who are curious, yes the original ending of the book did have more of an HEA than it has now, but upon subsequent edits I just felt like the two hadn’t earned each other enough for it work out quite that neatly. (And this gives me a little more time to play with their relationship. It’s not going to be an easy road, but I suspect it will be worth it in the end.)
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