Valentine’s Day (or Romance in books)

In my last post where I reviewed the book Royal Assassin, I complained about going 4 days without posting, so what do I do immediately after that?  I go 6 days without posting.  I offer some of the same reasons that I had in the last post, Assassin’s Quest is a long book (that isn’t really tearing me through the pages at some parts, more on that in my review for it, which should be up tomorrow or Thursday), also, I was bowling in a tournament Sunday that basically took my entire day, so I didn’t have a chance to read at all Sunday.

I wasn’t really planning on doing a post today, but as I was looking through my list of blogs that I subscribe to I saw 3 or 4 that did a post relating to Valentine’s Day, and I realized that it’s as good an excuse as any for me to post today, so here we go, time for a single guy who reads all the time to take a quick shot at talking about romance in books.

Romance is actually a staple of quite a few books.  Whether it be regency era books (i.e. Jane Austin) or the dime a dozen romance novels that stores shelve today, Romance books are fairly big sellers.  That said, I don’t read Romance novels (or at least I haven’t reviewed any that could solidly be considered Romance novels, my tag cloud doesn’t have Romance in it at all).  But while I don’t read novels where the Romance is the primary point, I do read a lot of novels that have romantic subplots in them.  For example, when I did my 30 Day Book Challenge last year, I picked the question of my favorite Romance book, mostly because I knew the book I wanted to put there because the juxtaposition of the title with calling it a Romance novel made me laugh.  The third book of the John Cleaver series by Dan Wells is titled “I Don’t Want to Kill You,” and one of the main plot threads that pushes the story forward is a Romance between John and Marci.

If you take a look at most books, you will find an element of romance in them, either as a subplot to help advance the characters or in many cases tied into a larger part of the main plot.  I would venture to guess that a large part of why so many books include a love story is to help the reader identify with the character.  There is no way that anyone could have ever been in the situations where many of the characters in novels find themselves (unless you know where I can go find a dragon to fight, which might make it easier for some of the stories) but most people can identify on some level with being in love (as well as arguing with someone you love).

All that said, I’m going to leave with a couple examples of books that I’ve read recently where I thought that the romance plot was does well.  Feel free to comment on my choices or leave your own suggestions of books where the romance was well done.

  • I Don’t Want to Kill You by Dan Wells – I already mentioned this earlier, but I thought the romance was really well done in this book.
  • Leviathan, Behemoth, & Goliath by Scott Westerfeld – I really enjoyed these books, the setting was unique, and I thought that the second book did a wonderful job of setting up the romance that was perfectly delivered in the third book, a series that I highly suggest.
  • Speaker for the Dead by Orson Scott Card – I really love this book, and a large part of it revolves around Ender learning to care for other people after spending his childhood being secluded from everyone.


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  1. Interesting post, Adam. I started to say that like you, I don’t read “pure” romance but then I wondered if there really is any such creature. Probably, but a lot of best selling romance seems to be blended with other genres – historical fiction, paranormal, suspense, etc. Still, I would characterize romance as a story where the key question whether a pair of soul-mates will get together, or stay together, or get back together.

    But as you say, romance is very permeable, and it ends up in all kinds of stories. So many I wouldn’t even venture to list them. Makes perfect sense, since when you think of it, romantic tension may be the most portable kind of tension of all, something that can slip seamlessly as a subplot into any other genre.

  2. It is almost impossible to avoid romance in novels, even though it could be a very small sub-plot.

  3. hannahrose42

     /  February 16, 2012

    I loved Speaker for the Dead, so I’m glad you included it. I also rarely read romance merely because I want to. I’m reading North and South by Elizabeth Gaskell for my British lit. class, and I have a feeling it’s going to be a romance. I tried to think of a book where I really enjoyed the romantic subplot, but I can’t off the top of my head.

    • The best romantic subplots are ones that treat the characters very realistically. The problem with romantic subplots in a lot of books is that they fall into “he’s the main male character, and she’s the main female character, lets get them together” category of romance, and if the characters have no other reason to get together this always feels forced.

  4. Carl V.

     /  June 18, 2012

    I don’t read many Romance novels per se either, but I am a HUGE fan of romance in the books I read and the shows that I watch. From the earliest days of seeing Han Solo and Princess Leia, I’ve been a sucker for romance. I wouldn’t say that every one has to have a romantic plot line, some of my favorites don’t, but I am much more quickly drawn to stories that do. John Scalzi’s Old Man’s War books (trilogy plus the YA book Zoe’s Tale) comes to mind. In fact the third volume in that series, The Last Colony, won a Romantic Times award or some such award if I remember correctly.

    Speaker for the Dead is a good example and I like that as well. Romance is also one of the big reasons why I have loved the early Stainless Steel Rat books for so many years. Slippery Jim and Angelina are just great together. There is something comforting about the idea that folks need and want to have strong relationships be it in the imagined future of science fiction or the imagined past (or vice versa) of fantasy. I’m more likely to re-read books with romance in them, that is for sure. And when handled well it can make up for many other shortcomings in a book, film or television show.

    • It’s so common when people spend a lot of time around each other to grow close, and it almost seems like any book that doesn’t have some romantic element to it is an incomplete book. It can also serve as a nice to to have the reader like a character more. If you show another character in the book falling in love with a character, it’s more likely that the reader will grow to like them as well.

      • Carl V.

         /  June 19, 2012

        That is true! And really, falling in love, or developing feelings for another person is so much a part of most of our lives so it is something we can relate to. We may not be able to relate to a character’s profession or their experience in space or in some far-away land, but we can relate to common human emotions and relationships. And that ability to relate can make us feel close to characters who are far from the kind of people we might relate to in any other circumstances.

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