Shoot, consider Last of the Mohicans (the movie) or Beauty & the Beast, the scene where an enraged beast snarls over the fallen body of his particular damsel.
This trope is a staple of romance literature. Quite often, it involves highly violent heroes stabbing and shooting and otherwise maiming bad guys while a love interest looks on fondly, waits to be rescued, or occasionally participates. It can be done well. Hey, I've watched and read my fair share!
And I've reach the entirely subjective conclusion that I far prefer my violence to not be the motivation for the love affair.
That is, I divide violence & romance literature into two categories: romances where the degree of violence equals the degree of love; romances where the violence (or violent aftermath) is something that the couple handle together.
In the first category--where the degree of violence equals the degree of love--the problem is bound up in the descriptor. Suffering becomes the pathway to affection. The more suffering, the more affection. This occurs even (especially) when the violence isn't gangs and armed bad guys but rather mental and physical damage from the past. One member of the couple underwent years of abuse. Isn't it wonderful that now he or she has earned true love?!
It sounds great. And I've read reviews where reviewers applauded the wonderfulness of someone with so much past pain getting love in the end. "I was so happy for him/her to get the comfort he/she needed!"
|The book about destroying oneself for love.|
1. "Suspension of disbelief" crumbles in the face of the problem.
Romantic love can't solve everything. It can't wipe out years of abuse. It can't overcome drug addiction. A person who has suffered such problems needs time and space to sort themselves out. Often, running into a relationship will only compound the problems, even sabotage the new relationship. Drowning people can drag other people down with them.
In books of this type, the trope "I saw someone across the room and knew we should be together" stops being cute and becomes intensely selfish, even skin-crawling. Sure, the object of the pursuit will cave--that's what vulnerable people do. Doesn't mean it's right.
2. The pain inflicted on one member of the couple is used to manipulate the reader.
I've read books of this type where I agreed with the romantic ending out of sheer exhaustion. Until I stepped back and went, "Yikes!" The detailed descriptions of how awful everything was--the terror and hopelessness of the one character's horrific past--ratcheted up to the point where any relief was welcome. I greeted the intrusion of romance as a solution because, well, Anything is better than this.
Below is an example of a romance book where the violence is handled well. I will then describe what the book would read like if the violence was handled poorly.
|I do perceive Finder as a positive--|
|despite all the gun fights and rescuing.|
|Affection isn't contingent on the violence.|
|Akihito is a very stable person.|
Well-Rendered Use of Violence in a Romance
Eli Easton's Boy Shattered is truly remarkable. It uses an external trigger of a school shooting. The shooting is described from two perspectives, and it is chilling. It is also handled with impressive brevity and sparseness of detail. We are shown the shooting--which is necessary to understanding the main characters' reactions--but we aren't forced to wallow in it.
The main characters, Logan and Brian, form a friendship which becomes a romance. The relationship is fast-forwarded due to the shooting since the shooting breaks down barriers between high school cliques. People re-vision their priorities. However, the friendship does not depend on the degree of violence that either young man witnessed or experienced. They already respected and liked each other, even if from a distance. It is entirely believable that several years later at college, they would have met up, remembered each other from high school, and bonded.
In other words, the school shooting doesn't vindicate the romance.
Logan and Brian deal with the aftermath of the shooting in different ways. Logan listens to Brian's theories; Brian attends Logan's anti-gun rallies. Ultimately, they come to terms with what happened to them individually. And they support each other's individual approaches/needs. "Support" becomes a radically more useful tool in the relationship box than the type of support suggested below.
If the Violence Was Handled Badly
And the future relationship would be doomed since loving someone in order to keep them from being miserable is a blueprint for disaster.
Kudos to Eli Easton for handling her romance in such a way that a stable, healthy future relationship is entirely possible.