Tuesday, June 26, 2018

When Romances Get TOO Sweet

I love romances, and I love happy endings. And I love the idea of the one-and-only (even if I don't intellectually totally believe in it). I even love characters who express affection for each other.

Usually . . .

First of all, it should be stated: all romances, even porny ones, are more traditional than not. The cotton-candy series I'm currently enjoying utilizes an alternate history where some men can get pregnant; the resolution is almost always monogamy and family. The couple pay their taxes, excel in their chosen professions, and remain totally committed inside and outside of the bedroom.

I am a fan of this version of reality. And I think that actually, despite "scary" statistics, many first and second modern marriages aim for the virtues and possible lifestyles of these romances.

Unfortunately, some of these romances are also attended by excessively self-affirming, us-affirming, cloyingly sweet language.

A little bit of this language goes a very long way.

Here's what I mean by cloyingly sweet language (I'm not quoting directly; I'm also not exaggerating):
I feel so safe with you. I'm so happy that we are together. What would have happened if we hadn't found each other? I love you, you know that? I love you too. I'm so lucky. No, I'm so lucky. I'm a better person because of you. You complete me. I've never known such happiness. The world is brighter/kinder since you came into it. Now I understand what love is. Thank you for being there for me.
There's nothing wrong with these beliefs/thoughts/verbal expressions of devotion. And they are not honestly always strung together on top of each other (though sometimes . . .). But they do get wearisome after several novels. If I have to read one more character telling me how "fulfilled" he/she is...

Hey, it's an e-book, so delete delete delete. 

In comparison, I'm going to present five of my favorite romantic lines:
  • "Oh, I see. Yes, I do. I like you, Bridget, as well as loving you." Luke from Murder is Easy by Agatha Christie
  • "I can keep going another week, because there's you at the end of it." Silas from Seditious Affair by KJ Charles
  • "You're the one person with whom I find talking and screwing and companionship to be an equal and mutual joy." Dominic from Seditious Affair by KJ Charles
  • "I truly hoped you wouldn't come here. I dreamed that you would. Archie. My Viking. You do not know how you have plundered me." Daniel from Think of England by KJ Charles
  • "I sometimes have a queer feeling with regard to you--especially when you are near me, as now: it is as if I had a string somewhere under my left ribs, tightly and inextricably knotted to a similar string situated in the corresponding quarter of your little frame. And if that boisterous Channel, and two hundred miles or so of land come broad between us, I am afraid that cord of communion will be snapt; and then I've a nervous notion I should take to bleeding inwardly." Rochester from Jane Eyre by Charlotte Bronte
Dharma & Greg treads the line:
Greg: Thank you for sharing this with
me. This is the first place I've lived in
my whole life that feels like home.
Dharma: I love it when you say
that goopy stuff!
Yeah, it's goopy--but cute.

The last two are a little overblown but hey, they both have 1800s/early 1900s settings--the language reflects the time period.

In all five cases, the heart and mind and soul, the "pull" of the two people towards each other is presented in a way that gives the reader hope for their future relationship. I can picture them, Dom and Silas especially, remaining together for the rest of their lives.

In the case of novels with overly sweet language, on the other hand, I begin to have my doubts. All that excessive, demanding affirmation! It seems a bit too "we must convince each other that we are happy happy happy even if we are not."

Show me that the characters work well together; don't tell me how great they are for each other. And don't have them tell me: I don't take them that seriously.