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Do you want to see the bed in flames?

So who's writing a story that contains romance or sexuality? Or even reading one? I'm curious to know if others feel the same way I do about "love" in books. It is rare that I find two main characters, whether in the romance genre or elsewhere, who have a relationship that is believable, healthy, and interesting. Any one of those qualities is easy; combining them, apparently, is not.

Mr. G and I in our luchador Halloween costumes

I understand that conflict makes for a good story. But I also like a little bit of real, you know, romance in my romance stories. "Romance," for me, does not involve sexual coercion, raging jealousy, or any kind of abusive behaviors. It also doesn't do it for me if the male lead is some kind of namby-pamby lonely-lady fantasy who does not come off as a real man. I think finding a balance, and keeping the story entertaining, is difficult.

In this retro flashback from 1998, Rammstein sings "Wollt ihr das Bett in Flammen sehen?"
("Do you want to see the bed in flames?").

English translation:

Do you want to see the bed in flames?
Do you want to perish in skin and hair?
You want to stick the dagger in the sheet as well.
You want to lick the blood from the sword.

You see the crosses on the pillow.
You think innocence may kiss you.
You believe it would be hard to kill
But where are all the dead coming from?

Sex is a battle.
Love is war.
My signature move is to hold my opponent's head to my belly while the baby kicks brutally.

Just the other day, we watched a pair of deer leap out from the pine trees in the background of the photos above and gambol across the lawn. It was a doe with her tail held flirtatiously upright, chased by a young buck with his tongue comically lolling out of his open mouth. They paid no attention to me, Mr. G, and the Baked Chef laughing at them, and they weren't running very fast. She wasn't really trying to get away, and he wasn't really trying to catch her right away either.

I recognize that there is fun in the chase... but timing matters. Like the main act itself, you don't want it to drag out TOO long or it just gets boring. Or nonsensical with so many convoluted twists and turns that you don't care anymore, like in a bad soap opera. Finding the right balance between tension and release is essential.

One of my favorite storybook couples is Jamie and Claire in Diana Gabaldon's Outlander series. Now, I have rolled my eyes at some parts of these tales. At times, Jamie seems a little too perfect and, in the beginning, a little too easily infatuated with Claire, who is presented as a moderately attractive but not striking woman pushing middle age, while Jamie is a studly young warrior. And later, some of their fights seem contrived just to add spice and set up a good make-up sex scene. But for the most part, their interactions are both natural and endearing. Both are strong characters in their own ways, and together they are a couple who works together as a team of peers and has genuine love and trust in each other. Despite the overall marital harmony, Gabaldon keeps the story exciting, fast-paced, and sexy.

Another of my favorite love stories is the series of tales about Camaralzaman and Badoura from The Arabian Nights. The leads, both spoiled rotten royal teenagers, hook up early on based purely on each others' looks. But the story doesn't end there with a halfhearted "happily ever after." A series of later adventures pulls the two apart, tests the individual strengths that had been undiscovered in each, and forces them to prove their love to each other and cooperate to find a solution that will bring them, and keep them, together again. Finally, we leave them as rulers of a strange land, where they live in a somewhat kinky menage-a-tois with another woman who may or may not be the lesbian lover of the princess.

Now that's interesting.

What do you look for in a romance story, whether it's in a romance genre novel or embedded within another genre? Is it mainly the chase, or the relationship that interests you? Do you look for the same things in a good story that you look for in a real-life relationship? And who is your favorite fictional couple?


  1. Can't bring myself to read romance, and I've not committed to writing *much* romance, but I do watch a hecka lotta Japanese school dramas and their ilk.

    (The things you get me to say, Genie. Seriously.)

    I've noticed what you're talking about there, especially with timing. Sometimes, a couple falls in love right away and it's like, "Wait, how did that happen?" It's not fun, interesting, *or* believable.

    But then there are some series, like Buzzer Beat, where I literally find myself growling and muttering at the TV because, "Seriously, if this were real life you would have figured this out by now." Dragging it out can be painful, unnecessary, and boring.

    Hopefully I can take these J-Drama lessons and learn from then when I write my own romance.

    I mean, if.

  2. Almost all my stories have a romantic element. Even my stories about subatomic particle creatures living during the first microseconds of the Big Bang. I'm not sure how believable their romance was....

    At the other extreme, I have written erotica before and it's a bit of a stretch to portray a relationship that is both "healthy" and yet not yawn-worthy vanilla.

    I find that my favorite romances are actually not in romance novels but in other genres where there is less need to get the couple into each other's arms immediately, and more time for the man and woman to share common interests and a common goal.

  3. Nevets, I am totally waiting for your romance novel to come out. I have high expectations.

    Tara: Sounds interesting! Do you know Sheldon Allman's '60s album called Folk Songs for the 21st Century? If not, check it out. It's retro sci-fi romance hilarious awesomeness. It might be a good soundtrack for a subatomic particle love story. :D

  4. haha It's a ways down the road, but it's be something to behold, I'm sure. :)


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