Good sport that he is, my husband cheerfully endures watching the occasional chick flick or romantic comedy with me. But as Lord Byron said: “Man’s love is of man’s life a thing apart, ’Tis woman’s whole existence.” There’s a reason why love stories creep into (or take over) most of what I write–and why Romance continues almost unchallenged as the bestselling genre in the world. Because we’re always intrigued by “novel” ideas about love.
I’ve mentioned before that I love mystery. As well as history, thrillers, action adventure, fantasy and sci-fi, travel and even time travel. Really, I’m pretty eclectic. But if that romance thread is missing from an otherwise top-notch book, I’ll probably rate it as…meh, okay. Three or four stars, lacking something. Sorry.
Yes, I know. It doesn’t sound modern or sophisticated to view love as our entire existence. But the ongoing truth remains that the romance theme rarely rates as a mere subplot in either our reading tastes or our lives.
“Doubt thou the stars are fire; Doubt that the sun doth move; Doubt truth to be a liar; But never doubt I love.” –William Shakespeare, Hamlet
Among the few dozen original plots in literature (depending how you categorize them), many either center around romance or may be used as a vehicle to carry a love story. Love makes the world go round, right? And definitely makes our fiction spin, shiver, and sweep us along to “novel” ideas about love:
1. Love Conquers All–Sometimes
The end is near–of The Quarantine Tales, that is. In this collection of stories told around a beachside campfire, we’ve yet to hear a romance. Fourteen-year-old Joanna Serrano will fill that gap today with “My Great-Grandmother’s Confession.”
Jovi–as she’s called–retells for her cousins a tragic family story that seems more legend than reality. During a recent summer visit to Great-Grandma Rosalía’s cottage, the old lady–now nearing her 90th birthday–acknowledges her indignant response to the discovery that her beloved eldest son, David, was in love with the little peasant housemaid!
“He was my North, my South, my East and West, My working week and my Sunday rest.” –W.H. Auden, Stop All The Clocks
After all, David has prospects of a scintillating career. An astute military officer, he is brilliant, brave, charismatic… Of course, Angélica might admire him. And Rosalía is fond of Angie too. The Chilote girl works capably, studies nights, and–admittedly–is pretty enough to catch any young man’s eye…but that hardly makes her a match for the scion of the house.
Rosalía opposes their marriage with every manipulative muscle she can muster. In the classist society in which she moves, her son’s choice is not only unacceptable. It’s inconceivable, all but forbidden.
Yet as the motto says, “Courage strengthens at a wound.” The more his mother resists, the more determined David becomes to pursue and rescue his Cinderella.
2. Opposites Attract–Maybe
Jovi’s story prompts, a bunch of pink grapes and a leather mate cup, shed additional light on the story arc. In Angie’s home islands, everyone drinks mate, an herbal tea sipped from a metal straw. In David’s luxurious home, his family lounges poolside in the grape arbor. They party on barbecued steaks; Angie fries up milcao, shredded potato patties mixed with lard. He lives among hot-house roses; she tends her country dahlias.
Do all those differences matter? They could. But they don’t. As Angie says to her own future daughter-in-law in The Seagull Operation: “You’re alike enough to understand, and different enough to challenge him.”
“Whatever our souls are made of, his and mine are the same.” –Emily Brontë, Wuthering Heights
Contrast and complement continue in Nicolás and Melissa’s romance (Pursuit of the Pudú Deer) and in Nathán and Valeria’s (Winds of Andalucía). Cultures can confuse, backgrounds bewilder. Even a simple disparity in interests and hobbies can strike sparks–of trouble…or terrific opportunity.
It’s not enough to recognize a soulmate. As in every good design, we have to learn to work together, each one doing his or her part for the whole. When God leads step by step into His niche for us, we can discover that the differences make the difference!
“Love does not consist of gazing at each other, but in looking together in the same direction.” –Antoine de Saint-Exupery
3. First Impressions Count–and Don’t
“I am nothing special… and I’ve led a common life… my name will soon be forgotten. But in one respect I have succeeded as gloriously as anyone who’s ever lived: I’ve loved another with all my heart and soul; and to me, this has always been enough.” –Nicholas Sparks, The Notebook
Isn’t Pride and Prejudice the prototype romantic plot of boy-meets-girl, with instantaneous hate followed by undeniable love? Marcos and Coni’s story in Swan Island Secrets describes not hate exactly. But their initial encounter, each playing a role, makes them as wary as woodland creatures. Their trust takes a while to root.
Witness Valeria’s lack of response to her soulmate–her best friend–for years. Then, on the other hand, Nicolás and Melissa were at least attracted the moment they met, whether they admitted it or not. A decade didn’t alter their first impressions much.
Sometimes love explodes that instantly. Sometimes it just grows as naturally as plants in their native soil. And sometimes it needs careful nurturing.
4. Always Having to Say Sorry
Would you believe I just watched that ’70s film with the famous line, “Love is never having to say you’re sorry”? In an ideal world, no. In our flawed one, every single day. Either I humble myself and apologize…or it’s my turn to forgive and let it go. He’s not perfect, and neither am I.
“Everyone you meet comes with baggage. Find someone who loves you enough to help you unpack.” –Beautiful-Love-Quotes.com
The adage, “Once burned, twice shy,” taught Coni the patience of love with Marcos. What might have happened in that story if his ex-fiancée, Bárbara, had said sorry? And meant it? Clearly, the writer didn’t twist it into the plot, but how much often turns on the power of our words?
The old song, “Love is better second time around,” illustrates Melissa and Nicolás’s re-encounter after a sorry tragi-comedy of errors. Misunderstanding, misreading, miscommunication, misguidance. But lost time is better than no time, and late still isn’t too late.
And only Valeria’s recognition of her mistaken first romance made the second–and better–love possible. Second choice? Yes, but never second place.
“Love doesn’t just sit there like a stone. It has to be made like bread; remade all the time, made new…” –Ursula K. LeGuin, The Lathe of Heaven
5. Fantasy Meets Its Destiny
However, Seaglass Sagas are only stories, and stories aren’t reality. But many more of us can have a great story than do. Not just read it, but live it.
How do you turn a fantasy into your future? How do move those novel ideas about love off the page and into your world?
“Once in a while, right in the middle of ordinary life, love gives us a fairy tale.” –J.B. Jeffrey
I’m probably about 10 years too late with this post, but I’ve thought a lot recently about our modern concepts of romance. At this point, the “courtship” fad has died and the literary/cinematic phenomena of the Twilight furor has faded. I’m not even sure what the current craze is. The Hunger Games for a while, the Marvel Comics…?
I’ve read the books, reviewed the critiques, seen the movies. I don’t even have a beef with these writers’ craftsmanship. So they’re not Jane Austen. Neither am I. I don’t say I haven’t enjoyed them as entertainment. But as romances…? I guess I’m looking for something more.
Can anybody tell me what’s up with paranormal and vampire? And more, where’s the joy in dystopian romance? There’s some novel ideas about love for you. The bottom-line premise leaves me a tad uneasy.
BUT something’s not quite right either, maybe very wrong, when we Christian women make do with what we’ve got and fear it’s abnormal to desire something special in our romances. Positively unrealistic, we think, possibly downright ungodly to indulge in flights of fantasy.
6. Great Expectations…Crash and Burn
It’s true our lives don’t resemble the fairy tales very often. But why do we bounce from the extremes of Victorian chaperoning codes to Bella Swan’s concealing of forbidden love? Somewhere between kissing dating good-bye and kissing Edward Cullen beats a heart that longs for a passionate forever romance. We yearn for an extraordinary relationship with a prince who is good and noble and faithful.
Do I sound not quite sensible? I feel a little heartbroken that so many of us allow our anticipation of romance to flounder, when we could watch it flourish. Why do we counsel the youth not to expect too much, to lower their demands and pack away their dreams–and novel ideas about love–and connect with the “real” world?
Because books portray impossible heroes on a pedestal? Because no man is storybook wonderful?
Why not? I ask myself. I write about men I could look up to. Those anyone could shape their expectations around. God knows, the many poor examples and disappointments out there make a good model hard to find. But the virtues of purity, integrity, kindness, and self-sacrifice…do still exist, and I think we can find them if we know what we’re searching for.
Granted, we can’t hope for from a man what only God can give us. God is our true lover. Only He can provide the deepest joy that meets every desire of our needy souls. HE is ultimate reality and ultimate romance at the same time.
7. Finding the Right Person–or Being the Right Person?
Yet every heroic leader/lover shows us a picture of the love story we seek. It’s no fairy tale. That’s why marriage is supposed to symbolize the relationship between Christ and His bride. If Jesus is our model for a marriage partner, then He delivers a perfect example. And it certainly can’t be a bad thing to set high standards.
Of course, it works both ways. My ideals for a future spouse (or current spouse)–what I look for in the love of my life–should inspire me to consider and hone my own character.
- What if I loved unconditionally?
- What if I were willing to give everything?
- What if the more I got to know him, the better I liked him?
- What if nothing mattered as much as fulfilling God’s destiny for us?
- What if we brought out the best qualities in each other?
- What if we both were ready to stand out instead of blend in with the pack?
“When you fall in love, it is a temporary madness. It erupts like an earthquake, and then it subsides. And when it subsides, you have to make a decision. You have to work out whether your roots are to become so entwined together that it is inconceivable that you should ever part. Because… any of us can convince ourselves we are (in love). Love itself is what is left over, when being in love has burned away. Doesn’t sound very exciting, does it? But it is!” –Louis de Bernière, Captain Corelli’s Mandolin
Yes, thank God, it is. What novel ideas about love!