Romance in Fiction

This’ll probably be a more controversial topic—especially for those out there who love romance books—but I don’t like cheesy love stories. Love triangles are sort of a bore too, if they’re splattered with clichés, and unless the point of the story is to show a toxic relationship or bring light to degrading stereotypes, I won’t read it.

My best guess is that this mostly comes from me being asexual. I still love love, and though I’ve never been in a proper one, I like the idea of romantic relationships. I just never understood the love at first sight thing, or when books I’ve read talk about a constant high level of hormones or attraction or need for sex. It’s just not something I understand, and therefore am not interested in.

That being said, I love when stories have strong relationships, by which I mean partnerships that lift up both people, regardless of their own identities. Stories that don’t just shove two people together because the author wants romance in the story, and who build up to a relationship instead of rushing through things. I believe, like all aspects of storytelling, that relationships should benefit the story. Like the relationship of Magnus Bane and Alec Lightwood in The Mortal Instruments, or Paul Blofis and Sally Jackson in Percy Jackson & the Olympians. These relationships were woven into their respective stories well; they didn’t feel like they were plastered on top or for convenience’s sake.

Unfortunately, most Teen and Young Adult novels have some sort of romantic relationship thrown in because “it’s a normal part of life,” which I agree with, but sometimes the main characters are just pinballing between love interests like they’re free sample trays in a Costco. That kind of thing is just boring to me, and I want to get back to the actual plot of the story. You might see those supernatural stories out there with werewolves and mates, or those Fantasy stories with love triangles, or when the whole plot is thrown out of whack when the author decides “these two people should be in a relationship” just for the fun of it.

But…I’m probably just ranting at this point.

You could probably say that I just like good relationships, none of the fragile and breakneck-pace relationships that are so popular in media and books. I don’t care if the love interest is good-looking; I want to know if they’re a good person. I like relationships that don’t advertise that they’re perfect, but are actually real, where the characters can get into fights but also properly work out their problems (without resorting to kissing—or more—just to patch things up). That’s the kind of romance I enjoy.

A lot of the time, relationship drama in real life and in fiction, is due to misunderstandings, and what I don’t like is when those misunderstandings remain cemented in the relationship that’s held together by lust and fear of loss. In my opinion, for a relationship to work, those misunderstandings must be dealt with—not avoided (because that’s impossible), but dealt with.

I could go on for pages about different relationships that I don’t like, but I’d rather talk about relationships I liked in books, and why I liked them.

1 Magnus Bane and Alec Lightwood – The Mortal Instruments

This relationship comes as character building for Alec, who is gay within a community that doesn’t accept gay individuals, but it’s also more than that. Magnus is a warlock of exceedingly impressive skill, and he is needed quite a bit throughout the series, so while the relationship isn’t needed to keep him in the story, it helps cement his connections to the others, as well as input some problems into the plot that add depth and layers to the society. Not only do Shadowhunters (what Alec is) not accept gay relationships, they also look down on Downworlders (what Magnus is) and their whole relationship is a mild metaphor for mixed race couples and being true to yourself in a world where not everyone will accept you. On top of that, while Magnus and Alec have their problems, fights, and breakups, they never really resort to that “kiss and make up” trope, and instead talk through their problems to come to mutual understandings.

2 Paul Blofis and Sally Jackson – Percy Jackson & the Olympians

This is the only wholly straight couple on this list, and it comes from the perspective of Sally’s son, who is the son of Poseidon (a summer fling Sally had). Sally later married Gabe Ugliano in order to keep her son safe (because his scent warded off monsters), but Gabe was a disgusting and abusive human being before he was removed from the picture. A few years later, Sally meets Paul in a night writing class, since she’d always wanted to be a novelist. They hit it off and support each other in all the ways couples should, and Paul readily accepts Percy—even asking for Percy’s blessing to marry Sally when he wants to propose. While wary of Percy’s father, Poseidon, when he meets him, Paul never acted or appeared threatened by his presence, showing a strong confidence in himself and trust in Sally. (I hate jealousy as a trait when reading romance.) They eventually even have a child together, and the family unit remains strong and stable.

3 Nico di Angelo and Will Solace – Percy Jackson & the Olympians

Nico is a somewhat unfortunate character, being gay and from the 1930s, where his sexuality would not have been readily accepted. On top of that, he is a son of Hades, and is mostly shunned by the demigod communities since people are scared of him. All except Will. Will is a son of Apollo and the literal embodiment of sunshine; he is a healer and is the one charged with making sure Nico isn’t overusing his powers. They hit it off from there. I don’t know what more to say about their relationship aside from that it is wholesome and adorable and pure—and I love it.

4 Syenite, Alabaster, and Innon – The Broken Earth

Syenite and Alabaster hate each other at first. Well, not hate, but they hate that they’re being forced together by the higher ups to make a child. They are constantly arguing, which isn’t the best grounds for a relationship, but when Innon—who loves both of them—comes into the picture, things get a lot smoother. Syenite and Alabaster love each other; they’re just not sexually attracted to one another. It’s a partnership, and a sturdy one that lasts years.

5 Crowley and Aziraphale – Good Omens

While not officially together in the book, they’re certainly written that way, and it’s been confirmed by Neil Gaiman (one of the authors) that Good Omens is as much a love story as it is a comedy about the end of the world. These two characters, an angel and a demon, couldn’t be any more different, but they’ve been there for each other for 6000 years, and they’re the best of friends. They’ve had fights and arguments, but they always come back to each other and work things out. They know each others’ flaws and love them not in spite of those flaws, but because of them, because those flaws are part of them.

* BONUS * Will Herondale, James Carstairs, Tessa Gray (Love Triangle) – The Infernal Devices

Adding this the day of posting, so excuse any errors.

I don’t usually enjoy love triangles, but this one is done so well that I can’t not include it. Will, while intially rude and standoffish, is revealed to possess a truly honourable heart, and James (Jem) has been the perfect gentleman from the beginning. It is obvious why Tessa has fallen in love with each of them, and why each of them has fallen for her in return. There is tragedy in both love stories, though I will not go into detail, and it is somewhow so sorrowful and heartwarming at the same time.

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