I have never been a fan of romance novels. I enjoy Jane Austen in moderation, I adore the Brontes, but no romance novel written fewer than 200 years ago can get much more than an eyeroll from me. The Fault In Our Stars made me gag. I can’t even bring myself to open a Nicholas Sparks novel. And those are supposed to be higher quality than most!
But it’s a different story with sci-fi/fantasy romances. I get choked up over Eowyn and Faramir, Ron and Hermione, Amy and Rory, etc. I care whether those pairs end up married or not. I don’t mind those kissing scenes. Yet if a whole book was dedicated to nothing but their romance, I wouldn’t read it. How shall I explain this?
I believe that the most honest, realistic love stories are told through speculative fiction. I really mean that. And here’s why: In real life, romance is not about two people constantly making out and gazing into each other’s eyes. Real love stories happen when two people are already going about the dangerous, difficult, heroic business of living a decent life–and then they decide they would rather go on doing it together than apart. At least, that’s been my observation. The best love stories are not so much about the lovers themselves as about what they’re fighting for.
Speculative fiction is a great environment for this kind of love story, because the stakes are already so high. When you’re trying to save the world, you don’t have much time to stare into each other’s eyes, but you do have plenty of opportunities to cover each other’s backs. There’s always lots of danger, lots of risk, and that’s the best way for characters both to prove their love and realize that they need each other.
By the time Eowyn and Faramir meet, for example, they’ve both been wounded in the battle against Mordor. They’ve both lost loved ones, and they’ve both done plenty of valiant deeds. By that point, it’s pretty clear that they are the only ones who can heal each other, and yet they each have to give something up in order to marry. Faramir has to give up his reputation as a high-and-mighty Lord of Gondor, and Eowyn has to give up her dream of becoming a warrior queen. And when, in spite of this, they decide to begin their lives again together, it’s a truly beautiful thing.
“And he took her in his arms and kissed her under the sunlit sky, and he cared not that they stood high upon the walls in the sight of many. And many indeed saw them and the light that shone about them as they came down from the walls and went hand in hand to the Houses of Healing. And to the Warden of the Houses Faramir said: ‘Here is the Lady Eowyn of Rohan, and now she is healed.'”
Doesn’t that beat Twilight any day?