the ask@AAR: What, now, do we want from love stories?

The thing about romance novels, it was always said, they had to have a happily ever after ending (or, perhaps, a happy for now ending.) Romance Writers of America still says this:

Two basic elements comprise every romance novel: a central love story and an emotionally satisfying and optimistic ending. 

A Central Love Story: The main plot centers around individuals falling in love and struggling to make the relationship work. A writer can include as many subplots as they want as long as the love story is the main focus of the novel.

An Emotionally Satisfying and Optimistic Ending: In a romance, the lovers who risk and struggle for each other and their relationship are rewarded with emotional justice and unconditional love.,from%20sweet%20to%20extremely%20hot.

OK. This, for me is still true. (Not all agree anymore, however.)

Romance novels now include love stories for the polyamorous, the marginalized, queer, and pretty much every pairing/grouping you can imagine. This is a good thing.

But there is one aspect in newer romance I’m ambivalent about–the rise of the men and women treating each other poorly. And, yes, I’m seeing more of this change in women leads because, historically, women have been required to be kind in romance. Or, at least, not prone to hitting their partners or being mean.

Now, I am all for gloriously powerful leads but I struggle with any lead, of any gender, whose anger at the world evinces itself in poor treatment of those who love them. We’ve called this out in our reviews when we see it but I’m thinking there are those for whom it works simply due to the rise of such leads.

Maybe it’s just that anger in romance isn’t my thing. What do you think? What do you want from today’s love stories? And is there room for very angry heroes and heroines who have just had it with the worlds in which they live?

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