Posted in Books

The Perfect Romance Novel

I want to be a person who enjoys all types of romance.

Alas, I am not.

My tastes are ultra-specific.

What do I want from a romance novel?

What kinds of tropes do I like to see?

Let me describe the elements of my ideal romance.

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Flirty Banter

photography of a man and woman laughing

Must be funny without being hurtful.

Don’t neg people and call it flirting, WILL HERONDALE.

I especially like it when one party is especially flirty and the other is shy.

There’s a sweet spot where the shy party is embarrassed by the attention but also pleased by it.

And when they eventually flirt back…?

I love it.

 

Florence Nightingale Effect

woman in black shirt being tattooed in chest

A character has been wounded!

Their love interest flies to their side with bandages and antiseptic.

The moment turns tender.

The injury fosters intimacy.

And OH, DO I DIG IT.

In one of my favorite Fruits Basket subplots, Kyo makes leek soup for a sick Tohru.

Tohru doesn’t usually allow people to take care of her.

Kyo doesn’t like to admit that he cares about people.

For one night, they switch roles.

It’s a perfect interaction.

Oh, and Kyo hates leeks, so it’s EXTRA cute that he swallows his revulsion to make Tohru feel better.

I also love the scene in Pirates of the Caribbean: Curse of the Black Pearl where Will wraps Elizabeth’s injured hand.

Most important moment: Will starts massaging Elizabeth’s hand and she says, “Don’t stop.”

That moment really shaped my romantic preferences.

 

Cooldown Hug

woman hugging man in black sweatshirt

I have anxiety.

Sometimes I get overstimulated.

It can be hard for my friends and family to know how to help.

Because of this, I am drawn to character interactions where one character tries to soothe an anxious character WITHOUT telling them to calm down.

The calming character stays present with the anxious character until their panic passes.

Seeing someone choose to connect in the face of anxiety means a lot to me.

My favorite example that I read recently turned into a Cooldown Kiss.

I loved it SO MUCH.

 

Slow Burn

couple facing each other

Authors: let that sexual tension simmer until it hits a satisfying peak.

I like to watch characters fall in love gradually.

I can handle delayed gratification!

I’ll take two marshmallows later instead of one now!

Fire, Kristin Cashore’s follow-up to Graceling, does this PERFECTLY.

(I should really reread that series.)

And, all right…I finally got on the Kaz/Inej train.

(minor spoilers for the Six of Crows duology ahead)

By the end of the duology, Kaz and Inej have held hands…and THAT’S ABOUT IT.

It was still enough to make me cry tears of joy.

 

Minimal Sex

man in black long sleeved shirt and woman in black dress

I like it when authors couch sex scenes in poetic language.

I’m more turned on by the emotions of sex than the act itself.

Remember that Cooldown Kiss I mentioned?

The pansexual participant’s description of his feelings warmed me to my toes.

That passage accomplished a LOT with very little.

 

Complementary Personalities

donuts doughnuts food foodporn

I like contrasting pairings.

Birds of a Feather sometimes interest me, but nothing beats good ol’ Opposites Attract.

EXAMPLES (kudos to anyone who can guess the specific ship I had in mind for each):

  • small, scrappy, passionate / large, anxious, aloof
  • brash, violent / cautious, repressed
  • extroverted, flirtatious, charismatic / introverted, anxious, shy
  • optimistic, friendly / pessimistic, guarded

And yes, I am trash for the broody character falling for the sunshine character.

That is my jam.

 

Small Gestures

adult birthday birthday gift box

I find big romantic gestures – such as planning a parade or performing karaoke – somewhat disingenuous.

How about showing kindness to your partner in little ways instead of relying on giant displays of affection?

It means more to me when a character chooses to be kind to their love interest instead of grand.

Ronan procures hand lotion when he notices Adam’s cracked knuckles.

This small act shows he was paying attention.

Jesper reads aloud to an illiterate Wylan.

That’s so nice.

Yuki buys Tohru a hair ribbon, which…I don’t actually want to talk about.

In a slow burn romance, tiny gestures speak VOLUMES about the chemistry between two characters.

 

A Dreamy Book Cover

blue book on brown wooden table with flower vases

Wrap your love story in a beautiful cover.

Is that so much to ask?

Use a light pink.

Or faux-suede.

Or a soft, cool-toned pastel, like lavender or powder blue.

Instead of a picture of the couple, can I get feathers?

Or stars?

Or a big, fancy horse?

I’m flexible.

 

Shared Goal

achievement action adventure backlit

Are the characters fighting a war together?

Destabilizing a government together?

Destroying a regime together?

Fixing an election together?

Solving a mystery together?

Making a movie together?

Tension! Team work! Support!

So many romantic possibilities.

(I may be writing a Shared Goal Romance for NaNoWriMo. I told you my tastes were specific.)

 

A Bisexual Boi

man wears black suit with red necktie

The few narratives I’ve read that feature bi male characters tend to make bisexuality a thing.

Bi bois in literature (especially YA) tend to be conflicted, angsty, and/or self-loathing. (Or, worse…one-dimensional.)

Even in books with positive representation, bi bois experience biphobia from their “friends” or partners.

I don’t mind a coming-out story every now and again, but seeing more bi bois who are secure in their sexuality would warm my heart.

The protagonists in Let’s Talk About Love and They Both Die at the End have exes of one gender and love interests of another and it’s not a big deal.

More bi bois, please. Let’s normalize this rep.

 

Love Interest Fights Someone’s Family

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(CW: abuse)

(spoilers for The Raven Cycle and the Six of Crows duology)

I understand how hard it is to speak up when someone says something harmful.

I still don’t like watching my friends’ partners let family members get away with smack-talking their beloved.

Not doing anything is pretty bad. Making excuses for their family (or their in-laws) is worse. Joining in is the worst of all.

I thought being in a relationship meant being on the same team.

My hatred for these occurrences has turned into a strong preference for a very specific trope:

I love it when fictional characters physically fight their love interest’s family members.

You decide to be mean to your child (or their partner?)

At best, you get screamed at.

At worst, you get punched in the face.

In The Raven Boys, Mr. Parrish throws Adam down the stairs.

Ronan sees the abuse happening and BEATS THE SHIT out of Adam’s dad to make it stop.

(He also testifies against Mr. Parrish in court.)

In Crooked Kingdom, Jan Van Eck tries to attack his son Wylan in a court house.

Jesper steps in and holds Jan back.

THIS is romance.

THIS is partnership.

THIS is the type of loyalty I like to see.

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In summary:

I want to read a slow-burn romance with a pretty cover, flirty banter, minimal sex, two complementary leads (one of whom is a bisexual boi) who share a goal, thoughtful gestures, a scene where one character treats the other’s injury, a cooldown hug, and a physical fight with one character’s family.

IS THAT SO MUCH TO ASK?

Author:

She/her. 4w3. Lover of vegan cream cheese and performative angst. Seattle-based writer currently dabbling in socialism and progressive Christianity. I love to call out, complain, overreact, analyze, and reimagine. This site contains the fruit of that labor.

5 thoughts on “The Perfect Romance Novel

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