Wednesday, February 13, 2013

Love Story or Romance?


To celebrate Valentine’s Day, I thought we might take a look at some favorite love stories.  I’ve compiled a short list containing books that don’t fall into the romance genre, but have strong romantic elements.

Gone with the Wind
Pride and Prejudice
Jane Eyre
The Princess Bride
The Time-Traveler’s Wife
Wuthering Heights
Little Women
The Painted Veil
Snow Falling on Cedars
Le Morte de Arthur: King Arthur and the Legends of the Roundtable
Anne of Avonlea

It’s just a partial list and I know you could add some fabulous choices of your own.

These stories are more than romance but would not be the same stories without it.  Emotional tension weaves through the plot - the kind of tension with which we can all identify.  It moves the story along, raising the stakes.  People, society, misunderstandings and forces of nature conspire against the lovers and threaten to keep them apart.  

I recently read an article that declared Pride and Prejudice and Jane Eyre to be romances, but Gone With the Wind and Romeo and Juliet to be love stories.  The difference was in the endings. Romances have emotionally satisfying and optimistic endings, but love stories do not. The characters may not end up together in a ‘happy ever after,’ but we are given to believe that their love is declared in a way that eternally binds them, and for certain stories, that’s enough.

I’m not against the optimistic ending, but sometimes a love story is called for. Which do you prefer and why, or would you like to add a book to the list? We’d love to hear from you.


Latayne C Scott said...

Great post, Debbie! I never thought about the difference between a love story and a romance. I guess in reading, I prefer the former. However, I guess nobody sets out to "live" a love story, but rather a romance, right?

Susie Finkbeiner said...

In my personal life, after having been in "love stories" that didn't end well (no one drank poison, don't worry), I prefer the romance I have with my hubby.

In my reading life, however, I like not knowing if I'm going to get a romance or a love story. I crave the drama of not knowing what is going to happen. And I prefer for it not to be the main plot of the story.

Sara said...

I'm going to be thinking about that distinction for a while--I'm not sure I completely aggree with it, but I haven't pinned down exactly why yet. I think maybe I think as "romance" as more canned or predictable. A love story on the other hand is more nuanced and complex--might have a happy ending, might not, but you the reader don't *know* until you get there.

I aggree with Susie that when it comes to romance/love story, it's far more interesting to not know what's going to happen, and that happens with fully developed characters.

Out of the "Anne" books, I would pick "Anne of the Island" as more the romance than "Anne of Avonlea." It's interesting to me that the main theme of AotI is that Anne has to figure out for herself the difference between storybook romance and real love.

Debbie Fuller Thomas said...

Latayne, I would pick a love story, too, although it would be harder to let go of a love story than a romance if it didn't have finality.
Susie, I also prefer it not to be the main plot. Good point!
And I agree, Sara. AOTI is the love story and natural progression from AOA's romance, but without the uncertainty. Sweet stuff!

Cherry Odelberg said...

A love story: how can bear so much sadness?
A romance: may it be! I hope upon hope that life actually can give happy endings. Please don't tell me that happy endings are figments of my imagination - a belief in unreality. Else, how shall we go on? Knowing already that everyone is defeated?
I am like Susie, I prefer "it" not be the main part of the plot.

Nicole said...

There is definitely a difference between straight (or category) romance and love stories. I unconsciously discovered this by writing love stories which allow for more (JMO) in depth following of the co-protagonists in their romantic journey. I don't think love stories have more "sad" or bad endings necessarily but they tend to be more epic in their coverage of the life stories involved. Romance seems to tackle only the conflicts of boy meets girl/fights attraction/succumbs to attraction/seeks the happily-ever-after. Not to make them sound shallow, but most of them have a formula to follow, and many readers seem to love this. I love a good romance but what constitutes "good" for me seems few and far between. Love stories are it.

Jennifer Major said...

Ahh, intriguing post!!
For me, a love story is what Nicole described, "they tend to be more epic in their coverage of the life stories involved".
A romance can be told in a few pages. Whereas a love story is like a fine champagne: picked from the finest fruits, crushed and strained to the breaking point, constrained under intense pressure, then locked away and aged over time. Then, at the perfect moment, it is released into the world amid cheers and celebration. Sipped slowly and savoured for its full and enchanting taste, the effects linger until well after the night is done and it becomes a memory, treasured and revisited with fondness and for many, a shared and secret passion.

Debbie Fuller Thomas said...

Cherry, you reminded me of the movie "Love Story" from the 70s. You may never have seen it, but it was a tear jerker and I sat and cried in the theater when it was done. It was the type of love story you are describing, and I agree - I don't really see a need for it, either!
Nicole, I agree. I think a good epic love story will have both joy and sadness because the arc of a lifetime of love would warrant it.
Jennifer - love your analogy of the champagne. Especially appropriate for Valentine's Day!

Sharon K. Souza said...

What an interesting distinction between romances and love stories. I'm glad to know that. And for me, I'll take a love story.

Henrietta Frankensee said...

I can't tie myself down to such tight definitions. According to this our story with Christ is a romance because it has a happy ending. The old time definition of 'romance' is simply a well developed human story. Love Story involves boy/girl as the main plot line but anything could happen and over any amount of time.
In the market we have wonderful variety of intensity - from formula to epic and back. We are blessed to live in a time of abundance as far as printed material goes. The challenge is sifting through it all for just the right story to suit the mood of just the right day since a formula might suit some days and a heart breaker might suit others.