I don’t know if I’m picky or cynical or have just been reading too many YA books, but lately I’ve had trouble buying into some romances presented to me in books. I feel like President Snow as I read, saying…
Here’s what I’ve noticed generally doesn’t work for me…
Instalove or insta-attraction that becomes too serious too quickly.
In my latest read Time Between Us by Tamara Ireland Stone, the characters are attracted to each other pretty instantly. OK, I’m fine with that. But they very quickly go from “attracted to each other but have barely talked” to “I LOVE YOU FOREVER!” I didn’t even have time to root for them to become a couple before they were one, much less before they started declaring undying love to one another. I’ll go into more details in a forthcoming review, but this bugged me a little and while I didn’t dislike the romance, I didn’t invest in it or care about it the way I believe the author wanted me to.
The characters are just unlikable.
I think this is pretty self-explanatory. If I don’t care about one or both characters, I’m not going to care about the romance.
Badly done love triangles.
What’s worse than a love triangle? A love triangle that ends badly, especially evident when the character chooses the wrong romantic interest. Boo hiss.
Examples: the Matched trilogy and The Maze Runner trilogy.
There is zero tension between the two leading up to a moment.
This sort of goes back to my first reason. There is not what feels like a proper build-up to “The Moment,” be it a kiss, a declaration, whatever. Sometimes it just doesn’t feel earned.
Example: Cia and Tomas in The Testing. “Oh, hey friend! Oh, you like me? Oh, OK, I guess I like you too…”
The couple just seems like an odd match.
You know when couples just don’t seem to completely “fit” together? Then it’s hard to buy their romance.
Their thoughts and actions just don’t seem to add up to love.
Of course, I think this is the base of most unbelievable romances. Saying you love someone doesn’t mean you love them, especially if it’s clear you don’t respect them or care about them more than you care about yourself.
Some other examples of romances I found to be just okay due to a variety of these reasons…
– Lilac and Tarver from These Broken Stars. I know this is an extremely unpopular opinion, and I didn’t dislike their relationship entirely. But (1) I had no problem believing they were quickly attracted to each other but (2) they seemed to have nothing in common even (3) after they went through a dangerous situation together, though I could believe in some sort of relationship but they (4) quickly jumped into that I’LL LOVE YOU FOREVER NOTHING CAN SEPARATE US NO ONE CAN STOP ME talk. I just didn’t buy it. They were in stressful circumstances that lead to these sudden intense feelings and quite frankly, I wouldn’t be surprised if they broke up sometime after the book. I wasn’t excited about them getting together because I just didn’t see it panning out. It probably helped I didn’t love either of the characters entirely.
– Kate and Sean from The Scorpio Races. I don’t dislike their romance at all, it might be my favorite among these examples, but what was supposed to be a slow burn felt more like “hey we’re hardly talking” to “hey we’ve talked a couple of times” to “oh hey, let’s kiss” to “we’re a work in progress.” I would like to have seen 3 and 4 reversed here. I like that their relationship isn’t fast and passionate, but I don’t feel there’s enough tension leading up to the first kiss. It’s like the author decided, “Oh characters kiss when they’re into each other so I should insert it here instead of waiting about five more chapters when it feels earned.”
– Lynn and Eli in Not a Drop to Drink. Lynn meets Eli, and there’s an attraction between them, and very quickly they’re flirting (though Lynn knows like nothing about flirting) and then they’re spooning and right then was when it stopped feeling like a natural progression of a relationship. It also doesn’t help that Lynn is kind of unlikable and I can never get a real read for her emotions.
– Tris and Tobias in the Divergent trilogy. They’re instantly attracted to each other. OK. They start a relationship, and it moves a little quickly. I still managed to be somewhat on board until the end of Divergent. Everything unraveled for me and their relationship in Insurgent and Allegiant. They are prime examples of their actions not matching up with their declarations of love. They lie to each other, they don’t trust each other, and they don’t fully respect each other. No, no, no. Bad romance. (And I don’t mean Lady Gaga).
Alright Picky Amy, then what do you want?
– A slow buildup with tension (it can be negative or positive tension). Example: Elizabeth and Darcy in Pride and Prejudice
– A couple that is clearly good for each other and can trust one another. Example: Katniss and Peeta in The Hunger Games
– A focus on character and personality as basis of attraction and love over attraction based solely on looks. Example: Addie and Trevor in Pivot Point
– Believable moments that bring the couple together. Example: Anne and Wentworth in Persuasion, Elliot and Kai in For Darkness Shows the Stars
– Two very likable characters. Example: Thorne and Scarlet in Cress, Persis and Justen in Across a Star-Swept Sea
What does it take to convince you of a romance in a story? What are the ones you buy the most and which do you not buy at all?