Today I’m very pleased to welcome a guest: the lovely Ana Bosch. I had the pleasure of meeting her last month, and she is not only an extremely talented writer and artist, but also a really nice person. I may be slightly jealous. 😉
Love Shouldn’t Have to Cure All
To me, one of the least romantic notions in the romance genre is the idea that love cures all. This is the idea that all you have to do is love someone, and perhaps pull a few strings to trigger some sort of revelation, and your target will somehow become prime dating (or marriage) material in the span of 60,000 words.
I’ll be the first to admit I’m not a fan of that trope. My problem with it isn’t the fact that it’s unrealistic. (If I cared that much about realism, I wouldn’t be writing a series of novels about the undead.) Rather, my problem with “love cures all” is that it sucks all the spice out of formerly interesting characters, leaving behind homogenized mush. It’s the perfect recipe if what you want at the end of a story is a cookie cutter Prince Charming, but sometimes a beast is more fun than a Prince Charming.
Some might think I’m unromantic for hating the idea that love cures all. For a while, I really believed that my disregard for all these romance rules made me as “cold” as my ex claimed I was when I refused to pay for his Viagra after two dates. But the more time I spent toiling over my bubbling cauldron of flawed characters, the more I came to understand why I like writing such characters, and why I hate the idea that love cures all.
The bottom line: love isn’t just for perfect people. I don’t think people need to be cured in order have love in their lives. And as much as I consider myself a realist—maybe even a cynic—when it comes to my own love life, perhaps it’s the idealistic, romantic part of me that believes that even someone as flawed and backward as the rest of us is still worthy of being loved. Perhaps for every person, there’s someone out there who knows how to challenge them to be better, without taking the reins from their hands.
When I began work on Art of Death and its sequel, Bonds of Death, I intentionally started with two characters that I thought had no business being in a relationship, and I decided that while both would grow, neither would ever be “fixed.” Riley is stubborn, independent, secretive, and at times uncooperative. Westwood, an undead, has all the rough edges that come with being stripped of one’s humanity. He was once a violent monster and is only partially reformed. Neither one of them is comfortable with the level of trust that’s required in a romantic relationship.
I certainly wouldn’t want to date either of them. But I never judge—or write—a character based on whether I’d get along with them in real life. And I know that even though Riley and Westwood are two messed-up individuals, they’re right for each other. Westwood will never feel comfortable expressing his love with words, but Riley knows that words are cheap, and there’s more honesty to be found in whatever is left unsaid. Riley fears intimacy and would more readily risk his life than his heart, but Westwood is grudgingly patient enough to help guard Riley’s life until his heart is ready to open on its own. Over time, they both learn how to challenge each other and navigate the resulting twists and turns.
Bonds of Death was released last month. With one more book in the works, these two characters will face some of their greatest shortcomings and grow as a result. But Riley and Westwood will always be Riley and Westwood. You can’t turn a steaming cauldron of flaws into a cookie cutter Prince Charming, no matter how much you tweak the recipe. And really, why would you want to? A Prince Charming cookie will only give you cavities, but pop a few antacid pills, and a spicy bowl of Flaw Soup will keep you warm through all of winter.
Fresh out of a messy breakup, starving artist Riley Burke has found happiness with Westwood, his new undead lover—enough happiness that when his friend Porter warns him that the undead only see humans as flashy playthings, Riley looks the other way. After all, he only wants a bit of fun. It’s not like he’s asking Westwood to put a ring on his finger.
Once a brutal and violent criminal, Westwood now atones for his past by punishing the undead for crimes against humans. But his job doesn’t make him popular with his undead brethren—and someone has a thirst for revenge.
That someone has uncovered Westwood’s weakness and is on the hunt. To withstand an attack, Westwood must bolster his strength by taking on a human worshipper. He turns to Riley, but Riley is terrified of the bond Westwood’s ritual will create. He would rather risk his life pursuing Westwood’s attacker than risk opening his soul to a man who doesn’t respect him. But time is running out, and if Riley and Westwood can’t come together, one of them might pay the ultimate price.