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.
10 thoughts on “Ana Bosch on Love”
Thank you, Ana! I’ve never liked the love-cures-all trope either, and your mini essay explains why better than I ever could have. Long live flawed characters! They’re more believable than Prince Charming… and way, way more interesting. (And, Kim, I think you espouse Ana’s view too, based on your characterizations.)
Thanks for reading, Karen! For me, the mark of a good writer is when one can make me sympathize with someone I know I’d dislike in real life. While I’m quite fond of sweet guys in books who don’t have a lot of flaws, the ones who fascinate me and leave me thinking are the ones who are royally screwed up. 🙂
I’m with you on this. Although I won’t knock an author for doing it, I personally I won’t have it in my own writing, because no matter the story, whether it’s fantasy, paranormal, or whatever, it’s not believable. At times, not only will love not cure all, it will further complicate things, because now you have someone who is messed up trying with all their might not to be, to be better for this person, to be worthy of that love, and that brings about all kinds of things. THAT’S what makes a great character. Because no one is perfect. There is no miracle cure. By the end of the book they should have learned something, grown in some way, or at least started the healing process, but all that pain and heartache wouldn’t have just suddenly vanished. Great post ladies!
Thanks, Charlie! I also won’t knock another author for it, but likewise won’t have it in my own writing. I always find it so frustrating when characters I love fall in love with each other and suddenly lose everything that made them uniquely imperfect.
I have to agree with you here. Perfect is boring and love doesn’t always cure all. Flawed people might still find love but they also might not be able to make it work. You have to do what feels right for these characters.
Thanks for reading, Jana! And that’s totally true about flawed characters maybe not being able to make it work. Sometimes their partner can get past the flaws and sometimes the flaws are too great and can’t be ignored, but I’d rather see an HFN with a character on the road to becoming better than a HEA that magically fixes a flawed character in too short a time.
Nodding my head in agreement here. I’m a huge believer in no matter how screwed up we are as people there’s that one perfect person out there for us. Only the typical result is said individuals are so horribly damaged and shouldn’t be together, but they can’t survive without one another. They’re so messed up that they’re perfectly messed up together.
As the Kelly Clarkson song goes ‘My Life Would Suck Without You~’
Thanks for reading, Lex! Sometimes I think that the “one right person” for a horribly flawed individual is compatible with the flaws like you said, and sometimes I think it isn’t necessarily the one who’s compatible with their flaws, but the one who will take the time to say “no, you gotta work on that” but not give up on them in the process. Like Westwood may be flawed in his inability to express affection verbally, but Riley is compatible because he doesn’t need to hear it in words. On the other hand, Riley is flawed in that he doesn’t trust his partner and wants to keep life-altering secrets to himself, and that’s something where Westwood might have to step in and say “that ain’t gonna cut it anymore.” I guess we’ll see in book 3. 😉
I really enjoyed thinking about this topic. I love flawed, messy characters, too. While I want them to end up happy and together, I enjoy their struggle to get to that point most of all. I have trouble with the books that have them all perfect and in love from the first meeting; I feel like the best part of the journey is taken away from me.
well I might have to agree on books with the love cures all subject. Sence I must confess that if there is a love at first sight with all that mush mush to perfect to be true thing going on, I just trow it in the trash… I love flaws in characters and messy relationships. It’s just more interseting to read about. Great books by the way ;-).
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