With it being Valentine’s Day week…teaching high school, these holidays tend to last an entire week…I started thinking about the books I have been reading. I know many complain that there are not a lot of female leads. And, if there are, that there is always a male lead right along with them. What I started to wonder is not the feminist argument about this, but if I could think of a book where there was not some sort of romance hidden inside the plots. I thought back on all the books I read in 2013, which ranged from fantasy/scifi to YA to suspense to character pieces. I can say that all of them aside from one had some sort of romance. Granted, the YA had more romance involved than the others, I was still shocked to see it in some.
“The Great Gatsby” is a complete love story, and maybe a practical discussion on the romantic notion of love versus the reality. The Divergent series…well, that series captured me becauseof the love story. But that is a YA, which tend to be all about the love that will never die. So, let’s move to suspense. Surely that won’t have romance. Harlan Coban’s “Six Years”….you guessed it, is about a love lost (well that is probably an oversimplification) and ultimately regained. Okay, let’s do spy/espionage with David Baldacci’s bestseller “The Hit.” Sorry to disappoint, but this, too has a love interest in the form of an FBI cop. Is it minor? Yes in that the character recognizes the attraction and chooses to do nothing about it…you know, because he is too busy assassinating people. The only book with no love interest: “Ender’s Game,” unless you consider his love for his sister. Oh, and “Death Comes to Pemberly” by P.D. James, a mystery. I would have thought this one would be full of romance considering it is revisiting Mr. Darcy and Elizabeth while they are married. Not a lot is spent on developing their love, but they are married so maybe that counts. Even “The Book Thief” had childhood romance in it.
This brings the question, can a book survive with a male and female lead without having the presence of romance? Or, does the reading population demand it? I was going to say it is perhaps because the reading demographic is mostly female, but I’m not sure that is the case. However, call me a math nerd, but I would love to see the breakdown of female/male readers in each genre. I wonder if the level of romance present would reflect the population. So, that brings me back, do we require romance?
It seems the answer is a tentative yes. I think the reason is that romance provides an easy way to hook the reader. We start caring about our protagonists and the ones they love. There’s more room to play with reader’s emotions. At least they are not all the “cookie cutter” approach to the romance genre…maybe.