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A good romance within fantasy makes characters worth caring about, gives them more to lose if they fail in their journey, and provokes powerful emotions from the readers. But it can be hard. There are many that are over the top, and become unbelievable. Or too low key. There are characters where you wonder why they fall in love, and don’t really have any chemistry, so it feels forced. Personally, I didn’t care for the romances in Harry Potter. They felt a bit forced, so that everyone would be together and related in the end. Ginny didn’t feel like she had much personality; she was just there so Ron and Harry could be brothers-in-law. Same thing with Hermione and Ron; I had no idea what she saw in him, although maybe from a female perspective it would be different, that she loved his humor or whatever. In the end, Harry, Ron, and Hermione stay together, but the romance elements didn’t feel real to me. Also Edward and Bella in Twilight…from the perspective of a man, there’s no reason why Edward should be so obsessed with her. She might be beautiful (although I don’t find the emotionless Kristen Stewart all that attractive), but you’d think a hundred year old vampire would be able to judge beyond something so skin deep. She’s a weak character and isn’t very appealing to me, which is probably why many men don’t like it, aside from being mushy. Another thing that happens in a lot of stories, including fantasy, is that the man (or boy) falls in love with a woman out of his reach, someone strong and independent maybe, and is pining for her, but eventually, they get together, and suddenly she becomes submissive and loses her personality, letting her new man do everything for her. People shouldn’t lose what made them lovable in the first place once they hook up or get married.
Some authors seem to think that sex is the same as romance, that if they include descriptions of sex, it will make the readers fall in love with the characters. Some male authors use fantasy books to write porn (females as well, but often they write their own porn in romance novels). I feel that if the characters have sex, the reader doesn’t really need to see it. Give them some privacy, even if they are fictional, unless it really has to do with the plot. We usually don’t see the characters in the restroom; we don’t need to see them in the bedroom. Graphic sex will probably turn off as many readers as it will attract, and the author’s reputation will be damaged. So it should probably be left out. Both men and women are guilty of this.
Something else that often doesn’t get shown is married love and romance. Often the characters are coming of age and at the end of the quest, they get married and the end, they lived happily ever after. Disney is partially responsible for this mentality. So many times, love is shown as good before marriage, but after being together, married people hate each other. A lot of sitcoms are based on this idea. But there are many things about romance that can be explored within marriage. It is different than young love, but not necessarily weaker, just not so full of drama. More stable. More enjoyable, really. If dating is a roller coaster, marriage is a road trip. Maybe not as exciting or scary, but at least you can hear each other talk, and there is still the anticipation of going somewhere together, that you’re still on a journey.
In fantasy, love can be influenced by things that don’t exist in real life. Love potions, spells that compel, magic that binds two souls together. Usually magic doesn’t influence love itself, but can provide a counterfeit. True love can be what breaks curses and saves the day, like in Shrek. But despite what can be done in fantasy, love usually needs to be realistic for it to believable. Fortunately, love is the closest thing to magic in this life, so there is no real need to embellish it with magic to make it exciting. It already is.
There are several lists of good fantasy romances, mostly including female authors, as if men can’t write romance. There is some bias in this, as woman are the ones judging. Like I said earlier, men write romance within a larger context of an adventure or other type of novel. If they were only to write romance fiction, they would probably be ridiculed and not have many sales. So beware, not all good romance comes from women, but can be hidden within other stories. Hopefully this post will get people thinking more critically about the romances presented. People want connection, want relationships, and reading about it can be rewarding, if done right. Here’s to my wife, who’s my fantasy and who taught me what real romance is. Thanks honey.


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