What Makes a Good Love Story?

It’s Valentine’s Day! A day that’s all about love and romance, but also kind of about capitalism and consumerism *record scratch* Yep, I’m one of those people; I’m not a big fan of Valentine’s Day for several reasons. When I was single, it just made me feel crappy and lonely, which is how this day makes a lot of single people feel, I think. And now that I’m in a happy relationship, I just don’t like the idea of having to profess your love to your partner on a day that has mostly been hijacked by big companies in order to sell you stuff that you don’t need.

However. 

This is the first year in a very long time that I’m actually quite excited about Valentine’s Day! I think it has to do with lockdown and the pandemic – we need to grab every chance we can get to break through the boredom and have some fun. Wow, that does sound romantic, doesn’t it? Anyway, my boyfriend and I have got a fun day of boardgames, walks, chocolate and Indian food planned, and I think it’s going to be wonderful.

what makes a good love story

In the meantime, I thought it’d be fun to chat to you about what type of love stories I enjoy! While I do read the occasional romance novel, most of the romances I encounter in books are subplot romances: they are not the main focus of the story, but they are an important aspect. I love a good romance as much as the next girl, but there are some things I really love and some things I could do without. Let’s talk about them!

Slow burn versus instalove

Over the years, instalove romances have definitely grown less popular in the bookish community. For those of you who might not know: instalove is when two characters fall in love with each other almost instantly. Now, I get that love-at-first-sight might be a thing (although I have my doubts – I think a lot of people who claim to have fallen in love at first sight have simply romanticised their memory of the situation), but many of the instalove romances in books feel a little unbelievable to me. I very rarely get invested in instalove love stories because I simply don’t get why these characters have fallen in love. I need some substance, some proof, before I’ll root for you as a couple.

A good example of an instalove story that is loved by a lot of people is The Sun Is Also a Star by Nicola Yoon, which is a story about two people falling in love in a day. Although I enjoyed the story, I didn’t feel very invested because I didn’t understand the intensity of the love these characters were apparently experiencing. I just need a little more time and context, I suppose.

Which brings us to the slow burn romance – my absolute favourite! I love a romance that takes its time and really lets its characters get to know each other better first. Maybe they’re already secretly (or not-so-secretly) harbouring romantic feelings for one another, or maybe they first develop a friendship – I love it all! It also means we get to see the characters spend a lot more quality time together, and really get a sense of who they are and why they like each other.

Although whirlwind romances can be fun to read about, I connect much more to a love story that takes longer to develop. Those are the kinds of stories that stay with me and that I keep thinking about. I think the reason why I love those stories more is because I can relate to them more, since I am not a person who falls in love easily. A classic slow burn romance is, of course, Pride and Prejudice by Jane Austen. A more contemporary one is the novel I’m currently reading (and loving!): Red, White and Royal Blue by Casey McQuiston and there’s also a really wonderful slow burn romance in The Scorpio Races by Maggie Stiefvater.

Healthy relationships

Now, I know we wouldn’t have many of the most loved romance stories of today if all characters communicated properly with each other all of the time (I’m looking at you again, Pride and Prejudice), but I do really prefer it when love interests communicate with each other at least somewhat decently. I don’t enjoy it at all when the main problem in a romance story is entirely based on miscommunication. It often makes me want to throw the book out of the window. How do you expect to have a healthy relationship if you can’t even talk to each other about the important things? Or worse, when you’re lying to each other? It’s quite astonishing how often that happens in love stories in order to move the plot along, or complicate things. I’m not a fan of it.

This also ties in with the final thing I want to talk about: healthy relationships. Unfortunately, there are so many novels that display toxic relationships and make them seem romantic, a very famous example being Twilight by Stephenie Meyer. Having been in a toxic relationship myself, I’m quite sensitive to romance stories in which one character manipulates the other (big red flag) or pressures them into doing things they don’t want to do. That’s also why I really don’t like A Star is Born (which is a film, but also the best example I can think of).

I also really don’t like it when one character pursuing the other relentlessly despite having been told no is presented as romantic. That’s a no from me and we all know no means no. An example of a story like this is The Notebook by Nicholas Sparks. I’ve only ever seen the movie and I adored it when I was younger, but now it makes me feel a bit iffy.

All of this is not to say that I don’t enjoy stories about unhealthy relationships – as long as they’re presented as unhealthy and aren’t romanticised. There’s a big difference there!

So, those are some of my thoughts on love stories in books! I’d love to hear from you about the things you really love or hate in romances! Let’s chat about it in the comments!

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Hi! I'm Anne and I love reading, baking and writing about both of those things. Welcome!

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