This topic arose today on Twitter, particularly in the cases of “fated/cursed” lovers. In my first TICA—tropes I cannot abide—post I talked about alpha-holes. My dislike of insta-love isn’t as strong, but it’s still there.
I’m going to deal with the reason I dislike the “fated lovers” trope first because it’s simpler: when something is fated, there’s no escaping it. You can make it more interesting by saying they’re fated to love each other and cursed not be together, but since it’s a romance, I won’t believe the curse part. I know they’ll overcome it. And, most likely since the very concept of fate is paranormal, there will be some kind of magical “intervention” that serves as a deus ex machina, solving the curse. This is a big part of my issue with paranormal romance in general—love is hard in real life, and I prefer romance to be realistic enough to reflect that. (I know, you’re tired of me saying that, too.)
That being said, there’s plenty of insta-love in romance that isn’t fated/cursed. Boy meets girl. They fall in love right away. Events conspire to keep them apart, and the story focus is entirely on how they get back to each other. This can make for an exciting adventure story, but it doesn’t hold up as a romance for me.
Why? Because the point of a romance novel, as opposed to a novel with romantic elements, is the romance arc. If you take care of that in the first ten percent of the book, it’s not a romance. People may say “but don’t you believe in love at first sight?” Well…I believe in potential at first sight. I believe in lust at first sight. I believe in attraction at first sight. But before you know you’re in love with someone, you have to try things out. You have to find the ways in which you are, and are not, compatible. You have to spend time together…or at least have an epistolary or telephonic relationship.
I remember that after the very first time I met my husband I knew I wanted to date him. You might, given the fact that we’re now married, call it “love at first sight.” But I would call it “potential for love” at first sight. I knew we had a chance. The actual love part took longer.
When I read a romance, I want to see that potential becoming a reality. That’s the ride I sign up for when I open a romance novel. If you just say “they’re in love” and go from there, you’re cheating me out of the experience I paid for.