Let’s Talk Bookish – Romance as a subplot

Let’s Talk Bookish is a weekly meme, created and hosted by Rukky @ Eternity Books and Dani @ Literary Lion, where we discuss certain topics, share our opinions, and spread the love by visiting each other’s posts.

You can find more details about it here.

This week’s topic is very interesting, and not one I’ve ever thought about, to be honest. Love is such a central part of our lives, for most of us, that I never really thought of whether a romance subplot was always necessary in a story. I guess I never question the need for a romance if I think it’s well done. Also, I love love stories.

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There is something fascinating about people falling in love and I enjoy finding this in books – whether that’s the main story or not. I can’t think of a romance subplot that I didn’t enjoy… but then, I realise I read a lot of Victorian novels which are mainly to do with marriage. And it’s so natural to have a crush on someone or have feelings for someone you’re attracted to, so I’m okay to find it in books where characters go through crazy adventures together as they’re brought closer by the hardships they have to face.

That being said, I’m sure that there are lots of romances that feel forced and strange but I can’t think of any. I’ve either been lucky in never encountering one of those, or I have decided to erase them from my memory.

I don’t mind books where there isn’t any romance, though. Especially if the author is trying to make a political point, or verging on social commentary. Not that I don’t think love is serious, just that it can take the reader’s attention away from the main point of focus. In The Nickel Boys by Colson Whitehead for instance, there isn’t any romance –  a character gets married as he gets older, but that’s it – because the author is trying to bring our attention to something else. In The Year of the Witching by Alexis Henderson, which I reviewed last week, there’s the beginning of a romance, but it’s a sort of prop for the main character to question why men never challenge their elders and condemn their crimes openly. I thought this was very clever, and I did like the two characters falling for each other as it added to the plot, without becoming central to it.

I guess it’s important to show readers (especially young ones, and even more especially women) that characters can do amazing thing without the aid of a man and that love, and therefore marriage, is not the ultimate goal in life – you can do so many more things. But I still love romance as a a subplot, especially when it’s weaved in the narrative in a subtle way that doesn’t undermine a hero’s personal growth.

I’m sorry, I ended up rambling aimlessly about this topic! Anyway, I would love to know everyone’s thoughts on this topic and if you do too, you should definitely check Rukky’s and Dani’s posts to find out more.