“The Art of Love” is a romance. Well, obviously, with a title like that. Then again, it kind of isn’t at the same time. Sure, it’s got boy meets girl, boy and girl like each other and then some sweet and sexy times, but the course of true love definitely isn’t smooth for Fitz and Marina. That’s the fun part! What they have definitely isn’t a typical romance and it’s not what either of them expected.
While I was going through the ever joyful process of editing the book (imagine me saying that in the most sarcastic way possible), I realized that Marina talks a lot about wanting a “normal” relationship. The only thing is she has no idea what a normal relationship is supposed to be like. Without spoiling the story (I’d like you to read it, after all), Marina’s had a tough life pretty much void of love and affection, not to mention completely lacking her own identity. When she’s suddenly shoved in front of this gorgeous guy who everyone desires and who’s for some reason interested in her, she can’t process it properly. How do you react when you have no idea what you’re doing or who you even are? It doesn’t help that she’s going down this rabbit hole with a guy who’s hiding as many secrets as she is. Relationships are hard enough when you know what you’re doing!
Anyway, I ended up doing romance research while I was writing my book. Well, I say research but it was more like hardcore procrastination with movies, books and some embarrassing music choices. There are as many different kinds of love as there are lovers in the world, and they’re all “normal” and “weird” at the same time. One girl’s perfect romance is another’s must avoid. I must admit that the all-consuming obsessive romances where the couple’s love is the center of their existences are really not my thing. I know a lot of people who adore them, and that’s their choice. I think there are many problematic elements to these sorts of romances but I respect those who have these kinds of stories as their fantasies. Personally, I’m a sucker for the Beatrice & Benedick/Tracey & Hepburn style romances, with snappy retorts and biting wit. Julie James writes great contemporary romances that follow this sort of pattern. I can’t get enough of those (and bring on Joss Whedon’s “Much Ado About Nothing” movie) but I have a friend who finds them all too smug for her liking. We’ve had a lot of fun arguments over this but at the end of the day I’ll probably never change her mind, and that’s fine. I still intend on dragging her to see “Much Ado…”, of course.
The thing about saying that a relationship, or anything in life, is “normal” is that you immediately create a contrast. Anything that isn’t like that “normal” thing is “abnormal” or “weird”. Let’s be honest; love in itself is pretty darn weird. It screws with your mind, makes you giddy and confused and prone to ridiculous fantasies. Sometimes you end up listening to some truly terrible music because it seems like a good idea at the time! Sometimes you change your entire life for love. If that isn’t a bit odd then I don’t know what is. So what kind of love is and isn’t “normal” love?
(Actually, I have an answer for that. Abuse is not love and it’s not normal. If you or someone you know is in an emotionally, sexually and/or physically abusive relationship then you need to take steps to get out of that. There is support for you and there will always be people who truly care for you.)
Whatever love you have in your life, or whatever love you want in your fiction, I hope it brings you joy. In “The Art of Love”, Marina notes that she’ll never fit the definition of “normal” but she’s fine with that. If we all wanted the same things from romance then we’d have an assembly line pumping it out to the masses. That would make things a lot easier, but far less fun!
It seems only fitting to end this post with some good old Beatrice and Benedick. How excited are you for this movie!?