by Giselle Renarde
Here's something you should never admit when you work in this industry: I'm not a romantic.
But that's my truth. I soured on romance early in life because I never felt represented in Disney-esque storylines. I'm queer and I'm weird. I was never a princess and I never wanted a prince. Romance as a genre did not speak to me.
Apart from being queer and not identifying with heteromance (which struck me as prescriptive and ridiculous in terms of what's considered acceptable and appropriate behaviour in establishing a relationship), I also found the idea of the happy-ever-after a little... well, unrealistic. Fantastic, in other words.
Romance is a fantasy.
A couple months ago, there was a hashtag on Twitter that had something to do with romance readers' guilty confessions. I noticed a lot of readers tweeting that they didn't care how a story resolved itself so long as the lovers lived happily ever after. They didn't care if the romance was realistic. They just wanted to feel warm and fuzzy at the end.
Of course, not everybody following the conversation agreed. Some readers want the plot to resonate, or at least to... you know, make sense. For myself, I'd rather watch everything fall apart. That's reality. I'd rather see real, deep troubles between people--troubles that aren't easily or ever fixed.
But as I wrote my Chef story, its intention began to morph. I was trying to write a story that was all about sex, and suddenly it was infusing itself with romance. Suddenly, my famous chef wanted even more than my star-struck woman.
I tried editing out all that fantastic romance, even as I wrote it. For some reason, I couldn't stop myself. Romance overpowered me. When I handed the manuscript over to my girlfriend, who is also my contract editor, I asked her, "Is this too far from reality?" I really hoped she'd tell me it was. I hoped she'd advise me to change the story and remove some of that gushy, far-from-life romance.
But she didn't. She liked it.
What is it that's so satisfying about the fantasy of romance? Even as I reread that story and told myself, "This would never happen--not in a million years!" I couldn't change it. Maybe even the most jaded among us maintain the fantasy of an easy love, an easy romance, an easy life.
That's not reality. Maybe that's why we (yes, even the cynics and the pessimists) need a fictional shot of happy every once in a while.