I'm taking a class on the Brontë sisters this semester. I talk about Jane Eyre a lot in general - my first tattoo is a reference to my favorite quote - and I've been dying to read the rest of the Brontës works. We kicked off the semester with Wuthering Heights.
And you know what? Wuthering Heights is a love story. It is not a romance.
And I think that line gets blurred now, not just in how people see Wuthering Heights, but in how people see all love stories and romances.
A love story is a story about two people falling in love and about their love. A romance doesn't have to be the whole story - it can be part of a story. A love story can be romantic. A romance can be the basis of a love story.
A love story doesn't have to be romantic. Romance doesn't have to be the entire story.
I'm going to use Wuthering Heights as my first example here. While undoubtedly a love story - the entire plot focuses on Heathcliff and Cathy's love and obsession with each other - there isn't much romance involved. There's a lot of dead people and beating and storms and other various terrible things that don't lend themselves well to romance.
Yet I see people calling it a romance, and I hear people wanting a Heathcliff because of how they perceive the love story - it's love, so it must be romantic, right?
Not necessarily. Not all love is healthy. Take the plot of The Lizzie Bennet Diaries right now and Lydia's relationship with Wickham. She may love him, but what they have is not something I would define as a romance. It is a love story, but it is one where Lydia's character is suffering for it. (Katherine wrote something about this over at Feminist Fiction.)
Stories can also have romance without being a love story. The Bloody Jack series has two characters who fall in love and spend the entire series trying to be together, but the series itself isn't a love story; it just happens to have romantic aspects. The same applies for a story live Divergent or The Hunger Games - while both have romantic aspects, the story is ultimately a dystopian narrative where people are trying to survive.
I think it's really important to note the difference, because so often we take a romantic part of a story and sensationalize it to make the whole story a love story. (The marketing for The Hunger Games movie, anybody? Team Peeta! Team Gale! That's not what the book was about!) And we also take what may be a love story that doesn't have any romance and say that it has to be romantic because it's love or a relationship, like fans that ship Lydia and Wickham in The Lizzie Bennet Diaries.
Let's keep things what they are. Love doesn't mean romance, and romance doesn't make a love story. Both things can be the other, but they don't have to be.
That's one of the issues I have with marketing of YA books nowadays. If there's the slightest hint of romance in the plot, it has to be made bigger and grander so that it can be a love story. But why does it need to be? I love romance. I also love other things. And everything can be balanced.
Why are all paranormal stories now romantic love stories? Why can't we have a story with paranormal creatures and some romantic scenes? Why can't we have a love story of an angel and a human and recognize that their relationship may not be romantic?
Have you seen any books you'd classify as romance-but-not-love-stories? How about love-stories-but-not-romances?