Monday, November 8, 2010

Poking the Hornet's Nest - (Or Why I Hate Romeo and Juliet)

Okay I have to start this post by saying the above is a bit of a fib. I don't hate Romeo and Juliet. I love Shakespeare and R&J, along with Macbeth, Twelfth Night and Much Ado About Nothing are perhaps my favourite plays.*

However, I hate how whenever a main protagonist (meaning the hero or heroine) is killed at the end of a romance novel (a novel that has been marketed as a romance), R&J are used as a justification.

I have a number of issues.

1) Romeo and Juliet is a tragedy not a romance. They are a tragic romantic couple. In Shakespearean tragedy issues are resolved at the end of the play through death. In Shakespearean comedy issues are resolved through marriage. Therefore I don't think it's too bid of a stretch to say that modern romance has more in common with the comedy plays.

2) Romeo and Juliet were teenagers who took their own lives. They didn't know any better. It gets on my wick when these characters are used as justification by readers, authors, publishers etc for the death of the hero/heroine at the hands of the antagonist.

3) We're being real. Well go and be real in some other genre. If I want real I'll turn on the six o'clock news.

Now I am not saying that characters shouldn't die. That's frankly ridiculous. But what I hate is when a book is written as a romance, sold as a romance, marketed as a romance, read as a romance with a hero and heroine and developing relationship, and then in the last few pages...kaboom!

You know...that doesn't make me appreciate what a great book it was, or how great the writer is, it just leaves me feeling manipulated and getting a small amount of joy from the sound the book made as it hit the wall.

I have read books where characters died, but I knew going in that something terrible was going to happen. In two of my DIK books, the main characters died. But I didn't pick them up thinking I was going to get a fairytale ending. And I waited until I was in the right frame of mind to go on that emotional rollercoaster.

One of the things I'm happy about is that Urban Fantasy has finally come to the point or is coming to the point where it's being marketed as Urban Fantasy. Hopefully we're seeing the last of UF appearing on bookshop shelves with PNR along its spine. I read UF I expect the possibility that characters may die. I read PNR I expect the hero and heroine to make it through to the last page.

* - I also have to say I realize that this post is unlikely to change your point of view, if you don't agree with me, I doubt I'll change your mind. But I needed to get this off my chest.


Jenre said...

I agree, Lesley. One of the main reasons I read romance is because of the HEA.

Pure escapism? Hell, yes!

I know it's one of the main reasons why romance is sneered at so much. Apparently it makes you less of a person if you prefer your books or stories to end well, but I spent many miserable years reading books which ended badly, with dark, depressing themes, and to be honest I've had enough. Books which are marketed at romance, even with UF themes, and which then end with the death of one of the characters leave me feeling as you do, Lesley, manipulated, and perhaps also a little bit betrayed.

However, if I read a book that isn't marketed as romance which then ends badly, it doesn't bother me because I knew going into reading the book that all bets were off.

Mind you there have been a few occasions where I really wished one of the characters in a romance would be killed in a horrible fashion before the end of the book because they have been so irritating :).

LesleyW said...

Jenre - hmmm, yes the irritating romance character who you wish could meet up with a non-fatal grand piano ala Wiley Coyote and The Road Runner.

But I like the vast majority of what I read to end if not with an HEA then at least a hopeful one. That way, I have the literary fortitude to read that excellently written but gut-wrenching book, which I know is going to leave me unable to read anything else for two weeks after.

Sullivan McPig said...

Hear, hear!!
I agree completely!
I couldn't have said it any better than you just did.

Kim said...

Great post, Lesley. I agree, if I want to read about death and no HEA, I'll read True Crime or a history book. It shouldn't be in my romance.

I don't know what genre Karen Marie Moning's Fever series is but I started reading that about a year ago, because the first book was free and I've liked her highlander series. At the end of the last Fever book, someone died. We don't know who it was, because it was a freaking cliffhanger, but I had this horrible feeling after I read it that it was someone very important. Maybe the hero?

I felt sick after reading it, and then I felt angry.

That's not how I want to feel after I read a book. I felt safe reading this series because KMM usually writes romance, so I guess I expected at the very least a HFN. Now I'm not so sure we'll even get that. Before I buy the last book I'll be watching reviews.

The romance authors that I've followed to a different genre, usually have a romantic element in their non-romance books. For example Nora Roberts/J D Robb. So I guess I expected KMM to follow that trend.

That will teach me not to start a series until all books are published!

Barb said...

I had to laugh when I read the title of your post! My high school years are coming back to haunt me as I have a child about to study Romeo and Juliet in English class just after Christmas! (btw Leonardo does Romeo beautifully!) The comment that came home from school the other day was that Romeo and Juliet was one of the world's classic romance stories. I said "WHAT"??

I had years and years of reading stupid things in high school (higher literature) and textbook after textbook in university. I'm now proud to read romance! I don't want to think too hard. I want to be entertained. And after watching the evening new - I want a happy ending! No dead bodies please!

LesleyW said...

Sullivan - thank you. :)

Kim - Yeah, I know that sick and angry feeling. I have the first book in the Fever series on my TBR pile. Haven't got round to reading it yet, so I may just wait to hear the reviews as well. Before starting a series I may not want to finish.

LesleyW said...

Barb - I like the R&J version which stars Leo. And I'd recommend the Helena Bonham Carter version of Twelfth Night.

I think as far as R&J is concerned I'd say they're a classical romantic couple (in the traditional meaning of the word). But it isn't a romance story.

Copyright © 2008-2011 Desert Island Keepers All Rights Reserved. Proudly powered by Blogger

  © Blogger template Starry by 2008 Modified by Lea

Back to TOP