In direct violation of the edict in Lucky Number Slevin that “Two people should only fall in love if there is a good story behind it, seeing as you have to tell it so many times,” I actually find romance novels that take place over the course of some grand adventure to be problematic. Especially if the grand adventure is something completely outside the bounds of normal life, that real life could not possibly encompass even as a special event (such as suddenly discovering the world is full of magical beings or having to go rescue your sister from drug smugglers in South America–that kind of outside of life, not a “trip of a lifetime” expedition that you planned and saved for for three years).
The issue I have with romances that take place under extraordinary circumstances is…what happens to the relationship when it hits the mundane wall of reality? If every interaction between hero and heroine took place when they were full of adrenaline and high emotion, how does the dynamic between them work when the only excitement is what kind of tea to brew that morning?
I think this dynamic actually becomes more clear when characters who had some big adventure together in their book show up as minor characters in someone else’s book. They always just seem so boring, settled into their normal lives, even if they spend the entire span of the adventure longing for their normal lives.
As well, I think more often than not falling in love on an adventure relies more on coincidence than falling in love via the course of everyday life. What are the odds that you meet your soul mate on that crazy adventure that takes you out of your normal sphere versus the sum of all the places you spend the rest of your life? I guess it depends on this: are you the sort of person whose soul mate is likely to be found in the same place you spend your life? So in that sense, if your romance novel heroine is a Princess Leia type who is bored by princes, it might make sense to have her fall in love with the Han Solo-ish rogue escorting her on her adventure. If she is escorted by a man of her own class and background…why didn’t they fall in love normally? There has to be a reason they wouldn’t have fallen in love, otherwise them sharing the adventure and falling in love during it is just one big coincidence. And storytelling that relies on coincidences is weak storytelling.
As a reader, picking books for myself (versus, say, having a friend put something in my hands and say “read this”), I tend to be drawn to stories that seem realistic. Events and circumstances that could happen without serious suspension of disbelief, that do not raise doubts about whether the characters really find each other exciting or if they just find the situation exciting. As a writer, I am not inspired to write grand adventures and interludes that take place in a time out of life.
I know romance readers tend to split on this issue. Some readers love the wild stories, because they want not just a fantasy romance but an escape from the doldrums of reality. And if I sat here and pondered long enough, I could come up with examples of romances I absolutely love which take place against a backdrop of adventure. I certainly am not writing this to condemn that half of the genre! It just hit me the other day, talking about romance with a friend at the local bookstore, and how we have maybe a 2% overlap in books and authors we have both read, that I have a definite and decided preference for romances that are…more plausible than not.