Effort and Denial

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I’m picking up where I left off on my series of blog posts about writing romance, the last of which talked about the concept of mind mates. Recently, I’ve been thinking about how effort is honestly one of the most romantic elements in a relationship, more so than candlelit dinners, stargazing, or driving late at night with no destination. Effort is how a lover demonstrates that his beloved is a priority.

Ask anyone who’s been in a one-sided relationship, and they’ll tell you that there is nothing as unromantic as passivity. Real love requires something of you. It requires activity, for love must be nurtured over and over again.

As I write this post, I’m listening to one of my favorite love songs of all time, La Belle Fleur Sauvage by Lord Huron. One of my favorite lyrics is “I’d give it all to love that girl.” This lyric is talking about more than just effort; it’s talking about sacrifice, which is effort on fire. It is beyond romantic to deny oneself in some way for one’s beloved.

In romance novels, effort and sacrifice are exemplified in the “grand gesture” trope. The grand gesture usually takes place at the end of the novel and is usually enacted by the man. Examples include when Gilbert gives up the Avonlea school for Anne in Anne of Green Gables and when Mr. Darcy pays off Wickham in Pride and Prejudice. These grand gestures demonstrate to what great lengths the men are willing to go for the women they love. Even better, these grand gestures are done in secret. Gilbert doesn’t ask Anne if he should give up the Avonlea school; he makes up his mind and does it. Not wanting to draw attention to himself, Darcy pays off Wickham in secret. In both examples, the men are not motivated by public approval of their good deeds but of wanting the best for their beloved.

I once read that all romance novels ought to have at least three grand gestures. That seems a bit superfluous to me, but I think it’s wise to at least include one. After all, a grand gesture, especially when done selflessly and sacrificially, has the power to make a romance novel unforgettable.