“After the Movie,” by Marie Howe.
Isn’t this great? I just discovered it today.
The question the narrator and Michael are debating is something I wrestle with as a romance writer. In the end, is love a feeling or an action? I’ve definitely said, “Well, he thought he loved her, but if he could do that to her, then it wasn’t really love.”
Then sometimes I think that okay, maybe it was really love, who am I to say that love is only love when it meets my personal standards; but that if you can’t treat someone you love right, then it doesn’t matter whether you love them or not. It took me a long time to understand that if someone says “I love you,” and you love them back, that still doesn’t mean you’re a bad person for not letting them make you miserable.
I believe in the power of love to change lives. And yet in my own experience love, all by itself, isn’t enough to change someone. There have been times in my life when I loved someone desperately and I still wasn’t able–wasn’t brave enough or mature enough or knowledgeable enough or whatever enough–to be what they needed, and times when someone couldn’t change just because they loved me and I wanted or needed them to. We all fail people we love, and we’ve all been failed by people who loved us.
But my favorite kind of romance novel is still the kind where the love of another person and their faith in you, and loving another person and wanting to be what they need, can jolt you out of the bad place you’re in and help you become the person you want to be.
These questions show up a lot in In for a Penny. I think the answer the book comes to is that true love is both. It’s that feeling classical poets write about, and it’s also the day-to-day struggles of being a good partner.
Another book I love for the way it handles these ideas is Megan Chance’s Gilded-Age-set historical novel An Inconvenient Wife. Both the heroine’s husband and her new hypnotherapist love her, but the constraints of the era affect how they express it in ways that can be extremely damaging to her. (WARNING: The book is fabulous and I highly recommend it, but it’s NOT a traditional romance novel.)
What do you think? Can true love conquer all, even someone’s inner demons? Do you have a favorite book, romance or otherwise, that deals with this question?