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Contemporary romance novels have come a long way. By portraying second-chance romances, featuring a diverse cast of characters, and highlighting serious issues such as motherhood, career, race, and more, the romance genre shouldn’t be equated with fluff. frivolous because it is often mislabeled. It tells us how views on gender, sexuality and love have changed over time. It also draws our attention to the fact that not every love story needs to culminate in marriage. The days of unoriginal, aggressive macho heroes and their slavish heroines are over. Contemporary love stories give way to multidimensional narratives to coexist without slipping away.
Literary fiction takes this game up a notch by featuring unique love stories that change the way we think about relationships. Relationships are never easy, nor are they always fulfilling and generating happiness. Romance isn’t just the domain of pretty twenty-somethings whose days after meeting the loves of their life suddenly become a bed of roses. Like any other business, romantic relationships take work. Literary fiction debunks preconceptions about how relationships are meant to be and portrays them for what they really are.
Lily King’s Writers and lovers, for example, paints a very realistic picture of love. There is this misconception that love fixes an individual and makes his life whole. Although love fills our lives with unbridled joy, it does not necessarily become a cure for what we lack. Casey struggles to finish her first novel while dealing with the crushing burden of student loans and the recent disappearance of her mother. She’s a crying, anxious mess and everything in her life is falling apart. To top it off, she is in love with two men at the same time. King showed that love is something that is an important aspect of Casey’s life, but it is by no means all-consuming.
Over the course of the novel, we see her becoming her own savior as she fights to stay afloat. The believable lows and well-deserved highs of his life are his and only his. Casey will never rely solely on her love interests to validate her existence. She is passionate about things that are not subject to the whims of others. She is her own person. The kind of feeling that you complete me isn’t lasting, and Casey is smart enough to know that she has a lot of work to do on her own before she can prove she’s right for anyone. To love does not mean to lose yourself for another person. To love is to find a way to assert your individuality, and Casey’s story is a testament to that.
Then there’s Clare Chambers small pleasures, which is set in post-war 1950s London and features Jean, who is about to turn 40. She works as a columnist in a local newspaper, has limited career opportunities and has to listen and appeal to a demanding mother. Her life changes dramatically as she is given the task of investigating whether Gretchen Tilbury really is the virgin mother she claims to be. After a series of strange incidents, Jean falls in love with Gretchen’s husband, Howard. Even when the story sends dark ripples through the lives of everyone involved, Jean, despite her best efforts, can’t manage to give up her one chance at happiness. Howard acts as an antidote to Jean’s quiet solitude. Her gentle and thoughtful nature eventually draws Jean into a world where misery is not the only constant. Contrary to what she’s been taught to believe, there’s no deadline for finding love. Howard and Jean suffered their respective losses. Howard’s wife never loved him and Jean has had her share of horrible men.
Biggest takeaway small pleasures is that love and life should not stop at a certain age. We grow up internalizing that the stages of our life come with deadlines and that if we don’t meet them, we will never recover. This idea is impractical and life is far too big to be caged in this way. Jean’s story, even if it has a sad ending, shows how many good sides exist in our world without our knowledge. Marriages can crumble, partners can ignore our desires, jobs can wear us down, and living can feel like ordeal, but our lives are wild and precious and in every nook and cranny, l love is waiting for us to find it.
by Hiromi Kawakami Strange weather in Tokyo, translated by Allison Markin Powell, is another example of an unconventional love story where love breaks out of every stale mold we try to limit it to. Tsukiko is in her late thirties when she reunites with one of her high school teachers whom she calls “Sensei”. He’s at least 30 years her senior, but the age gap is never a barrier as the easy intimacy they share transcends everything. Despite their initial hesitation, Tsukiko and her Sensei eventually grow bolder in their relationship. Their closeness grows as they share meals and drinks, swap stories, and go on journeys together. There’s something truly supernatural about finding joy in the ordinary, in the everyday, and the love that Tsukiko and her Sensei for each other helps them achieve the magic of the mundane. True happiness does not lie in grand gestures but in accomplishing daily tasks with the loved one. Their relationship lacks extravagance and that is its charm.
This novel not only redefines relationship models by declaring that romance should not be monopolized by young people, but also makes us see what the goals of a relationship should be in a new light. Our social upbringing prevents us from going out with whoever we want. We are often given strict instructions about who we can date and who we cannot. This book demystifies all those morals that serve no discernible purpose in our lives. The story of Tsukiko and her Sensei tells us that love is infinite and cannot be limited by conventional standards.
To love is both to swim and to drown. Literary fiction tells us that the feeling of being in love cannot always be loved because it often feels heavier than iron. And even if it’s beautiful to be in love, it doesn’t last forever. This genre very aptly captures the infinite power we wield and the powerlessness we must endure, in love, simultaneously. It also reminds us that love is never available in limited supply and does not need to be rationed. Above all, literary fiction depicts all the chaos and social factors that influence and follow the romantic choices we make. And above all, it makes us realize that partners can live their lives together while being alone.
For more on why you should choose romance novels, please see this article on why romance deserves as much respect as any other genre.