I am a sucker for the Hollywood version of romance and my addiction goes beyond the guilty pleasure of the occasional Julia Roberts movie. Far beyond. In my bedroom, kept away from the books and movies I am proud to own, is a bookshelf entirely dedicated to well-read romance novels and nauseatingly enjoyable rom-coms.
It’s embarrassing how much I love the genre.
With one exception.
I really hate Nicholas Sparks.
After watching (and loving) the Notebook, I decided to watch his other movie adaptations. What a huge mistake that was! Each movie ends with somebody dying. A Walk to Remember? Mandy Moore dies of Cancer. Message in a Bottle? Kevin Costner dies at sea. Nights in Rodanthe? Richard Gere dies in a flash flood.
The man is a literary serial killer. (Though not a literal one, as far as I know …)
Don’t get me wrong, I don’t think a happy ending is necessary in romance. Casablanca and Moulin Rouge are both romantic movies. Roman Holiday is a personal favourite and I’ve seen My Best Friend’s Wedding more than a dozen times. Separating characters adds a more realistic spin to the genre but killing them for no other reason than because you can? That’s just sadistic!
Which brings me to my next point.
There is one major difference between romance novels shelved in the romance section versus ones shelved in fiction. In “romance” romance novels the characters all end up happily ever after. The one’s shelved with fiction? No couple is safe.
In order to be a literary romance novel (don’t scoff) the two main characters have to be tragically separated or at the very least have tragedy bestowed upon them until they end up bitter and miserable.
Rhett left Scarlett, literature.
Clare is left alone when Henry dies, literature.
And don’t even get me started about Romeo and Juliet.
Real literature is all about unhappy endings and Nicholas Sparks, in an effort to be “literary” has followed this formula to death (See what I did there? You know, ‘cause he kills off his characters? hardy har har).
With this in mind, is it any wonder I prefer Julia Quinn?
As a side note I am completely ignoring Jane Austen and the large number of other books that don’t support my theory. They don’t count, obviously.