Insta-love in romance novels.

If you read the romance blogs, you may have run into a term called “insta-love.”  In other words, instant love. The characters meet and somehow know they are destined for each other. As a device, it does crop up in romance books a lot. I confess to using it myself in my paranormals (although I prefer to throw in a healthy dose of struggle). Some readers dislike it. Others have no issue.

Does it actually exist? I know many people who say they fell in love at first sight. Many of them are people who have now been married for years. I do understand “lust at first sight” (I may even have experienced it once or twice), but real love? Can we actually develop such a bond within a short period of time?

That’s the great thing about romance stories. We can suspend our disbelief for a time. It’s all about the fantasy. However, insta-love doesn’t always work. I’ve read some books that employ this device and they rang untrue for me.

When does it work? I do believe it works better in paranormal romance. After all, in this genre, we are often dealing with characters who are magical or inhuman. For many of these sorts of characters (my selkies and shapeshifters, for example), emotions run deep and they happen on a level a human might not understand. There is an instant kinship, a “mate bond” that seals the fate of the main characters. In this incredible world, the implausible becomes plausible. Not only do we buy it, we slap our money down on the counter and say “Give it to me.”

Added to this, in paranormal romance, we often have life-or-death situations. Characters are thrown together and must often fight, not only for their goals, but for their survival. In these tense situations, people bond quickly.

I find insta-love less easy to accept in contemporary romance. This genre is supposed to be more reflective of real life (unless you happen to live with a werewolf, that is). In contemporary romance, I like to see the characters struggle with their feelings a bit more. I relish the uncertainty because I have felt that uncertainty in my life.

What are your thoughts? Do you enjoy insta-love romances or do you appreciate the long fight and ultimate surrender?

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14 thoughts on “Insta-love in romance novels.

  1. Hi Rosanna! Great post (loved the paranormal perspective) I have had a strong thought about insta-lust for awhile. In society and books, insta-lust and bodily expression are just more familiar (or safer) for people than words or waiting for minds and hearts to engage. It’s just how it is. I find so many books where the physical comes first and the connection comes in time once they both put down their rules or barriers and their hearts catch up. These are not blatant insta-love books but I’m afraid these type of books get labeled insta-love more harshly. That makes me want to defend an author and I have noted this in a couple reviews as a positive thing!

    However, I have put down books that really don’t add any type of heart or seduction to the beginning. If that happens and I’m not intrigued, I tune out.

    In the romantic stories that reach that place of abiding love but without much effort, I get the feeling that a whole lot of drama is ahead that will try and rip them apart. Sometimes they’re good books! I think of the westerns or historicals I’ve read.

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    • Thanks for your thoughts. I agree insta-love isn’t always negative but you are right about the connection. We need to feel something for the couple right away. There has to be a sense of direction and underlying love from the start.

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  2. In PNR books it makes complete sense. They know when they find their other half. It’s like a smell or a feeling for the couple. Now, of course, one of them struggles with that but that’s half the fun. The convincing. 😉

    In other books, I can’t stand it. In second chance romances, I can almost buy it because they’ve been in love before. The connection is still there for them. It’s somewhat believable. The reason why I stopped reading erotic romance is because of the whole insta love thing. They have sex and BOOM, they are in love. Nope. Nope. And Nope.

    I want that emotional connection, a friendship of sorts before I believe that they are in love. I want the couple to get to know each other.

    Marika/Harlie

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    • It’s all part of the journey, isn’t it? I want to experience the journey of falling in love. If they know, right from second one, I struggle with it. I like to see the love as part of the development. Thanks Marika.

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  3. In paranormal it is kind of expected for me. They always have to fight to get to stay together. In contemporary I believe in lust a first sight that can grow to loving someone. In either case they usually have some problems that need to be worked through to get their HEA.

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    • Good points, Fran, and interesting to hear you expect a bit of insta-love in PNR. Either way, as you so wisely said, we need to see them working through problems to get invested in the story.

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  4. Great post, Rosanna! I don’t like insta-love over here in urban fantasy/ paranormal romance camp, and I think my first book was unconventional regarding the struggle. The main character actually gets her heart broken in book one, which is how I think life goes. While some readers might not enjoy that she isn’t foaming at the mouth over boys ( she has enough problems initially), the story of heartbreak and then struggling love was the one that needed told. I want my readers to fall for characters! Not be set up from he beginning. Book 2 more than makes up for the heartbreak, but I do think paranormal readers need insta-love, and it some cases insta-love is the story that needs told. Can’t wait to see what happens. Lol. Great points in these comments!

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    • Every story is different, as you say. And if you’re not writing pure romance, then the HEA isn’t as important. Sometimes the love relationship isn’t the central plot and that’s okay. It has to be what you want to write, insta or not. 🙂

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  5. I dislike insta-love. Period. In any genre. Because to me, the journey is what matters, what make me enjoy romance in the first place. The growing feel, the growing respect, the growing love. Insta-love pretty much robs that experience for me as a reader.

    Having said that, for me, insta-love doesn’t always translate into short time span. I mean I read stories where the H/h or H/H fall in love within days… But because they have intense connection or experience intense situation, I can believe that they actually love each other that quick 🙂

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    • Thanks for your thoughts, Ami! I almost dislike the term insta-love because there are so many degrees. My characters tend to “recognize” something in each other. Some readers have called that insta-love, others not. For me, the journey is still so important. It can’t be game over from the start or else we have no reason to write a story.

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  6. Great post. It just highlights how different people like different things. I’m in your camp in the PNR vs contemporary. Different people also have different definitions of “insta-love.” My characters have the “mate-bond,” but they still struggle with “is this love?” Some people might call that “insta-love” and some might not. Personally, I want to read for escapism, as long as you set the parameters within your world and stick with them (in paranormal) I’ll go with it. Which is funny because I can be pretty pendantic. Put a Doberman Pincher in medieval England and I’ll stop reading right there, but put in magic and explain the Doberman as having been pulled to the past, I’ll be just fine.😜

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