The question that heads this entry isn’t about the real world. It isn’t me wondering to the world out loud if I should question my own marriage or anything like that. It’s a question about the world of romantic fiction (and by extension, Erotic Romance) and if marriage is sacred within that genre.
Yes, CHARLOTTE’S SECRET is about sex outside the marriage vows, but Marc Nobbs puts a unique twist on the subject to not make it unpleasant.
Which, to my mind, implies that many readers might be put off by the breaking of marriage vows but the reviewer is asking them to give it a chance. (I should point out that that’s just my interpretation of the review. I encourage you to read the whole review and judge for yourself.)
If this is the case, the the assumption is that marriage is sacred and anything that strays from that view is something to be looked on with scorn. For those of you who have not read Charlotte’s Secret (Why not? Go buy a copy now, damn it), it’s about a man who is tricked into marrying his girlfriend's sister because she convinces him he got her pregnant after one very drunken night of illicit sex. And, after some time, he realises that he is still in love with (the person who is now) his wife’s sister. The story is of how they sort this situation out.
So, is this marriage sacred? Even though it’s a marriage with little (or indeed, no) love to hold it together and was founded not on a rock as the bible encourages (I can’t quote the book, chapter or verse so don’t ask) but on a lie. To my mind, the romance in this story has nothing to do with the break up of a marriage, but everything to do with the reconciliation of another, more important, stronger, relationship.
And so it is with a story I’m writing now. I have two people in love who been separated by distance, time and misunderstanding, and who find on meeting again that the love stills burns strong. But one of them is married. And not particularly happily married. What do the ‘conventions’ of romance dictate? Should my characters accept their situation or find a way around it? And if the less-than-happy marriage is broken up in favour of the long lost love, is that a good or a bad thing? Will readers be expecting me to respect the sacred vows? Or do they want Will and Amy to be together and happy?
Of course, me being me, I don’t care what the conventions are and I’m going to write the story I feel I need to tell. But I do wonder if I’ll lose readers, potentially forever, in doing so.