I cannot imagine a more difficult task than writing a satisfying piece of romantic fiction. I am too analytic for it. If I tried, I would be disappointed with the result. However, I can admire others’ works when befitting, and to that end, here are some observations:
Proper romance must subsist between two rational, passionate equals. If one is undeserving of another’s regard, I would rather the fact be acknowledged than ignored, as I am inclined to want to think poorly of as few characters as possible. Furthermore, romance without conflict cannot be compelling, yet I have found conflict is usually and ironically the result of a reason for which the loss of a reader’s respect for a given character is warranted. Questionable is the passion of he who believes external circumstances prevent association. Deference to third party opinion or inability to overlook social differences must disappoint a reader’s hopeful expectation for an ideal character: independent, clever, and sage. Worse still are cases in which there is no such obvious, trite impediment, as the character whose resolve would waver at the precipice of desires fulfilled rather bespeaks of irrationality or insanity.
It is perhaps not surprising, then, that I find myself preferring what might be called improper romance, by which I mean a subtly coy relationship between persons of the opposite sex, equal or unequal in terms of intelligence and passion, of which the author’s chief object is to instill in the reader’s mind a teleological end other than union. I have not read or seen many works of fiction of this type; in my experience, Kierkegaard’s The Seducer’s Diary is the best example of such a relationship between unequal persons, and the first half of Pride and Prejudice is the best example of such a relationship between equal persons. Both books requite interest by stimulating the mind rather than – or, if you please, unto – the emotions.