Tuesday, January 11, 2011

Arranged marriages in romance

There was an interesting post over at Dear Author on the arranged marriage trope in romance. A few of the books mentioned in the comments are ones I've already read (like Patricia Briggs' Alpha and Omega series and Archangel by Sharon Shinn), but there were a few that I had never heard of before. I'm going to have to go through the comments again sometime and look up some of those books.

Prior to reading the post, it hadn't occurred to me that soulmates are basically paranormal romance's version of arranged marriages. Jane's list of reasons why arranged marriages are not considered romantic fits with reasons I've seen why soulmates in paranormal romances turn some people off.

I like the soulmate trope in paranormal romance. I liked the few book examples I'd actually read before (although it should be noted that none of those were contemporary romances, unless you count Goddess for Hire, which isn't really romance). In theory, I'd probably like a contemporary romance in which the hero and heroine had an arranged marriage that, whether positively presented from the start or not, at least reached a positive point by the end of the book.

I kind of wonder, though, if it's really possible to say "if you like soulmates in paranormal romance, you'll like arranged marriages in contemporary romance." In paranormal romance, there are all kinds of things that put a cushion of fantasy between the story and the reader. The soulmate thing doesn't happen because some other character says so, it happens because of magic, or because a god says so, or because that's just what happens sometimes to whatever nonhuman character the book features. Would I still enjoy it as much if none of that were the case?

Hard to say - like so many things, it would really depend on how it was done. Although now I'm kind of interested in the idea of a paranormal romance in which the hero and heroine have an actual arranged marriage. The closest thing I can think of is Hawksong by Amelia Atwater-Rhodes. It's been so long since I read that one that I can't remember if that was really an arranged marriage.

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