A Clash of Titans: Love vs. Honor in the Romance Novel

Red rose besiegedAlmost as soon as we can understand stories, we are taught to recognize the conflicts that drive them. Heroes are pitted against villains; natural settings are pitted against the encroachment of humankind; the temptation to do the profitable thing is pitted against the drive to do the right thing.

Many genres are shaped by the conflicts that appear most frequently within them. The American Realist movement, for example, is well-known for its focus on the conflicts between humankind and the unfeeling vastness of nature. Meanwhile, Modernist literature can be loosely defined by its obsession with the conflict between the act of linguistic representation and the object being represented.

Those of us who aspire to greatness in the romance and erotica genres, however, are typically more interested in the age-old conflict between the characters’ feelings of love and the characters’ senses of honor. Although this conflict may seem like a very basic battle that has already been discussed thoroughly in Romeo and Juliet, it is in reality a complex and powerful theme that can be used to fuel a wide variety of plots.

‘Honor’ means different things to different people, and it certainly means different things to different narratives. In historical settings, ‘honor’ often refers to a heroine’s ties to her birth family and the duties that come with them. In modern settings, the part of honor can be played by a host of social requirements, from a lawyer’s obligation to stay distant from her client to a billionaire’s sense that he shouldn’t be too friendly with his housekeeper.

Whatever form honor takes, it is always love’s job to turn it on its head for the sake of desire. Love is a loose cannon; love mucks up the line of succession and interferes with professional obligations and generally relieves our heroes of their dignity at every turn. Although it can be sweet and gentle and monogamous, it doesn’t have to be. In terms of narrative structure, the CEO who yearns to be disciplined by his secretary is just as much in love as the Laird’s daughter pining for her pirate captain. The important thing about love in a romance narrative is not that it swoons or broods or writes poems in a particular way, but rather that it picks a fight with honor and wins.

Coming Home by Lola Blake

Coming Home

Principal category Romance
Word count (approximate pages) 55,700 (150)
In Kindle, Epub or PDF formats $2.99

Can Sara find happiness or will her past consume her?

Sara has returned to her beachside home in Melbourne from a mental institution where she was receiving treatment after an apparent suicide attempt. Day by day we follow her convalescence and her attempt to reintegrate into her old life.

Thanks to the income of her husband, David, Sara is a woman of leisure, but she has a price to pay. The marriage is loveless and David is unfaithful, yet divorce is out of the question because of a prenuptial clause which would deny her the resources to look after her small daughter Lily. Sara’s best friend Beverly hovers around the family providing distraction and a sympathetic ear, but it gradually becomes apparent that she is not all she seems.

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As Sara’s routine re-establishes itself and her confrontations with David escalate in their ferocity, her inner life of thoughts and memories little by little tell us the story of her past. Aspiring to be a professional dancer, she realized it was her mother’s ambition she was fulfilling rather than her own, while her dream to be an artist, and wife to her one true love, Marcus, slipped out of her grasp.

Gradually the present and the past converge as Sara is increasingly consumed by old passions. Finally, as her life begins to fall apart, she takes a drastic step which serves both as an end and a beginning.

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Sophia Seductress by Cirstin Redman

Sophia Seductress

Principal category Drama
Word count (approximate pages) 10,300 (30)
In Kindle, Epub or PDF formats $2.99

Who can resist Sophia?

Sophia, irreverent, rebellious, self-seeking, with more attitude than she knows what to do with, achieves her ambition of seducing a married male teacher at her convent school. When she finds herself pregnant, suddenly her whole life changes.

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Can she break through the ring of conspiring adults? What will become of her?

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Yellow Lemons

Yellow Lemons

Principal category Drama
Word count (approximate pages) 105,000 (310)
In Kindle, Epub or PDF formats $2.99

A contemporary romance

Yellow Lemons is the sort of book you might want to read in a hammock in the shade of a tree.

It pulls you through its pages with hints of mystery: suggestions of things about to happen and things not being quite as they should be, while at the same time describing a tranquil and well-ordered way of life in a grand house in the middle of a lemon grove.

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The protagonist is the new maid Lemoni Leonidas, ever faithful and resourceful, who strikes up an unusual relationship with her master, the owner of the estate, and eventually receives an unexpected but poetically satisfying reward. Along the way we see various comic and eccentric characters through her eyes – the other servants, the guests who each have their own agenda (including an attempt at poisoning with oleander leaves), and above all the travel journalist who quite literally drops in, in the basket of a huge yellow balloon.

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Wild Goose & Queen Anne’s Lace Compendium

Queen Anne's Lace & Green Tree Compendium

Principal category Family Drama
Word count (approximate pages) 111,600 (300)
In Kindle, Epub or PDF formats $2.99

Two great novels at a reduced price!

Queen Anne’s Lace opens just after the death of the father of the family. Isabel, his wife, is feeling purposeless and seeks solace in a nearby convent. The short stay opens her eyes to a new way of life and she becomes convinced that the life of a nun would give her the direction that she is now lacking. Besides starting down the path towards becoming one, she decides to gift the family cottage to the convent.

This decision does not sit so well with her three children …

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Wild Goose is the story of Jemima, a young girl growing up at the home of her grandparents in rural East Anglia. Her widowed father is an Oxford don who reads literature and sees that as the natural career progression for his daughter. Jemima’s talents lie in a different direction and, despite her father’s clumsy attempts to gently but firmly guide her down the path he followed, she takes a strong interest in the natural world.

Underlying the seemingly tranquil world that she lives in, there is a dark and growing alienation between father and daughter. Jemima wants to please him but she can’t and this internal conflict erupts during her school exams which she flunks and then attempts suicide by drowning in her beloved sea.

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