Love as a Bridge

Do you believe in the power of love to reconcile what is opposite or different? I do. Not without reservations: Some positions are opposed too far to be overcome easily, for example a union between an unrepentant racist and a person who despises racism. And in some instances, where there’s no real compromise possible, love may not be enough to bridge the gap, like whether one wants to have children or not, a pet or not. But in many cases love may bring together people that hold opinions and beliefs that differ, and may make a relationship possible that both partners would have declined for rational reasons before they actually fell in love.

My own marriage is an example of the opposites-attract kind. My husband and I are respectively conservative and green, Catholic and Lutheran, of working-class and academia background. And our marriage works well. We still vote differently (sometimes arguing about details, but always respecting the other’s right to a different opinion), we take turns attending both our churches together, and when we visit with our families, one of us may sometimes roll his or her eyes at the other family’s idiosyncrasies, but always prepared for tolerance.

Because I believe in love’s power to bridge differences, I have a special fondness for romance stories that focus on such situations. Opposites Attract, Across the Tracks and Inter-Ethnic Romances are among my favorites, and many’s the time I have looked up AAR’s Special Title Listings of these tropes. Not surprisingly, during our last updating, I chose to work on Across the Tracks and Inter-Ethnic Romances, and I was delighted to see so many new titles entered by you, our readers. Here are some stories I enjoyed particularly:

The Sergeant’s Lady by Susanna Fraser. It is remarkable in that it portrays a true disparity of social class between hero and heroine, with the hero being the son of an innkeeper and having risen to the rank of sergeant, which was the highest rank a common soldier could realistically attain in the early 19th century, while the heroine is sister to a viscount and an heiress. Their happy ending is extremely difficult to achieve, and only at some cost, especially to her.

A Notorious Countess Confesses by Julie Anne Long. Another historical, and in this case the pairing is between a country vicar and thus part of the gentry, and a former courtesan of lower-class background who is the widow of an earl. The class disparity actually works in both directions here, and it seems almost impossibly to bridge at times.

Angel-Seeker by Sharon Shinn. This novel actually contains two romances, and in each disparities on class and race are reflected upon. One of the human heroines purposefully searches out angels, the leaders of their society, for reasons of social advancement, while the other, who lives in a society extremely restrictive to women, meets an angel quite by accident and must decide, under threat to her very life, which social group she wants to be a member of.

Among the books nominated for the two lists were many I have not read yet, and quite a few I have bought since reading more about them. New on my ebookreader are Eyes of Silver, Eyes of Gold by Ellen O’Donnell, In for a Penny by Rose Lerner, About Last Night by Ruthie Knox, and All They Need by Sarah Mayberry. I hope to be entertained and moved by them, and reaffirmed in my belief in the reconciliating power of love.

What is it you like especially about romances that bridge differences? Or do you consider such stories unrealistic? What are your own favorite Across the Tracks or Inter-Ethnic romances?

– Rike Horstmann

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8 Responses to Love as a Bridge

  1. maggie b. says:

    I like this trope as well. One I really enjoyed was Moon Over Tokyo by Siri Mitchell. A liberal woman and conservative man fall in love while stationed in Tokyo. Really cute story.

    I enjoyed The Sergeant’s Lady as well. I thought it gave a pretty good look at the class separation that would have taken place at the time.

    I think unrealistic only sets in when the author takes short cuts in the writing. But these things do happen in real life and make for some terrific love stories in the hands of the right author.

  2. Carrie says:

    I’ve read In for a Penny, About Last Night, and All They Need. I enjoyed all of them very much. Knox and Mayberry are auto-buys for me, and I’d love to see more by Lerner. I didn’t get her second book when it came out and now I can’t find a copy anywhere. In for a Penny is the book that convinced me I could handle reading historical romances!

    The Sergeant’s Lady looks good, so I’m putting that on my TBR list.

    Commitment and communication are what it takes to make an “opposites attract” relationship work. You have to be committed to working things out and you have to communicate clearly–hearing and being heard. It’s not as difficult to let someone keep their opinions when they have respect for yours.

  3. LeeB. says:

    If done right, I think romances that bridge differences are very appealing. Both characters grow and that’s why their relationship works.

  4. Carrie says:

    It’s interesting that just after reading this blog post yesterday, I picked up Mary Balogh’s “A Christmas Promise.” it’s the story of an impoverished
    earl who marries a wealthy cit’s daughter. It is not only just a marriage of convenience between the classes, but it’s a marriage fraught with hostility. Both protagonists misunderstand the other’s motives and actions. I’m about halfway through and Balogh does a wonderful job of making both the hero and heroine flawed but sympathetic.

  5. Rike says:

    maggie b., I will have to pick up Moon Over Tokyo – it sounds like exactly the sort of book I like!

    Carrie, I have read Balogh’s Christmas Promise and I remember liking it a lot, although I have to admit that I thought the addition of the families a bit much at times.

  6. Ann Stephens says:

    I totally believe that love can bridge a lot of differences. Like Rike, my husband and I have very different politics and world views. It’s not a complete case of opposites attract, but love helps us find common ground.

    I like the Across the Tracks too, when it’s done well. The thing is, the couple has to work harder to find their HEA, or it’s not believable.

  7. Laura says:

    I like and accept it in contemporaries, but have a harder time in historicals, especially if it’s the H who is a lower class.
    True you can’t expect historical accuracy in a romance novel but some things are harder to suspend disbelief on than others.
    People of different classes were VERY different, in ways we do not experience in the 21st century. They would not have the same common ground of expectations and duties. Even the way they talked would be very different.
    In fact the only thing they would have in common would be lust, just not enough to have a meaningful relationship

  8. Thank you for your post, Rike.

    In a romance about two people from very different background, with values and goals that clash, what matters is not just what pulls them apart. It’s what draws them together.

    It’s easy to create believable conflict. It’s hard to create believable attraction. And simply getting the hots for each other won’t do. Not for me, anyhow.

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