The Unconvincing Declaration of Love

I’m getting increasingly frustrated by an unconvincing “I love you” in the novellas I am reading. I’m not saying I’ve never read an “I love you” in a full length book I didn’t believe in, but I’m tired of a rushed or forced declarations of love in the shorter stories.

It is very jarring to me to be reading about a budding relationship and then a short time later it feels like the author just slapped on the declaration of love in the last page…why? Is it because that is what the majority of romance readers expect?

For example (and I’m using these books as examples because  I recently read them so they are fresher in my mind) Acting on Impulse by Ashleigh Raine. This starts out cute with a more “normal” quiet, homebody heroine and a big time, hot movie star actor. They meet at a party and have a fling in the garden then go their separate ways. A few days later, without having talked to each other, they meet again (which is at the end of the book) have sex again (verra hot sex) and declare love. Why? Why can’t they say – hey – I like you, you like me, let’s pursue this dating thing? The hero hasn’t even met the heroine’s daughter yet! The book has more of an emphasis of erotic sex scenes, which is great. I don’t need the forced “I love you.” They have spoken maybe for a total of 24 hours and they are in love. It kind of ruined the story for me.

Last night I read Holiday Secrets by Jill Sorenson. I liked the majority of this book. A woman who witnessed her husband’s murder, is now in the Witness Protection Program and meets her neighbor when he shows up dressed as Santa on her doorstep to give her daughters some presents. I like how this romance starts, although the heroine is extremely wary of the hero and protective of her daughters since the murderer of her husband knows she is out there somewhere. And by the end of this short story, they declare love. Even though they’ve known each other for only days, and the heroine goes from hiding the pronged fork for the ham from the hero at dinner just days before because she was afraid he might use it as a weapon. And then she  declares love just a short time later? The heroine needs more time to come to trust the hero as a man, and as a potential father figure to her young daughters.

If either of those stories or the many others I’ve read would have ended with a “I like you” rather than a “I love you,” they would have been so much more realistic to me. With an “I like you” at the end, to me that is an implied – these two will stay together and love is coming in the invisible pages that follow the end of the story.

As a romance reader, do you get frustrated with a rushed declaration of love? Or do you prefer that declaration at the end of your books? Is a “Happy for Now” enough?


  1. jacquiC says

    I totally agree. I can buy into the idea that the hero and heroine know deep down that they are attracted to and like each other more than they’ve liked/been attracted to other people they’ve dated, or whatever. That’s how it happened for my hubby and I. But I also get totally frustrated at the “I love you” after knowing each other for five minutes, and I don’t need this as a romance reader to be satisfied. Cara McKenna’s “Curio”, which is one of the most erotic books I’ve read recently, is very satisfying emotionally as well, even though it doesn’t end with an “I love you” and (I think) would not have worked at all if the author had taken that route for reasons that are obvious when you read the book. But she manages to pull off an ending that is satisfying anyway. I’d like to see more books like this.

    • Mandi says

      Oh – I’m SO glad you brought up Curio. That is a great example of a short story that has more of an ambiguous ending, but totally works. I really liked that one and I too would love to see more types of that book.

      I too can understand an attraction that can go deep quick – but I also need to be convinced of it. And that doesn’t always come across.

  2. says

    As a writer and a reader, I find HFN endings much more realistic. However, a lot of romance readers don’t read romance for the realism — they want a HEA. I’ve occasionally come in for some criticism for not spelling out a HEA ending, but that’s just not my style.

    But I’m with you on this 100%. A problem with novellas and shorts that I see is endings which are often contrived. I wish the authors would either write a longer book so the “I love you,” is more believable, or else have an “I like you; let’s see where this thing goes,” ending. Many writers forfeit the character development for the sake of a rushed ending that often reads tacked-on.

    It’s very difficult to write a believable, complete relationship arc in the space of, for example, 30k words. I find it much easier to enjoy novellas where we don’t whizz from first meeting to “I love you,” in such a short space of time.

    First meeting to “I like you,” would be far preferable. Or maybe have the couple start the story with some relationship history already in place.

    What can I say? Insta-love is one of my pet hates in erotic romance. Insta-like is much more my thing. You appreciate it more if you focus on how tenuous the start of a relationship is, if you acknowledge that no, it won’t always be sunshine and roses, but damn it, they’re willing to try.

    Yeah, I’m a romance author who doesn’t believe in love at first sight. What can I say? :D

    • Mandi says

      Well I’m a romance reader that doesn’t believe in love at first sight ;)

      I agree with all you say. Don’t force the love. Just give us some good romance and a happy ending…just not necessarily an I love you ending.

  3. says

    Again, agreed 100%.

    I say endings should be beginnings. If it’s all wrapped up in a tidy little bow, I mourn the loss of the characters in a sense.

    But if the reader’s left with the feeling that this couple (or triple! ;)) are going to give things a go, they think, “Cool. They’re real people who have a life beyond the last page-turn.”

    Their story’s told for now, but you can still imagine them going about their business when you put the book down or switch off your Kindle.

    “En ma fin gite mon commencement,” as Mary, Queen of Scots once said. :)

    • Mandi says

      As long as in my head I can envision them skipping off together with butterflies and rainbows..I’m good ;)

      But of course – there are stories – probably full length books – that if it didn’t lead up to an actual I love you, I would have been pissed. It all depends on the circumstances of the story. But if it is not there, don’t force it.

  4. says

    This is why I tend to stay away from novels that take place during short time spans. The declaration of love seems fake and unrealistic, especially in romantic suspense where the leads are thrown together by chance and they say I love you under duress, I bet half of those couples break up after a couple of months… Unless the leads have a history I won’t buy the early I love you. I don’t see anything wrong with saying “I like you, we are goo in bed, there’s a lot of chemistry, let’s give it a try and see how it goes. The End” Why not? The promise of something good is a perfect happy ending.

    • Mandi says

      The declaration of love seems fake and unrealistic, especially in romantic suspense where the leads are thrown together by chance and they say I love you under duress, I bet half of those couples break up after a couple of months…

      Yes..this. LOL..don’t force the love, and then make us feel like they aren’t going to make it as a couple. Where is the HEA in that? :)

  5. says

    I agree with this. I often feel the “I’m like you,” sentiment gets overlooked for an “I love you.” The idea that you’ve found someone so compatible, who likes what you like (especially where erotic books are concerned), when you’ve found this point of connection that makes you both special–as a reader, it’s both exciting and gives me hope. What’s more, it happens far sooner than falling in love, so it’s plausible even for novellas.

    A lot of romances bank on the “opposites attract” concept, which somewhat rules out recognizing that a partner shares your desires. While I’ve enjoyed these types of stories in the past, I always thought such big differences in personality didn’t bode well for the couple in the long term.

  6. says

    I’m not bothered by a “happy for now” ending but I’ve heard so many readers complain about that type of ending. Yes, HFN is more realistic, but a lot of readers are not reading romance for realism, they want the fantasy and the happy ever after is part of that I think.

    • says

      I’m happy writing an I love you/HEA ending if that’s what the story calls for, but the characters (not the reader) should dictate, in my opinion.

      Yeah, so I’m a weirdo who talks about my characters as if they’re real. What of it? :P

    • says

      I want the fantasy that the H/H WILL be together for the long run – but in some cases, I can visualize that myself.

      But I think there is a big group that really enjoys the I love you – which is why authors include it.

  7. Tori says

    Sometimes I’m not sure what I want. LOL I know I’m with you Mandi and don’t believe in “OMG I love you so much” after 2 days. I think that’s called lust. :P I have read some though that work-especially if the h/h knew each other before hand and it’s more of a second chance a romance.

    • says

      I think the shorter stories work better if they do know each other beforehand…there are def novellas out there that I do believe in the declaration of love – they just seem to be harder to find.

  8. says

    I don’t mind an HFN. I’d like an HEA, but there are a lot of books–even full length ones lately–where there doesn’t seem to be any actual emotional development in the relationship. They meet, they do teh smexing, and they never really show anything going on in their minds.

    Then, Blam! the last couple pages, they’re declaring their love for each other. For ever and ever. No hint of why, or when. Unless, you know, the O’s are just that amazing. But then say that, right?

    I don’t want total realism in my stories. But I don’t want to be blindsided by the I love you, either.

  9. says

    I hate insta-love with a passion. It feels like cheating, when someone who knows you for a few days declares eternal love and can’t live without you. To me if it happens in life it would indicate an unhealthy obsession of a potential serial killer or stalker. No, thank you very much.
    I like slow burn relationship, which is probably why I prefer UF to PNR/CR. They are in series, so the relationship can develop properly. Look at Kate and Curran or Mac and Barrons. Other exception is when the characters know each other for years and went through a lot together and sudden catalyst make them realise that their feelings might be deeper. Look at latest Joanna Bourne, she doesn’t finish her books with the wedding, but there are hundreds of telltale signs of deep love. I adore when actions speak of love better than words. I trust actions more than words anyway ;)

    • says

      I trust actions more than words anyway

      Exactly. If their actions don’t convince me of their love, then how is it believable?

      In UF you have much more time for a relationship to develop…I do enjoy those.

      Hawker blew me away ;) I LOVE her books!!!

  10. says

    Ok what was it that I watched today..or yesterday that made me think about just this thing…nope, drawing a blank. But it was something and it was too soon. It takes time to say those words, and to mean them

  11. Kris says

    I don’t mind either a HEA or HFN as long as I am convinced by it.

    In the case of novellas, though, I also think that such things come into play as a talent for short story writing, especially not rushing the ending which is generally unsatisfying to the reader, and, as Sophia said, a pressure to meet reader expectations of lovey doveyness.

    This post also reminded me of one I’d read… somewhere… about the gratuitous sex scene which tends to be included in a lot of romances to prove that the main characters are in twu wuv forever and ever because it’s their feelings towards each other that make the sex good and not just hard core lusting.

    • Mandi says

      I definitely think novellas must be tough to write…just because it is shorter doesn’t mean it is not as hard to write.

      I think there some novellas are set up to be more…erotica..which is fine, if you leave it as erotica and don’t try to push the love at the end of those either. Adding gratuitous sex just to do it doesn’t do it for me either.

  12. winnie says

    Definitely agree with you. Sometimes, especially for novellas/short stories, it is just a bit too unrealistic to have a declaration of love at the end. I’m okay and satisfied with both ‘happy for now’ and HEA endings, depending on the story. For example, if the story does develop and progress a relationship for a bit, then I’d love to get to have the HEA in the end.

    A good novella I’d recommend that has a more ‘happy for now’ ending is Hearts in Darkness by Laura Kaye. This is a good example because the H/H only really knew each other for about 24 hours and by the time I reached the ending, it actually made me wish the author wrote a full length book that continues the story and relationship.

  13. may says

    I don’t care how it ends so long as it’s GOOOOD. I want a book to leave me with a smile and a “oh that rocked”.

    I get frustrated by books that feel the need to wrap it all up “HEA” style. An epilogue filled with babies and grandbabies and ABSOLUTELY NO added value to story makes me angry! Likewise, a “oh, I LOVE you!” before it feels right equally pisses me off.

    If you want to hit the ILOVEYOU place, write a story where it fits, or do something like “falling for you…” type bit more open ended so it’s not bull.

    I feel like romance readers are smart enough to figure out that it’s a true love story, and they’ll be together forevah.

    • Mandi says

      I feel like romance readers are smart enough to figure out that it’s a true love story, and they’ll be together forevah.


  14. says

    Yes! I actually far prefer a “happy for now” ending to a declaration of love in most stories, especially contemporaries. Katie MacAllister springs to mind. I love her but it seems like her characters are always falling in love in three days or less. I like a little more realism than that, even in my paranormals.

    • Mandi says

      True..sometimes in PNRs I get that there is that instant mate thing that happens (does anyone smell a spicy bonding scent? LOL) But..even then it has to be convincing.

  15. says

    Yes! I just read a sci-fi the other day and I was really enjoying it and the pirate captain took on the criminal’s sentence and he had to serve as his cabin boy (if you get my drift). And then, less than 12 hours later they declared their undying love and he wanted the criminal to stay with him forevah and evah. WTF? It really ruined it for me because it was so out of the blue and didn’t fit at all with either man that I could tell. Sure it was a short story, but they had 5 years to get to the “please don’t go, stay with me forever”, I didn’t need to see it in 24 hours. Just leave them to work it out with some hot attraction. Sigh.

    I think there are people who believe you must have some kind of love declartion to fit the romance template but I disagree.

  16. says

    I’M like you Mandi, rushed and forced love declarations and marriage proposals irritate and anger me. It is not real life and don’t tell me that if a man proposed to a woman after only knowing her for 2 days their marriage would have a great chance of surviving all the hardships and they would have a long and happy marriage. Why can’t romances remain a bit more realistic, we don’t need the I love you’s and marriage proposals when they don’t sound natural. How could you love someone after only knowing them for a couple days? That is attraction, but love is based on knowing that person and loving little things about them. If you don’t know them, what can you love besides the physical?

    I like reading about the development and growth of relationship, so when an author skips this and races to then end I feel cheated and disappointed in the story and characters. I would ten times take a “let’s give this dating thing a chance” than a rushed and foolsih and unnatural I love you after only 1 sexual encounter or the h/h knowing each other for 2 days.

    Sorry for the ranting, this issue is one of my pet peeves! :-)

    • Mandi says

      I enjoyed reading your thoughts..and agree with all you say :)

      As I saw Sarah from Smart Bitches say – romance is about courtship…not immediate I love you.

  17. says

    You know, I’m a big fan of accelerated courtships. Someone else mentioned Hearts in Darkness by Laura Kaye. I thought the author did a good job ramping up the level of emotion it takes to make an instant connection believable.

    What I don’t like–at all–is when an author writes a porny, all-sex story and tacks on “I love yous” at the end so she can sell it as a romance. I call BS on that.

    Sorry mine didn’t convince you! For me the love declaration is such a critical moment, so I’m frustrated when it doesn’t ring true (as an author and a reader). :)

  18. says

    I think it has become the norm in romance in order to have a HEA, the main couple must say “I love you” to one another. If they don’t, then it’s not complete.

    I rather like it when they THINK they’re failing in love with one another and say so.

    Also proposing marriage after being on the run from the bad guys for a week and sexing it up the entire time with one another or bouncing on the sheets together after a month is so unrealistic to me.

    • Mandi says

      Right – like one of the other commenters said – if you propose marriage after being on the run from bad’s not gonna last ;)

  19. says

    I just read a couple of novellas recently and I had a “negative” reaction to “I love you,” because it felt forced.

    I have to say that when I first started reading romance a few years ago, I wanted the I love you forever soul mates ending. But as time as gone on… I don’t need the I LOVE YOU, if it’s clear that the couple are matched well. It really depends on the flow of the story and the depth to which the characters are developed. But it’s not necessary for a good ending.

  20. says

    I agree with most others. A declaration of love should not be rushed, and cannot be felt without a single doubt in a few busy days. It takes time to believe in your feelings. To know they are for real. So yes, authors, please give me more HFN endings in a short story. Or write a sequel someday.

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