In lots of romance stories, two characters meet – no, sorry, more often they collide – and claim they dislike each other, while readers are expected to understand that love is simmering just below the surface. Is this premise truly believable or should we dismiss it as absolute tosh?The main strand of the romance genre is the problem of why the two people think they couldn’t possibly be lovers. We know some of them very well. He’s too proud, she’s too prejudiced. Rhett Butler is no certainly gentleman, while Scarlett enters the story as a true ladylike southern belle. (Put in your own names and see if they match what I’m about to say.) What happens as the story progresses? We find that Scarlett has it in her to cheat, lie and steal in a way that makes Rhett look positively gentlemanly. Darcy proves he has the guts to see his faults and change his ways, while Lizzie recognizes with dismay how hasty and ill-judged her speedy character assessments were - not only of him, but also of Whickham.
Are they really the disparate characters first presented, or are they much closer to each other in tastes, habits and thought than we first realize? I think Darcy and Lizzie are alike in many ways. In fact, Darcy and Elizabeth admit as much, and the film Gone with the wind demonstrates how similar Rhett and Scarlett are in their courage and desperate will to survive and keep their dependents alive. Perhaps this is the true secret of the romance genre - that couples should share values and traits, however deeply they are hidden or obscured by initial impressions.
They’d have to have something to share, or their lives would be hell, wouldn’t they? But giving them a taste in the same sort of music isn’t exactly going to do it if one rides roughshod over his family’s feelings and the other can’t help her family enough. They’re always going to be disagreeing over something. We hear of couples in real life who divorce because one of them squeezed the toothpaste tube the wrong way. We laugh on hearing that, but we’re only hearing about the tip of the iceberg. What really drove the couple apart was that one of them couldn’t stand living in the constant chaos created by the other. The toothpaste tube was one fact among many.
I think what I’m saying is that however dissimilar the characters seem when the inciting incident brings them together, they have to have matching core values in order to have the happy ever after that is so necessary for the romance genre. Somewhere in the story we have to show them discovering these core values and coming together. Falling into bed and having wonderful sex doesn’t always do it. But it’s nice if it comes in the same package as the matching core values.