Romance/Erotica

Do You Choose a Protagonist for Yourself While Reading Romance?

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Deepali Agarwal

Staff Writer

Deepali Agarwal has a Master’s in literary linguistics, which means that every person she’s ever known has, at some point, asked her to ‘edit a thing’ for them-- ‘just see if it reads okay?’ She doesn’t mind, because she believes that the world can be fixed one oxford comma at a time. Deepali lives in Delhi, the capital of India, where cows are sacred, but authors and poets exist and write brilliant things. She works as an editor with OUP India’s School ELT division, where she moves apostrophes, looks up pictures of cats, and talks about children’s books for eight hours. The rest of her day is spent reading, thinking about Parks and Recreation, and wondering if there exist jobs for English majors that pay more than peanuts. Twitter: @DeepaliAgarwal_

Deepali Agarwal

Staff Writer

Deepali Agarwal has a Master’s in literary linguistics, which means that every person she’s ever known has, at some point, asked her to ‘edit a thing’ for them-- ‘just see if it reads okay?’ She doesn’t mind, because she believes that the world can be fixed one oxford comma at a time. Deepali lives in Delhi, the capital of India, where cows are sacred, but authors and poets exist and write brilliant things. She works as an editor with OUP India’s School ELT division, where she moves apostrophes, looks up pictures of cats, and talks about children’s books for eight hours. The rest of her day is spent reading, thinking about Parks and Recreation, and wondering if there exist jobs for English majors that pay more than peanuts. Twitter: @DeepaliAgarwal_

The romance genre is easily at the top of the list when it comes to emotional investment on the readers’ part, and therein lies an interesting question I have recently been thinking of: what are we invested in when we read romance?

In a happy ending, of course. But a happy ending *for* whom? Do you choose a protagonist who deserves a happy ending?

the-wedding-date-coverI read Jasmine Guillory’s gorgeous The Wedding Date earlier this year, and somewhere in the middle, during the inevitable, heated argument between our two protagonists, Drew says something incredibly mean to Alexa. He regrets it almost instantly, but I, all caught up in their romance and lives, had a visceral reaction to him spitting out this insult; a shout-y monologue in my head which sounded somewhat like this:

“Hold up, you said WHAT? Well, excuse me for having a life and caring about inconsequential matters like my CAREER, which means the world to me, something I have made explicitly clear from the very BEGINNING!”

I think I spun out for a moment in second-hand rage.

There is no way there can be a reconciliation between these two now, I thought. This is a deal-breaking thing to say, and frankly, uncalled for in this moment, which someone truly in love with me—I mean, Alexa—would NEVER say.

*Oops.*

This is when I realized that I’d been reading the book as if the story was happening to me, pushing for Alexa to end up with the right man. Since then, I’ve thought hard about my current and past romance reads, and which protagonist I usually want a happy ending for. In the case of an m/f romance, do I always choose the woman? But then I thought about another romance I recently read—Sandhya Menon’s YA novel, From Twinkle, With Love (out May 2018). Despite the novel focusing on Twinkle’s perspective at the very core, I was all the way on Team Sahil Roy. How come?

Sometimes there’s a clear hook—something one of the characters says at the beginning which you identify with and which then defines your investment in them. Sometimes, it’s about which protagonist’s approach towards love and romance you agree with, or a character trait that you find very similar to yourself. In any case, I think a strong investment in the protagonist’s HEA is a sign of a great book. So do you, dear reader, choose a protagonist for yourself while reading romance? Leave a comment for me!