Book boyfriends are not all terrible

There’s no denying that the romance genre is one of the most popular book genres out there. Millions of readers wait in line for the newest novels full of equal parts passion and cuteness overloads. Society has come a long way from the days of Shakespeare’s novels. Contemporary literature comes with more than its fair share of common tropes used across several works. Among the usual such as sappy or sexy covers, several types of relationships are portrayed (grumpy and sunshine, friends to lovers etc.) and of course, the dynamic of two protagonists. 

Some readers find the dynamic between the male and female main characters to have the same power dynamic. The man is an “alpha,” doing all he can to protect “his woman.” The woman plays up the “damsel in distress” act to make the man feel better about himself. Some readers think authors veer into too abusive relationships or creepy dynamics in books. While it is true in certain novels such as Colleen Hoover’s “It Ends With Us,” and “November 9,” this is not applicable to all books. Some even go so far as to talk about Edward’s stalker tendencies and Jacob’s neediness in the “Twilight” series. I won’t even venture into what dynamics occur in “Fifty Shades of Grey” or other fanfiction-based books. 

While I don’t condone any of the behaviors shown in any of the aforementioned books, it’s a bit dramatic to dismiss the entire genre as full of reproachful prose. I’d gladly sit these female main characters down and tell them while they have their “redeeming moments,” they’re oblivious to their lover’s red flags. Besides, highlighting books that show the abusive side of these relationships doesn’t leave much room for books that have the men all women should aspire to have in their lives. Here are a few who evoked a few “awws” from me:

Prince Maxon- The Selection Series. This is where my obsession with romance novels began. Kiera Cass knew what she was doing when she was writing his Royal Highness. Maxon gives America gifts to keep her stay, allows her to leave in the midst of the Selection to visit her family, and enjoys that she’s able to throw comebacks at him even though she’s not supposed to out of respect. This man even takes a caning to save America and almost dies for her, speaking just beautiful “last” words. If you haven’t read this series, I highly recommend you do because you’ll instantly fall in love with him from the first time he comes onto the page. (There’s also Aspen in this love triangle, but he veers a little too close to the iffy men.)

Lale Sokolov- The Tattooist of Auschwitz. The story is actually based on a real-life couple Lale, the tattooist, and Gita, who worked in the camps. While I also do not condone the circumstances in which they met, I do condone the unconditional love they found. Despite the cruelest and harshest circumstances they faced, they never once gave up hope they would be together outside of the walls of Auschwitz. Slipping each other gifts of food and sneaking away to spend moments where they could encourage each other and share a spare moment of comfort in each other’s arms goes to show if men wanted to, they would, no matter what. 

Brendan Taggart- It Happened One Summer. The literal love of my (fictional) life. Tessa Bailey can do no wrong when it comes to writing the prime example of what a man should be. I had never written down reasons “why this character is amazing” in my notes before and Brendan was the first. Before he met Piper, he was celibate for seven years after his wife died from cancer. No dates, no hookups, nothing. Talk about commitment! He changes the locks at the bar Piper’s father used to own to make sure she’s safe when he leaves on crab-fishing trips. He memorizes little details like how she takes her coffee and what expensive brands she likes. He doesn’t take advantage of her when she gets drunk and sleeps on the downstairs couch. He travels from Seattle to L.A. to save her when she has to go back home after she refinishes her family’s bar. There are thousands of reasons why I love him and I guarantee anyone who reads this book would fall for him too (just ask one of my several friends who I’ve lent the book). 

Romance novels are my favorite genre and there are several I’ve read where the main characters aren’t total jerks. Just because there are a few popular books that display less-than-perfect traits from men doesn’t mean there aren’t hundreds more where the men are happily-ever-after-worthy.

Write to Emma Johnson at emma.johnson@mnsu.edu

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