I am a huge fan of romance. It is the number one thing I read, and the stuff that’s not, still has a strong romantic element. I love love. I love seeing love overcome challenges and bad guys and the character’s own inner demons. I’m an enormous lover of big, sweeping emotional stories–not the melodramatic bodice ripper variety, but real gut wrenching emotional books. I tend not to read books by men because, as a rule, they don’t tend to write books that follow that pattern. They are usually more busy focusing on the action instead of a relationship, and if there is a relationship, it’s not presented in a way that makes me happy as a romance reader. Nothing wrong with that, just not what I want to read. I don’t usually like a subtle love story. Sorry Hemmingway, “And the earth moved,” does not constitute a love scene and nothing else in For Whom The Bell Tolls had any resemblance to a relationship.
But after reading Maggie Stiefvater’s The Scorpio Races, I think I have a new appreciation for a subtle love story. Of course, Maggie’s a women (an incredibly talented one who writes lovely prose). The Scorpio Races is a tale of water horses. When I first saw the cover months and months ago, that is not what I was expecting. I actually was envisioning something like a YA version of Hidalgo. What is is, is a tale of love between a man and his horse. And a lovely, subtle romance between hero Sean Kendrick and heroine Puck Connolly. But it does not adhere to the classic expectations of romance. There’s not really any formal courting or dating. There are few pretty words–in fact few words at all, as Sean is a man of few of them–but it makes those that there are so much more impactful. This book didn’t have most of the romance cues I looked for, and yet I found it incredibly moving and I’m still thinking about it now that it’s through. My brain keeps turning it over in a “how did she do that?” kind of way. That, combined with the ending (which was all about the horse and not the couple), snuck in and sucker punched me on the last page and brought tears to my eyes (in a good way).
So this isn’t some deep analysis or review, more a reflection that subtle can be done and done beautifully, and The Scorpio Races is an excellent example.