Romance Problem: Is this enough?

by Joey

Hello Glen, I have a question about romance, or romance in the past, rather.

I'm only in chapter 5 of my book, I have about 133 pages written so far, if that matters any. But the two subject characters are one of the main cast, her name is Elizabeth (Beth, for short), and other is Prince Peter.

I've heavily implied that Beth and Peter had a very passionate, honest romance going on off-screen (3 years before the story began, to be exact), but they decided to break it off after Beth graduated because she wasn't nobility to be able to bring something to the marriage politically (this was her idea). Beth eventually returns to Peter's kingdom and he tells her over a royal feast (Beth is the best friend of the princess, so her whole family was there) that he's actually engaged to a lady named Alice. Alice is part of House Bartolon, a noble House that has caused much conflict in spite of the royal family, the Armielles, in its past generations. In fact, Alice and Peter were fed up with the harm the Bartolons had been causing to their people over *centuries*, so they decided to get married to finally unite their families before another bloody conflict between the two families began and the king had to finally kill/exile Alice's family for good.

It was a win-win situation for the prince and the lady, but Peter never stopped being in love with Beth. So, after Beth is told that Peter's about to get married to Alice (who doesn't deviate in the general type of personality all the Bartolons have, so very cold, cunning, arrogant, etc., but actually does have her heart in the right place), she kind of lays down and accepts it, knowing that peace is what Peter wants and deserves. She initially felt that peace wasn't something they could achieve together with true love, so she broke it off, feeling rather inadequate to become queen.

Beth was an orphan adopted by poor parents, she feels that because of the lack of knowledge on her blood family she doesn't really have an identity and isn't worthy of marrying Peter. As an extension to that, she didn't feel like it was in her "blood" to become a noble through the position she had been offered by another head of house after she showed exemplary promise in the magical arts, so she decided to go back home with her parents and live out her days helping them. She felt that becoming a noble in this way, and opening up the traditional possibility of her marrying the prince, was kind of her taking advantage of her title and abusing it for her own ends. This, to her, was wrong, and again, she felt Peter didn't deserve someone like that, but Peter's sister, her best friend, recently convinced her that Peter deserved true love and that she should go for it.

Now, this really is just a subplot, and I don't want it to get ingrained in the spotlight, but at the same time I want the reader to really feel this rut that Peter and Beth are in right now concerning their feelings. True love vs. Saving the Kingdom (which, spoiler alert, ends with Beth reverting to her old thoughts of being unworthy of the prince and re-convincing him that he needs to put his people first over their feelings). I want the reader to feel like this love that the pair feel for each other is very, very strong, but the problem is that this is a subplot and I
haven't used flashbacks highlighting their love so they can actually experience it. All I've used are hints of their love, the princess trying to convince both of them that marrying for love is actually the right decision, and their points of view on the situation. They have spoken to each other one time before the wedding night, actually Beth is going to declare her love for him at his wedding as the princess told her to do. Beth and Peter have had no other contact. All we know is that they ONCE had a thing, a very strong thing, but you'd have to simply trust my word on that lol.

My question is, everything you've read has been revealed in the story. Every feeling Beth has had, the conflict Peter had to choose between his kingdom and his love, and the princess trying to convince them both that they were wrong in ending their relationship. Is this enough for the reader to feel like this is viable? I don't know what to feel, honestly, I just want to get on with the bigger plot because it is very exciting, but I know that I care for these characters and that they need development because Beth is main cast and Peter will be as well in the next book. This is also a good subplot concerning the theme of the book, which is the topic of selfishness, and also foreshadows the theme of the next book, which is identity.

Should I have them have a big emotional moment during the wedding? Maybe kiss before they break it off again? Has everything I've told you enough, do you feel for them?

Answer: If you feel a desire to get on with the main plot, that's probably a good impulse to follow. If this romantic subplot is not the main focus of the story then you might look for a single event that shows the reader where this relationship stands at the start of the story, thus freeing you to move into the main plot. You can always fill the reader in on necessary parts of the backstory when you return to these characters.

I think the key to establishing the relationship is to show how well Peter and Beth are suited for each other in the present. Put them into a situation where they must work together -- perhaps a problem to solve -- and show how well they complement each other, how they are a fit in terms of values and intellect as well as how they care for each other. Contrast this with a scene showing how Alice and Peter work together, and you may have said everything you need to about these relationships with hardly a word of backstory.

It depends too on whether you want Beth to be the impact character to Peter throughout the novel. If she is, obviously you will need to spend more time with her. On the other hand, perhaps the sister is the real impact character?

Incidentally, how do you think your reader will feel about the morality of a character who declares her love to someone right before he marries someone else? It can be problematic (re: your theme of selfishness vs selflessness). I'm not saying she is right or wrong to do so, only that you have to think about how to stage this. For some readers, seeing Beth give Peter up as an act of selflessness might give her a higher place on moral high ground. Much depends on the personality of Alice and Peter's relationship to her as well.

Best of luck.

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