Thursday, May 20, 2010

A Question of I Love You

Silly picture aside, I have a real post here:

This is something I brought up some time ago on the blog, but I think I didn’t have as many followers or lurkers out there so I thought I’d pose it again.

I’d like opinions on “I love you.”

If you’ve given it before, please consider doing it again for those that didn’t see it or for those of us who have CRS.

I’ll preface it to say years ago I read a historical romance by one of my favorite authors. This was by the only het author I still read regularly. Anyway, at the conclusion of the book, which was most definitely Happily-Ever-After, even though the heroine had declared her love with the words, “I love you” before the end, the hero got to the end of the book and never said it to her. Not once.

Now let me be clear, it was extremely obvious he loved her. So I don’t mean she could ever doubt it or the reader either. HOWEVER, I felt cheated. This was a wonderful book that I adored. I loved the couple and their romance, but when the end came and he never once said it, I was left feeling bereft.

So I wonder, am I alone in having to hear those three words from both my main characters?

When you, as a reader, come to the end of a story that does not have a Happy For Now ending, but rather a clear Happily-Ever-After ending, but one of the two heroes never tells the other, “I love you.” How do you feel? Is this okay? Are you satisfied because you know, maybe in the back of your head, he says it privately off the pages (lol)? Or do you have just a smidge of an unsatisfied feeling?

PS. There will be no Friday post this week to leave this up for responses, likewise, no excerpt day on Saturday, just a posting of the winner (lazy)


  1. Oh Yes, The "I love you" phrase must be exchanged on both ends or I will be constantly holding out for that moment to come. If it never comes, I feel disappointed.

    The same way with contraceptives. If they are never mentioned I am holding my breath, waiting for the accidental baby.

  2. I'd like them to say it to each other. Not all the time - just once would be good enough. As long as they said it out loud to each other, I'd be happy. *lol*

    If they don't, I got to say that I am disappointed. Especially in a HEA story. A HFN doesn't require it... well, okay, maybe it does, it depends on the characters I guess... I like to "hear" it. It's just the way I am.

    Those words are so important to get out there to the other part. I really do feel cheated if it isn't said.

  3. For me, if the words aren't exchanged it's not a true HEA romance. They have to be said by both of them or I will be disappointed in the story.

    HFN if neither says it but it's obvious they're headed that way I can live without it.

  4. If one guy says it and the other doesn't by the end of the book, to me, it's like the non-responsive one saying, "Oh, that's nice." I mean, really.

    I don't even feel fully satisfied if the guy says, "I love you." and the other one says, "I'm glad we feel the same."

    BS, that's a cop out.

  5. If one doesn't say it, and a damned good reason isn't provided for that, I'll be cranky. If I'd been feeling favorably toward the book, my feelings are likely to sour.

  6. Aha, I see at least the five of you agree with me, lol.

    I feel even more pissed if neither of them say it yet it's clear it's meant to be HEA

  7. If it's a HEA ending, then they need to say the words. Can't have a happily ever after until they do. :) If there are no dual ILYs, then for me, it's not an HEA ending.

  8. For me, the HEA is + "I love you" from both protagonits, of course!

    I've felt very dissapointed when this has happened in some books I've read.

    I feel very bad for the other person when in some book one says it and the other not, what is the reason? Although you feel as a reader that she/he has to love her/him, it's not the same if he/she doesn't say it! If you love, tell the world! (and your partner ^^)

  9. Yeah I have read a lot of books of one author in particular whose heroes rarely say those three words. Granted most of his stories end in "HFN" but it still bugs me.

    Now I am something of a hypocrite in that respect as I have a couple HFN endings without I love yous as well, but for sure a HEA needs them.

    I was talking to a friend who said it didn't bother her so much if it was pretty clear the non-responder loved the other one. So obviously it doesn't matter to everyone.

    I can handle without if they say something that basically means the same thing. Like "I adore you", "I worship you" something along those lines.

  10. Interesting question and comments. I imagine life experience plays a part in our answers, and in my experience actions mean much more than words. How the characters respond to each other, take care of each other,laugh together and make love together is what matters to me. To me the 'I love you' words are fluff life as well as literature.

  11. I am good with none of the protags actually saying I love you..

    If one person say it, that is Ok, but I am not overly put out if they never say it. I am more interested in action, show of strength so to speak. The little things they do for each other, the sacrifices and the angst that will either make or break the relationship.

    Give me angst, give me characters with personality/issues/dramas that I can identify with and I don't care if they never say I love you - I would have seen "The Love" by the time the book finishes..

    I had to think about this one - cool post...


  12. I do know what you mean, Donna. And in the example I mentioned where he NEVER said it, that's what I meant by it was pretty clear he was in love he just never said those words. Friends who read the same book didn't have a problem with him not saying it. The implication and his actions were definitely there.

  13. Thanks, EH

    I am glad both you and Donna chimed in because I actually did want to hear from those who felt it wasn't absolutely necessary. I knew there were those out there who felt that way from conversations.

    I agree actions are important too, but for some reason, especially when one says, "I love you" I expect the other to say "I love you, too." It seems awkward to me to be just have the other person hanging there symbolically patting the other's back, and going, "Well, then. What's for dinner?" lol. Yeah, I know not really.

    Seriously I love differing opinions because I do go back and forth on the issue myself and I see why it happens in books as a writer but as a reader I want it. Isn' that a paradox?

  14. @Shawn

    especially when one says, "I love you" I expect the other to say "I love you, too." It seems awkward to me to be just have the other person hanging there symbolically patting the other's back,

    Well said ..

    For me there is also an element of clinginess (is that even a word) about that scenarios - "I said it, so you must say it as well"

    It just feel silly ...

    Secondly - "I Love You" in romance books is beginning to feel so commercial. As much as it is the core element on which alot of relationships are based, the word "love" is too easily used without the hard work it takes to show what love means behind it...

    Especially in this age of novella and shorts and all the other cute terms that is out there.


  15. Well here's the thing.

    It might be corny and cliched somewhat but as a person in real life, I want to hear the words. If I tell someone I love them and I know they love me (which I guess some would say is the point), I still want to hear, I love you.

    See, it's similar to working. I know that sounds nuts, but bear with me for a moment. I do a good job. I know I do. I know my boss knows I do. But I still like to hear, "great job" "we really appreciate you" once in a while. I need that "verbal" stroking.

    In the musical "Fiddler on the Roof" there is a lovely number where Tevye and his wife sing "Do you love me?" They've been maried for years, have many children together, but their marriage was arranged, yet as they enter the last years of their lives, Tevye cannot help but ask his wife if she loves him. She thinks the question is silly and points out all the ways she's proven her love, but in the end, he still wants her to SAY she loves him. They admit it doesn't hange anything, but it's still nice. It's like that. So yeah, :)

  16. @Shawn..

    As jaded as I am about romance books - In real life I want to hear the words as well... and I don't want grant standing or anything like that...

    Just a little squeeze and a I love you.. or in the dead of night, when the house is quiet and you do that whisper thing... those special kinda moment works for me.

    Even my Mom knows to tell me at some point in the day, everyday...

    But just the overuse, trivializing and commercializing of the phrase "I love You" in books makes me want more "Show" than "Tell".


  17. Well I will agree I don't want to see a book where one just says I love you to get away with whatever he wants and then excuses it by, "But I love you."

    However, I don't see why we can't have both a character who shows the love with action and is also able to say it once in a while. It doesn't have to be every sentence or even every chapter but by the end I want to see each mc say it ONCE.

    Thanks for the debate, EH :-)

  18. It's an interesting question. I've published books where at least one, if not both of the characters, have not specifically said "I love you." No one has ever complained to me, but now I'm cuious enough that I might just ask my own readers and see what they think.

    However, I have to wonder if the genre makes a difference. Erotic romance and romance a slightly different species. Or to be very specific, erotic romance is a sub-genre of the romance novel genre, and readers have different expectations.

    Still, I'm interested enough that I will ask my readers anyway.

    I've certainly never felt cheated if the words haven't been uttered, but the language, body language, and actions all speak the words anyway. Sometimes the actions are even better than the words, which can ring very hollow.



  19. Thanks for your thoughts, Tracy.

    To be fair, I've never had any readers send me notes complaining if my heroes didn't say it either nor have I as with my reader hat on ever sent a note to an author complaining it was left off. I'd think more that readers would grumble about it to themselves rather than send flaming emails to authors.

    Sure, "I love you" can ring hollow but I still believe actions and words can go together. :D