ew tropes in romance novels generate more ire and eye rolls than insta-love. I’m guilty of hating on insta-love myself. But recently, I was checking out the reviews of some books I really enjoyed and noticed several reviewers crying, “Ew! Insta-love!” where there actually was no insta-love. So, I thought this needed further investigation.
Let’s roll up our sleeves and dig in, folks…
What is insta-love?
A good place to start this discussion is with a definition of insta-love. Now, I totally understand that insta-love is probably one of those “in the eye of the beholder” things. But to me, insta-love is when two characters meet, feel the world shift under their feet, and immediately know, beyond a shadow of a doubt that they belong together and start pledging their undying love after only a few conversations (or sometimes after no conversations at all). Couples in insta-love start planning their futures together and talk about getting married before they really know each other at all. They start changing their entire lives based on being together and to hell with everyone and everything else. They might even go so far as to say, “Hey, I’ve only known him ten minutes, but in my soul, I feel like I’ve known him forever.” We’ve all seen it, we’ve all probably rolled our eyes about it at some point. But somewhere along the line, as readers and reviewers, we’ve also started crying insta-love with stuff that doesn’t necessarily fall into that definition. For example…
What isn’t insta-love
Here are some things I’ve seen called out as insta-love in reviews recently.
1. Eyes meet from across the room and there are instant sparks.
That’s attraction. It happens. I wouldn’t be inclined to call it insta-love unless their eyes met and they instantly started planning a family without ever having spoken to each other.
2. They only knew each other for a month and decided they loved each other.
Well, this could be insta-love. But how much did they talk and go out together during that month? How much/what did they go through together? I do think it’s possible that people could fall in love with each other after only knowing each other a month. It’s unusual, sure. But impossible? Nope. Definitely not. Now, do I think those people who only knew each other a month should get married right away? Hell no! But being ready to get married and being in love are two entirely different things.
3. They met and couldn’t stop thinking about each other.
Again, that’s attraction. Maybe lust. I wouldn’t label it insta-love. Lust at first sight is a very real and very biological thing that should never be confused with insta-love.
Kind of off topic…
While we’re talking about insta-love, why do we all hate it so much? I’ve always maintained that love doesn’t work that way, so why should it happen like that in romance novels? You know, the old “I hate it because it’s not believable” defense. But the more I think about it, gorgeous, young billionaires who also used to be Navy Seals aren’t especially believable, either, and I’ve accepted those in romance novels before. Same goes for werewolf shifters and vampires. So why does insta-love take so much heat for not being believable? And are we all really so jaded as a society that we think love at first sight is somehow less probable than werewolves/vampires and hot young billionaires who fall for shy, virgin librarians? I find that thought so sad!
But I digress...
Back on topic...are we oversensitive?
So, if we all accept the definitions laid out above (and hey, it’d be great if everyone could just accept I’m right from the start on all subjects, m’kay? My life would be sooooo much easier that way), why are we as readers suddenly so hyper vigilant about insta-love? Are we missing out on great reads because someone said the dreaded “i” word in a review? Possibly. And that’s why I think the insta-love witch-hunt needs to stop. I know I’ve glanced at reviews for books that sounded great but passed on buying them when someone said, “Ew! Insta-love” in a review. I’m wondering if maybe it’s time we all chill out and not make hasty, knee-jerk decisions about books at the mere whiff of insta-love. I’d hate for anyone to miss out on great books because they were mistakenly classified as insta-love. Furthermore, maybe it’s time we all start focusing our reviewing energy on good characters and storylines instead of tropes that we think might or might not ever happen in real life.
But as usual, I’d much rather hear what y’all think.