#GuestPost: The Quest for the Three Magic Words By Christine Amsden
Put simply, the quest for the three magic words is an irksome phenomenon I’ve witnessed in some novels with a strong romantic component, characterized by the stubborn refusal to say the words, “I love you.”
In a broad sense, the goal of any HEA romance is for the characters to fall in love, and often the realization of this love is the climax of the story. The dramatic tension in such a story (or subplot) is the constant interplay between that which brings them together and that which keeps them apart. When these forces are in perfect balance, when we desperately want the couple to find true love and happiness but desperately believe in the obstacles preventing such a union, there can be a moment of true emotional pain.
On the other hand, when he loves her, she loves him, they are both acting on this love, showing one another this love, and the only thing holding the HEA at bay is that one or both is afraid of saying three little words, then you have the quest. What is keeping them apart? Maybe he is afraid of commitment or doesn’t believe in love. Maybe she’s been burned before or doesn’t believe in love. (I get a lot of the whole not believing in love thing, especially in the male’s perspective.) Whatever the reason, they would be blissfully happy together if only one or both would pry open those lips and say a few words. Nothing else really needs resolution – there’s no anger, mingled feelings of hatred or jealousy, or even guilt over betraying a deceased love with this new love. (Though I should say that in all of these situations, when the angst goes on for too long, I’m still liable to brand it a quest.) There’s just a refusal to say the words and possibly a fear of commitment (which becomes all the more ridiculous in regency romance novels in which the couple is already married).
As far as dramatic tension goes, this quest quite simply puts me to sleep. In fact, in a straight-up romance with no subplot, I’ll usually stop reading as soon as the story devolves to this quest. Why? Because I know how it’s going to end. Sooner or later, they’re going to say the words and live happily ever after. It’s just not that interesting to find out how he or she finally comes to realize what is already so incredibly obvious. She’s afraid to risk her heart? What? It’s already gone!
I’ll tolerate the quest if another parallel plot such as a mystery or suspense is holding my interest, but even then it often earns an eye roll. This is because of the other issue I have with the quest for the three magic words: In my mind, it is more important by far to actively love someone than it is to say you love someone. Call me quirky if you like, but I guess I’ve taken the old writing advice, “show, don’t tell,” to be more than a useful trick for bringing a story to life. It works in real life relationships – show me you’re my friend, don’t just tell me. Show me you’re an expert, don’t just tell me. Show me you love me, don’t just tell me. Yes, you can say the words too, but in the grand scheme of things it simply is not that important. And that is the key characteristic of the quest for the three magic words – they’ve already reached their HEA. I know it. I feel it. They’ve shown it. They just haven’t said so.
I suppose the point of the quest is to show a person coming to a turning point in his or her life in which they finally realize the truth about themselves, a truth previously blocked by a host of preconceived notions (eg the hero doesn’t believe in love). And since the quest for the three magic words is such a popular part of the romance genre, I imagine that it must work for a great many readers, perhaps readers who have had a different experience with life and love than I have, but for my part, you can feel free to imagine me rolling my eyes anytime you see these words in a review: “I recommend this book to anyone who enjoys a quest for the three magic words.”
Her voice is enchanting; his soul is black…
Madison Carter has been terrified of Scott Lee since the night he saved her from an evil sorcerer – then melted into a man-eating monster before her eyes. The werewolf is a slave to the moon, but Madison’s nightmares are not.
Despite her fears, when Madison’s brother, Clinton, is bitten by a werewolf, she knows there is only one man who can help. A man who frightens her all the more because even in her nightmares, he also thrills her.
Together for the first time since that terrible night, Scott and Madison drive to Clinton’s home only to discover that he’s vanished. Frantic now, Madison must overcome her fears and uncover hidden strengths if she hopes to save him. And she’s not the only one fighting inner demons. Scott’s are literal, and they have him convinced that he will never deserve the woman he loves.
*Stand-alone companion to the Cassie Scot series
Paperback Release: October 15
Audiobook Release: TBA
The Cassie Scot Series
Cassie Scot: ParaNormal Detective (Cassie Scot #1)
Secrets and Lies (Cassie Scot #2)
Mind Games (Cassie Scot #3)
Stolen Dreams (Cassie Scot #4)
“Silence,” David commanded.
Her throat continued to work, but no sound emerged. She felt like a fish being gutted, choking and spluttering as David returned to the work of cutting into the soft, sensitive flesh of her belly. Yet even as tears refilled her eyes and fear devoured her heart, some part of her recognized that her guts remained intact. Whatever David was doing to her with the dagger involved tracing shallow patterns across the surface of her skin.
Fight the pain. Take deep breaths. Ground and center. She was not in the empty living room of a house she had not quite moved into yet, she was at church, singing in the choir. Above her, Jesus hung from a cross, a crown of thorns atop his head, a soft glow surrounding him. She usually found the magic within that glow. She reached for it…
“Stop that!” David slapped her hard across the face.
Once again her eyes flew open. She saw the dagger dripping with blood – her blood. Had her feeble grab for magic actually made a difference? David seemed to have noticed something, but what?
“You’re just making this harder on yourself,” David said.
“What do you want?” Madison tried to ask. Her mouth moved, her lips forming the question, but no sound emerged.
She didn’t think he would answer; he couldn’t even have heard the question, but to her surprise he only hesitated a moment before saying, “Your soul.”
About The Author:
Christine Amsden has been writing fantasy and science fiction for as long as she can remember. She loves to write and it is her dream that others will be inspired by this love and by her stories. Speculative fiction is fun, magical, and imaginative but great speculative fiction is about real people defining themselves through extraordinary situations. Christine writes primarily about people and relationships, and it is in this way that she strives to make science fiction and fantasy meaningful for everyone.
At the age of 16, Christine was diagnosed with Stargardt’s Disease, a condition that effects the retina and causes a loss of central vision. She is now legally blind, but has not let this slow her down or get in the way of her dreams. In addition to writing, Christine teaches workshops on writing at Savvy Authors. She also does some freelance editing work. Christine currently lives in the Kansas City area with her husband, Austin, who has been her biggest fan and the key to her success. They have two beautiful children.
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