Tenderness and Complexity

I had a conversation with a friend who was a reader first a few days ago. We talk fairly regularly about lots of topics that AREN’T my fiction, but this particular exchange happened because she’s moving through one of my novels that’s new to her, and she gave me a wonderful compliment:

“I love that many of your characters’ relationships are so tender yet still complex.”

I get all weird and zoomie when people give me compliments, so after I was done doing this…


I thought about the relationships I write and why I write them. Because what she said had a surprised tone to it, and I realized that most romantic relationships I’ve seen in mainstream fiction seem to be tender OR complex. Those things are usually mutually exclusive. A fictional romantic relationship can be written as very loving and sweet and maybe sappy and cheesy (that’s normally what romances are described as when there’s a lot of evident tenderness displayed in them), but when this occurs, it’s usually implied or outright stated what a ‘simple’ relationship and life it depicts. Tenderness is usually reserved for relationships between the very young (too young to know better…how complex and hard life can be…puppy love…)

puppy love

and the very old (the couple that’s done with all the hardship and complexity life has thrown at them, so they can settle into simple tenderness now…the couple that’s been together 50+ years…). As if tenderness is really only part of simple relationships and can’t coexist with complexity. Tenderness only comes at shy, cautious, young beginnings or rested, settled golden years. It doesn’t happen in the middle…in the meat…in the thick of things. That’s when life and love are complicated and tough instead of soft and tender.

I don’t think that’s true. But I don’t see it a lot in fictional romance. If two people have a ‘complex’ relationship in fictional romance, it usually means a lot of roughness and coarseness and arguing and ‘passion.’ There’s a lot of struggle and pain and urgency and supposedly not a lot of room for tenderness. Think of your classical romances that everyone knows…Romeo and Juliet…Cathy and Heathcliff in Wuthering Heights…Jay Gatsby and Daisy Buchanan in The Great Gatsby…


Scarlet O’Hara and Rhett Butler in Gone With the Wind…
No one would call any of those romances ‘tender.’
Passionate and complicated would be more like it. Tragic, actually…with all of them. As though passionate, complex love and life’s difficulties stand in the way of or negate a happy ending and tenderness. That if the two people involved in a love affair are complicated, multi-faceted individuals, and/or if life makes their love story a little bumpy or difficult, sweetness and contentment is rare or impossible. And I’ve heard over and over again in fiction and reality that if a couple really loves each other, they fight. That peace in a romance is a sign of naivete (youth and ignorance) or weariness (age and tested experience), if not apathy and indifference (usually what’s implied, in my interpretations).

But when I think of love, I think about its complexity coupled with tenderness. Some of the most tender moments in my own love story with J have happened in direct relation to life’s complexities and outright hardships. I think complexity draws out and reveals tenderness. At least it does in my life, which I’m grateful for. J’s tenderness is what helps me navigate the complexity in life and love. And I sure hope he feels that way about the tenderness I show him too. I think we are actually more careful and sweet and kind to and for each other when we feel the weight of complexity. I think that’s a reason our marriage is so happy and stable. And it’s definitely why the love stories I write are both tender and complex (at least one reader thinks so, anyway.)

Anyway, this post is to sort of announce a HUGE book sale coming up leading to Valentine’s Day (after all…I am a sappy dreamer/self-publishing romance writer…what a perfect day for a book sale).

Between 2/7 and 2/21, ALL of my published work will be on sale in ebook format for $.99/copy. Except for Lit. Which will never go on sale, because all the sale profits are donated to The Trevor Project. There will be more posts here and reminders of this book sale before and during it…but here’s the big announcement, I guess. I hope if and when you read my fiction, you see the tenderness and complexity, and you enjoy the things I write. Thank you to everyone who reads and supports me. If you’ve read something of mine and enjoyed it, please consider leaving a review on Amazon. It not only helps drive sales, but it makes me feel like maybe I’m not terrible at creating love stories, and motivates me to keep writing them.

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