You want to believe in true love. You want to believe that there's someone out there looking for you as carefully as you are looking for him/her. You take special notice of symmetry, of pairs, and you wonder when you're ever going to balance your own equation. And maybe because you haven't found it yet--or maybe because you think you have--you start reading Enchanted Hearts. Because there's got to be something a little more spiritually fulfilling than making out on your parents' couch during the Dawson's Creek commercial breaks.
What's Wrong With Romance?
Series romance is the dream of harmony, the fantasy of the problem solved by serendipitously placed interlocking pieces. Diana Trixier Herald writes in Teen Genreflecting: "Romance is one of the largest genres in paperback fiction. . . [it] plays a major role in the lives of most teens, even teens who are not involved in romantic relationships wonder if they should be or wish they were"(101). Romance, especially series romance, is reassuring; though the conflicts of the heart played out within the bounds of the genre are heartfelt (and heartrending), the trappings of the formula ensure a happy, or at least fulfilling, ending.
Though some feminists may argue that romance reading reinforces gender role stereotypes, it is possible that this politically incorrect status quo that seems inherent in romantic fiction is a factor influencing a reader's decision to choose romance. Romance heroines (and heroes) are easy to identify and easier to relate to; much of the conflict in romance reading is within the character, the struggle is not with exterior forces but with turbulent emotions. Romance relies on the assumption of a common idea of (primarily heterosexual) love--the quest for the "neatness" and mechanical completeness of a masculine/feminine union. The certainty of the outcome is grounded in its stock characters; the male and female must be dramatically or at least obviously drawn to enhance the effect of the final, harmonic dichotomy.
Avon Flare's Enchanted Hearts series is, like Fear Street and Love Stories, more of an imprint than an episodic and continuing narrative. Though the novels comprising this newer series do rely somewhat on stock romance scenarios, each story incorporates an element of the supernatural. Through the manipulation of or interference by paranormal forces, each romantic conclusion is affected.
Carol Ricker-Wilson argues in "Busting Textual Bodices: Gender, Reading and Popular Romance", that choosing to read romance fiction is a conscious and pro-woman decision. "[R]omance readers really like to read," writes Ricker-Wilson, "they like to read about women, and they don't want to read about their unmitigated despoilation and dispatch." The safety and predictability of most romance is what keeps female readers glued to the genre. Outside the genre, fiction is a "wild card", claims Ricker-Wilson, "and identification with female protagonists is an emotional risk." Ricker-Wilson believes women learn to avoid general fiction as a result of their experiences in the classroom where, "male protoganists and perspectives still dominate all the way through school." Ricker-Wilson's theory allows us to see romance reading as a form of agency, an action through which power is gained.
The female heroines of the Enchanted Hearts series are already empowered: with psychic powers, gifts of witchcraft, and the ability to communicate with the dead. This extra-sensory characterization is what separates Enchanted Hearts from its sister series Sweet Dreams and Love Stories. In an Enchanted Hearts, love is a force both powerful and inevitable. The ability of the heroines to manipulate this force is a truly feminist addition.
Click here for literary analysis of two Enchanted Hearts classics.