There are some love songs that are so evocative and conger up such images that they are a story onto themselves. I’m not talking about the tune that was playing the first time I slow danced with my crush in junior high, Elvis Presley’s “I Can’t Help Falling in Love with You.” Nor Percy Sledge’s “When A Man Loves a Woman,” when I was in college dancing with a different boy. Those songs can remind us of the one we danced with and kissed, but the song is only the trigger for the memory.
What I’m talking about here are the songs that tell a love story that we all relate to. Think of Bob Seger’s “We’ve Got Tonight.” This is a song that tells a universal story. One that even if you never experienced, you can imagine. You know there’s no future with him, but you’re attracted to each other and “you’ve got tonight,” something could happen. Maybe you’re on a vacation and meet this guy. You might have gotten into something except that you don’t live anywhere near each other and you’re too new in the relationship to commit, but you do have tonight, so “why don’t you stay.” There’s a compelling story there that we all relate to. It’s the reason the song stays in our head long after they’re over.
Then there is “You Don’t Bring Me Flowers Anymore” sung by Barbra Streisand and Neil Diamond, the story of a love gone cold. You can imagine the wife waiting for her husband to come home from work as she tries to muster up the courage to talk to him about their relationship. She’s afraid of his response, the pain she will feel, but she knows she has to confront him no matter the outcome.
I have only skimmed the surface of the love songs that have touched me. Besides songs by Bob Dylan, Restless Heart, Peabo Bryson and Dan Hill from the past, there is Pink’s “Just Give Me a Reason,” Sam Smith’s “Stay” and John Legend’s “All of Me” to remind us that love songs are still strong and capable of touching us.
Great love songs raise the bar on romance novels. I want my books to have that same impact. I want readers to be thinking about my characters, believing in them and imagining their lives together long after they’ve finished the book. Great romances do that. It’s the reason that “Pride and Prejudice” is such a universal classic. It also happens in more contemporary romances. Think of Marian Keyes’ “Anybody Out There.” I listened to it on a CD in the car. When I realized what had happened to the hero, I had to turn it off so I could mourn. In Jane Green’s romance “The Beach House,” another book I listened to in the car, I worried about the characters between car trips until all their problems were resolved. And then I missed them. In these romances the authors created such compelling characters that we believe in their stories long after they are over.
As a romance writer that’s my goal, to make my hero and heroine and their love so compelling that we believe in them and worry and think about them even when the story is done. I hope that I succeed.
Deborah Nolan is the author of Suddenly Lily and Conflict of Interest published by Montlake Publishing and Second Act for Carrie Armstrong published by Desert Breeze Press which will soon be available in hardcopy through Amazon.