One thing I’ve noticed getting debated in reviews is the question of whether or not Persephone and Hades count as instalove.
Instalove is a trend in YA lit that reaches back to the 80’s (and beyond). Girl sees guy, girl falls helplessly in love with guy despite guy kind of being a dick, girl spends entire book pining for guy and then, *gasp* discovers he’s completely obsessed with her too, and has been since the moment they met. That’s why he’s such a dick, because what girl doesn’t know is that guy is a vampire/in witness protection/a werewolf/some other thing that would be dangerous for the human girl.
Sometimes you see the trope reversed, and sometimes you see the trope work on both sides. They both see each other and fall for each other and the book just throws obstacles at them to stop them from being together. Or they hook up and go on their merry way together.
My book doesn’t have instalove. But at the same time, it kind of does.
Persephone hates Hades when she first meets him. She wants nothing to do with him or the Underworld. She just wants to go home. She has all these assumptions about who Hades is and over the course of the next four months, slowly begins to realize that he’s not a disney caricature. She over-corrects. Assumes that he’s nothing but this great, caring guy, and is quickly corrected. There’s darkness to Hades, there’s light, there’s everything inbetween. She doesn’t really consider whether or not she has feelings for Hades until she learns he has feelings for her. Sure, she likes looking at him. But he never registered as a possibility until she found out he was and then she got interested.
That’s, in my experience, how people work. Finding out someone likes you makes you consider whether or not you like them. I’ve seen it over and over again with myself and my friends. They know this guy, don’t really think anything of him, then find out he has a crush on them and suddenly start evaluating whether or not he’s datable.
Persephone has maybe a minute of blind devotion at the start of book two before she’s jolted back to reality when she has to come up with something true to tell Hades to convince him to go back to the Underworld. That truth is all these doubt bubbling up inside of her about how their relationship could possibly work. Even at the end of book two, she tells her mother that she loves Hades for now, but she knows they might not last forever. It’s not until book three, nearly two years after they meet, that Hades and Persephone become an unquestionable fact. And even at the end of book three, there’s some indication the ground ahead is rocky at best.
Persephone’s perspective tends to make my readers go “yay! It wasn’t instalove!” So where does the debate come in?
Hades states outright that the second he saw her he knew he’d fall in love with her. He doesn’t act on it. He doesn’t not act on it. He accepts it as a part of life and does his best to make sure she survives. It doesn’t exactly fit the trope, because we never see it from his perspective, so an irrational, sudden interest isn’t the driving force of the plot. But technically, yeah, it’s instalove.
So why did I include it?
I thought long and hard about it, trust me. It would have been super easy to leave out that one line and just let my readers think it was a build up months in the making on both side. But I couldn’t. Hades is a good guy, but he’s not entirely unselfish. He wouldn’t bind himself to Persephone for all time just to save her if she wasn’t someone he had feelings toward. He would have tried to find another way. What he did was somewhat selfishly motivated. He didn’t stop to think, he acted to save her, but he could have stopped to think. He could have just faced Boreas on his own (granted she could have been caught in the cross-fire). My point is, there were options. He had to be far enough gone to not even pause to consider them.
So I included the line, and almost included a prologue that shows Hades seeing her for the first time and the absolute conviction he feels.
Hades, as stated by the narrative, has a way of looking at people and seeing everything they are, everything they could be, weighing their every thought and motivation, and leaving them with the unmistakable feeling that they’ve been judged and found wanting. Persephone feels this happen when she wakes up in the Underworld, and it’s not just her using flowery language.
Hades is a god.
While he employs help, he absolutely has the ability to determine whether or not a soul should go to Tartarus, Elysium, or Asphodel. I don’t think Hades could ever experience anything other than instalove because when he looks at someone, he can weigh their soul. And he’s been around long enough to cut through all the self-doubt and questioning. He knows what he likes, he knows what he loves. And when he saw everything Persephone was, and the potential for everything she could be stripped bare, he fell in love with her.
It is instalove in the sense that it’s instant. But it’s not the typical use of the trope. His love isn’t irrational, built with nothing to go on but a glance and a snap judgment because the plot demanded it. He had more information than a normal person would get, even after decades of marriage. Hades knew what he was falling for.
Of course, it would have been way better if I’d done more than hint at that in the narrative.