Pamela Regis has written that "Near the beginning of the [romance] novel, the society that the heroine and hero will confront in their courtship is defined for the reader. This society is in some way flawed; it may be incomplete, superannuated, or corrupt" (31). This impression of a flawed society is changed by the end of the novel:
In a scene or scenes the promised wedding is depicted, or some other celebration of the new community is staged, such as a dance or a fete. The emphasis here is on inclusion, and this scene is promised in every romance, even if it is not dramatized. Society has reconstituted itself around the new couple(s) and the community comes together to celebrate this. (38)Of course, one of the flaws in society may be that it expects people to pair up as "heroine and hero," female with male. What happens to those who are rejected by their families because they can't? One hopes they'd find a new community, a new "family," as supportive as the one depicted in Ann Somerville's Means of Support (Chapter 1 and Chapter 2).
Somerville's fantasy/speculative fiction story Slipping Under further explores the connections between the individual and the rest of society and reaffirms the importance of love and human contact in a world which, in its busyness and increasing use of the internet and telephone, can leave individuals feeling isolated, anonymous, unknown. Being "in the closet" (or being rejected by one's family for coming out of it) doesn't help to foster feelings of connectedness either. The fact that this is fantasy/speculative fiction enables Somerville to explore this theme in a way that I found very powerful, because it makes real what could, in a contemporary romance, never go further than a metaphor. I don't want to say more because I don't want to give any spoilers, but maybe we can discuss it further after people have read the story, which is available for free here.
Ann gives a warning on her webpage that
The stories on this site are intended for mature audiences. They will include, from time to time, some sexually explicit scenes between couples of various genders within the context of longer stories, and address adult issues. There may also be occasional descriptions of explicit violence. Please don't click on any link on this site if you are underage, or likely to be disturbed by this kind of content, or stories with mature themes of any kind.She has a lot of free stories there, but the ones I've chosen to highlight here don't contain "explicit violence."
- Regis, Pamela. A Natural History of the Romance Novel. Philadelphia: U of Pennsylvania P, 2003.