this one and this one support those ideas) and there are plenty of books where the love interests are the same age, and more and more books where the woman is older.
But when Twilight came out, and Edward was sneaking into Bella’s room to watch her sleep before she knew it, it kind of hit me (and scores of other readers) that this January-December romance might be a little squicky. (Not to diss that book. I liked it when I read it.) It seems in the years since that a bigger number of YAs or New Adult novels have paired teen girls with older men, often teachers. To name just a few, Pretty Little Liars, Slammed, the darker and less-well-read Captive in the Dark and Veiled Innocence (which was a nice turnaround of the girl being the aggressor). That’s not to get into the paranormals, such as The Vampire Academy books. Even with their leading lady who pushed boundaries, she still went for the traditional hero. (Which I’m not complaining about. Dmitri. Happy sigh.) The guys in these books are great. I’m not saying the girls shouldn’t have been all in.
But then there’s the side of life books don’t get into. Grocery shopping. Paying rent. Being so tired after work that all you want to do is come home and crash on the couch. The guy’s whiskers left all over the sink. Things that decidedly are not sexy. I mean, I crazy-ship Beth and Daryl in the TV version of The Walking Dead, despite their age difference. But in real life, if there was not a zombie apocalypse, Daryl wouldn’t be some heroic boyfriend for Beth who’d do things like remember her birthday, go to her performances or care about her friends. Of course, love makes squicky things, like watching you sleep, romantic.
I don’t know, I’m a huge believer in willing suspension of disbelief, and I’ve loved lots of older-man characters. (My WIP has a — I’ll say love possibility instead of love interest — who’s seven or eight years older than the seventeen-year-old MC. He’s a police officer.) But the biggest time this age difference doesn’t work for me is when the man’s the teacher. That’s a pairing that’s so imbalanced power-wise that I just can’t get behind it. Why? I’m not sure. I love it when bad-on-paper pairings work out. I like dark romances. But the person who is supposed to challenge you to learn new things and assign homework shouldn’t want something, especially sex, in exchange -- no matter how meeting-of-the-minds the connection is made out to be. He’s getting paid to teach you and he sees you every day in an environment in which the age difference — the life difference — is emphasized. It’s a time in which teen girls need to learn to relate to men in a nonsexual way, or they will always be seen and see themselves as a walking vagina first, and a smart, thoughtful person second. That’s the worst life lesson a girl can get. So I don’t find teachers sexy. In fact, teacher romances have become an immediate turn-off for me. Like books with surprise babies, they need warning labels.
Maybe the other part of why it doesn’t work for me is the tone of the books. I mean, I can read a book about a guy who kidnaps a woman and they fall in love, or a pair of lovers who kill someone together, or a guy who falls in love with the girl he bullies, and never blink. It’s the treatment. When you read a book that’s dark, you expect dark things to happen. When you read a book that sets out to include a sincere romance, dark things seem out of place.
And, I still think paranormals (and probably dystopians, too) exist in their own special place where age doesn’t matter. (Go Daryl and Beth!) Call me contradictory.