It’s not hard to find Fantasy readers who say they hate romance subplots.
Romance plots get a lot of crap, but if you go onto any fan site, I guarantee that matchmaking characters is more than half the discussion.
The truth is, the criticisms I see are often valid. Being in a relationship defined a character, made him/her weak. (This happens A LOT with female characters).
In those cases, I get it. Crappy writing is crappy writing, no matter how many heart eyes there are. However, I don’t believe for a second that the problem is romance itself.
If Speculative Fiction fans actually hated love stories, they wouldn’t be a part of every major film/TV franchise in the Sci-Fi/Fantasy genre.
There are times I see people complaining armed with no information other than the fact two characters have an attraction. Those people should be ignored.
I believe that, save extreme cases, there are two kinds of people in the world: people who like romance and liars.
Maybe you would disagree, but I’m convinced that, to some extent or other, people are in love with love. The numbers don’t lie.
Romance is the top selling book genre in any category. Sci-Fi/Fantasy is third.
Passionate as Sci-Fi/Fantasy fans are, Romance fans are more so.
Outside the Romance genre, romantic love features to some extent in every successful fiction series, regardless of whether or not it involves the protagonist or has an HEA. That cannot be coincidence.
Love story subplots certainly didn’t stop the success of Harry Potter, Game of Thrones, The Lord of the Rings, The Chronicles of Narnia, or The Wheel of Time.
All of them have romance as a major plot point. All of them are roaring successes.
I guarantee that if you lookup fan fiction, fan art, or fan made anything for any of those series, the search results will be overwhelmingly about the romances.
The fact of the matter is that people who don’t like love stories are outliers. They might be loud and insistent, but they are far from the vast majority of readers.
In short, Fantasy readers don’t hate romantic story lines. They hate bad ones. Everyone who says otherwise is lying.