Ann-Marie MacDonald's Fall on Your Knees has much to say about both marriage and romance, but the two are depicted as antithetical. You may choose to focus on one or the other, or on the author's exploration of the way in which an unwise and unhappy marriage destroys the romantic prospects of the four daughters who are the product of this union.
The failures of romantic relationships throughout the novel can be traced back to the perverse personality and failed marriage of James Piper. At first, James is romantically obsessed with the young Materia Mahmoud, but he quickly becomes bored and indifferent when they are married. After their daughter, Kathleen, is born, he transfers all the adoration he once lavished upon Materia to her, much to his wife's disgust. Materia maintains marital relations with James mainly to protect Kathleen from his attention, which she reasonably regards as perverted and dangerous. She soon gives birth to three more daughters: Mercedes, Frances, and Lily.
At first, James does not agree with Materia's assessment, but as Kathleen grows up, he begins to recognize the danger in the intensity of his feelings for Kathleen, and enlists as a soldier to get away from her. However, his obsession does not diminish and, later in the novel, he destroys his daughter's best chance of romantic happiness. While training to be an opera singer in New York, Kathleen falls in love with her piano accompanist, Rose Lacroix. The intensity of her feelings is clear from diary entries such as this one:
She is so beautiful. My Rose. Finer than sculpture, softer than sand. Rose, I'm kissing you now. Oh God, I have to kiss her. I will die if I don't kiss her, I know that now. It is a fact. I will die. It will kill me.
In fact, it is not Rose who kills Kathleen, but James, when he discovers their relationship. He rapes his daughter, who then dies in childbirth.
Even before he effectively kills Kathleen, James has selfishly poisoned her mind against both marriage and romance. At one point, he sends her a poster for Ibsen's play, A Doll's House, to remind her to remain free and independent. Kathleen summarizes his cynical message to her younger sister, Mercedes:
Marriage is a trap, kiddo. A great big lobster trap.
Whether or not it is because she takes her sister's words to heart, Mercedes avoids both romance and marriage, confining herself to fantasies of Hollywood stars and ultimately becoming frustrated and embittered. She eventually draws a family tree, which she passes on to her nephew, in which she records all the devastation caused by the marriage of James and Materia Piper, the incest, illegitimate children, extramarital affairs and deaths that have been the result of this doomed and loveless union.