In On Love, Michael Dirda writes about love in French literature in this Sunday's Book World:
Love, sings Carmen in Bizet's opera, is a gypsy child who has never recognized any law. Take guard against him, though it will do no good. Any of us may become his helpless, fated victim, and the old cards of the fortune-teller will alone declare our destinies. Passion leads nearly always to suffering, madness and death. Even the most respectable may grow ardent and reckless, paying no heed to consequences. Who cares about anything else when the sex is hot and sweaty and feverishly intense? There is a cost, though. When jealousy suddenly pierces us like a knife, every affair risks ending up a blood wedding.
Needless to say, Carmen isn't French.
...In fact, the French tend to be leery of mad passion; they are, after all, a practical, civilized people, brought up on Cartesian philosophy and classical alexandrines...Love is one of the cultivated pleasures of life, like good food and wine. It gives zest to the quotidian routine, adds a healthy glow to the skin, encourages one to dress well, stay in shape and keep intellectually engaged.
Obviously, such thoughtful romance is largely impossible for the young...