Thursday, June 24, 2010

Phoenix Time! / Paranormal Love

So, finally, I can once again resurrect my blog thanks to my parents buying me a new laptop as a graduation present. And that means I will finally be able to post the backlog of interviews I've got horded away which are way overdue to be seeing the light of day. (And I apologize to the authors who generously took the time to answer my questions for taking so long to post them - I haven't forgotten and I swear they'll be going up soon.)

Now, despite the backlog, I've decided this first Resurrection post will not be an interview but instead will deal with something else, something that, truth be told, has been on my mind for some time now. It first sprung up when (or should that be "while"?) I was discussing Yasmine Galenorn's Otherworld series with a friend. Specifically, we were talking about one of the characters' love lives and he called her a whore. I disagreed, but he just couldn't see my point of view (but he’s a bit of a blockhead when it comes to opinions, so that’s hardly surprising), and the whole thing got me thinking.

Paranormal romance in general strives to take the fantastical and fit it to more mundane parameters. The basic formula of a couple meeting and gradually falling in love tends to be preserved, often as a secondary plot to some larger, driving adventure/mystery plot. The couple, however, are rarely your typical, run of the mill humans. Vampires, werewolves, witches, fairies, demons or shapeshifters - these books spin the wheel on the Big List of Supernatural Entities and takes their pick, combining the magic with the mundane and taking it for one hell of a ride. For example, Larissa Ione recently tweeted that a reader had accused her of creating “unrealistic expectations of love.” Considering Ione’s Demonica series is about a hospital catering to demonic patients and focuses on the incubi brothers that run it finding their mates (which so far have included a half-demon, a werewolf, an immortal treasure hunter and an angel), I can see how the reader could see the romances as being unrealistic. Gods know I was crushed to realize there would be no leather-clad incubi walking up to me in cafes to whisk me off for some sexcapades. But, at the same time, these characters were facing obstacles such as opposing ideologies, past betrayals, and difficult choices – things I’m sure no real life couple would ever have to face. *cough, cough* This blend of the believable with the extraordinary is exactly what paranormal romance is all about.

Interestingly, it's not Those That Go Bump that had my friend's feathers ruffled - in fact his problem had nothing at all to do with the fantasy component. Nope, it was all about the romance side of the equation. In Galenorn's series, the three half-fae D'Artigo sisters, who rotate the role of narrator book to book, are fighting to prevent a demon army, led by the big baddie Shadow Wing, from invading the human world while simultaneously entertaining love lives worthy of any soap opera. Camille, the eldest sister, is a Moon witch. At the start of the series, she is bound through an ancient ritual to a Svartan (think dark elf) named Trillian and later marries a youkai fox demon named Morio and a silver dragon called Smoky when Trillian goes missing. Consequently, Camille has sex regularly with all three men and not always just one at a time. This is where my friend had the problem; he saw Camille as a whore for having multiple partners. This is completely and utterly ridiculous; she’s not a whore. Sure, she has multiple lovers, but then she is half-fae and there is precedence for such in the culture. But even by human-standards, she doesn't fit the definition. She is not sneaking around or hiding; all three of her men are aware of each other and all three have consented to the relationship knowing exactly what parameters it had, a relationship which, btw, is most decidedly not open. Camille is loyal and faithful (ditto her men); the only difference between hers and the typical romantic tale is that the exclusivity is stretched to encompass three lovers instead of just one.

In my opinion, reading is supposed to be all about escape. I read fantasy because it is what I wish the world could truly be like; all that magic and potential has its appeal. The presence of vampires and shifters and witches (oh, my) in what otherwise would have been pretty mundane situations helps t0 perpetuate the idea that the extraordinary isn't so far the ordinary. Now, me, I only care that everyone's happy. Gay, straight, bi, married, unmarried, monogamous, polygamous- whatever - so long as no one's being hurt and everyone's happy I don't see why it's anyone else's business. (It's the reason I never understood why the Law cares to outlaw polygamy.) That Galenorn's series has characters that aren't strait and monogamous is an original and rather refreshing change. Although it's hardly the first variation on that theme.

Similarly, Keri Arthur wrote of werewolves who kept their love lives very open until finding their soul mate in her Riley Jensen series. Jenna Black's Morgan Kingsley series had homosexual partners, possessed by homosexual demons, who led to some pretty intense S&M scenes. Wen Spencer wrote of elves, the majority of whom viewed marriage as a political alliance and had bodyguards who doubled as lovers. Jill Myles has a series about a succubus who has two lovers: a fallen angel (who is awake only during the day) and a vampire (who, you guessed it, is only awake at night) and I'm really hoping that, give or take some modifications, the relationship/set-up/arrangement/whatever perseveres to series' end.

And then there's the other side of the coin: the Enforced One True Love types. These are the characters who, upon finding their One, have any choice for future break-ups removed. Eileen Wilks has Lily Yu, a touch-sensitive, being Lupi prince, Rule Turner's Chosen: a mate selected for him by the Goddess who first created the werewolves. Considered a gift, the bond is unpredictable, sometimes swapping magical traits back and forth between Lily and Rule, other times snapping taut and preventing them from getting too far from each other. In Christine Warren's Other series, wolves know their mates by scent and, sooner or later, give in to their urges and mark their females, whether the female is prepared or not. Kresley Cole has a whole host of similar pairings, such as the werewolves who know their mates as the one who calms their beasts or the vampires know their Brides as the one who reanimates their hearts...and other organs. The Dragonlords of Joanne Bertin's imagination are creatures who, once upon a time, saw a dragon soul and a human soul fuse and they break into two dragon/human pairings that can take centuries to find each other again.

Personally, I'm all for the happy middle ground. This can take one of three forms. First, there are those who willing choose to remove the choice to leave. Sharon Ashwood's witch Holly, for instance, makes the decision to take the vampire Alessandro her Chosen, allowing him, among other things, to feed off their shared passion instead of blood. A willing blood exchange between a vampire and his lover in Alexandra Ivy's world, for another example, consecrates a mating and causes a mark warning off other vampires to appear on the female's arm and a sort of psychic connection to open up between the couple. Second, there's the "my inner beast concurs" scenario. Patricia Briggs' werewolves can be like this: the human-side choices a mate and the wolf eventually accepts the choice, however the inverse is also possible. Gena Showalter's Lords of the Underworld have something similar occur when they meet their intendeds; cursed to host such demons symbolizing such things as Violence, Death and Promiscuity, these demons tend to be calmed by the females and strengthen their hosts' feelings of attraction. Finally, the third form is the classic boy-meets-girl-falls-in-love-HEA-ensues set-up we all know and love. Ilona Andrews' Kate and Curran, Linda Wisdom's Jazz and Nick, Michelle Rowen's Sarah and Thierry and Molly Harper's Jane and Gabriel all follow this example.

Which leaves me with just one more things to comment on: love triangles. Personally, I hate them, especially in series that just keep going and going. I hate waiting for the decision, and I hate it even more when my favourite isn't the pick. S.J. Day has this with her Marked series where Eve must choose between Cain and Abel and Lisa Shearin has this with her Raine being caught between Mychael and Tam.

The only thing worse are those characters (like Charlaine Harri's Sookie, and Karen Chance's Cassie) who can't make ANY decision and just seem to be stuck in a romance limbo. With yummy potential interests RIGHT THERE - this is not only frustrating, it's just plain cruel.

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