Sunday, March 18, 2012

Check Mates

I'm reading Thea Harrison's Elder Races books, and while I'm not the biggest fan of paranormal romances, I do enjoy her depiction of an entire world that's divvied up among seven different classes of paranormal critters--and that one of the classes is witches. (Even if none of the novels thus far casts a witch in anything other than a bit part.)

I had to reread Dragon Bound, though, to really appreciate what's going on. That's the one with the Wyr-dragon, Dragos Cuelebre, and his mate, Pia Giovanni. Early on, he tells her "you're mine," an unequivocal statement of possession, but what does he really mean? Dragos may not know and Pia's not sure...but we totally get it. She's his True Mate.

As readers of romances, and paranormal romances, we understand the concept of "the one true mate." More than "soul mates," which suggests a "we fit together so well" hook-up of personalities more than an "in the entire history of the universe, only you will do for me" specificity, the True Mate is the single entity that an other-worldly creature is unconsciously looking for. When found, the True Mate is instantly recognized as special, important, vital...or, as one Elder Races character puts it, the person who becomes "True North."

In real life, or in the world of contemporary romances, if a character started spouting off about a "True Mate" he or she would seem like a stalker. And even then, the line is pretty thin between the confidence a hero or heroine has that he or she has met The One and an irrational refusal to accept rejection.

[Which got me thinking tangentially about what would happen if two stalker-y people were each convinced that the other was The One. It seems wildly unstable, as part of stalking is the delusion. A stalker-to-stalker mutual obsession might start out okay, but eventually one of them is going to piss off the other by not behaving in the proscribed manner. To picture it another way, it would be like two inmates in a psych ward. One is convinced he's Napoleon and the other is sure she's Josephine. Could work at first, but part of being delusional is having total control over the delusion while certain that there's no control because it's Actually Happening. At the first sign of a conflict, Napoleon is likely to claim that's not Josephine, it's really Marie Antoinette, and where can a guy get a guillotine in the middle of the night?]

In a paranormal romance, the True Mate system works better. First, the author simply states that's how that world works. Second, our only examples are successful ones. Harrison presents it as extraordinarily rare that when a Wyr finds his or her mate, it's not a perfect match.

In Dragon Bound, Dragos, who's been alive since the planets in our solar system were created, says to Pia, "As for Wyr mating, I remember once a couple hundred years ago it didn't take right. At least I think. Were they going through the bonding process or were they just fucked-up? She killed herself when he wouldn't have her." And in True Colors, an Elder Races novella, Gideon Riehl (a Wyr-wolf) mates with Alice, a rare Wyr-chamelon. She tells him, "I do not believe that we would be mates without also being right for each other. The fates of the gods, or whomever it was that created the Wyr to be what we are, would not have been so cruel."

Wouldn't that be so much easier than our current (real life) system of dating? No need to chat people up at parties or bars. Just go about your business; when The One shows up, you'll know. And he/she will actually be The One.

Don't get me wrong. I get it -- people do believe they've met The One, and sometimes it works out great. But it's not guaranteed as it is in Wyr-land.

Of all the fantastical elements of paranormal romance (with physical attributes being high on the list), I think the True Mate system is one of the most emotionally potent. If the reader is single, it reassures her that The One is out there. If a reader is married, it says she made a good choice. And even if a reader is divorced or unhappily married, there's still hope that The One may yet show up.

As Alice puts it in True Colors, "I'm a person of faith." Gideon replies, "I don't have your faith...But I do know one thing--you're the purest gift I've ever been given, and I'll do anything to keep you safe and be worthy of you."

Sigh. A perfect romance; all you have to do is wait.


  1. I must admit I like this aspect of paranormals. Unless it all happens too quickly, of course.

    One author who handles it well in her Lupi books, is Eileen Wilks. The mating bond is almost a character in itself in these books. Lily Yu and Rule Turner are mated, but they are not in love. Yet they can't get more than 30 miles away from each other without pain leading to unconsciousness. So they must learn to deal with each other and in the process, they fall in love.

    Neat mystery too. :-)

    This is one series I can heartily recommend, along with the Weyr series and Ilona Andrews and Patricia Briggs ... lol, best stop now.

  2. What a great recommendation, and such a cool idea: you can mate without necessarily falling in love. A bit like an arranged marriage...with the Universe as the matchmaker!



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