Wednesday, June 18, 2008

Vampires and romance

So, I went for lunch today with some of the RNA-ers who live near Cambridge. Last time I did this Jan persuaded me to take part in an author panel at the conference, as one of very few paranormal authors in the RNA. She told me this time that one of the new members staying in my block at the conference is also a paranormal author and lives not far away, so I looked her up and found her at the Lunatic Horizon, and shall now stalk her until she agrees to be my minion. Or something like that.

Anyway. She had a post about vampire lovers, and the point of view that often in vampire romances, the vamp is hundreds of years old and the heroine is about 25. Clearly, this is more than just an age gap. This is a massive generation gap. A man who has seen the rise and fall of empires, who was born in the days of the bubonic plague and lived to see Aids, is going to have a slightly different outlook on life from someone who barely remembers the Berlin Wall (Actually, I'm 26 and I remember the Berlin Wall, but that's not the point).

I think what annoys me about this kind of relationship is that our hero has been brooding alone for centuries, never having found anyone to touch his unbeating heart, etc, and yet an office administrator from Chicago is the one who gets his engines running. And she's always slightly overweight and a bit mousy, isn't she, at least until she unties her ponytail, etc. (Because that's what men found attractive in Days of Yore). Er, really, Mr Vampire? All the women in the world, for hundreds of years, all those gorgeous young misses, seductive femme fatales, and all the gazillions of frumps, and you pick this particular plain Jane? She makes you happy? Why is she different from all the rest? What do you have in common? If the author hadn't decreed it so, would you have looked twice at her? Would you have looked once?

I mean, it's not always about vampires. I find myself suspending belief all the time with uneven couplings. The billionaire Alpha male who looks like a movie star isn't going to end up happily ever after with a plain Jane either. He might marry her to bear his kids and run his house, but he's going to be off boinking someone as glamorous and exciting as him behind her back, isn't he?

But then, I was never entirely sure Cinderella was going to get her happy ever after, either. Let's face it, even if Prince Charming forgave her humble origins, the tabloid press never would (Doors to Manual, anyone?), and you just know that in every row they ever have, King and Queen Charming would be whispering, "This never would have happened if he'd married a woman with breeding."

This is why I always try to put my characters on a more even footing. Ancient vampire hero? Ancient vampire heroine (She Who Dares, where my heroine was Egyptian, and had spent two thousand years crawling out of the shadow of the vampire who made her--and learning to kill anything that moved, while my hero pratted about with a business empire).

Virile, brooding Alpha, king of his people, out for revenge? Courtesan-slash-assassin with a family history involving the flattening of cities (Almost Human, with one of my mostest favouritest heroines, Chance).

I did once have an ancient vampire--a former Roman slave--and a modern young woman (Unholy Trinity). However, she was more than a little bit feisty, and leaked PhDs on the ancient world, and as a vampire turned out to be formidably strong. And the reason she caught his eye was that she looked like a model. PhD or no PhD, after fifteen hundred years Rafa was picky.

If I'm going to put a vastly more powerful/experienced/older hero with a younger/less experienced heroine, I'm going to even the playing field a bit, and make her a newly bitten vamp or were or stuffed full of latent power she didn't know about, with at least the potential to become as powerful as him. Because to me, whether the relationship is about vampires, werewolves, or plain human beings, a massive imbalance in power is never going to make for a happy ending--at least not for ever after.


  1. I agree about the imbalance of power making for an iffy HEA. It doesn't stop me though from digging the full figured woman getting a fangylicious dude though. Although, I HATE mousy women in Romance books anyway. There needs to be some grit to them, something that makes them seem more than a walking freeway.

    I think the reason I love Jeaniene Frost's books so much is because Cat is such a badass and she knows it. Bones knows it. Hell, everyone knows it. I like that she's tough.

  2. Where do I sign to become a minion? And what benefits are there?

    a massive imbalance in power is never going to make for a happy ending--at least not for ever after

    Excellent point, and to me it's why these relationships often end up with a creepy, teacher-perving-on-his-student vibe. I'm not saying it can't be done, but it takes a lot for me to buy into the ever after scenarion, and picture the couple growing old (or not) together.