I started my last “Guilty Pleasures” post by saying I’d grown up reading Harlequin romances as a kid and talking about some of the romance tropes you find in those books: “friends to lovers,” “enemies to lovers,” “the misunderstanding,” and others. Today, just a little over three weeks out from the release of the first book in my fantasy Mermen of Ea series, I thought I’d talk about romance tropes in the fantasy genre. Don’t forget that I’m running a giveaway, so be sure to comment on this post (or the earlier post) to win! Multiple entries are fine. Contest ends Friday August 2nd.
Those of you who know a little about me know that in addition to the traditional contemporary romances I loved to read when I was little, I was also a huge sci fi geek and Trek fan. In addition to Asimov, Heinlein, and the great sci fi writers of the 20th Century, I also loved to read one particular fantasy author: Marion Zimmer Bradley. Zimmer Bradley’s best known series was “The Mists of Avalon.” I have to admit I never read those books. The series I still love (and re-read) to this day is Zimmer Bradley’s “Darkover.” An amazing combination of sci fi and fantasy that I keep on my Kindle (I have paperback copies, too!) for those times when I need inspiration.
Set on an Earth-like planet (albeit a lot colder than Earth), the Darkovans are descendents of Earth settlers, some of whom interbred with a native race of powerful beings with psi powers (telepathy, ability to manipulate weather, communicate with animals, etc.). Offhand, it doesn’t sound very romantic. But what I particularly loved about these stories was that each one chronicled relationships between men and women (and one notable MM relationship–back to that in a minute) in a very romantic way. Endings were usually happy, courtships were long and very “real,” and Zimmer Bradley’s descriptions of people and places were at least as romantic as the relationships themselves. When I think “sweeping romance,” I think of these books, rather than “Gone with the Wind,” or “The Thorn Birds.”
In particular, one relationship stayed with me long after I’d devoured the entire series and this one, surprise, surprise, was between two men: Regis Hastur, the ruler of the Darkovan people, and his paxman, Danilo Syrtis. It was a subtle gay relationship, mostly written between the lines, but one of the most enduring of the part of the series set in the “modern” day of the planet’s history.
What, do you ask, does that have to do with mermen? Short answer: a ton! When I was writing Stealing the Wind and planning out the series, Marion Zimmer Bradley’s books were never far from my mind. Although the main trope of the first mermen book is one I don’t remember reading in the Darkover books (souls bound together that survive through time to find each other once again), the heart of Darkover is there. I’m talking about where romance and adventure meet to create a larger story. Taren and Ian’s story is very romantic, no doubt. There are captor/captive and “enemies to lovers” tropes to be found in Stealing the Wind, but what makes their story so much like the Darkover books I grew up reading is the way their relationship and their love grows and deepens through their shared adventures. There’s a happily-ever-after for Taren and Ian at the end of the first book in the sense that they are together forever, come what may. But the adventure part of their story is far from told when the first book ends.
Which leads me to perhaps my favorite trope, or variation on a trope: lovers, secure in their relationship, who continue to grow through adventure, difficulties, and challenges. They change together, support each other, and in the end achieve something greater than just the two of them. Don’t worry! There is an ultimate HEA at the end of the Mermen of Ea books (actually, there are at least 2 of them)! But along the way, I want to take you on a wild ride and have you rooting for Ian and Taren and the other characters in the series, and maybe sitting on the edge of your seat, too!
Your turn now! Tell me what your favorite romantic trope is and you could win your choice of one of my current Dreamspinner Press releases in ebook format or a swag bag (including a t-shirt of a Blue Notes Series cover or the fabulous new cover for Stealing the Wind). Contest ends on Friday, August 2nd. Guilty pleasures welcome. And if you’re interested in checking out the Darkover books, I recommend starting with Heritage and Exile (actually 2 books in one, both tied my favorite, and the part of the series that features a MM romance). -Shira
PS: Want to read more about Stealing the Wind? You can read a very steamy excerpt from the beginning of the book here (scroll down to the end of the blog post). There’s another excerpt, the opening chapter of the novel, here.