Friday, August 19, 2011

Consistency In World-Building: Don't Mess With True Love, Sucka

I've been pondering the strong opinions folks have concerning JR Ward's Black Dagger Brotherhood series, and why there are such feelings of betrayal by some of its readers. When this series started out, it created some rabid, truly enamored fans (I was one of them). But over the course of time, some folks got very disgruntled (me included). Some people felt the series had jumped from romance to urban fantasy. Some folks felt the heroes were getting gypped by being paired with wishy-washy heroines. Some folks were pissed with inconsistencies with time lines and world-building details.

My introduction to paranormal romance was Christine Feehan. I read the entire Dark series in chronological order. Some readers totally dig the caveman mentality/lifemate thing, and some readers think she is way too melodramatic and over-the-top. But one thing I'll say for Christine is that she is consistent. Those damned Carpathians have one lifemate, and that's it. They don't turn gay half-way into the story. They don't have menages. They don't identify a lifemate, then walk away. From the very first book, Dark Prince, she sets up her world-building details for this race and she sticks to her guns for the whole damned series. (Which is 22 books long so far). This concept of having one lifemate, for all of eternity (they are immortal) is incredibly romantic. Which is why I suspect most of her fans love these books. It's not for the bloody vampire fights, for Christ's sake. It's because no matter what else is going on in the world, our lives, the book, we know that the male hero of her story will move heaven and earth to be with his mate, to protect her, to love her. Period.

When the Brotherhood series started, it had that same vibe about "mates"....the heroes became obsessed with their mates, released yummy smelling scents (hee hee), fed them by hand, worshipped them, etc. There are definitely more layers of complexity and gray areas in the Ward series, but the fact that a very basic world-building detail (indisputable mating of one male vampire to the heroine) has been bobbling around, is a problem. A very big problem. Because romance fans want something they can count on. Even if it's a big-ass, scarred vampire with a tortuous past loving his mate beyond anything else in this world. We can get through the torture, the pain and suffering, because we know in the end, the hero will find his salvation through love with his mate.

I don't have a problem with series growing and changing over the course of time. Some of Feehan's heroes have been beta males, some are warriors and some are not, some are brutally dominant, some are more thoughtful. But the basic premise for the Carpathian lifemate, no cheating, no second chances....stays consistent throughout the series. It's the glue that holds it together, and why Feehan fans remain steadfastly loyal. If you create a paranormal series with certain world-building details, and your readers totally buy into that whole thing, then you can't start messing around with it. Cause folks will be all.....what the....????

By the way, Feehan's 22nd installment of the Dark Series, Dark Predator, is coming out Sept. 6. Zacarias' story!

Here's hoping everyone has a super-duper weekend!


Jen at Red Hot Books said...

Fantastic post! I have read every book in both series and would never have thought to compare the two. But what you say makes sense.

I truly prefer the BDB books to the Dark books. But the latest installment was a bit of a dud for me. And don't get me started about Tohr getting a book already...

Great food for thought.

Jen at Red Hot Books

Penny Watson said...

Hi Jen! Unfortunately, I have fallen off the BDB bandwagon. For Tohr, there is only Wellsie. :^(

I think the Dark books had a bit of a lag, but recently they have gotten good again. I can't wait for the new release this Sept. I think Solange will finally get a happy ending!

Julia Rachel Barrett said...

Powerful post Penny. I haven't read Feehan, even though I know I should. Yes, I agree, romance readers don't want shades of gray unless it's a series and you know your HEA will be the grand finale.
I too loved the first few BDB books. Lost interest after Butch was turned. I know many people don't like Butch, I always liked the character, but after his book, total yawn-fest - I was never a big fan of his mate though3.
Two reasons for me - increasingly TSTL/whimpy mates and the see-through doctor. Since I just wrote a ghost story, I can't say much can I? LOL! But there was something about that vanishing doctor that seemed so pathetic.

Penny Watson said...

Hi Julia! I think the irritating thing about "Jane" and Mary, that Ward uses the Scribe Virgin as a cheap plot device. Oh, that character died....but I'll bring her back as a ghost because the Scribe Virgin said so. Oops, that character died, but I'll bring her back to life because..she's infertile and the Scribe Virgin said so. Ward can write herself into a corner, and the Scribe Virgin is a handy-dandy little fixer-upper. I also agree that most of the heroines are not strong counter-points for the Brothers. I love Butch! He's the best!

Julia Rachel Barrett said...

You nailed it, Penny - the Scribe Virgin as deus ex machina! She can fix anything! I wonder if she can fix the broken chain on my toilet...