Topic: Are “True Mate” Romances truly “Romance”?

True Mate”, you know the romances, where the protagonists see each other and it is instant love.  You find this type of story in paranormal romances, usually a shifter or vampire.  The question is:  Is a “True Mate story less of a romance than an ordinary romance book?    Two books I want to discuss with this: A Werewolf’s Soldier (Warwolves, #1) by Kayley Scott and Forever Broken by Evangeline Anderson.

Typical Romance Plot lines:

  • Intro to Boy and setup for character development and/or possible problem
  • Beginning of problem and/or intro to Boy/Girl interest.
  • Conflict arises (either internal or external)
  • Relationship builds, moves from “lust” to “Love”
  • The “I love you” moment
  • Climax of story (if suspense, the “oh no!”)
  • Conflict Resolution/ walk into the sunset

Now, let’s look at what a “True Mate” type plot line might be:

  • Intro to Boy and setup for character development and/or possible problem
  • Beginning of problem and/or intro to Boy/Girl
  • The “I love you” moment
  • Conflict arises (either internal or external)
  • Climax of story (if suspense, the “oh no!”)
  • Conflict Resolution / walk into the sunset

You can tell that there are some steps that get excluded in a true mate plot.  The biggest problem is a shorter book.  After all, if you cut out the getting to know each other aspect of a romance, you cut out a huge chunk of story.  In our examples novels, Scott’s book is 147 pages and Anderson’s 171 pages.  Within these abbreviated lengths we have to account for sex and action, leaving little time for character development.

I do not know if this is a chicken/egg situation, but less plot and more sex means “erotica” which increases the chances of a true mate situation.  Can we find a book that still has a true mate feature but has actual plot and character development?  In both of our example books for this post they are considered “erotic romance”, so we can expect a little bit more detailed sex scenes.  Let’s take a moment and compare the two books in two key aspects of a true mate romance:  Instant mate and conflict.

Instant Mate:  In both books we see instant mates.  With Scott’s novel, Tuck (the werewolf) scents his mate’s blood and begins his possessive protection from the beginning with his Alpha self.  In Anderson’s novel we see Laurent (the vampire) touching his Coeur de Sang (Heart’s blood) at the beginning of the story.

A Werewolf’s Soldier:

This man was beautiful.  Lean and sharp he was clearly devoted to keeping his body in fighting form, and yet he lay here, ruined by two pieces of wood.  Panic swept over Tuck.  Th is man couldn’t die.  He had to save him.  It went against everything that he had been taught, but deep inside, a voice demanded action.  Always trust your instincts, Tuck.  Shep’s final instructions before every mission.

So, here we can see this instinct (the wolfiness within) is telling him to save him.  We see this trait continue as the book develops and drives his actions.

Forever Broken:

“Not unless you let it happen.”  The vampire’s voice was soft…pleading.  “Please, I’ve been searching for you all my life.  You are my Coeur de Sang.”

“I’m not your anything,” Paul said, trying to sound more certain than he felt.  “I…I don’t even know you and I don’t want to either.  Get the fuck out of here.”

The vampire has found his true love, and there are multiple reasons why there is future conflict.

Where I have issues with a true mate romance is when there is no further development of characters.  Even if it is instant love, should there not still be time devoted into our protagonists learning about each other?  I fear that some authors choose the true mate framework because they do not have characters strong enough to build a complex storyline on, so it is solved when they just make the “and then they fall in love” and allow the conflict to be an outside conflict with easy resolution.

Between the two books, Anderson did a better job of demonstrating character development.  Paul’s understanding his own sexuality and his acceptance of Laurent at the end of the book was very touching.  We saw his inner conflict and Anderson did a good job of giving the reader enough time to understand the conflict and see the resolution.

Conflict:  If we have instant true love, then we need some sort of conflict, otherwise it would be an extremely short book.  Not sure if it is fair to say that erotica = PWP (Porn with plot),  but I have seen that description on the Goodreads forums.  Many also consider a difference between “erotica” and “erotic romance”.  Erotica focuses on the sexual acts, often without any “love”, while an erotic romance focuses on the “falling in love”.  The erotica tends to have less conflict (AKA plot) and if it is found, there is a very quick resolution.  For more details on this check out my previous blogpost about erotica.  Let’s look at the conflict aspect in both of our example books:

A Werewolf’s Soldier:

Tuck.  It was all there in those eyes.  The same haunted sadness, the look of someone who’d just lost everything.

“Oh god, it’s you.  Holy fucking shit, Tuck.  What are you?”

Here the major conflict is Josh (the human soldier that Tuck saves) getting over the whole “werewolf” thing and the two of them making it out of Korengal Valley alive.  There is very little contact with other individuals (other than bad guys) and the focus is mostly on if their relationship can work.  The author did an extremely good job of describing the environment surrounding the conflict thus making the battles vivid.  My issue with the conflict here is that there was little time spent on the internal struggle of Josh in understanding the mate aspect.  Once he discovers that Tuck is a werewolf he withdraws until the end of the book where he instantly discovers that he loves Tuck.

Forever Broken:

“Why not?” Laurent asked quietly.  “And please do not tell me it is because Paul is my Coeur de Sang.  If he does not wish to be with me, I will not keep him against his will.  I love him too much to see him miserable.”

Our conflict in this book is that our wolf is in the closet, his Pack would not understand, his family would not understand.  For Laurent, his family is royalty and a werewolf would not be high enough of a match.  So we have the internal conflict with Paul and the outside conflict of their families.  The strength here is that the book is over a longer time person than Scott’s, so there is time for the characters to get to know each other and the conflict has time to grow.

Conclusion:

My first conclusion is that in the erotic romance category, these two books demonstrate the norm in the sub-genre.  They focus a great deal on the instant love of true mate and the sex involved.  We have a conflict that is fairly simple (either internal or external), with not a lot of depth.  The books are both fairly short (147 pages [Scott’s] and 171 [Anderson]), so the entire storyline must be condensed.  I think that Anderson did a better job of combining hot sex, some character and relationship development, and conflict than Scott.  From what I can tell, Scott did an excellent job of describing the combat and military world, but I felt her writing style is still developing.  I also think that this is Scott’s first book, so I look forward to seeing her writing mature.

Did I answer my question on if true mate romances are truly romances?  Not sure.  I believe I need to find more books that are less “erotica” and more “romance” that have true mate.  I do recommend both books to my readers if you are looking for an erotic romance featuring a true mate theme.

My second conclusion is that the true mate theme might be the result of the constraints of the erotic accelerated format.  Perhaps this plot line was driven by the limitations of erotica (length of novels, higher percent of sex scenes) and it became a convenient plot device.  My search will continue to find a paranormal romance (rather than “erotic”) that fits within the constraints of  “true mate”.

What about  you?  Can you think of any romances out there that have this “true mate” aspect but are NOT erotic in nature?

4 thoughts on “Topic: Are “True Mate” Romances truly “Romance”?”

  1. I prefer the romance = mate like Nalini Singh had been writing until her last book where they couldn’t mate b/c they were destined for others. That I never did buy into.

    Instant mate usually means the “big disagreement” and I’m really tired of those story lines so I keep looking for books that have growth in them instead.

    Erotica in general…. I’ve read some I’ve enjoyed and a lot I’ve never finished but I can say that about any genre. I like a good story with a good plot and any genre will do.

    1. I agree with you regarding finding good and bad in any genre. I like the ones who have the instant love, but then they work at getting to know each other. Hard to find those. Thanks for the comment!

  2. I agree with what was said above. But for me, I do enjoy the “predestined” mate plot at times. For example, Lora Leigh’s Breeds… Although that series has gone on way too long, I like the idea that a pair are genetically meant to be together. And even if one of the pair knows, there is still a getting-to-know each other phase. I just don’t like when there are contrived plot lines to keep the “true mates” apart.

    1. I agree that I enjoy it, I suppose I just feel like it as saturated the market (ex. Breed). Right now to me it has to be special for me to go, “ahhhh yeahhhh.”

      Thanks for the discussion folks!

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