I enjoy reading about people falling in love and lust and bed—not necessarily in that order, and marriage and the two-point-five offspring don’t have to be included. Science Fiction and Fantasy were my favorites growing up, and I got into Romance as a teenager. Paranormal combines all the genres I like, and I’ve read some good paranormal stuff, but one staple of most of the novels out there leaves me cold: destined mates. Authors call it lots of different things; soul-mates, true mates, bonded mates—they all boil down to the same thing. Somewhere out there in the world is your One True Love, the person destined to love you and vice versa. And once you meet them, you’ll simply know, and everything else is irrelevant because it’s destiny.
I’ve spent a lot of time trying to figure out what it is about this trope that I dislike so much, because obviously it’s popular as all hell. The pop-psychology answer is that relationships are frustrating and mostly disappointing, and reading about finding the person fated to be yours is comforting. We’re also force-fed the idea of Love At First Sight… but that’s a whole other post. Overall, the destined-mate thing is an easy out, a quick fix— which puts it up there with magic diet pills and all those other products on infomercials in my mind.
To balance this, one member of the fated couple is usually all “hell, no, you crazy stalker,” but eventually succumbs to fate and falls in love after two hundred pages of angst, protests, and some sort of life-threatening situation. A lot of times, the couple in question consists of a human and non-human, and in some ways, that irks me even more. If it’s a non-human species that does not reproduce sexually (your classic undead vampire, for example) why would they even need a mate? And if they do reproduce sexually, what would be the point of Destiny setting them up with someone (or something) reproductively incompatible with their species? Unless the non-humans have a big enough gene pool that a few drop-outs here or there won’t matter, Destiny isn’t very bright, and that species is destined for extinction. In hetero romance, the human/non-human pairing is usually able to reproduce via divine intervention of some kind, or simply because they are fated for one another and now—ta-da! the plumbing works.
When M/M authors go this route, that’s where things get trickier (I am not even going to touch the whole Male Pregnancy thing, because if they can get pregnant, they are an alien and human ideas of gender don’t apply. Okay? Long as we’re clear on that.).
The other members of the non-human species usually object because—obviously—the pair won’t be reproducing, not without a surrogate of some kind. But if every member of the species has One True Mate, and nobody gets to choose who they love, why would any of them object to a same-sex pair? That would be saying Destiny got it wrong. On top of that, there’s usually an obvious Sign, like scent or a physical reaction that only occurs when True Mates encounter one another. Again, if this is the mechanism by which the species pairs off, arguing over it makes no sense. It attributes human reactions and sensibilities to a non-human species, and that is generally where I check out of the story.
Then there is the paranormal M/M pairing where everybody is okay with the same-sex aspect, but one of the pair gets all freaky over the fact that their destined mate is male. This is simply another version of Gay-for-You, and unless the fictional world-building is stellar and fresh, I’m not interested. Why? Because I don’t see the point of making a story paranormal unless those aspects—magic, fantastic creatures, alternate timeline, whatever—are integral to the story. If they’re window-dressing to avoid doing research and don’t influence the plot in any other way, why bother?
And yes, I know this is fiction, and paranormal/fantasy to boot, and the author should be able to say “my world, my rules,” and I just have to lump it. But I can’t. Sorry. This bugs me.
I do understand the fascination of this plot device—really. Finding someone to share your life forever is a daunting task, and the fantasy of your One and Only waiting out there to be found is an enduring one. Even more, the concept of an incontestable sign that you are Meant To Be is very seductive, too, the Clear Blue Easy of Love.
Now there’s a story…