The least realistic part of an action-adventure story may not be the hero’s seeming immunity to the bullets or blasters of the enemy; rather, it’s the frequent appearance of romance when survival seems to demand each character’s complete focus. If a thriller is successful in creating fast-moving action, its protagonists are usually very short on time and energy for romantic extracurriculars.
Yes, the consciousness that one or both of the would-be lovers could be dead soon is very motivating, but to distinguish two examples of those facing mortality, a soldier shipping out for combat the next day is not in the same position as the typical thriller protagonist. The soldier on leave is often well-fed, bored, and restless with tension. The thriller protagonist is often hungry, exhausted, beat-up, and on the run.
Yet, usually, thriller readers don’t seem to mind such romantic antics even under the least likely conditions. James Bond manages both to find romance and make it work toward his goal, though given how many times it backfires, he might have been more efficient if he stay focused on the mission.
But in writing a fantasy thriller, I had a thought: perhaps some of these action-romances could have a supernatural explanation. Magic seems as likely a reason as any for Bond-style liaisons. What I call craft romance would be infused with a powerful sense of destiny, as if the world itself were compelling certain combinations to produce the necessary next generation of craftspeople--the magician-soldiers and psychic spies of my series.
I explored this idea in my first book. American Craftsmen. There, the romance between the protagonists Dale Morton and Scherie Rezvani initially happens at near-Bond speed. In addition to physical attraction, Dale feels certain magical compulsions to be near Scherie and protect her. Even his sentient House gets in the act, exuding warmth and sensuality when Scherie visits.
But this is all before their lives are in immediate peril. Once they’re on the run, the would-be lovers have too much tension between them and too many other problems for even a magical impulse to override.
I only obliquely explain the involvement of magical destiny with romance in American Craftsmen. In my latest book, I make the connection more explicit. There, the protagonist is the virginal Puritan, Major Michael Endicott. Endicott’s family has mistrusted craft romance for several reasons. First, it doesn’t seem to come from God and, in their view, matters of the heart should be subordinated to faith and reason. Second, much of craft is devoted to the mental manipulation of one’s opponents, and that sense of romantic destiny could easily be part of such manipulation. So his family tended to resist the sudden romantic impulse more than other craft families, but they are not invulnerable to it.
For Endicott, this question becomes considerably less abstract when he meets Royal Navy Commander Grace Marlow (the woman on Dominick Saponaro’s wonderful cover). He tries to explain to himself his attraction to her--is it her skill as a craftswoman, her physical beauty, or her posh English accent that is charming him? But he soon recognizes that his feelings are in part craft-driven. He prays about it, but that only seems to make the emotions stronger, and “that couldn’t be right, could it?”
On the other side, Marlow feels a preternatural pull toward Endicott, despite centuries of interfamily hostility. Though nothing on Endicott’s surface seems to justify the attraction, she has the ability to see souls, and something in Endicott’s calls to her in a very carnal way. Despite her cool exterior, she’s descended from one of the most romantic relationships in craft history--the one that inspired Jane Eyre. But up until now sex has mostly just been a tool of Marlow’s job, without any question of true love entering into it.
Will these two craftspeople be able to find romance between being shot at, blown up, and generally discomfited in very unerotic ways? What about the imbalance in their sexual experience and expectation?
I’m going to leave you hanging there. Thanks to Live to Read for inviting me here to talk about action and romance. If you like to find out more about my work, please visit my website.
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