Handling Consent in “Fated Mates” Romance Novels

Handling Consent in “Fated Mates” Romance Novels

Ah, fated mates. The trope is a staple of paranormal romance, and for good reason. In a world where so much seems random and uncertain, the idea of true love as inevitable and irresistible can be powerful. But in the era of #MeToo, does the idea of inevitable, irresistible coupling leave room for consent?

It’s an issue I wrestled with a lot when writing Her Immortal Guardian. Rather than have my main characters immediately give in to their powerful attraction, they question it. They test the boundaries, trying to determine what’s real, earned affection and what’s supernatural compulsion.

I compare being supernaturally attracted to being “under the influence.” I have the heroine talk through her attraction to the hero with a friend. In that conversation, it becomes clear the hero isn’t just her “destiny” – he’s good boyfriend material!
In at least one way, I also tried to flip the script a bit on the usual “fated mates” plot. Most of the time, the hero accepts the idea of being bound to the heroine instantly. In Her Immortal Guardian, the hero is a cursed temple guard from Ancient Egypt, whose immortality is partly a punishment for dereliction of duty. Because he’s considered untrustworthy, “a monster on a leash” created to fight an ancient evil, the curse compels him to do whatever his partner in each new awakening tells him to do.

He literally can’t say “no” to her.

After three thousand years of being told what to do, sometimes to disastrous results, my hero is understandably a bit fed up with the whole fated mates thing. When the heroine awakens him by accident and doesn’t complete the ritual, the curse leaves him just enough wiggle room to explore his own free will and desires. Which he does, with an enthusiasm and appreciation for the simple things in life that sparks a real attraction in the heroine. She treats him with kindness and respect, something which quickly earns his genuine devotion.

That’s the key to handling consent in a fated mates romance. Both characters still have to earn the other’s love, beyond any supernatural shenanigans pushing them together. They both have to be aware of the choices they’re making. And it needs to be clear that they have a choice, especially the choice of when and if they consummate the relationship.

Because the hero and the heroine both have good, understandable reasons to resist, it gives the relationship (and the sexual tension) room to grow. I made sure to show, from each character’s point of view, the qualities they were discovering in each other that shifted (pun intended) their supernatural attraction to one that felt more genuine. In my opinion, taking care to preserve each character’s free consent just made the story stronger, and the fantasy of their relationship more compelling.
So when the two of them finally do express their genuine feelings for each other in a love scene, the heroine is very careful not to tell him what to do. She’s also very clear that being with him is what she wants, regardless of fate or destiny.

Throughout Her Immortal Guardian, I never clearly spell out whether their meeting was fate or just random accident. I let the reader choose, just like my characters got to choose each other. Leaving the big philosophical question of “fate versus free will” a little ambiguous is fun – and honest. I don’t know the answer to that myself! Leaving the question of consent ambiguous just isn’t acceptable.

 

This post was written by Mara Dane, author of Her Immortal Guardian. Mara can be found at:

http://maradanewrites.com

https://www.amazon.com/Mara-Dane/e/B07B8WL4L8

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