Tropes from Hell: Love Me or I Die

tropes from hellWelcome to our feature where we discuss common and overused themes (a.k.a tropes) that are making the rounds in the book world these days. Today, we discuss the “Love Me or I Die” trope, very popular in Paranormal Romance (PNR).

Books with this trope: Primal Law by J.D. Tyler, Burning Alive by Shannon K. Butcher, several books in the Immortals After Dark series by Kresley Cole and lots of others.

Fated mates are a common PNR trope. This plot usually involves a man and a woman thatMan-begging-Woman are ‘made for each other’ and nobody else will do. Some mythical tie exists between them and they need each other in all levels: physically, emotionally, psychologically, etc. But sometimes a nasty variation of the theme pops up: where only the man has the instinctive compulsion to be with the woman but this is not reciprocated. He has NO CHOICE and if he’s not with her, he kicks the bucket or suffers tremendously for eternity (a horrible prospect for a long lived/immortal being.) The heroine, on the other hand, can leave him whenever she wants without suffering. Please note that in this trope, the hero is the one who needs the heroine and not the other way around. (If you know a book where the woman is in this situation, please let me know but I doubt you will find it.)

Intellectually, I can understand why this trope is so popular in PNR. For thousands of generations, women have been beholden to men. Until fairly recently, the male contingency controlled the lives of their womenfolk and we lived at their sufferance. They provided us with food, shelter and protection but that meant they were the “boss”. We had to bow to their opinions and abide by their dictates whether we agreed with them or not.

In modern times, this doesn’t happen as much anymore (at least in some Western Countries) but I think that subconsciously, some women would like some payback. They want to have total control of a relationship where they can leave whenever they want while the man can’t. At the same time, they want that man to love them with all his heart, without resenting his subjugation. (Good luck with that!)

Obviously this is next to impossible to achieve ipepe-le-pew2n real life and that’s where fiction comes in. PNR offers the perfect ground for this trope with its mix of fantasy and romance. The author creates a mysterious one way bond felt ONLY by the male half of the couple and voila! The man has an instinctual need that compels him to chase the woman even if she’s not willing. Because their lives are at stake, these men usually resort to the very romantic (NOT!) actions of harassing, stalking, and even kidnapping.

This trope grievously wrongs both parties. The hero gets the worst side of the bargain because he has no choice. He’s either with this woman or he dies/suffers. The heroine also gets shackled with a guy that may not necessarily be her cup of tea. She’s caught between a rock in a hard place: if she’s a decent person, she probably feels some responsibility for his welfare but on the other hand, she shouldn’t have to sacrifice her happiness for some random stranger or feel coerced to make a decision on the mating before she’s ready. Can’t you see how terribly unfair this is?

Of course, things always work out at the end in these books – women fall magically in love and men swear they love the women too and it’s just not the mating talking. But I never believe it. To me, the relationship is tinted with coercion. When I read romance, I want a couple who chooses to be together and if fated mates are involved, then it should be reciprocal. I just can’t believe in love under duress. Where’s the romance in that?

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Comments 5

  • […] week’s features included a Page to Screen feature on Kelley Armstrong’s Bitten, DG’s bi-monthly Tropes From Hell: Love Me or I Die edition, and a series review of the Raine Benares […]

  • I never thought about this distinction, but I agree with you – it does make a difference. I love shifter stories and fated mates are pretty common in those. I probably wouldn’t like them so much if I didn’t like this trope. However, thinking back on it, I’ve always shied away from books where the hero feels that mating tie, and in fact, must get with the woman, or else he’ll die or go crazy, but she doesn’t feel the same way, at least, not initially. I’ve read one or two like that, but they don’t usually appeal to me. I’ve never analyzed why though.

  • Totally agree about the fated mates. It’s nice to imagine that there’s just one special person out there for you, even if it’s unlikely. 🙂

  • I love this post. With regards to the fated mates situation, I always find it so difficult to believe that two people of completely unrelated backgrounds can suddenly be “mated.” But, I’ll admit that this trope works for me every time because it is just that sappy love story fantasy that I can escape to.