I’m still thinking about relationships. What makes them work, what makes them healthy, what makes them fail and what makes them dysfunctional? And I’m about to commit heresy, so read on only if you have a strong stomach. You know how I feel about Mac Lane and Jericho Barrons, right? Swoon city. I want to be Mac and I want to be with Barrons. Or I have until now. But a seed that was planted in book six of the series, Iced, which germinated in book seven, Burned, has begun to poke through the soil in book eight, Feverborn. I think Mac and Barrons have a bad relationship. There, I said it. Let the death threats commence. But really, let’s look at the facts dispassionately (if such a thing is possible), and see what there is to see.
As far as I can tell, the only thing Mac and Barrons do well is mind-blowing sex. Which is great for them (and us), but generally not enough to make a good relationship. Relationships require work, of the non-thrusting variety.
The work of any relationship is, first, to be scrupulously honest about what you want and need, and second to be able to live with it—or not—when our partners can’t, or won’t, give it to us. That second part of the work of relationships requires a determination about whether what our mates can’t or won’t give us is a deal breaker. Sometimes it is, and we stay anyway. Sometimes it’s not, and we can learn to accommodate without (much) resentment or ugliness. And sometimes we must move on, because something necessary to our soul is being ignored or discounted, and we find we can’t be who we want to be in partnership with that person.
Usually when I read paranormal and urban fantasy, I engage in hagiography, as I’ve discussed previously. These fictional characters live lives I want to emulate and engage in relationships on which I want to model my own. If I had a dollar for every time I asked my long-suffering husband why he couldn’t be more like Vampire Bill, or Eric Northman or Dragos or Raphael, we’d both be rich. But I don’t think I’ve ever asked him to be more like Barrons. And I wouldn’t want our marriage to be like Mac and Barrons’ relationship.
Mates should trust one another, not keep secrets. Mates should have a fair amount of confidence in one another’s fidelity, not wonder whether he or she is straying because we aren’t “enough” for them. Mates should know about each other’s favorite foods, not wonder about the biological origin of our partner’s preferred meals. Mates should not order each other around, nor should they take compliance for granted. Mac and Barrons fail in each of these areas.
Now, I’m all for great sex. It’s a necessary component to any strong relationship. Sex and making love join us emotionally and integrate our physical bodies with our feelings of connection and contentment. Great sex includes lovemaking involves trust, comfort—with ourselves and our partners—and a sense of adventure and fun. Admittedly, Mac and Barrons have most of that—all but the trust. Which means that Mac and Barrons have sex—they don’t make love. And while there are those who like to separate the two, and yes, of course, they can be different experiences, it is possible to have mad monkey sex and make love at the same time. But it doesn’t always work that way. Unfortunately.
So, while Mac and Barrons have sex that is combustible, I don’t find it compelling. Not like Pia and Dragos, for example. I thought one of the hottest sex scenes of all time was in the novella Dragos Goes to Washington, where he and Pia make mad, passionate love after discussing the laundry. As far as I can tell, Barrons doesn’t think about laundry. And he and Mac have not made a home together. They live in roughly the same space, just not together. Bad mojo, in my book.
And while I get that once Mac had Barrons there was no going back, I wonder if she will ever come to regret the death of her earlier dreams of a husband like her Daddy? Will she be like Sookie Stackhouse and eschew the pleasures of vampire sex for the comforts of a real home and family? I’m pretty sure I would, over time. I’m not sure about Mac, but I am wondering how she will reconcile her upbringing with her current relationship. I’m also wondering how she will reconcile her essential identity with the self-perception that she needs Barrons to basically fuck her back into herself. I’m not sure I would want to rely on anyone for that, personally—the idea that could I lose myself if I can’t get it on with a particular man? I think the bodice rippers of the 1980s are calling and they want their plot points back.
On the other hand, most of us wouldn’t want anyone else’s partnership. We look at other couples and think to ourselves, “Well, I guess that works for them, but that would never work for me.” And others look at our unions with the same skeptical eye. And that is a good thing in real life. In my beloved fiction, on the other hand, I want to relate more to the choices of my favorite characters. I want to scream at Mac, “Why are you putting up with this shit—he barely makes an effort! It’s my way or the highway with Barrons. Move on! Figure out another way to find yourself!”
She doesn’t appear to be listening, though. Which is OK, of course. But I don’t have to want what she has. I can—for once—appreciate what I’ve got as being much more desirable.