I think it is fair to say that in PNR/UF novels, there are a few things that are expected and accepted:
- The hero will be gorgeous and well hung.
- The heroine will be attractive, smart, perhaps funny, but most of all likeable and relatable to the reader.
- The story will have elements that drag us in, besides the two pretty people it centers on, and transport us to another reality.
- The hero and heroine will be irrevocably caught in the Smex Beam.
“What exactly is a Smex Beam, Captain?” you ask. Ha ha, fear not reader. Your Captain is here to offer guidance and instruction.
The Smex Beam is the magic that exists the first time our fated lovers meet and never lets go. They may be engaged in a fight to the death (perhaps with each other), they may be walking down the street contemplating quantum physics, they could even be falling out of a dressing room while trying on too tight jeans. The point, young paduan, is that when it hits, the Smex Beam obliterates everything else.
Suddenly, there is no one else on the planet that holds any interest for our couple. No matter how much they may fight it, no matter the obstacles, which can include and are not limited to: zombies, vampires, werewolves, assorted fey creatures, car accidents, gun battles, psychic attack, old lovers, fear of commitment, fear of her mother, fear of his mother, paralysis, demons, magic spells gone wrong, angry gods/goddesses, being sucked into another dimension, differences in species, ancient prophecies…….
It. just.doesn’t. matter. The Smex Beam conquers all.
When you are in its sights, there is no escape. Cupid wishes his arrows worked this well. Star Trek’s tractor beam? Heh! Old news, old tech. Captain Kirk wishes he could have had this on the Enterprise. (As if the guy wasn’t already busy enough with all those hot alien chicks. Just sayin’.)
We readers love it. Every tension-filled scintillating moment, every hungry look and heat-filled glance at our hero’s amazing pack – ahem- pecs, every time one or the other tries to escape its clutches, we come screaming back for more. It helps drive the story and plot arc, keeps us turning pages at a break neck pace, reading until our eyes burn and our chin is resting on our chests. We have to know, will they make it out together? Will our couple realize their amazing gift of love and unending lust as bestowed by the Smex Beam?
But of course! This is romance, silly! The Smex Beam doesn’t make mistakes, and while occasionally we may think someone has managed to slip its sticky tentacles and go running down the side of a ravine, they are always dragged back, lamenting their own stupidity.
What, you want evidence? Examples, you say, of these lusty lovers caught in the inescapable clutches of true love and exceedingly good sex? No problem, here’s a little list of my favorites:
1) Edward and Bella, the Twilight Saga. Sure, he’s a hundred something year old vampire who reads minds, eats mountain lions, and is condemned to high school hell for eternity. She’s the clumsy, too perfect daughter of the town sheriff with blood that smells so delectable Edward can’t stop obsessing over how he’s NOT going to eat her. He runs off to Italy to try to save her soul, she jumps off a cliff and hangs with his sworn enemies, a bunch of stinky dog smelling shape shifters. His skin may be freezing cold, but that doesn’t stop them from gettin’ down and dirty in the ocean off a little island named after Edward’s pseudo-mom. With marriage comes a baby who doesn’t need a carriage but an iron crib and a newly transformed wife who won’t ever die and doesn’t need sleep. What do they do with all that free time at night? Hmm, let me think…..
2) Cat and Bones, the Night Huntress Series. Cat’s an uber hot red head born to a mom convinced her half breed daughter is mostly evil. Bones is a two hundred plus year old vamp that spent his human years earning his keep on top of, under, next to, well, just inside a bunch of aristocratic British bitches before he got shipped to a penal colony for putting his hands where they didn’t belong. Add some silver knives, sexual tension you can’t cut with a Sawz-All, a smokin’ hot hero who is incredibly open with his feelings, a sexually repressed heroine you just love to root for, witty banter and action sequences so slick and tight your heart beats almost as hard as during the sex scenes, and it just can’t be denied that these two are definitely in the direct path of the S.B.
3) Clay and Elena, Women of the Otherworld. Clay is the Enforcer of the North American Pack, Elena is his lady love, mate and wife. These two had such a strange and rocky start to their story with Elena taking off and Clayton quietly stalking her from afar (the issues are heavy and myriad, both had difficult childhoods – actually that may underplay it, but you’ll have to read the books if you want to know) that the angst was almost unbearable. Clay is no angel, and a reader can’t help but understand his lady love’s anger and bad attitude, but his single minded determination and focus are in the end some of his best qualities. Well, that and his unswerving devotion to tough as nails Elena. Clay is so physically attractive as to be almost unbelievable, but he has eyes only for Elena, no slouch in the looks department herself. Last I checked in with these two, they were living the PNR/UF dream with minimal death threats, a healthy pack and great sex life.
4) Mercy Thompson and Adam Hauptman, Mercy Thompson Series. This series is more urban fantasy that paranormal romance, but I beg you to give it a look-see. There is sex, yes, but it is not graphic and the romance is not the main arc of the plot, but it is so well written and paced that you’re rooting for these two from book one. Mercy is a shape shifting coyote, Adam is the super powerful and incredibly sexy alpha of the Columbia Basin Pack. These two engage is some really funny contests of wills that involve, among other things, a cat named Medea, a broken down Volkswagen Rabbit, and pancakes. Mercy tries to consciously run from Adam while her subconscious is just pulling her in closer all the time courtesy of the Smex Beam. She may be dodging rogue spells cast by angry Fey, trying not be a vampire snack and confused (at first) by her feelings for her first love Sam, but she is inevitably and quite happily conquered by the unstoppable force of the Beam and the drowning chocolate brown of a certain alpha werewolf’s eyes. (The bod attached to those eyes is certainly a bonus….)
5) The hellren and shellans of the Black Dagger Brotherhood. A series that is running strong nine (or is it ten?) books in, a girl can’t stop rooting for these couples. The danger, the sex, the passion of a mated male, the sex, the unswerving devotion in the face of danger, the sex, the shit kicker boots and leather, the sex……
These guys and gals overcome bodily injury and constant peril to be together. They battle their sworn enemies the lessers, train endlessly, fight personal demons, and fight obstacles that seem insurmountable to be together. What other explanation could there be than the Smex Beam? Who would go through the nonsense that the universe throws at these people for nothing but a good lay? No, there is more at work here to cause the levels of love, devotion, respect, and downright horniness these people feel for each other.
“But Captain”, you ask, “just where did the Smex Beam come from? Who, in all their infinite wisdom and intelligence invented the Smex Beam?”
That, dear reader is a topic for another post. I will however, give you her initials.