One of the great themes of Lover Eternal is the way in which low self-esteem creates barriers to an intimate relationship. Such barriers are based on false assumptions people have about themselves, and they often prevent us from living our lives to the fullest. Hypercritical self-images are a particular problem for women, especially when it comes to our looks. Mary can barely believe that someone who looks like Rhage would be interested in a “plain Jane” like her. She sees all her faults, and all he sees is her beauty. It takes a while for Mary to let go of that barrier.
Recently, the makers of Dove soap produced a video that illustrates just how critically women view the way they look. Watch this brief video to see just how crippling a negative self-image can be:
And yet…Most of the “females” in this book meet our culture’s standard of beauty. Wellsie, Beth, and Bella are all described as having sexy bodies, pretty hair, and beautiful eyes. Even the Chosen, Layla, is described as tall, blond, and willowy. When Layla first offers to “serve,” Mary thinks to herself, “Then how about dragging your skinny ass out of here and making sure your replacement is an ugly, two-toothed gorgon in a muumuu” (321). And while Mary has some scars, she is certainly no “ugly, two-toothed gorgon.”
How, then, would you reconcile the theme of Lover Eternal with its emphasis on the physical beauty and fitness of its leading characters?
2. The beauty and the beast myth informs the plot of many romance novels, but in Lover Eternal, the hero literally transforms into a beast:
“It was a tattoo come to life: a dragonlike creature covered with iridescent purple and lime-green scales. The thing had a slashing tail with barbs, long yellow claws, and a wild black mane. She [Mary] couldn’t see the fact, but the sounds it was making were horrific” (406-407).
And yet Mary is able to calm this beast, and by the end of the book, accepts him as a “two-for-one-kind of deal” (441).
Do you feel the novel stretches the limits of believability at this point, or does its genre, the paranormal romance, make room for this type of plot device?