The course of true love never did run smooth, but there are obstacles and there are obstacles. The person you love is a thousand-year-old vampire? That’s a problem. The person you love is married to another? That’s a BIG problem. The person you love is dead? Not dead sexy, not dying, not undead, not Dead To You, but pushing daisies from six feet under dead-dead?
Yeah, that’s a really big problem.
And yet, in a surprising number of romance novels, it’s not an insurmountable problem. In these books, the hero and heroine remain a viable couple, despite the fact that one of them has already shuffled off this mortal coil. Authors have come up with various interesting and creative ways to allow their protagonists to transcend the grave, frequently to surprising and entertaining effect—and here are only a few examples. O Death, where is thy sting? Not in these books.
In Sharon Lynn Fisher’s recent Ghost Planet, interstellar traveler Elizabeth dies in an accident before the book even begins, but the sentient planet on which she meets her untimely end harvests her consciousness at the moment of her demise and re-animates her…in a body that looks just like her old one. “Ghost” Elizabeth is telepathically linked with brilliant psychologist Grayson Murphy, who just happens to be the guy who developed the Ghost Protocol, which states that the living (like Murphy) are not permitted to communicate with or even acknowledge their Ghosts (like Elizabeth). But Elizabeth and Murphy share a mutual attraction and (eventually) a deep bond—a bond that may even be instrumental in saving the dying planet.
Romance takes a slightly more…cerebral turn in some of Sharon Lee and Steve Miller’s Liaden Universe novels. In this series, Daav yos’Phelium, who is delm, or leader, of powerful Clan Korval, shares a deep lifemate connection with brilliant mathematician Aelliana Caylon. Their marriage is a happy one right up until Aelliana is assassinated by Korval’s enemies. But Daav is shocked to discover that her consciousness lives on…inside his head. Although a physical relationship is out of the question, they regularly communicate with one another, and Aelliana even encourages him to become involved with a professor named Kamele. Even after this happens, though, Aelliana sticks around, occasionally even making herself manifest to others through Daav. Kamele, it’s worth noting, knows nothing about Aelliana. I like Daav, but I hope that when Kamele is finally clued in, she knocks him on his weaselly withholding butt.
What happens when the dead and the undead meet? If you’re Kresley Cole, steam happens. In Dark Deeds at Night’s Edge, vampire warrior Conrad Wroth is imprisoned by his own family in a mysterious mansion that happens to be inhabited by the ghost of a murdered ballerina, Néomi Laress. Conrad’s hold on his sanity is tenuous, due to fallout from his prolific career as a warrior; Néomi is noncorporeal, tormented, and very beautiful. Can this odd couple overcome this unique set of obstacles and find happiness with one another? (What do you think?)
Of course, the poster children for love beyond the grave are Vishous and Jane from J.R. Ward’s Black Dagger Brotherhood series. Brilliant, tough, and snarky, Vishous has never met anyone who will share his heart, his life, and his prodigious kink until he meets surgeon Jane Whitcomb. But no sooner has he admitted his feelings for her than she is tragically killed. Vishous’s mother, the enigmatic deity known as the Scribe Virgin, arranges for Jane to come back as a sort-of-kind-of ghost; sometimes she is entirely non-corporeal, and sometimes she’s flesh and blood, for all intents and purposes; at least she’s able to enjoy red-hot lovin’ from V and provide expert medical care, including emergency surgery, to the Brothers. And at the end of Lover Unleashed, Vishous even announces his intent to mate her properly, a declaration that is met with enthusiasm by the other Brothers, who seem not to have a problem with the fact that one half of the happy couple is technically, you know, dead.
Ward didn’t stop there, however!
Public Service Announcement: The spoiler bell is ringing! If you haven’t gotten around to Ward’s Lover Reborn yet, you are urgently advised to turn back now.
In Lover Reborn, poor bereaved Tohrment finally seems to be recovering from the murder of his beloved Wellsie, having found a new love in the person of Autumn, née No’One. Then he (and the reader) are stunned and devastated to learn that Autumn is, in fact, existing in her own version of the In-Between (vampire Purgatory); she committed suicide several hundred years ago and has been dead the whole time. What’s more, now that she has figured it out, it’s time for her to ascend to vampire Heaven, there to repose amidst the peace and light of the Fade for all eternity. Fortunately, fallen angel Lassiter is on hand to intercede with the Maker on the couple’s behalf, and Autumn gets a second chance at life. So she’s dead but she doesn’t stay dead, which I’d say was a cop-out, but more than one Ghost Bride running around the BDB compound would be redundant, after all.
Who is your favorite couple to find love from the Great Beyond? Tell us in the comments!
Kate Nagy is Editor at Large of Geek Speak Magazine.