Welcome Toni Sweeney, multi-published author, to the blog today. She's asking the question: Does age matter?
Whenever we think of romance, we generally think of an emotion between two people of the same age…two young people. Oh, we also have the romantic subgenre of mature love, but there again, those in love are generally near the same age bracket. Then, there’s the older man/younger woman theme, and there are, of course, the cougars, those courageous older women daring to love men at least ten years younger than themselves, sometimes quite successfully. Too rarely, it seems to me, does the May/December, younger man/older woman theme come up without complications. Why not? Is there too much snickering and elbowing, wink-wink, nudge-nudging going on to write down the story? There’s a whole field there to delve into, writers! As Peter Stuyvesant sings to the young lass he’s pursuing in Knickerbocker Holiday, “It’s a long, long time from May to December…” so why wait to write it down?
When I began writing my two series, the Chronicles of Riven the Heretic and the Adventures of Sinbad, I didn’t sit down and say, “Okay, I’m going to have my heroes and heroines of disparate ages.” It just happened. Really. In the beginning, they were all going to be young, but fairly close together in years.
The Adventures of Sinbad is a Beauty and the Beast tale. My Beast is Sinbad sh’en Singh, a smuggler, a man wanted on twelve worlds of the United Terran Federation, with more than a million Credits bounty on his head. That was all right with Sin, because he intended to thumb his nose at the TUF for as long as he could—and then he met a little Terran named Andrea Talltrees and got shot right out of orbit…in flames.
When Andrea Talltrees married Sinbad sh’en Singh, she knew they would have problems. All newly-weds do. But married life with a part-Felidan ex-smuggler seems to be nothing but one crisis after another. Now that Sin’s been pardoned for his own crimes as well as those trumped-up charges against his deceased father, he whisks Andi and his ready-made family away to his home planet, where he wants his expected daughter to be born. There he finds he has more adjustments to make other than those of married life…because his fellow Felidans—bless their chauvinistic feline souls!—believe he’s henpecked since he often listens to his wife’s suggestions.
Riven kan Ingan, on the other hand, is a soldier of the king, as brash and sure of himself as only a twenty-six-year old can be. Orphaned at the age of fifteen when his sellsword father is killed in an ambush, the boy is raised by the Margrave himself, and given a place in the royal family. Nevertheless, there are those who look down on the “sellsword’s brat” so Riven, an opportunist from the get-go, decides to change his status by marrying the Princess Royal, a young lady with a bad case of hero worship since he saved her from a runaway horse. Then those opposing him will pay! When Aleza’s abducted, Riven has to rescue her or suffer tremendous loss of face at the court. It’s in the Izhmiri desert he meets his downfall in the shape of Barbara, a runaway slavegirl. The whole thing’s just wrong…wrong…wrong…and Riven’s the first to admit it. Not only is Barbara at least 12 years younger than he, but he’s lustfully attracted to her, so badly that he gets himself drunk to fight his desire, then promptly overpowers the girl while in the grips of the grape. (That’s an elegant way of saying he was too drunk to know what he was doing…or so he says.)
Ordinarily that would be the end of a romance, not the beginning, but Barbara’s understanding…too much so…and admits she’s attracted to him, too. Nevertheless, when the Princess is rescued, Her Majesty informs the barbarian in no uncertain terms the young soldier’s for her and her alone, so Barbara marries another and Riven goes back to Francovia with the king’s daughter.
It won’t end there, however, because, among the other people Riven has insulted in his climb to the top of the Francovian social ladder, are the gods themselves, and they aren’t finished with him yet, so some day…after he’s suffered enough, they decree he’ll get the woman he really loves, but always…no matter where they go or what happens to them or how happy they are, the specter of age—that Riven’s slipping into middle age while his wife is just coming into her youth, will always rise to complicate things.
Both men fall in love with women who are the exact opposite of what they consider the “perfect mate” yet each turns out to be the perfect woman for her lover, able to stand their vagaries, tempers, and moods with vagaries, tempers, and moods of her own. Riven and Sin rise to their final positions of power and esteem mainly through the influence their spouses exert on them.
Sin is a child of discord, born during the conflict between his parents’ planets. His father was a prisoner of war who fell in love with his jailer’s daughter and for that lapse in self-control, was tried for treason. In revenge, Sin becomes a smuggler to do his bit to chip away at the United Terran Federation’s reserves As a result, he becomes a very famous criminal in the UTF’s Wanted docket, and eventually, with Andi’s help, one of the richest and most law-abiding men in that section of the galaxy. Riven ends up with a giarldom, becoming a warlord and one of the most powerful men in the kingdom, all because he fell in love with—and eventually marries—a little slavegirl who matched him in will and determination.
Both Riven and Sin are men who’ve risen above their beginnings to become something more. In their dealings with others and their own families, they attempt to be good husbands, good fathers, good subjects, and good leaders. They are forced to make seemingly cruel decisions in order to provide the best for all; they hate to do it but they do it anyway—for love of king and country, of home and family…
…and none of it would have happened if they’d shied away from a certain female each found attractive…just because there was a difference in their ages.
The Adventures of Sinbad and The Chronicles of Riven the Heretic are both published by Double Dragon Publishing. Latest novels in the series will be released summer, 2011. Other volumes are available at http://www.double-dragon-ebooks.com.