Do I love superheroes? Of course. Who doesn’t love a save-the-world hero? But as a writer of romantic suspense and spy thrillers, I never expected to write a romance novel featuring a superhero. Then Tara Gelsomino, my executive editor, suggested that I had the superpower to do so.
What kind of story would I write? The proliferation of superhero graphic novels and motion pictures has broadened the genre. Today, some superhero stories remain light and fanciful, but many contemporary tales are as dark as the best noir.
I chose the light, realizing that I wanted to write a story reminiscent of the classic characters I watched on television and read about in comic books while growing up—Superman, Batman, Wonder Woman, The Incredible Hulk. So far, so good. Then I had to take a turn, make a twist, and create a superhero romance novel. And in the end, Electromancer was born. A powerful superhero who can fly and manipulate electricity for the good of mankind.
But, what about the romance part? Superhero stories aren’t romances, are they? And then I realized, of course they are. Most superheroes have love interests and are motivated, and often conflicted, by love.
Electromancer is set in the very near future on an earthlike planet with earth-like cities and is full of Kabam! Pow! and Zap! It features Alexa Manchester, the heiress to her brilliant father’s energy corporation—and his magical element, Electromite, that could solve the world’s energy problems. Until everything goes wrong, and Electromancer must save the day.
So who’s Electromancer’s love interest? The handsome Mayor of her town who might lead the country some day? Or the mysterious Blue Arrow, half-cloud, half-man, who appears and disappears in a flash?
Here’s my top five list of superheroes and their love interests.
- Superman and Louis Lane. But wait, this may just be the strangest love triangle around if you include Clark Kent. Superman has gone from comics to action-packed television and movies, and his challenges have become darker and more mysterious. Will his love for Lois endure in the future?
- Batman and Cat Woman. Superhero verses villain. Superhero loves the villain. He’s hot, mysterious, and courageous. Cat Woman is sly and coy. There’s real tension between the two of them. Hot stuff.
- Wonder Woman and Batman. No wait, isn’t it Superman? Yes, over the years she’s had relationships with them both. When a woman has Wonder Woman-type charm, I say, let her have a couple beaus. Who says a girl has to get married, anyway?
- Iron Man (Tony Stark) and Pepper Potts. Or what about Happy Hogan, the chauffeur from the comic books whom she married, divorced, and remarried, and who eventually died at the hands of Spymaster. Okay, let’s go with the movie version. It’s Iron Man and Pepper Potts. Robert Downy, Jr. and Gwyneth Paltrow are just too cute together.
- Captain America (Steve Rogers) and Agent Carter (Peggy Carter). If spies are involved, I’m in. Agent Carter is awesomely cool. But oh, don’t you just feel the pain of their love—separated by time. Would someone please invent a time machine that lets them age together gracefully?
Alexa Manchester grasped the door handle as the car sped around the last curve on the road leading to The Manchester Electric Company. In the distance, she could see the stately spires of Britannia’s metropolis, Kensington City, shining in the early twilight. Once the land of roundtable knights, romantic poets, kings and queens, and colonial rule, Britannia was now experiencing trying times. Tonight, Alexa would change all that; she would change the world.
Except she was already ten minutes late.
The company’s board of directors, along with influential denizens of Kensington City, were assembling in the central courtyard to watch her power up The Magpie generator, to which her father, Mickey, had devoted his life’s work. The Manchester Electric Company already provided most of the world’s electrical power—for Europa, Asiana, Africana, even the Americanas across the Eastern Sea—through conventional means. Now, the revolutionary new Magpie promised to deliver an astronomical source of green energy and save the distressed planet from the energy crisis that had befallen it as a result of a decade-long drought.
“It’s a splendid time for a ceremony, Madame,” Alexa’s chauffeur and butler, Sigfred Sawyer, said. He spoke the words as calmly as if they were out on a Sunday drive.
“Honestly, Sigfred. Will you ever just call me, Alexa?”
“Yes, Madame, as you wish.”
Alexa suppressed a smile. Despite Sigfred’s insistence on behaving like a blue-haired extra from Downton Abbey, he was still in his thirties. His azure blue eyes and sandy hair, cut in a military flattop, made him look like a Southside street tough-turned-movie actor. But his hand-tailored Italian suits and the perfect knots in his neckties—a tight double Windsor for button down collars, an impeccable Eldredge knot for wide collars—revealed the pride he took in his occupation.
They finally turned into the circular driveway of the power plant, known locally as The Mick, in homage to her father. “I only wish my father were here to see this,” she said.
“You can rest assured that he is here with you in spirit, Madame.”
Sigfred parked the car in front of the entrance that housed the executive offices. The complex was modeled after Georgian architecture and carved from Bath stone. Manicured Bermuda grass, sculpted bushes, and trellis after trellis of roses in full bloom made the picturesque grounds into a living landscape painting. An inner courtyard with a triple-tiered marble water fountain was prominently placed at its center—because water was, of course, The Mick’s lifeblood. The rear of the building overlooked the dam.
The facility had been strategically located on the northern boundary of Kensington City, where the East and West Kensington Rivers intersected. Those rivers were sourced by underground springs and runoff water that accumulated from the top of the Mullgany Mountains. Because of this confluence of rivers and groundwater, Kensington City had been spared the severe drought that most of the world had suffered.
Sigfred turned off the car’s engine and opened Alexa’s door. The main plaza was already filled with the patrons and guests. Mayor Bobby Baumgartner was up on stage, glad-handing other officials and dignitaries.
“Sigfred, how late am I?”
“Fashionably late, Madame.”
As soon as Alexa walked onto the stage, Bobby hurried to greet her. “Alexa, you look especially ravishing today,” he said, his eyes flashing quickly to her chest. “Your mother’s necklace?”
Her fingers lifted the platinum-and-diamond necklace she wore.
“Simply beautiful, though only the second-most beautiful jewel on this stage tonight.” He winked and placed a hand on her elbow, the politician’s touch, but this one lingered longer than most. Then he regarded her with a devilish smile. An involuntary thrill coursed through her body, causing her to step back and break contact.
“Flatterer,” she said. Bobby’s dark brown hair and deep green eyes could send the most reserved woman into a giddy, hypnotic trance. She’d had a crush on him, a family friend, when she was a gawky fifteen-year-old and he was a twenty-two-year-old college senior. But he’d never thought of her as anything other than a kid … until she filled out during senior year. Handsome as he was, she’d quickly realized he was a player. Even if he hadn’t been, she couldn’t afford to be romantically interested in Bobby Baumgartner or anyone else. Not with all her responsibilities.
“Bobby, the sun is about to go down,” Alexa said. “Why don’t we get started?” She took her place at the podium, and after he introduced her, she welcomed both the guests and the employees.
“My father would jokingly say that he was like a magpie,” she said. “He was fond of collecting shiny objects. And one of those shiny objects was a meteorite that fell from space and into our own Mullgany Mountains. My father called this silver, crystalline rock Electromite, a new element unknown to our planet. It proved to be more potent than uranium or plutonium, yet in its native form, perfectly harmless. My father would say ‘Alexa, if you raise the level of the river, the boat will rise. Well, the rivers of the world have been lowered by drought, but through the heaven-sent gift of Electromite, we’ve found a way to raise the boat.’ Ladies and gentlemen, with the advent of The Magpie, we’ll be sailing high.”
The crowd quieted and watched as Alexa radioed down to the generator room and directed the engineers to power up The Magpie. When one of the engineers confirmed that he’d flipped the switch, she smiled broadly and made a thumbs-up sign to the crowd. A rainbow of lights illuminated the grounds, and the hum of the new generator filled everyone’s ears. Balloons were released, and a band began playing. The crowd applauded and cheered.
Bobby wrapped her in a warm embrace, and heat flushed through her body. “I wish Mickey were here to see this, Alexa,” he whispered. “He’d be so proud of you. I’m proud of you.” Her eyes welled up, and a tear fell down her cheek, which seemed to make the crowd cheer even louder.
When he finally released her, Alexa turned to the audience and raised both arms in triumph, her tears flowing freely now. Then …
A violent explosion rocked the entire power plant, shaking the ground seismically. The cheers turned to murmurs of surprise and then to shrieks and screams. A moment later, Kensington City’s entire electrical grid shut down.
Everyone ran for the road. The Mayor’s bodyguards spirited him away. Alexa sprinted inside the building, where she found the chief engineer, Dr. Charles Chin, racing out of his office, radio to his ear. She fell into step beside him and asked, “What happened, Charlie?”
“I’m trying to get the generator room,” he said frantically. “No one’s picking up.” He gave up on the radio and punched some numbers into his cell phone, shaking his head a moment later.
“I’m going down there,” she said.
“It’s too dangerous, Ms. Manchester.”
“It’s my responsibility.”
“Ma’am, you can’t—”
“Oh, but I can. It’s my company.” Though she sounded brave, the truth was that she was terrified. But this was a day to honor her father, and Mickey Manchester would’ve gone down there. Unlike her father, she wasn’t engineer, but he’d taught her enough science to understand most of the technology behind running a power plant. “You can stay here, Charlie.”
“I’m going with you.”
Alexa started for the elevator, but Chin led her to the stairs. They descended four levels and opened the two-foot steel door to the generator room that housed The Magpie. No workers were present. Maybe they’d all gotten out without injury.
“Wait here,” she told Chin.
“You have a family, Charlie. I’m ordering you to stay here.” She paused. “This is my responsibility.”
When he reluctantly nodded, she entered the cavernous generator room.
The normally ultra-bright lights inside the generator room had dimmed. A long row of generators with turbines that usually hummed and spun had gone silent. As she neared the control room, she heard only the echo of her high-heeled shoes tapping against the concrete floor.
Alexa hurried along to The Magpie. The generator was the size of a small house and resembled a child’s toy top sitting on a gigantic snare drum. To her surprise, the outer casing was glowing white hot.
The Magpie unexpectedly shook. She listened for the sound of a spinning turbine. When she heard nothing, she reached out a hand to feel for anything different—a vibration, a change in temperature. The device was radiating heat. Impossible—her father had always said that the energy would never escape the insulated ceramic casing.
A second later, she was cast into the air as though she were bait at the end of a fishing rod. But instead of crashing to the floor, she remained suspended in midair above the top of the generator. Some sort of magnetic force had gripped her in a vise. Her ears filled with a high-pitched sound that was piercing but strangely pleasant. Her body went numb, melted, and she fell into a paralytic state. Paradoxically, she felt nothing and everything all at once. But there was no pain, only tranquility, as if she were in the midst of an improbable, yet wonderful dream. She could no longer see or hear or touch, because she no longer existed in human form. Still, she had a complete awareness of what her body had been. She was indefinable and yet remained conscious.
Suspended above the generator, she sensed something urging her to let go. She resisted, finding herself in a battle of wills to the death with The Magpie. But machines didn’t have wills, so how could this be?
A memory of days past came to Alexa. She thought of the many times she’d followed her father along the tributaries of the Kensington. Gentle waves lapped against the smooth silt lining of the placid river. Often, she’d remove her shoes to let the sandy mud squish between her toes. Barefoot, she would walk along the shallows and collect unopened shells that she’d gather from just below the surface, hoping to find a freshwater pearl. Now, she flashed on how she’d never found that perfect pearl, which was an odd thought to have at this final moment.
So, this was how her life would end. She was no longer afraid. Morphing into a plasmic state, she was pulled through The Magpie’s casing, as though she were subatomic particles able to penetrate anything. The deeper inside she traveled, the more at peace she felt. Once inside the inner core of the turbine, her life force was instantly absorbed into a pure-white spinning ball, which sparkled with beams of silver light. She had finally found her pearl, and if this was heaven, she was home. She was at peace.
“Electromancer,” a man whispered.
“What did you say?”
“You must leave here at once.”
Daco is an award-winning author of the espionage-thriller series featuring CIA operative Jordan Jakes. Her debut novel, The Libra Affair, was a 2013 #1 best seller. Of The Libra Affair, Publishers Weekly said, “The keenly sharp intelligent female characters soar in this edge-of-your-seat adventure…”
Her short story The Pisces Affair was a 2015 Global Ebook Awards double gold medalist (Best Thriller Fiction and Best Science Fiction), a 2015 Shelf Unbound Notable 100, a 2015 Royal Palm Literary Award winner, and a Publishers Weekly “PW Pick”.” In its review of The Pisces Affair, Publishers Weekly wrote, “Jakes is a lively and witty narrator with the wits and skills of James Bond, and readers will savor her fresh perspective on being a woman in the male-dominated spy world.”
Her story The Virgo Affair is part of Killer Nashville Noir: Cold-Blooded (Diversion Press, October 2015), an anthology that includes numerous New York Times best-selling authors.
Upcoming works include The Scorpio Affair, a Jordan Jakes novel, and The Ophiuchus Affair, another Jordan Jakes short story.
Electromancer is her first superhero novel.
Daco holds a B.A. and M.A.S. from The University of Alabama in Huntsville and a J.D. from the Cumberland School of Law. She is a member of the International Thriller Writers, Mystery Writers of America, Romance Writers of America, Authors Guild, Alabama Writers Forum, Florida Writers, and Alabama State Bar.