Kick-ass heroines in leather, the old-as-dust vampire that’s still sexy and captures the heart of the young protagonist, the tortured hero that needs the heroine’s love to heal...these are but a few of the innumerous clichés we find in paranormal romance novels.
But clichés are what they are for a reason: they work. In fact, more often than not, they are definitely one of the reasons this genre is such in high demand nowadays.
Let's start off with one of my favorite clichéd heroes: the possessive alpha male. He can be a vampire, a shifter, wizard, or even a fairy prince, but the alpha male is an unchangeable staple in the PNR genre that I doubt that there’s a PNR fan out there that doesn’t have a favorite one; I know I do.
It's impossible for me to pick just one, so I’m mentioning two of my most favorite alpha males ever: Curran from Ilona Andrews’ Kate Daniels series and Bones from the Night Huntress series by Jeaniene Frost. Two amazingly hot and lovable heroes who personify the term “alpha male”:
“No, you’re not going with him.”
I crossed my arms. “Who decided that?”
He put on his “I’m alpha and I’m putting my foot down” expression. “I decided.”
—Ilona Andrews, Magic Burns (Kate Daniels #2)
“She's my kitten, and no one else's.”
—Jeaniene Frost, One Foot in the Grave (Night Huntress #2)
Another cliché that comes to my attention in PNR novels and series is the wardrobe, especially the heroine’s and hero’s obsession with leather. Why? The fabric isn’t all that flexible, especially for characters who are constantly kicking butt. But you can’t deny that imagining a sexy vampire wearing leather pants helps us readers get all hot and bothered and makes it easier to understand the heroine’s attraction to these males.
One of the most glaring example that comes to mind is J.R. Ward’s Black Dagger Brotherhood series, where all the male warriors constantly wear leather, like, all the time!
“Wrath walked over to the closet and looked through the clothes. He took out a black long-sleeved shirt, a pair of leather pants, and —jeez, what was this? Oh, not fucking likely. He was not going to fight in BVDs. He'd go commando before he got caught dead in those things.”
—J.R. Ward, Dark Lover (Black Dagger Brotherhood #1)
Now, how about the heroes’ names? Have you ever noticed how a lot of PNR Heroes have weird or sometimes unpronounceable names? Terrible, Barrons, Zsadist, Sholto, Curran, Tybalt, Eidolon, Zayvion, and Mistral are just a few of the names that come to mind and the list continues!
On one hand, the parade of names I had never heard before can get on my nerves sometimes, but most of the time I am grateful for them. That way, I don’t find myself in situations where I have to make clear which paranormal romance hero I find the hottest, John #1 or John #2. I mean, there is really only one Curran or Terrible, isn’t there?
I read PNR because of the romance, obviously, and one of my favorite clichés has to be the damaged hero and his need to be emotionally saved by the heroine. Is there anything sweeter or more swoonworthy? Yeah, yeah, if not done correctly, this is one cliché that can go terribly wrong and ruin the whole story, but when done right, it's wonderful. Zsadist from the Black Dagger Brotherhood series by J.R. Ward is the perfect example. No matter how many BDB books come out, I will never forget his and Bella’s story and he will forever be one of my favorite romance heroes ever.
"I was dead until you found me, though I breathed. I was sightless, though I could see. And then you came...and I was awakened.”
—J.R. Ward, Lover Awakened (Black Dagger Brotherhood #3)
These examples of working with, and using, a cliche to make a story that has been told a thousand times sound new and fresh is why so many paranormal romances are among readers' favorites.
Larissa Benoliel blogs at Larissa's Bookish Life and is a Brazilian-Israeli living in Rio de Janeiro. She loves to read Urban Fantasy, Fantasy, and Paranormal Romance. If she’s not online, she’s reading. Usually it's both.