I've hated vampires ever since a friend gave me Stephen King's Salem's Lot for my birthday in 1976 and I spent the next month waking up every night from a vampire-related nightmare. Or perhaps longer (My therapist has a theory about this).
I'm not crazy about werewolves, shape shifters, demons—you know, the whole pantheon of not-human inhabitants of romance novels. In fact, I don't get the allure of this sub-genre.
But—and you knew there was a “but” coming, didn't you?—I don't have a real problem reading about humans with paranormal powers. Maybe I'm just a species-ist. I especially enjoy Historical Romance with said humans. But these powers have to successfully integrated into the characters and plot to work for me.
Mary Jo Putney's Guardian series works; this series takes place in Georgian England and Scotland (although we do see them at work during Elizabeth I's reign in the novella Alchemical Marriage in Irresistible Forces).
The Guardians are mages, endowed with special abilities, who have pledged to use their powers to protect England. From the very first, these books convinced me that the Guardians' magical powers were an integral part of who they were. The first book, A Kiss of Fate, pairs a powerful Scottish Guardian Laird with the daughter of an English Guardian who has shown no sign of having any magic. The unfolding of Gwynne's magic melds seamlessly with the unfolding of the relationship between the two. The story hinges on the magic and yet does not use it as a shortcut to a resolution, which happens all too frequently when magic is a part of the world in which a novel takes place.
Another favorite is Susan Carroll's Dark Queen Series. Beginning with The Dark Queen, this series takes place in France during the Renaissance and revolves around the Cheney sisters, possessed of mystical powers and charged with protecting their home island from the evil that is abroad. Much of this evil resides in the person of Catherine DeMedici, who has her own share of special powers. This dark series is a compelling read. The paranormal abilities are, as in the Guardian series, inextricably linked to the characters and the events. In short, they are believable in the context of the novels.
But my acceptance of magic is not limited to historical romance. Sarah Addison Allen is one of my new favorite authors. Although Allen's books would probably not be classified as romance, they are definitely about relationships. And they are about magic. Her first book, Garden Spells, involves a family with interesting and idiosyncratic magical abilities. Claire Waverley, for example, is a caterer who adds flowers from her garden to her dishes to achieve a particular end: snapdragons to discourage a suitor, pansies, to make people thoughtful. Her cousin (one of my favorite characters) distributes gifts whose use becomes clear only after they are received. The magic in this book is not only deeply entwined with the characters and the plot, it is a primary element in the story. But it is consistent and it is...well...real. Or at least it feels that way.
So, am I a species-ist? Maybe so. I still don't like vampires. What I can tell you is that when paranormal abilities in humans are tightly linked to their character and to the story, and when these powers are not used as shortcuts to the denouement of a novel, I am perfectly happy to accept them as part of the world I am reading about.
Are you paranormally challenged? Do you make exceptions?
The Republic of Pemberley