If you read any romance at all, chances are you’ve encountered a supernatural element somewhere, whether it’s a small town’s local psychic or a convenient gathering of superhot preternaturals who protect humans from evil forces.
So what is paranormal romance?
The paranormal romance section at your local bookstore can carry just about everything from books with alpha heroes saving the day, to strong women who aren’t in need of saving, to nefarious murder plots, to vampire babies.
All the elements you love about romance novels —from historical to those with urban fantasy twists—come into play in paranormal romance books. Except with paranormal romance, the tension is farther elevated by bringing in the forbidden desire of supernatural creatures. Vampires, werewolves, demons, fallen angels, faeries might have been scary in your youth, but as an adult, the wild nature and added bad-for-you factor make the preternatural irresistible.
Some authors like perennial H&H favorite J.R. Ward go the route of building whole new cultures for their supernatural beasties. This lets them flourish and behave more brutally without fear of how they might break a human in half (Rhage/Mary aside). For the most part, the vampires in Ward’s Black Dagger Brotherhood series live in their own cloistered world. Vampires feed vampires of the opposite sex. Draining a human doesn’t do them any good, and mostly their goal is avoiding them. By having both beings in the sexual relationship able to feed from one another, these types of paranormal romances allow us to see the added give-and-take in these relationships. As hot as a big strong vampire taking her vein is, by allowing the heroine to physically take from the hero at his weakest—biting, feeding—we see their relationship on even ground. And an alpha male who knows when to submit to his lady? Oh, we like.
In other books we find heroines having to work with their rivals in order to stop a big bad [your worst nightmare here] and then falling in love. (No matter how many shifters are fighting or demons are unearthed, paranormal romances lead to happy endings—both love and, generally, steamy sex. And, really, that’s what you wanted to know, isn’t it?)
Eve Silver’s Otherkin series features warrior women who are determined to protect humans finding themselves working with and falling in love with soul reapers, the most vile of vile. While supernatural elements such as demons, gods and magic fuel the angst and emotional complications, in these types of paranormal romance novels it’s about two people overcoming their differences to find that happily ever after.
And, again, really can’t overstate how sexy the forbidden fruit angle is here. Very important in the paranormal romance realm.
Do you love Regency novels where the hero stakes his claim, says the heroine will be his and only his and threatens other suitors? Then you’ll be on familiar ground when reading about werewolves or other shifters. Animal instincts flare when these guys find their one woman. They may travel in packs—which means dealing with his idiot friends, the PNR equivalent of his drinking buddies at White’s—but when it comes to finding the one, werewolves and other shifters (the lion, panther and cougar shifters are quite nice, too) are focused on marking their mates. Generally this is done sans clothing and with or without a few nips. Once they’ve mated, jealousy flares and shifters will defend what’s theirs—mates, homes, friends. Elements of pride and chivalry are buried in there. Promise.
At the heart of it, paranormal romance isn’t about the biting or the blood or the things that go bump in the night, per se. The genre is about escaping and dealing with deep issues—emotional, social and the like—in a fantastical setting. Real relationship issues played out in a world removed from our own. It allows readers to relate with the safety of being it not being “real.”
OK, so maybe a little bit is about the biting. Maybe paranormal types just like it a little rough?
While Chelsea Mueller runs Vampire Book Club, she won’t turn down a sexy werewolf, demon or faerie. (Her husband often reminds her that she’s taken.)