Mon
Oct 21 2013 9:45am

10 Paranormal Romance Novels You Should Read (An Opinionated Opinion)

We’ve talked about the essentials for romance novels in general and the quintessential regency books, so it’s about time we talked about the vampires, demons and shifter that make paranormal romance.

This is not my list of the all-time best paranormal romances. These ten titles are the ones that have had significant influence on the subgenre and the ones every paranormal fan has read—whether they loved it or hated it—they’re where our tropes come from and often epitomize what we expect from our paranormal love stories.

10. Dark Prince by Christine Feehan

Why? Dark vs. Light. Apart the hero and heroine are broken, but together they are able to come alive.

9. Bite Me If You Can by Lynsay Sands

Why? Lynsay Sands injects the fun in her paranormal romance. Bite Me If You Can has the pairing of a newbie vampire and a much older Argeneau vamp. He’s grumpy. She’s independent. The journey is, of course, sexy, but also peppered with humor.

8. The Darkest Night by Gena Showalter

Why? Love as a curse reigns in The Darkest Night. The will-they, won’t-they and the ‘we shouldn’t’ are what make this one worthy of the list. When sex with the one you love means destruction, it definitely ups the forbidden fruit game.

7. Kiss of Midnight by Lara Adrian

Why? Lara Adrian knows how to craft an immortal protector. In Lucan we see a hero who does the borderline-stalker thing in a way that comes off as damn sexy. When he finally gives in to his need to be with this mortal woman, things get even better.

6. Pleasure Unbound by Larissa Ione

Why? When it comes to the best way to do enemies-to-lovers with heaps of angst in paranormal, look to Larissa Ione. Pleasure Unbound in particular leverages the element of immediate, undeniable attraction (sex right away) and then the constant struggle to not do it again (and failing, a lot).

5. One Foot in the Grave by Jeaniene Frost

Why? All your paranormal romance-reading friends are going to talk about Chapter 32. They’re going to say it knowingly. If you haven’t read One Foot in the Grave you have no idea about the awesome vampire sex scene they’re referencing. You want to know this. Promise.

4. Slave to Sensation by Nalini Singh

Why? You want to understand animalistic attraction? The Psy group tries to be stoic. The Changelings are all vibrant emotions. Now imagine when they get together and sparks ignite. Consider Slave to Sensation Shifter romance 101.

3. Lothaire by Kresley Cole

Why? Any of Kresley Cole’s Immortals After Dark books would be good picks, but what makes Lothaire special is Cole’s ability to make a villain into a hero. Not just he’s a bad guy who’s redeemed, but a legitimate villain that has done horrible things… and still finds love. It’s a remarkable feat and you can expect to have your stomach in emotional knots on this one.

2. Acheron by Sherrilyn Kenyon

Why? He’s a god. Literally. He has epic secrets and is trying to, you know, save the world. Acheron has managed to be this ruthless, badass leader and not give anything away. One woman can break that exterior. Their relationship and the war surrounding them makes for more than 700 pages of romance goodness.

1. Lover Awakened by J.R. Ward

J.R. Ward’s Black Dagger Brotherhood books have become the archetype for so many romances, we could have selected just about any of her novels to make this list. She brings together a group of vampire warriors—they’re bigger, stronger and way more alpha than your average supernatural—and lets each broody male find his mate. The big tough guy becomes a protective softie for the right lady.

So, why Lover Awakened? While it’s my personal favorite, that’s not the only reason I've put it at the top of the list. In the third BDB book we discover the most volatile and scary member of the Brotherhood, Zsadist, has a dark past and discover his capacity for love. He does anything and everything to keep his female safe, even if he thinks that means trying to hook her up with his brother instead. The journey is emotional and twisted and so heady that Zsadist and Bella’s journey to a happily-ever-after is the dark version of a storybook romance. It’s the guy from the wrong side of the tracks meeting the girl who’s too good for him, and through her love everyone else realizing there’s so much more to this guy.

Also: Bite-y sex made into a much bigger deal than we’ve seen in other vampire books due to Zsadist’s past trauma.

+Check out more reading recommendation lists:

 


While Chelsea Mueller runs Vampire Book Club, she won’t turn down a sexy werewolf, demon or faerie. Her appreciation of Alexander Skarsgard is well documented. Bother her on Twitter — @ChelseaVBC — she likes it.

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37 comments
scarlettleigh
1. scarlettleigh
I am sure not up on the paranormal genre -- I have only read one out of the ten. Thanks for the list and helping me get up to speed.
Jennifer Proffitt
2. JenniferProffitt
Okay, I'm proud to say that I've read the majority of these books so I feel like I would pass Paranormal Romance 101 pretty easily but I am glad to say I haven't read ALL of them...a girl's gotta have goals! Lynsay Sands was one of my first PNRs and I loved the early days of her Argeneau series when it was still truly fun--it still has its fun moments but not laugh out loud like before. I believe Bite Me If You Can was a book I passed around to a few friends who were romance newbies but like PNR in other circumstances.

Finally, Chelsea, I'm a big fan of Kresley Cole and so I might have been mortally offended had you not included her on your list. I'm so glad you not only included her, but you included one of my favorite books of hers. Great list!
Chelsea Mueller
3. ChelseaMueller
@scarlettleigh - Which one have you read?

@JenniferProffitt - I think we both know that a PNR list without Kresley Cole would just be crazy.

Now the questions: Which books haven't you read and which one will you be picking up first?
scarlettleigh
4. Scarlettleigh
@ChelseaMueller -- Slave to Sensation Not sure which one I would pick up - not too much into angst and hate heroes treating heroines badly - which one would you recommend?
scarlettleigh
5. EmilyF
I have read (and loved) most of the books/series on this list. Nalini Singh, Kresley Cole, Lara Adrian, Larissa Ione and JR Ward all remain auto buys for me.

I tried Christine Feehan and I just couldn't get into Dark Prince...I have always wondered if that series gets better? Do I need to give it another shot?

I also need to get on the Kenyon bandwagon...not sure why I have held out on that series so long. For whatever reason it's stayed in my TBR pile for years.
Jennifer Proffitt
6. JenniferProffitt
@ChelseaMueller: I haven't read Dark Prince by Christine Feehan, nor have I read Acheron. I'm in the baby stages of the Dark-Hunter series, so I might just dive into Dark Prince first since, from what I've been told, Acheron's story is all the better for waiting for it...maybe.
scarlettleigh
7. Arthemise
I can't imagine why anyone reads Kenyon or Showalter. Their purple prose is so awkward to read, and I've read much better stories. Yet they keep getting on these lists. Different people, different tastes, I guess.
Chelsea Mueller
8. ChelseaMueller
@Scarlettleigh - If you like humor, you should try the Lynsay Sands. You might also like the Lara Adrian, but there will be some angst.

@Emily F - I think the Feehan books are pretty consistent. If you didn't connect with Dark Prince, the others probably aren't going to be your thing. However, based on the ones you've called out as liking, you might enjoy Kenyon -- even if you skip ahead and just read Acheron.

@Arthemise - Some of the books on this list are my favorites, others are ones essential to know the genre.

The important thing to remember about this list is that it would make one well-read in the paranormal romance subgenre. Not every book here should be the right fit for every reader, but the goal is to show the ones that make us well-rounded.

While Showalter and Kenyon aren't your taste, you know who they are and I bet are familiar enough with the worlds they've crafted to be able to talk with other romance fans about why you aren't a fan. :)
scarlettleigh
9. tammye
A great list!! All of my favorites and a couple that I haven't read for future PNR fun. Thanks!
scarlettleigh
10. Vikki @ V's Book Life
I've read all of these and whole heartedly agree with your list :)

Christine Feehan was my introduction to PNR like Karen Chance was my intro into Dark/Urban Fantasy (not 100% sure what to classify her as).

I am a little surprised that Thea Harrison didn't appear in the list... I mean DRAGOS!

Zsadist's book is one of my all time favourite books, I mean the series is fantastic but reading Lover Awakened is like eating a slice of decadent chocolate cake. Heavenly, but you know it's going to bite you in the morning when your arse is too big for your favourite jeans :(

Great list :)
Chelsea Mueller
11. ChelseaMueller
@Vikki - Hahaha. I know exactly what you mean about Z's book. Honestly, it's one of the few books I actually re-read.

Also, I thought really hard about including Dragon Bound. I really did, but then decided while it's a new favorite, the others felt more essential to the genre. You're absolutely right that Dragos is what a PNR alpha should be. Nom.
scarlettleigh
12. Mandy Miller
Dragon Bound totally should have been included! I have read all of the books in the series for: 1, 2, 3, 7, 8, 9, and 10. Is that sad?
Chelsea Mueller
13. ChelseaMueller
@Mandy Miller - Having read all the books in a series is never bad! The more the better, I say.
scarlettleigh
14. SueS
Yay - I get a 100! I have read them all. ;) I have read all the Psy books. but I love the Guild hunter series,
Lege Artis
15. LegeArtis
I read all from list, except Acheron and that's only because I'm intimidated by number of books in series. (I know, I deserve this:
)
Nalini Singh is my favorite author from genre. I'm a huuuuge fan.
I love Larissa Ione also. My favorite book from Demonica series is Lore's (fourth), but that whole series was only better and better with every new installment.
I think I would put on my list Dragon Bound by Thea Harrison also.
Great list, Chelsea! :)
Chelsea Mueller
16. ChelseaMueller
@SueS - I'm a bigger fan of the Guild Hunter book, too, but I classify them as urban fantasy, despite the super hot scenes. :D

PS. You have awesome taste.
scarlettleigh
17. Jackie U
Either Bitten or Haunted by Kelley Armstrong should be on here. Those books shown the light on the world of paranormal romance for me. I'd also put Ravenous by Sharon Ashwood on there. That book had me hooked from the get go. When I get home I'll have to stare longingly at my bookshelves and come up with more. :)
Chelsea Mueller
18. ChelseaMueller
@Jackie U - I always think of Kelley Armstrong's books as urban fantasy. There's absolutely a romantic thread, but I never felt it was the main purpose of the book.

That said, you're not alone in urban fantasy books being the gateway to PNR. I started with Sookie Stackhouse before finding my way to the Black Dagger Brotherhood. :)
scarlettleigh
19. Mary Kirkland
I agree, I've read all of these books and loved them. I'm a PNR junkie and it's pretty much all I read.
scarlettleigh
20. Madd
All t he books. I have read them.
Sarah Stultz
21. RVASarah
Boy do I have some catching up to do!
P.S. I think Chelsea's next list should be Essential Urban Fantasy Novels.
scarlettleigh
22. Rockii
Ash's book was something else!!! I think I've pretty much read all the books on this list. Except I haven't read any JR books. Anyone have a suggestion on what I shoukd read first by that author?
Chelsea Mueller
23. ChelseaMueller
@Mary - Nothing wrong with loving the supernatural romance. Plus, fangs = hot.

@RVASarah - Oh, man, essential UF would be HARD! I think I'd have to make it essential urban fantasy for the romance reader. We shall see. :)

@Rockii - J.R. Ward's Black Dagger Brotherhood books are her best. They do build on each other, so it's best to start with Dark Lover, the first book. I should warn you, though, they are very addictive.
scarlettleigh
24. BevD
I haven't read Ione or Frost but I have read all books the series of all the others. Guess I should have a look at the remaining two, then! :)
Carmen Pinzon
25. bungluna
I've samples all the authors on this list. Some just haven't worked for me but I think all of them belong on this list. I would have added Shelly Laurenston for sheer joyful mayhem and Thea Harrison just for Dragos.
scarlettleigh
26. texasbug
I've read about half of them. Read several of Feehan's Dark series but could not get into it, but I like her Sea Haven books. I would strongly recommend that any of these series be read in order. My favorite BDB is Dark Lover. I would not recommend starting Kenyon's books with Acheron's. I love Acheron but his book nearly beat me down. Same with Styxx's book, which just came out. Her earlier ones are better, IMHO. And my very favorite is Kresley Cole. I love the guy who reads her audio books. He makes those Scottish werewolves and Eastern European vampires all sound so SEXY!

I agree about Kelley Armstrong. Main purpose is not romance. I have not cared for what I've read of Gena Showalter either. Love Psy-changeling, not Guild Hunter. I've read all the Cat-Bones books but will have to check out that chapter. My favorite sex scene was from book 4 of Sookie Stackhouse when she was in the shower with Eric. Good series up until book 8 or 9.
Tori Benson
27. Torifl
I'm really surprised not to see Keri Author or Karen Chance on here. Also Shelly Laureston.
Chelsea Mueller
28. ChelseaMueller
@ToriFL - I consider both Keri Arthur and Karen Chance urban fantasy with romance subplots, which is why I didn't include either here.

That's always the tough things about these lists. There's so much blending between UF and PNR, especially with great alpha heroes that are in UF novels.
Tori Benson
29. Torifl
ChelseaMuellur-So true. A lot of PNR starts out listed as UF then eventually morphs into PNR. We were just dicussing this last night with Nalini Singh's Guild Hunter series. Book one was UF but the following books are PNR.
scarlettleigh
30. poppet
Would you classify Eileen Wilks Lupi series as PNR or UF? I think she deserves a mention and what about Kenyon's savage series about shapeshifters? She had 1 short novella that came out years ago before the genre really got going, though her carpathian series took over. Yes, Feehan's sisters and sea haven series is good as well. And what about Jacqueline Frank's nightwalker series - that's also mucho addictive.
scarlettleigh
31. Clara G
Great list - read them all bar the Lynsay Sands. Mostly I have read everything by most if these authors. The exceptions being JR Ward and Christine Feehan

Have tried to get back into Feehan's work but the stilted prose makes me want to bit down on a concrete slab, and I am afraid I lost Ward at Phury's book.
Chelsea Mueller
32. ChelseaMueller
@Clara G - Was it Cormia and her pea crafts that threw you in that Phury's book? Heh.
scarlettleigh
33. SassyT
@ClaraP: That was the beginning of the end, IMO, of JR Ward. I was such a fan of hers before I read Phury's book. That book was a disappointment. And the rest of the books went downhill after that with the exception of Rhev's book which I think was leaps and bounds better than Phury's book. I still haven't read the last one with Qhuay yet (I'm going to but I'm so not feeling her books right now after being let down with Tohrment's book). Okay for some reason this textbox won't let me skip a line and start a new paragraph so this is going to be one long run on...lol. @Chelsea: I've read a lot of these books. I must admit that Zsadist's book is one of my favs. I actually re-read that book several times (his and Rhage's books are the best I think) and I'm not really a book re-reader. Acheron's book just drained me emotionally. I thought it was a good book (not her best but still good). I love Gena Showalter's books...still. I thought Lara Adrian did a smart thing to keep her series going (I loved it but it was getting a bit coventional). I've read most of the authors on this list (I'm a sucker for PNR) but haven't gotten to Singh or Feehan. I've been meaning to but just haven't gotten around to it yet. My TBR list is enormous at this point. And both of them just have so many books that I think I've waited too long to start reading them.
scarlettleigh
34. Tonispinone
I've read all of the series of all of the top 10 except Feehan. I just cannot get into her. I think Shelly Laurenston is one of the best PNR writers out there. Especially if you love humor with your romance. And Patricia Briggs is way up there too with Mercy Thompson and Alpha and Omega. LOVE both these authors.

SassyT I totally agree about JR and Phury's book. Did not like it at all. I haven't liked her last 3 books and have never enjoyed her Fallen Angels. I've read them all because I'm obsessive about keeping up with a series, but I'm definately waiting for paperbacks these days.
scarlettleigh
35. MarciL
Wow! I have read all of them and own nearly all of the books in all those series. I thought the first couple of books in Feehan's Dark series were a little weak, but they get better as the setting and series storyline are more developed and there are more connected characters. That is actually often true for other series. Singh's Psy/Changeling series is one of my absolute favorites. I love Kenyon's Dark Hunter series and have read many of them multiple times (Dance With the Devil is my fav), but Acheron is the one that I have never completely finished. Several hundred pages (and 11000 years) of unrelenting misery got too depressing, so I skipped to the second part in current time. I would consider Jeaniene Frost's Night Huntress series to be romantic UF since the books are mostly about the same couple, and in that genre would suggest Eileen Wilks' Lupi series and Ilona Andrews' Kate Daniels series (for a completely different view of vampires!). All three series are primarily about one couple, but there are side books or novellas about secondary characters and their love interests.
scarlettleigh
36. wolfbit
GREAT list. If you love J R Ward's Black Dagger Brothers, ( I most definately do) you will also love Sherrilyn Kenyon's Dark Hunters! Acheron is the likely the most beloved paranormal character there is. He is like the Brothers, he has faults, but you love him anyway.
Kresley Cole, and Lara Adrian have wonderful characters as well. Kerrelyn Sparks is another one that has good characters. When it comes down to it, these books have very strong characters. No wussie ho- hum males, no bimbo whinny females, strong plots with alot of action, love, mixed with some humor. These books take you on a roller coaster, you laugh, you cry and you can't wait to get the next installment.
I have seen some negativity on some J R Wards books. If we all liked the same thing, the world would be pretty boring. But... that being said, her books have alot of plot, alot of action mixed with love. They are not harlequin romance novels, if that is what you are looking for, then you wont like her books. If you are looking for characters where men are MEN and women are WOMEN, then you will like her's and Sherrilyn Kenyon's books.
scarlettleigh
37. Kori13
I have read all the authors on here and all of the series minus the psy/changling and the dark series. For Singh I prefer the Guild Hunter and Feehan I loved the Game series.(typing on phone sorry for typos). I would agree with he rest of the book except maybe not Zadists. It just wasnt my fav. I gree with phurys book being a complete let down, except for everything other than the main story was great. It was the background that moved the series along. I was doing a search to try and find something new to read while I await The King. Thanks for the suggestions in the comments and i will leave one of my own. Yasmine galenorns otherworld. I think it is considered UF but man there are some smoking alphas
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