If you think all paranormal romance is the same, think again. There is a huge difference between the world building of each series and—most importantly, perhaps—how seriously the author takes their characters.
J.R. Ward’s Black Dagger Brotherhood creates a world where vampires live secretly and peacefully among the humans. They eat and drink like humans, and only share blood with their own kind. A diet of human blood would not sustain these vampires for long. The Brotherhood protects the citizens from attacks by the Lessening Society. Lessers might smell like baby powder, but there is nothing innocent about them. Lessers are created by the Omega from violent humans who give up their souls for immortality. The vampire king, Wrath, is the leader of the Brothers and after centuries of life, it appears the Brothers have more emotional scars than physical ones. Even their deity, the Scribe Virgin, is not benevolent. The Brothers know better than to ask her for favors since even the asking can get you killed, but if you ask, you must be willing to pay the pound of flesh she will require of you. For she will save your true love’s life—as long as you promise never to see her again.
If you are looking for a series involving vampires, werewolves and fae that will keep you up at night, then you might want to take a look at Patricia Briggs’s Mercy Thompson series. Mercy tries to keep her head down and out of supernatural business, but lately she has been making more enemies than friends. Mercy is a ‘walker.’ She can shift into coyote form and see ghosts. She is also a garage mechanic. She purchased her garage from her mentor Zee, who is fae. Zee might be like family, but even Mercy knows you never thank a fae or ask for a favor. Mercy may have been raised by werewolves and she may be married to the Columbia Basin’s alpha, Adam Hauptman, but that just means Mercy is more aware than most people just how much closer werewolves are to their animal nature than their human side. Weres may be more naturally aggressive but the beast is still pack-oriented and predictable. It is the vampires who are far more dangerous. The only good vampire, is a dead vampire. The only humans vampires care for are their “sheep” who they keep for the purpose of feeding.
But not all authors believe that paranormal needs to be scary. Some authors use supernatural creatures and their special gifts as an excuse to bring some fun into a story. Kresley Cole’s Immortals After Dark series is all about introducing sexy males to snarky females in a mating dance which is always orchestrated by a three millennium old soothsayer affectionately known as “Nucking Futs Nix.” Nix, the Everknowing (not All-knowing), is working behind the scenes to mix-and-match up as many of the predestined mates of the various preternaturals: valkyre, werewolves, forbearer vampires, witches, berserkers, and the various demonkinds as she can so instead of fighting against each other, they will fight together in the upcoming Accession against the evil horde vampires and other Vertas. The Accession happens every 500 years or so as nature’s way to decrease the immortal population.
Another popular and fun series is written by Kerrelyn Sparks. Her Love At Stake series centers around Romatech Laboratories which is owned and run by millionaire vampire, Roman Draganesti. Romatech Labs was made famous for their invention of artificial blood, which is used in human hospitals, and the lesser known Vampire Fusion Cuisine, which offers a variety of interesting new blood blends for the discriminating vamp, including Chocolood, Bleer and Bubbly Blood for those special vamp occasions. The vamps and weres, including those who work for McKay Security and Investigation, protect humans from the Malcontent vampires who believe it is their right to feed off of humans. Roman met his wife, Shana, a dentist, when he lost his fang biting into something he shouldn’t and the fun hasn’t stopped since.
Molly Harper provides us with twice the fun with two separate series which both provide an odd look at paranormal life. Her Naked Werewolf series features a wolf pack in the cold and beautiful landscape of Alaska. Her Jane Jamison/Nice Girls series features librarian Jane Jamison who is turned vampire after a drunk hunter mistakes her for a deer. Life for the southern supernatural includes a crazy cast of characters in Jane’s sire/boyfriend, the uptight Gabriel, Jane’s best friend, Zeb, and his new werewolf wife, Jolene, who has the face and body of a supermodel and a voice like fingernails against a blackboard, and don’t forget Jane’s Mama who thinks Jane is just being stubborn about not eating her chicken pot pie.
Author Jennifer Harlow gives us the F.R.E.A.K. Squad (Federal Response to Extra-sensory and Kindred Supernaturals), a secret offshoot of the FBI who investigate paranormal attacks. Elementary school teacher, Beatrice Alexander is the most recent hire to the team. She was recruited because she is psychokenetic and immune to some magic. Her team includes their leader, former Detective and now werewolf, William Price, and Bea’s new BFF, obnoxious flirt and vampire Oliver Montrose. As if there wasn’t already enough animosity between Will and Oliver, both men are interested in becoming more than just teammates with Beatrice.
Whether for fun or fright, you might want to think again about an evening with vampires and werewolves before you pick up your next contemporary romance, you might want to think again.
Lucy Dosch writes book reviews for her blog http://ebookobsessed.com. Her e-reader has turned her love of reading into an obsession. When she is not reading, she likes to spend time with her husband and two daughters.