Feb 20 2011 9:00am

Beyond Para“normal”: Redefining the Edge in Paranormal Romance

What, Is This Supposed to Shock Us?

Just how many different types of supernatural beings have you encountered over the last year? In paranormal, it seems, even those bloodsucking, sun-fearing, garlic-hating vampires are run of the mill. And there are more and more paranormal books crowding the shelves; apparently we readers can’t get enough, and now that Hollywood has jumped on board, the entire genre is realizing the biggest boom since Bela Lugosi did his thing as Dracula in 1931.

I acquire at least 30 paranormal books—sometimes 40—a month, and I certainly don’t get everything that’s out there. The most recent creatures to join my mile-long stack are the winged vampire warriors in Caris Roane’s Ascension.One must wonder, as I did, whether—with all the paranormal activity running around our literary world—any condition or affliction could possibly remain unexplored? We’ve pretty much run amuck with the supernatural characters—from shapeshifters to were-panthers to tales of Wiccan and incubi. So what’s next? There are only so many beings that can be dreamed up and in so many different circumstances—right?

No, apparently not! Thankfully, there are a plethora of writers available with plenty of material and new possibilities on the horizon. The newest entry in the supernatural being pantheon are characters with disabilities, according to Romantic Times (Sept. 2010).

Characters with disabilities have long been a trope in other romance genres, and now they are making their way over to the paranormal, supernatural side of things. Arguably, the paranormal character could technically be construed as having a virus of sorts, as our Sookie Stackhouse series Vampires would have you believe, but in whatever world they belong to, they are quite the opposite of disabled. They are significantly “abled” in contrast.

As writers cast the box aside and think in totally new terms, readers may find more of physically challenged human protagonists to feed our need and paranormal thirst (Ahem—pardon the not-so-obvious vampiric pun).  

To Catch A Wolf by Susan Krinard

In Susan Krinard’s paranormal historical novel To Catch A Wolf, released in 2003, Krinard’s heroine Athena is a wealthy, physically handicapped heiress who meets her polar opposite in Morgan, the wolf man of a traveling circus. What they have in common, however, is that they are both werewolves. Athena’s disabilities—in both werewolf and handicapped senses—are integral to the book, and make her character vibrant to the reader. Remember Ascension from earlier? From what you can gather from the video clip, the main character, Alison Wells, places men in grave danger by making love to them. . . . Surely, that has to be considered some type of disability.

The fact is, many of our heroes and heroines from recent years are less godlike and a tad more grounded in reality. These new protagonists are considerably more relatable with everything from socioeconomic issues to low self-esteem to paraplegia. Readers find themselves able to connect with the character on a more personal level than ever before—after all, everyone has a few character foibles, if not outright disabilities. We like reading about people who are like us—even if they also happen to be able to fly, or read minds, or whatever. The number of books in the paranormal genre featuring characters with some form or level of disability is bound to rise, and is breathing new life into the paranormal genre.  


Aliza Mann, email: This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it ,

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Charli Mac
1. CharliMac
I just finished reading Twilight. Where all these teens were near perfection. Hate that.

I remember watching the movie, Daredevil, with Ben Affleck. His blindness was key to his ability and I thought it made a compelling watch for a comic book turned movie.

A friend of mine is writing a romantic suspense where the heroine is deaf. It is such a rich and layered story.

I think real disabilites endear us more to these characters. It's real life we can all relate to.
Megan Frampton
2. MFrampton
I agree--I like the idea behind the X-Men, for example, where the mutant strain makes for superpowers, and for fallibility.
Donna Kissam
3. The Cat Bastet
Kinsale did one in the early 90s with a hero who suffers a stroke, and was some sort of mathematics prodigy before the stroke (And a rake, of course, but ethical as those go) and is thus confined to an asylum since the greedy family believes he's gone mad.

I mean, guy suffers a stroke in the *prologue*. Awesome

Of course a Quaker spinster visiting the asylum just happens to be the only one who can understand him. Or rather, "The Only One Who Can Understand Him."

Quaker spinsters are the best. They generally have nice dads who totes got them an education.
Aliza Mann
4. AlizaMann
@The_Cat_Basket - I've never read that, but it sounds uberintriguing! Do you know the name? Author? I would love to read it.
Megan Frampton
5. MFrampton
@AlizaMann: It's Flowers From The Storm by Kinsale. Many people cite it as their favorite romance novel--either that or Lord of Scoundrels by Loretta Chase.

Hm, I smell a new blog post!
Aliza Mann
6. AlizaMann
@meganf - Thank you much! I will for sure be reading it, and why yes! I believe you just used your EBP (extra-bloggery-perception) powers on that call! LOL
Laura K. Curtis
7. LauraKCurtis
I have to say, I wish the shelves weren't so full of paranormals. I really only read the ones with psychics. I don't like fangs or fur. But if I were going to read paranormal, I'd go for one with a disabled hero. The "super-ness" of vampires and werewolves is part of what I don't like about them.
Donna Kissam
8. The Cat Bastet
You could probably get some people to go to the mat over Flowers from the Storm vs. Lord of Scoundrels. I would have difficulty, but would probably go with Lord of Scoundrels, which...that's just a perfect book. Kinsale *overall*, body of work, I prefer her, and while I like Loretta Chase fine the rest of her work...well, it's no Lord of Scoundrels.

A few months back a Real Live Heterosexual Boy asked me to suggest some romance novels to him. I think he thought he might start a blogging experiment. I told him for moderns, Bet Me, and for historicals, Lord of Scoundrels. Yes, I sent the big guns after him. Seems so unfair, eh? He came limping back to me for more, and actually said that Bet Me was the most romantic thing he'd ever encountered in his life and Lord of Scoundrels made him feel *understood*. And if you've read LoS you know why. I think it would make a lot of guys feel understood.

I think paranormal is here to stay because really...look, I make good $$, have enormous control over my own life, my destiny, make my own choices. I want the feeling, when I read romance, that the hero is somehow...bigger than life. Well, when my mom was growing up, a heart surgeon or Greek shipping magnate? Much bigger than her life. To me, that's life-size. Rich, but not *big*. I pay my own damn rent, rich doesn't equal big for me. I remain...unimpressed. I need my hero to *impress* me.

So, supernatural heroes..they function like the aristocracy in historicals. They just *are* "more." They were born/turned that way. They can live at any socioeconomic level, but they're still "more." The author will also often construct a feudal and/or courtly world for her supes, so she gets to work with modern times except with knights or Dukes or whatever.

I don't like fangs and fur per se, though. I really don't like fur at all. I can deal with fangs but have to ignore it when bloodplay (drinking or otherwise) is substituted for sex. Really, demons and angels and gods and fae are much better for me. No one has managed to do anything good with angels *yet*, though. Welll, except Castiel on Supernatural.

It's strange that I have this absolute hatred for All Things Were (they are cats and dogs, not people, eww), yet was totally into the 9 foot tall red-eyed six-horned clawed heart-and-marrow-eating demon that my beloved Barrons turned into, but Barrons is a Magnificent Bastard. Maybe it's because I assume it's possible for weremonsters to not smell like wet dog or have cat food breath. That's always in the way when I am forced to deal with werecanines or werefelines.
Keira Gillett
9. Keira
I wouldn't have guessed it myself until one of my reviewers sent me a book review with just such a character. I like blind characters (sometimes just temporary) because other senses get explored.
12. Jimyjames
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