Apr 2 2011 10:00am

Easy as Alpha, Bite, Curran: Cliches in Paranormal Romance

Wesley Snipes as BladeKick-ass heroines in leather, the old-as-dust vampire that’s still sexy and captures the heart of the young protagonist, the tortured hero that needs the heroine’s love to heal...these are but a few of the innumerous clichés we find in paranormal romance novels.

But clichés are what they are for a reason: they work. In fact, more often than not, they are definitely one of the reasons this genre is such in high demand nowadays.

Let's start off with one of my favorite clichéd heroes: the possessive alpha male. He can be a vampire, a shifter, wizard, or even a fairy prince, but the alpha male is an unchangeable staple in the PNR genre that I doubt that there’s a PNR fan out there that doesn’t have a favorite one; I know I do.

Magic Bites by Ilona AndrewsIt's impossible for me to pick just one, so I’m mentioning two of my most favorite alpha males ever: Curran from Ilona Andrews’ Kate Daniels series and Bones from the Night Huntress series by Jeaniene Frost. Two amazingly hot and lovable heroes who personify the term “alpha male”:

“No, you’re not going with him.”

I crossed my arms. “Who decided that?”

He put on his “I’m alpha and I’m putting my foot down” expression. “I decided.”

—Ilona Andrews, Magic Burns (Kate Daniels #2)

and then,

“She's my kitten, and no one else's.”

—Jeaniene Frost, One Foot in the Grave (Night Huntress #2)

Another cliché that comes to my attention in PNR novels and series is the wardrobe, especially the heroine’s and hero’s obsession with leather. Why? The fabric isn’t all that flexible, especially for characters who are constantly kicking butt. But you can’t deny that imagining a sexy vampire wearing leather pants helps us readers get all hot and bothered and makes it easier to understand the heroine’s attraction to these males.

Dark Lover by J.R. WardOne of the most glaring example that comes to mind is J.R. Ward’s Black Dagger Brotherhood series, where all the male warriors constantly wear leather, like, all the time!

“Wrath walked over to the closet and looked through the clothes. He took out a black long-sleeved shirt, a pair of leather pants, and —jeez, what was this? Oh, not fucking likely. He was not going to fight in BVDs. He'd go commando before he got caught dead in those things.”
—J.R. Ward, Dark Lover (Black Dagger Brotherhood #1)

Now, how about the heroes’ names? Have you ever noticed how a lot of PNR Heroes have weird or sometimes unpronounceable names? Terrible, Barrons, Zsadist, Sholto, Curran, Tybalt, Eidolon, Zayvion, and Mistral are just a few of the names that come to mind and the list continues!

On one hand, the parade of names I had never heard before can get on my nerves sometimes, but most of the time I am grateful for them. That way, I don’t find myself in situations where I have to make clear which paranormal romance hero I find the hottest, John #1 or John #2. I mean, there is really only one Curran or Terrible, isn’t there?

I read PNR because of the romance, obviously, and one of my favorite clichés has to be the damaged hero and his need to be emotionally saved by the heroine. Is there anything sweeter or more swoonworthy? Yeah, yeah, if not done correctly, this is one cliché that can go terribly wrong and ruin the whole story, but when done right, it's wonderful. Zsadist from the Black Dagger Brotherhood series by J.R. Ward is the perfect example. No matter how many BDB books come out, I will never forget his and Bella’s story and he will forever be one of my favorite romance heroes ever.

"I was dead until you found me, though I breathed. I was sightless, though I could see. And then you came...and I was awakened.”

—J.R. Ward, Lover Awakened (Black Dagger Brotherhood #3)

These examples of working with, and using, a cliche to make a story that has been told a thousand times sound new and fresh is why so many paranormal romances are among readers' favorites.


Larissa Benoliel blogs at Larissa's Bookish Life and is a Brazilian-Israeli living in Rio de Janeiro. She loves to read Urban Fantasy, Fantasy, and Paranormal Romance. If she’s not online, she’s reading. Usually it's both.

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Eva / TXBookjunkie
1. Eva / TXBookjunkie
So true, Larissa! Great examples too. These cliches definitely work for me since a large part of my library and to-buy list is full of PNR.
Eva / TXBookjunkie
2. wont
Larissa, what excellent taste you have! Both Jeaniene and Ilona offer an embarrassment of riches in the alpha catagory. Bones is legend, but, I will have to substitute Mencheres for my pick. Curran is King of the Jungle for good reason, but, I feel more drawn to Jim and/or Doolittle. It's good there are enough to go around! These authors just...know!
Larissa Benoliel
3. larissa_sarah


My library and TB is too! LOL


Thanks! I love their books too!! You are right, there are a lot of ALPHA males to go around LMAO
Eva / TXBookjunkie
4. SharonS
Laurel K. Hamilton's Anita Blake books read like one big cliche'. Especially Jean-Claude the vampire. Her characters have some of the most unusual names like, Wicked and Truth (brothers), Micha, Requiem.
Carrie Strickler
6. DyslexicSquirrel
PNR is slowly eeking out all other genres in my life. I use to be strictly historical (which I still love, at least from certain authors), and I'm not really sure why. I've always loved me some paranormal when it comes to tv and movies. Apparantly, I had my head in the sand as far as books go.

Moning, Ward, Viehl, Cole, Kane... the list goes on and on. I love them, cliches and all! Actually, especially the cliches. Give me an alpha male or an emotinally damaged hero and I melt into a puddle of goo. Read: Barrons and Terrible. Or anything involving Butch. Or Vishous. (I just finished reading Lover Unleashed, I have BDB on the brain)

And as much as I love a hero in leather, I also love a man who dresses in impecably tailored suits. Again, Read: Barrons. And Butch. lol

Oh! And Declan Chase, the berserker from Cole's latest novel? Hubbahubba.
Larissa Benoliel
7. larissa_sarah

LMAO I just finished LU too, so i totally get the feeling hahahahaha

Love Barrons and Butch's dress codes hahahah =D
Carrie Strickler
8. DyslexicSquirrel

I've been popping off BDB references since a week before I even bought the books and my friends just kind of look at me and shake their heads lol

Ah, man. The scene with Butch's leather coat... before the thing (I don't want to spoil anything) happened? I totally admit my mind went on vacation for a minute hahahaha
Larissa Benoliel
9. larissa_sarah

LMAO i can imagine! Its gonna be so long until the next one, but we're finally getting Thor's story! I cant wait! =D
Carrie Strickler
10. DyslexicSquirrel

I can't wait, but that is going to be one bittersweet book, I think. Too long a wait, although any amount of time would be too long lol
Eva / TXBookjunkie
12. Jessa Slade
I agree. There are just some images or characteristics that WORK and I won't be happy without them. In the same way, I don't care how many dukes are running around Regeny England, I still love dukes. And if we could put the duke in black leather... ;)
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