Aug 27 2011 12:00pm

In It for the Plot (No, Really): Urban Fantasy and Paranormal Romance Recs

Max = One Tough CookieEvery so often, a debate starts among bloggers and authors as to what exactly defines PNR and UF and what are the differences. For me it’s simple: Paranormal Romance (PNR) is a romance novel based upon supernaturally gifted people. The key word being ROMANCE. Urban Fantasy (UF), on the other hand, is usually set in an alternative world or time, based on supernaturally gifted people, and romance is almost nonexistent. The main distinction is that romance is foremost with PNR and not with UF.

Now, I’ll be the first to admit I am a self-proclaimed plot girl. While I do not mind romance in my novels (obviously, or I wouldn’t read erotica), but I must have a plot and am willing to sacrifice romance for that. Some of my favorite authors seem to feel as I do and have characters who spend more time fighting than smooching.

Moonshine by Rob ThurmanRob Thurman writes three fantastic UF series. The Cal Leandros series, the Chimera series, and the Trickster series. In the Cal Leandros series, Cal and his brother Nikos are like a supernatural version of a Terminex company. They get rid of what bothers the supernatural while trying to control Cal’s dual nature. While romance is not absent from here—Nikos has a vampire girlfriend and Cal has been known to have sex—the storyline does not revolve around it. Same goes for her Chimera series. In here, brothers Stephan and Michael are hiding from the Institute who had kidnapped and genetically altered Michael. This series spends more time exploring their relationship and fighting the Institute then playing kissy face with the chicks. While her Trickster series seems a bit more sexy, romance still takes a distinct backseat to the main plot and your never left wondering at the end—will so-and-so get together?

D. D. Barant has a fabulous Urban Fantasy series called the Bloodhound Files. Jace Valchek is an FBI profiler who is kidnapped and taken to an alternative version of Earth where humans are the minority. Jace cannot go home till she rids the alternative world of a human serial killer. As we follow Jace through her investigations, there are hints of romantic connections and actually one off-the-page sex scene, but romance is nothing more then a faint lingering wisp in the storyline and arc.

Storm Front by Jim ButcherTwo of my favorite male Urban Fantasy authors are Jim Butcher and Simon R. Green. In Mr. Butcher’s The Dresden Files we meet Harry Dresden. A wizard with a heart of gold and a penchant for trouble, Harry uses his talents to help solve crimes in the Windy City.  While Harry has fallen in love in the series,  he spends more time fighting evil and saving his friends than playing Lothero. Same with Mr. Green’s hero, John Taylor, from his Nightside series. John, a pseudo private eye, has a knack for finding things and has no problem entering the dark alternate world of Nightside to do so. With Nightside’s ever changing persona and rules, John often finds himself smack dab in the middle of trouble

Mark Del Franco also writes an interesting non romantic series called the Conner Grey series. Conner Grey is a druid and former mage whose powers were crippled by an environmental elf. Conner investigates crimes that taste of magic while he tries to unblock his powers. Betrayal and deception play a main role in here.

Magic Bites by Ilona AndrewsNow there are some UFs that to me straddle the line between UF and PNR after the second or third book of the series. The Kate Daniels series is one of them. Written by the dynamic wife-and-husband team Ilona and Gordon Andrews as Ilona Andrews, the Kate Daniels series starts out as a Urban Fantasy. Kate is a tough no nonsense merc who struggles to stay alive and under the radar as she works her way towards a life altering goal. By the third book, an important male lead is solidified as a main protagonist and the romance begins to play more of a lead in the storylines. There are also other couples who’s on going relationships have begun to take a lead in the main arc.

Another line straddler for me in Patrica Briggs’s Mercy Thompson series. Her storyline has begun to slowly revolve less around just Mercy and her battles and more around Mercy and Adam, now her mate. The last book, River Crossing, really shook up the storyline as it focused mainly on the relationship of Mercy and Adam and the main plot came in a distinct second place to the romance of these two characters.

So tell me, what are some of your favorite UFs?


Tori Benson, Smexybooks and at Twitter.

Subscribe to this conversation (must be logged in):
Kat Jordan
1. KatJordan
I like the Dark Fever series by Karen Marie Moning. Though I'm not sure which end of the UF - PRN spectrum it belongs in.
Carmen Pinzon
2. bungluna
A series that I love is C.E. Murphy's Urban Shaman. This one has some romance but the action always takes precedent.
3. Archmandratr
I'm a big fan of the new Kevin Hearne Iron Druid series, as well as Harry Connolly's Twenty Palaces series.
4. torifl
KatJordan-I think Kmm's series is in a class by itself. lol

bungluna-I loved that series till the last one. Now I'm on the fence about it. It's not advancing as much as I'd like it to

Archmandratr-I have Kevin Hearne on my TBR; I really need to start that one. Haven't read harry Connolly's series but will look into it. Always looking for more UF. :)
5. Sara Anne
Jim Butcher & Rob Thurman are my top two favorites. Other good plot-based ones are Harry Connolly's Twenty Palaces (who made Butcher up his game!), Kevin Hearne's Iron Druid Chronicles, Richard Kadrey's Sandman Slim, Nancy A. Collins' Sonja Blue, Kate Griffin's Matthew Swift, and Seanan McGuire's October Daye. I talk about a lot more than that here:
6. CdnMrs
I'm a huge Ilona Andrews and Patricia Briggs fan, but this year I discovered Kevin Hearne's Iron Druid Chronicles and fell head over heels for the witty adventures of Atticus and his faithful Irish wolfhound Oberon. Great writing, fantastic world building and so much fun to read. Diana Rowland's My Life as a White Trash Zombie is another fantastic UF read that I got into this past year.
7. AMG
Amen to the Harry Connolly 20 Palaces series. Everybody read this series. No romance, just good characters, humour, action, mystery and magic. I also like Stacia Kane's Downside books. Gritty, mean, magic, worldbuilding and romance. Good combo.
8. ElenaGwynne
I love the Patricia Briggs series, and I've heard a number of recommendations for some of the other ones you've mentioned. Definitely going to have to check them out some time soon.

One tiny quibble: the most recent book (at least in Canada) in the Mercy Thompson series is River Marked, not River Crossed.
Tara B
9. box5angel
I'm a huge lover of Paranormal romance but I have read some urban fantasy though but prefer pr. I have to have romance in just about anything. lol

So, I really don't have any uf to recommend but one. It eventually turns into an pr with a lot of uf left in it.

The Dark Days series by Jocelynn Drake.
10. Joseph Devon
As an author (and fan) of UF it's nice to see bloggers starting to draw some clear lines between PR and UF. For awhile it seemed like every UF blog I went to reviewed nothing but books where vampires have sex with vampire hunters.
It was getting a little strange... :)
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