Mar 1 2013 12:30pm

Paranormal Romance 101: Ward, Ione, Singh, Kenyon, and Frost

Paranormal romance guyHave you stuck a toe in the paranormal romance waters and found yourself wanting to sink to its depths?

It’s understandable. There’s a brilliant escapism with paranormal romance. The swooning is there, as you expect, but most everything is on a grander scale. The alpha males are turned up to eleven, thanks to their non-human status. The black moments involve fighting against one’s nature and/or being forced to accept it. More often than not there’s blood.

And a whole lot of primal passion. Who doesn’t want that?

If you’re one the road to becoming a paranormal romance aficionado, let H&H show you where to start. Here are some of the quintessential PNR series; these are the books you’ll find fans reference all the time. The ones we compare new authors to and the ones we re-read.

And, yes, it’s more than just vampires.

Dark Lover by J.R. WardWe’ll start with the big one: J.R. Ward’s Black Dagger Brotherhood. If you’re a regular Heroes & Heartbreakers reader, then you know, everyone who works here—even the dude—gets into this series. We love the men, we love the women (mostly) and as the series progresses, we love the family drama. It has slang that will make you shake your head and names spelled extra special, but it’s all part of the charm.

The first several books are pure paranormal romance. The men in these books aren’t just vampires, but the warriors for their race. They’re bigger and extra lethal. Loyalty is paramount for the members of the Black Dagger Brotherhood. The nice twist here is that vampires only feed from other vampires. Human blood doesn’t do it for them. That means lots of vampire-on-vampire biting during sex.

The core of each story is the vampire male finding his love and trying to deal with it. The acceptance that someone is more important than himself and, at times, than the Brotherhood. Making the kind of life-altering decisions that come along with love. There’s less of a question about if she’s the one, here, because their mate emits a bonding scent. It’s a common PNR feature, and that scent only drives them further in to the romantic madness.

Fans of category romance will be pleased to know enemies-to-lovers is a popular paranormal romance trope, too. One of the must-read examples is Larissa Ione’s Demonica series. The first book Pleasure Unbound lays it out nicely. Demons and other supernatural types exist. There are half-brothers who are all part incubus, and they run a hospital for all kinds of ‘other.’ In the first book, we meet a woman whose job is to kill demons. And sure enough, she and one of those sexy demons find themselves drawn to one another. And hate it. They’re trying to kill each other while also frequently finding themselves naked together.

The trope doesn’t stop at the first book. The challenges of breaking down preconceived notions about various species (shifters, demons, etc.) and overcoming prejudice and past hurts to be able to love is key in the Demonica series. Also, the heat level is high in these books. Remember, you have demons who need sex. So expect a whole lot of it.

Slave to Sensation by Nalini SinghYou’ll find plenty of shifters in paranormal romance. If you think you might want to find out just how animalistic your tastes run, try Nalini Singh’s Psy-Changeling series. The Changeling part in that title means shifter—more than just wolves here, folks—and that means you’ll get to see them predatory and possessive. The pack mentality of animals crosses over into human dynamics when it comes to shifter books.

You like ‘em bossy? Try an alpha male. What’s nice about Nalini’s books is she makes sure the heroine can dish it out, too. Even if she isn’t experienced in romance, the Psy/Changeling heroines won’t let aggressive men push her around. As an added bonus: pack mentality also equals family sensibilities. You like a hero who likes kids? Find yourself a shifter.

Because being preternatural isn’t enough, we find so many PNR heroes immersed in war. The heroes of Sherrilyn Kenyon’s Dark-Hunter books stand guard to protect humanity from everyone who wants to take it down. Not an easy task. The series features lots of mythology—so many gods!—and great Southern styling. Each book features another ancient warrior protecting mankind and finding some serious HEA action in the process.

One Foot in the Grave by Jeaniene FrostFinally, while the first book in Jeaniene Frost’s Night Huntress series might be classified as urban fantasy, from the second book onward it’s straight-up romance. It makes this list because if you’re going to be a paranormal romance reader you need to be familiar with Chapter 32. Friends will cite it just like that. To be in the know, you’ll need to read One Foot in the Grave, the second Night Huntress book.

The series features half-vampire Cat and Master vampire Bones as they struggle with vampire politics, ghosts and learning to be a couple amid all the chaos. In the famous Chapter 32, you’ll discover the powers of vampire venom during sex via some—ahem—strategic biting.

This list, of course, could go on and on. Other essential paranormal romance series include Kresley Cole’s Immortals After Dark, Gena Showalter’s Lords of the Underworld, Lara Adrian’s Midnight Breed, and Lynsay Sands’ Argeneau.

Already a paranormal romance addict? Tell us which books you think are a must for any PNR fan.


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.

Subscribe to this conversation (must be logged in):
1. Tammye
Shelly Laurenston's Pride Series and G.A. Aiken's Dragon Series (same author), Ilona Andrews' Kate Daniel's series
2. tullisjen
Tammye, those are excellent additions. Jennifer Ashley has a dragon series that is worthy. Jocelyn Drake has a vampire series that is urban fantasty mostly, but there is definitely romance between the 2 leading characters. I love the romance between Adam and Mercy in Patricia Brigg's Mercy Thompson Series.
3. ChelseaMueller
@Tammye and @tullisjen - Women of my own heart! You've both added urban fantasy books to the list. While the post was kept strictly to PNR, you're so right that the romance elements in urban fantasy are some of the best. *thinks about Chess and Terrible from the Downside Ghosts series*
4. Kareni
I'll add Thea Harrison's books to the mix. (Or are those urban fantasy? I'm unclear as to the difference.)
5. ChelseaMueller
@Kareni - Elder Races are paranormal romance. If the main storyline is about the hero and heroine getting together, it's a romance. :) Dragon Bound was exceptional, too.
6. Morgan King
I have read all these writers and love nearly all of them. Being such an avid reader it's hard to find new writers that meet the same standards. Thea Harrison was my find of 2012 and I can highly recommend!!! Of course one of my first introductions to the paranormal world, I don't think mentioned above, was Christine Feehan. Another Christine who has some good stories, especially if you like the lighter side (Say Lyndsay Sands) is Christine Warren with her 'others' series. Lora Leigh and her Breeds series for the more erotic.
8. cpetrie
I love Lynn Viehl's Darkyn books. :)
10. CdnMrs
Patricia Briggs' Merceder Thompson or Alpha/Omega series.
11. pcolad
Sookie Stackhouse series and Onyx series are both great.
12. Pitterpatter
I just discovered Lauren Dane's Bound By Magick series. Excellent books!
Cheryl King
14. fotofix
OMG! It's been so long since I read the Bones/Cat books, but still, I can't believe I forgot about chapter 32!! I just went back and read it again and Good Lord! Just makes me realize how hard it is to find comparable series/authors when I'm caught up on my faves. And yes, you mentioned all my faves. :-) Geez, I've been reading some really weak crap lately! Time to re-read... AGAIN! (I've probably read the BDB series 5 or 6 times - I re-read when a new ones coming out) Same with Demonica, I LOVE that series! Dark Hunter has too many to go all the way back, and when Kenyon switched gears about two books back and went with a whole new pantheon and left Ash and others completely out of the books I stopped reading. If she picks up with the Ash/Nick et al story line again, I'm in. Haven't tried the Psy/Changeling.
15. Shelly E
Alexandra Ivy and Alexis Morgan also write some top-notch paranormal romance!
16. Kate B
Eileen Wilks Lupi novels are incredible. Love the evolution of the love story between Lily Yu and Rule Turner. She's not crazy about falling for a lupus (werewolf) and discovers some dragons and tigers in her own family tree. I also adore Nalini Singh's Archangels/Hunter's Guild paranormal romances in addition to her Psi/Changling series.
17. Sandy Downing
I checked off every book on your list and loved them all. But I'd like to recommend another paranormal series that seem to always get left out. And that would be the Highlander series by KMM (Karen Marie Moning). Know one seems to remember that she wrote anything but the Fever series, yet from the first chapter of "Beyond the Highland Mist" I was so hooked. As far as the heat index, I'd give it a 12!! Yes, it was just like that. Check it out. You'll enjoy it.
18. Rachael Long
Terry Spear - Heart of the Wolf, Heart of the Jaguar, & several more; Kate Baxter - The Last True Vampire; Paige Tyler - X-OPS. I got several new authors from the comments on this page :) Many Thanks for the shares!!!
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