Paranormal Romance (PR) is one of the fastest growing Sci-Fi/Fantasy sub-genres, the proliferation of which can be partially accredited to the increased use of ereaders. PR is a blend of romance and fantasy, and it would not be unusual for the plot to revolve around a crime. Some confusion exists as to whether some novels are PR or UF (Urban Fantasy)
- I differentiate on the basis of the love story: whether there is a new protagonist in each book or if the same pairing continues and develops over a series of books. The genre has evolved from several places with roots that can be traced back to the Gothic novels of the Romantic period. Popularised in the late 20th century by authors such as Anne Rice or Laurel K. Hamilton (although I doubt either would thank me for the comparison), well known contemporary authors include J.R. Ward and Christine Feehan. The majority of the early books in this genre focused on vampires however of late PR writers have branched out into other preternatural species such as: Werewolves or Werecreatures (Lora Leigh, Shelly Laurenston, Nalini Singh), Angels (Nalini Singh, Susan Ee), Gargoyles (C.E. Murphy), Demons (Larissa Ione), Chimeras (Marjorie Liu), Witches (Kelley Armstrong, Lilith Saintcrow), and Dragons (Gena Showalter, G.A. Aiken, Thea Harrison).
These books are almost entirely written by women for a female readership. Hence, the role that women play in these books and their relationships to their male counterparts is rather interesting. It would be an over-generalization to say that all the characters are weak as many do have fighting skills. For instance J.R. Wards’ Xhex in Lover Mine
is a ‘warrior’ - her role as a fighter causes issues for her partner that must be overcome. Likewise, in Nalini Singh’s Branded by Mercy
, the woman is the more dominant within the pack structure. In this instance her alpha position is temporal as her partner (a younger man) has not yet grown to his full strength. These two examples are rather unusual however; female leads can tend towards whinging, the ‘why is everything bad happening to me?’ attitude*. There is often an emphasis on the fragility of women,
especially when compared to the supernatural creatures, though this is not necessarily a negative thing. For example, the character of Talin in Nailini Singh’s Mine to Possess
was a rape victim and works through some of her issues as the story develops. Lastly, a third positive element from this genre comes courtesy of Laurel K. Hamilton - her central character Anita Blake in at least one instance stops an orgy to ensure all the men involved are wearing protection. In one of her blog posts, LKH shares how she has received letters from fans saying how this story empowered them to ensure protection was worn during sexual exploits.
However, it has been my experience that these examples are the exception rather than the rule. Too many of the female leads suffer from Cinderella Syndrome: they live out their lives waiting to be rescued. The fragility of women within the novels often times is both their strength and the key in freeing the supernatural males from their restrictions, thus the woman holds the ultimate power in the relationship (Christine Feehan’s Dark
series has this particular trait). Regardless of its faults, Paranormal Romance serves its purpose in that it sweeps the reader away from reality, and don't we all need a little fantastical escapism? ~ @emcnicho
*Better not to walk down that dark alley, Bella Swan.
Growth of paranormal romance
Talin Mac Kade