GS vs. STA: A Sci Fi Writer Needs a Romance Education - Stat!

Here’s an unusual request for help from our masterful collective mental library of awesome: Andrew, who has been lurking for awhile, sold a book. Yay, Andrew! Funny thing is, he’s a novelist who’s publisehd 17 novels, mostly Fantasy and Science Fiction. Trouble is, this time he’s being told by the purchaser of his manuscript that he’s written a… paranormal romance.

“Really?!” says Andrew.

“Oh, yes,” sayeth his publisher. “You’ve written a ‘dark historical paranormal fantasy romance.’” AND, hot diggity for Andrew, it’s a series.

But Andrew, he is befuddled, and he is no dummy. Instead of being all, “Eeeeyew I don’t write romance!” he turns to the Bitchery for help. He needs a reading list:

Thing is, since I’ve been a SF/Fantasy writer for the past fifteen years, and not a romance author, my knowledge of the genre is only a few pages deep.

What I’d like is a good crash course in (preferably in-print and/or readily available) books you all think a neophyte (paranormal) romance author should read.  Not only archetypal examples I’d need to be familiar with, but if you’re inclined, a few examples of “Oh God, please don’t do this!”

I asked Andrew for more specific details about his book, because the term “paranormal romance” encompasses as many diverse varieties as the word “food,” and he wrote:


In the first book (finished pending editorial revisions) we are talking werewolves in 13th-Century Prussia at a time when there was a northern crusade against the last European Pagan holdouts. The heroine is a wolfbreed (a more anthropomorphic werewolf with the silver weakness, but w/o the whole lunar cycle thing) who, as the book begins, commits a violent bloody escape from [a] castle.

Werewolves in history: well, one of the best werewolf romances I’ve read was a contemporary, and I love that book so much I might need to go be alone with it: Bitten by Kelley Armstrong does things to the cockles of my soul that I won’t be telling you about.

And while it’s not a werewolf romance per se, the historical setting and the nuanced layers of storytelling are outstanding in Castle of the Wolf by Sandra Schwab.

So – werewolf-ish romance with innovative historical detail? Paranormal romance in uncommon historical settings? Wolfy romance that made you howl at the moon, it was so bad? Bring it – Andrew needs an education, stat!


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  1. 1
    MaryKate says:

    oooh! Congrats, Andrew. Great news, and welcome to the wonderful world of Romance!

    I’d immediately recommend the Gardella Chronicles by Colleen Gleason. While her books don’t have (so far?!) any weres in them, she writes the hell out of historical paranormal. Books are: The Rest Falls Away, Rises the Night and in February (squee), The Bleeding Dusk.

    The other book that springs to mind is CL Wilson’s Tairen Soul series. It has a fantasy bent to it and is pretty epic in nature. Books are: Lord of the Fading Lands and Lady of Light and Shadow.

    Good luck, and welcome

  2. 2
    Janine says:

    My number one recommendation is Shana Abe’s historical paranormal series beginning with The Smoke Thief and continuing with The Dream Thief and Queen of Dragons.  These are about creatures who appear at first glance to be human beings and who can shapeshift to smoke and then to dragon form.

    I also recommend Lisa Cach’s succubus and incubus two-book series Come to Me and Dream of Me

    Linda Lael Miller had an interesing vampire series way back when…

    Susan Squires wrote some good historical parnaomrals. Try Danegeld and The Companion.

    And Jude Deveraux’s A Knight in Shining Armor is a classic of the time-travel genre.

    I’d also suggest reading Charlaine Harris’ Sookie Stackhouse series and Patricia Briggs’ Mercy series beginning with Moon Called.  These are urban fantasy with romantic elements but very popular with romance readers.

    There are surely more I’m not thinking of but this is what comes to mind now, and represents a good spectrum.

  3. 3

    Although not a romance per se, I’d recommend Patricia Briggs’ Mercy Thompson series. Start with Moon Called, then read Blood Bound. The third book, Iron Kissed is out and does a good job with the romance aspect of the stories.

    The two romance authors that write about werewolves in some fashion (but not historical werewolves) are Christine Warren and Lora Leigh. If you want good examples of romances, you can’t go wrong with them. Good luck!

  4. 4
    Gabriele says:

    I’m totally going to read Andrew’s book. Mediaeval castles and werewolves are so much fun. :-)

    Gillian Bradshaw, The Wolf Hunt
    (It goes by The Wolf Within on the UK, I think). It’s a retelling of the old Bisclavret legend.

  5. 5
    Carrie Lofty says:

    No recs, just congrats to Andrew! I’m glad to see he’s embracing his inner romantic. We need more menfolk hanging around coz the bitches, we get lonely.

    But I’m curious: will Andrew get take girly pseudonym?

  6. 6
    Wendy says:

    I’m going to second the Susan Squires and Lisa Cach recs.  Also want to mention Karen Harbaugh’s Night Fires and Dark Enchantment.  These came out on the cusp of the huge paranormal romance boom, are set in France, and are darker in tone.  They’re not in print at the moment, but you can buy copies for $0.01 on Amazon.

  7. 7
    RfP says:

    Emma Holly is a big name in paranormal, steampunk, and erotic romance.  One of her series is about medieval werewolves (upyr).  I think they all have “…Midnight” titles—Hunting Midnight, etc.

    On the urban fantasy/romance cusp, a couple of Kim Harrison’s early Rachel Morgan books are very strong—they have a similar audience to Kelley Armstrong’s Bitten.

    You might consider some straight-up (non-paranormal) historical romances.  I’m not sure what other periods you may write in….  Patricia Gaffney’s Victorian romance To Have and To Hold has elements of a modern witch-hunt (though it’s absolutely not paranormal).

    BTW, this isn’t romance, but Kit Whitfield’s Benighted (Bareback in the UK) is a modern werewolf story with a very interesting backstory involving the Inquisition.  I quoted a little of the history here.

  8. 8
    JaimeK says:

    Andrew – rock on!

    Not a historical, or hysterical as I call them (and I love them), Keri Arthur has a series starting with Full Moon Rising.  The wolves in this series are tied to the lunar cycle, but she does a wolf very well.  I would also, as someone already has, recommend Patricia Briggs’ Mercy series – that woman knows wolf.

    Happy reading…Peace.

  9. 9
    jmc says:

    More votes for Kelley Armstrong and Patricia Briggs.  Another werewolf series worth checking out is the trilogy begun (but never finished) by Donna Boyd.

  10. 10
    J-me says:

    I third, fourth and/or fifth the Mercy novels by Briggs. Well written without too many love interests or the agony of decision being drawl out too much. She also handles the family structures nicely and the Alpha Males (which you def have to have) are believable. Um… Alice Borchardt’s first 2 novels are good christian/pagan novels – Beguiled and Devoted (Google books has a nice synopsis) – and handle the history without slapping you in the face with TMI every page.

    If you really want to know what to stay away from, go back and read the Laurell K Hamilton complaints.

    As a reader of scifi I am rackign my brain thinking of an author with the of Andrew and I’m not coming up with one though for some reason I’m visualizing cover spines from when I worked at BN.  Can I ask what titles he’s published?

  11. 11
    Lorelie says:

    Gah!  This thread has me desperately trying to remember the author or titles of a three brother werewolf series.  I read two of them, the Lord brother and the Gypsy brother, and I think they were Regency period.  Definitely England.  The family has a curse on them that’s somehow lessened by Twu Lurve. 

    Not sure I’d recommend them, but it’s bugging me that I can’t remember.

    And I might be ridiculed for this (in a fun way, I’m sure) but I’ve got to recommend Sherrilyn Kenyon’s Night Play.

  12. 12
    Gabriele says:

    Alice Borchardt, The Silver Wolf / Night of the Wolf / The Wolf King
    (Werewolves and shapeshifters in Italy during the time of Charlemagne)

    I admit I haven’t read the books because of the very mixed reviews (the time is well researchd, the time is badly researched, the heroine is a whimp, no she isn’t, her style is clunky, her descriptions are lovely …) and the fact that, living in Germany, I can’t simply have a look at them in a store but need to order via

    But maybe some Bitches have read them.

  13. 13

    Thanks for all the attaboys :)

    I actually have the first two Mercy Thomson books, read #1, #2 is on the TBR pile.  Like it enough that I’m definitely getting #3. (I actually use Briggs’ titles to prove my thesis that the same book, if it’s shelved with fantasy will get a hot babe on the cover, same book on the romance shelf gets you man-titty.)

    I also got some Kelly Armstrong titles from my editor, reading No Humans Involved right now.

  14. 14

    As a reader of scifi I am rackign my brain thinking of an author with the of Andrew and I’m not coming up with one though for some reason I’m visualizing cover spines from when I worked at BN.  Can I ask what titles he’s published?

    Well I’ve written predominantly as “S. Andrew Swann” with a couple books as “S. A. Swiniarski,” my given name.

    If you want a bibliography you can go here.

  15. 15
    papertiger says:

    I second Bitten. Apparently there’s a whole series which I haven’t read (yet). Also, Diana Pharaoh Francis book The Cipher as well as her Path of Fate series.

    Which makes me want to ask – Francis’ books all have very strong romance elements. Why are her books under Fantasy while Andrew’s being classified as a romance? Makes the brain ponder. Should there even be “paranormal romance,” “suspense romance” etc., or should they be considered just paranormal, suspense, etc.? Why is it when there’s love in a story, it has to be classified as a romance?

    Not that I’m complaining, mind you (at least, I don’t think I have anything to complain about?) Personally, I think it’s much more convient this way. But I still wonder.

  16. 16
    SonomaLass says:

    Many congrats, Andrew!

    I’m not as much a romance reader as I am a SciFi/Fantasy reader, but there are a few books not yet mentioned in this thread that I think handle romance between humans and paranormal beings pretty well. 

    I’d recommend the YA series by Stephenie Meyer (Twilight/New Moon/Eclipse); the main romance is human-vampire, but the “other man” is a werewolf and there are some interesting takes on the romance angle.  I’m also enjoying the ongoing romance angle in Jim Butcher’s Dresden Files books. Again, there’s more vampire than werewolf, but the interplay is great. The second book of that series, Fool Moon, features werewolves and several interesting romances.

    Thanks for asking, Andrew—smart bitches like to be asked!

  17. 17
    Anna says:

    I second the Shanna Aba, her books work on every level.

    For stuff to avoid doing? Well jeez…Christen Feehan, but her books sell and are like crack—-one time is all that it takes and you end up reading her whole catalogue. Keep to her Carpathian novels.

    For other authers who write stuff with changeling/paranormal goings on and do it well: Kresley Cole and Marjorie MLiu top my list…both have historical flashbacks and info spattered in their books.

    Oh, Rebecca Flander’s “Wolf in Waiting” has a giant dollop of awesome in it. Its one of my favorite wolf-included romances.

  18. 18
    RfP says:

    I found Bitten needed the online prequels.  Once I had that backstory, I loved the werewolf series.  Still don’t love the non-werewolf books, though—partly because Clay & Elena’s relationship gives the wolf books more structure.

  19. 19

    I also recommend Susan Squires.  She does historical paranormals that are very well-written, very original.  I liked The Companion and another one, I think it was The Burning?  The dude gets it on with ice.  Hot.

  20. 20
    Ocy says:

    No recommendations that haven’t been heavily lauded already, but hearty congrats to Andrew, and please let us know when your book is available!  From your description thus far, I’m intrigued…

    verification word: name97
    No, I can’t name 97 paranormal werewolf romances off the top of my head.  Sorry.

  21. 21
    allison says:

    I’d recommend Susan Krinard’s books. They’ve got interesting werewolves in them though they’re set in Canada/Northern US and current day. They’re sometimes awesome, sometimes painful but always interesting.

  22. 22
    Another Deb says:

    Congrats Andrew!!

    Can’t suggest paranormal romance, not my thing. But Ellen Kushner’s The Privilege of the Sword is a fabulous book. Although she’s considered a fantasy writer, this book also fits the romance genre as well. Neil Gaiman gives it a big thumbs up here:
    There’s also Gaiman’s Stardust. Again, not romance genre but certainly fits nicely I think.

  23. 23
    Erin says:

    I have to second the Laurell K. Hamilton series as a no-no, though when I first read them, I think I was okay with the first three in the Anita Blake series. After that the plot just becomes an excuse for rampant, random naughtiness with all manner of werefolk and the undead. And I’ve heard the Merry Gentry (faries) series is worse.

    Other than that, I don’t think I’ve read any wolfy things. Congrats on the novel!

  24. 24

    Big Congrats, Andrew!  Welcome to the world of romance!

    Although they aren’t historicals, try reading anything of the moon series by Lori Handeland (which has werewolves) and Chyenne McCray who does paranormal (demons, fey, witches, etc.).

  25. 25
    kim says:

    Lorelie- OMG I remember those.  Was it Ronda Thompsons Wild Wulfs of London trilogy?

    I didnt read them but maybe someone else here did.

  26. 26

    Congrats, Andrew!

    Gillian Bradshaw, The Wolf Hunt
    (It goes by The Wolf Within on the UK, I think). It’s a retelling of the old Bisclavret legend.

    I totally second this recommendation, even though Bradshaw’s novel is more of a novel with strong romantic elements (speaking in RITA terminology as the first round judging is under way :) ).

    I loved Kresley Cole’s A HUNGER LIKE NO OTHER (not just werewolves, but also bubblegum-chewing valkyries and vampires—wheee!!!). There are also werewolves in Susan Krinard’s PRINCE OF SHADOWS and Lori Handeland’s BLUE MOON. Christine Feehan’s LAIR OF LION (set in Renaissance Italy if I remember correctly) is a Beauty and the Beast story and has a werelion.


    Thanks for mentioning CASTLE, Sarah!

  27. 27
    Nifty says:

    Andrew, I’d recommend you read The Hound and the Falcon trilogy by Judith Tarr.  They’re 20 years old or so, but you should still be able to find the series (all three volumes of the series can be found in an omnibus collection).  Brother Alf is a 13th century monk, known for the beauty of his music.  He’s also a changeling—an elf who doesn’t age.  During the course of the book, he gets caught up in the Crusades (Richard the Lionheart) and meets Thea, a Greek woman and fellow elf who has the ability to shift shape.  I can’t recall what all shapes they take—most often, though, it’s the hound (Thea) and the Falcon (Alf). 

    The series is a fantasy but set in “real” historical times—a hallmark of Tarr’s stories—and it has a strong current of romance throughout, and ends with the requisite HEA for Alf and Thea.  Twenty years ago, when these books were written, there was really no such animal as “paranormal romance”, or I imagine these books would have qualified.

    My fave paranormal series right now is Briggs’ Mercy Thompson series, as has been mentioned by many.  I also like Kelley Armstrong’s werewolf books.

  28. 28
    MplsGirl says:

    Hi Andrew, Congrats.

    Yup. It’s Rhonda Thompson’s Wild Wulfs of London series. I read the first volume recently. It was pretty good.

    You might try Jacqueline Frank. Jacob is the first in her series.

    I find Susan Squires uneven. I’ve enjoyed her historicals, but not so much the vampire stuff—one of those was enough for me.

    Wholeheartedly support the Shana Abe Smoke Thief and Dream Thief. The third in the series is just out in cloth, but I haven’t read it yet.

    Nalini Singh does contemp. paranormals—Psy-Changling series—which I recommend: Slave to Sensation is the first.

    Christine Feehan is ok. Her books are original at first, but then it’s just more of the same in volume after volume of each series.

    Another cross-genre writer (sci-fi/paranormal romance) worth recommending is Jacqueline Carey with her Kushiel series.

    Best of luck!

  29. 29
    Joy says:

    Ok, Ok, here are some more suggestions of werewolf titles: Fire Rose by Mercedes Lackey (San Francisco, magician caught in a werewolf spell, turn of the century); Nadya:the wolf chroniclesby Pat Murphy (19th century US, trek cross country); To catch a wolf (and others) by Susan Krinard (set in Western US, late 19th century?).  For modern ones try these authors: C.T.Adams & Cathy Clamp’s Sazi series which starts with Howling Moon, for a younger focus Stephanie Meyer is more YA but her trilogy is very well written with strong romantic elements.  AND OK, an oldie (70’s) from a master of Science Fiction is Poul Anderson’s Operation Chaos—hero is a werewolf with a witch for a wife.  One last guilty pleasure is MaryJanice Davidson—you either love her or hate her stuff—does a whole werewolf subseries try Derek’s Bane for a chuckle.

  30. 30
    Aubrey says:

    I haven’t read any of them yet, but a friend of mine who writes SFR has been poking me for ages to read Carrie Vaughn’s Kittie series. I have the first one in my TBR pile, and plan to get to it some time in the next few weeks. I constantly hear good things about her books, though.

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