Paranormal Romance: Bringing Me Back

In Publisher’s Weekly, as I linked yesterday, there’s an article about paranormal romance, and how, to quote the title, the love affair with the supernatural continues. Trouble is, it doesn’t so much continue with me. I’m vampire exhausted. Were’d out. Utterly overwhelmed by the number of books released in a given month and not willing to invest time and mental energy embarking on yet another series with no visible end in sight. So, since Heather Osborn of Tor both (a) sounded smart as crap in the interview and (b) is a friend of mine, I asked her: can you bring me back to the paranormal?

Sarah:  Convince me, oh paranormal editor, to give paranormal another chance.

Heather: Listen, the thing is, a well written book is well written despite the sub-genre and even if the heroine is a unicorn shifter from the land of Sparklasia she should have problems, emotions, concerns, etc, that we all can relate to or else, why bother, you know?

Unrealistic and disappointing resolutions happen in all sub genres of romance and fiction—it’s just in paranormals they are a little more crack-riddled aka soulmated were-fins!

Sarah: I’m tired of perfect warrior heroes who know everything, and all the emotional tension between the couple being based on who is or who isn’t paranormal and how to resolve the divide between the species.

Heather: I hear ya honestly, whenever I am burned out on paranormal romance soulmated-itis, I grab a really good fantasy novel and remember why I like the hybrid stuff.

It can be urban fantasy, trad fantasy, science fiction, etc—it shows me what is capable within the genre, and that I shouldn’t settle for less in paranormal romance. Lois McMaster Bujold and Sharon Shinn have saved my sanity on more than one occasion!

Sarah:  To continue my whining, I’m finding the glut of material daunting and find many have the internal conflict of old lettuce from a fridge with no crisper. Limp and wrinkly, and holds no interest.

Heather: Yeah, or else they set up tons of juicy conflict and resolve it with a magical wang or hoohaw. DO NOT WANT.

Sarah: There has to be a way to create paranormal characters who have internal conflict that isn’t based on their otherworldly-ness and how they aren’t human and are doomed to immortality woe woe woe, or who don’t instantly adjust to their new toothsome life and feel the need to depilate more frequently due to were-dom.

Heather: The whole “I woke up in a coffin…how AWESOME!” syndrome. It’s often the equivalent of the barren heroine magically getting pregnant due to the hero Duke’s powerful sperminating. Only he’s a werewolf.

I think you would really like Robin D. Owens. She is a master at using real life issues in paranormals and making them legitimate problems. I am honestly baffled that she isn’t more popular.

Sarah: So what other books would you put in the “bring her back to the paranormal awesome” care package? What books speak louder than argument?

Heather: Off the top of my head—authors who write intelligent, interesting, and readable paranormal romances that deal with real issues in real ways—aka no Deus ex Monstera are Nalini Singh, Patricia Briggs (Alpha & Omega series), Meljean Brook, C.L. Wilson, although hers are distinctly fairy tale-esque.  There are plenty of other authors I enjoy in paranormal romance, but in this case, I am trying to stay with the ones who are not purely escapist, but also bring strong elements of realism to their novels.

Sarah: Dude. What about Tor authors? Spread the love, fool.

Heather: Cathy Clamp and C.T. Adams aka Cat Adams write amazingly well-rounded paranormals. Gail Dayton, naturally, and Patti O’Shea is amazing as well. Stop me before I pimp them all!

Thank you, Heather. 

So, am I the only one who is para-worn? Do you have books that you absolutely adore in the paranormal genre that you wish more people would read? And if I were to embark upon the Robin D. Owens series (*eep!*) which one should I start with?


Comments are Closed

  1. 1
    Leslee says:

    With Robin D. Owens, (who has been on my automatic buy list since she first started) go get Heart Mate, first in the Heart series. It is futuristic but very cool. Other rec’s are Caitlin Kittredge!!! Street Magic is fabulous. I am in serious crush of Jack Winter. She has another series about a werewolf named Luna. Don’t be put off by the cuteness, Luna is faaaaar from cute. The first in Luna’s series is Night Life. Lynn Viehl’s Darkyn series is unique, start with If Angels Burn. Jocellynn Drake’s Nightwalker is another good one I just finished. It is the start of a series. Another unique one is Jessica Andersen’s Night Keepers which is Aztec dealing with their prophecy that the world will end in 2012. The third one comes out this summer. Another one is the fabulous, hilarious Molly Harper’s Nice Girls Don’t Have Fangs. I gave this one a 5!!! It is so funny and just about perfect! Blue Diablo by Ann Aguirre is also very unique. I loved it almost as much as Grimspace and Wanderlust (but they are scifi romance). Some of these are definitely more urban fantasy than paranormal romance but they are all good. I also highly recommend Nalini Singh!!!!

  2. 2
    Mireya says:

    I wonder about Robin D. Owens as well.  In her case, it’s not only the way she handles the relationships, but also how she keeps adding to her world creation.  Celta is fascinating, at least from my perspective.  I also agree with Lynn Viehl’s Darkyn.  The series is not just your standard paranormal romance.  The author actually works on a bit of world creation.  Then again, Viehl also writes sci-fi, and Owens writes fantasy.  Nalini Singh is just plain great.  Another author that works the balance between romance and world building beautifully.  Neither of the three lose track of the actual romance, yet they keep enriching the worlds they introduced.

  3. 3
    Miranda says:

    I like the Kitty Norville series by Carrie Vaughn. Especially in the early books, she really goes into pack dynamics on weres, and the mental struggle between Kitty’s human and were sides is interesting and pretty angst-free. More ‘no, we aren’t going to growl while we’re human’ than ‘OH NOES’.

    I also like the Rachel Caine Morgantown Vampires series. This is more of a YA (Claire is only 16), but it’s really good. Claire’s only ability is being a science geek, and it’s almost more of an ensemble than a straight pairing.

  4. 4
    Vanessa says:

    May I just add Ilona Andrew’s Kate Daniels series to the list? (Magic Bites, Magic Burns, Magic Strikes). The books are only part-romance, but ALL kick-ass! The world building is extraordinary, the take on vampires is original, fight scenes visceral, the heroine is so engaging and strong – and Curran is yuuummy :)~~~~
    I haven’t been so obsessed with a series in years.

  5. 5
    ms bookjunkie says:

    Thanks for the link, I needed the reminder that Patti O’Shea’s Edge of Dawn will be out next month. It’s only Book 3 of the Light Warriors series (of which you probably have Book 1 In the Midnight Hour from last year’s Tor freebies) so if you want to start reading there’s not that much to catch up on…

    If you’re interested, the series is Paranormal Romance–which means that each book features a different couple, although the h/h of the sequels have been met/mentioned in the earlier books. And so far, seem to be siblings of earlier h/h’s. (Magic is the P element in the PNR classification. No vamps of weres.)

    size64:  No, I’m really not that big. Honest!

  6. 6
    Tae says:

    I love the Patrica Briggs books.  I’ve read everything she’s written and all of her earlier fantasy books have a strong romantic element to them, however, the Mercy books aren’t really romance driven.
    Bujold is a sci/fi fantasy author and I think the Chalion series have stronger romantic themes than the Vorkosigan SF books, and of course there’s the Dag & Fawn books – though I’ve only read two of them.
    I’ve burned out on Kim Harrison, but they’re UF not so much paranormal romance (I didn’t think there was that much romance in them).
    Thanks for this post, I’m getting a bit burned out as well.  I’ve loved the Darkyn books by Viehl.  Evermore is my favorite so far.  It’s my favorite vampire romance series so far because it doesn’t make me want to hit my head against the wall from the world building, and I don’t skip the bad guy parts in the book either.  I thought Christine Feehan’s Drake Sisters series was pretty good, but definitely not the Carpathian books and the Ghosthunter/psychic military ones started out well but got a little ridiculous eventually.
    I haven’t tried anyone else mentioned here, but I can’t wait for others to tell me more.

  7. 7
    sandy l says:

    I’m seeing a lot more about steampunk. I wonder if this is the next trend and if it will replace paranormals to a certain degree.

  8. 8
    Joyce says:

    I’d like to put in another vote for Patricia Briggs.  I haven’t read any of the Alpha & Omega books (yet… the first one is in a box somewhere, to be unearthed when we move this weekend), but the Mercy books are solidly well written and down to earth.  They’re not romances, per se – the romance doesn’t even really poke its head up til the end of the first book, though there are some issues related to a former romance in the middle of the first book – but relationships of all kinds are important to the books. 

    Also, we’re reminded that these characters have real lives with real issues and that they’re not just were-whatevers; at one point, Mercy reflects on the fact that none of the heroines in the books she reads have to get up and go to work the next morning after fighting evil all night.  And then she gets up and goes to work on a couple hours of sleep.  :)  She makes sure to get her garage covered when she has to go out of town.  The book doesn’t hand wave over the fact that the books’ events are a serious disruption to her life.  She has good human friends.  The beginning of book 3 opens with movie night.  :)

    I’m rambling at this point (need more coffee), but I guess what I’m trying to say is that the Mercy books would make a great palette cleanser if you’re feeling burnt out on the paranormal.  They’re books where the paranormal is important, but Briggs writes about interesting, complex people, how they relate to each other (including some romance) and how they fit into their world.  Start at the beginning (Moon Called) or you’ll never keep everyone straight.

    My, that was an epic first comment.

  9. 9
    thirstygirl says:

    Another fan of Brigg’s Mercy series here. I’m pretty sceptical now about paranormals- there’s too many being pushed out because they’ll sell* without thought being given as to whether they are good books or not.**

    Now I am making a note to try the Kitty books.

    And I would dig if steampunk became the next thing for a while- I *love* that stuff. Just bought a copy of Ginn Hale’s Wicked Gentlemen and so far it’s been very good indeed, if steam-punk gay romances where the lead is a drug-addicted demon and there are mysteries to be solved Are Your Thing.***

    *a fair enough concern for these times i admit
    **something I have also noted in YA fantasy but at least there a magic wang isn’t going to Fix Everything, which is a relief to my jaded mind.
    ***also beautifully published by an independent publisher- Blind Eye Press- which gladdens my heart

    [also87- I don’t think I’d be able to fit 87 footnotes in here but I’m making a good start on it]

  10. 10
    Susan G says:

    Sarah – I am right there with you! I have avoided most paranormal stories for some time now b/c every book seemed to be a poor re-hash of what I had already read. However, just when I thought I was done with this genre, I tried a book by Evie Byrne, an author Jane recommended just last week. Called by Blood is the second book in a series about vampires. VERY well written with a fresh storyline.

  11. 11

    I’ve read several of Owens’ Celta books and enjoyed them. The third one, Heart Thief (I think that’s the title), was one of my favorites.

    Speaking of Tor authors, I’d suggest Warprize by Elizabeth Vaughn. An interesting fantasy world and a great romance. I love that book.

    I also like Lilith Saintcrow’s Dante Valentine series. More sci-fi than fantasy, IMO, but the world building is really different.

    And I really enjoyed Graceling by Kristin Cashore. It’s a YA with a fairy tale feel and a very strong heroine.

  12. 12
    Estara says:

    I also recommend all the Celta books by Robin D. Owens, starting with Heartmate and the first three of her Harlequin Luna Summoning series (I had the impression the last three were rushed because the first three didn’t sell as well, so some of the ladies yet having to be summoned had to be put into one book instead of getting a book of their own – I did think the last book finished the series strongly). The “Heart”-series keeps going and glad I am for it.

    Also seconding the Ilona Andrews Kate Daniels urban fantasy (& Nalini Singh + Meljean Brook+ Majorie M. Liu for the almost superhero scifi fantasy crack on an action movie scale = all of those are paranormal romances, i.e. there is a couple and a happy end).

  13. 13
    Estara says:

    Hah, Owens just posted her first huge synopsis about Heartmate on her blog.

  14. 14
    Jenny says:

    Kelley Armstrong

  15. 15

    Do you have books that you absolutely adore in the paranormal genre that you wish more people would read?

    Kelley Armstrong’s BITTEN is a book I’ve been pushing on everyone I know lately. I’ve crossed paths with Kelley a few times since we’re both members of Crime Writers of Canada, but I’d never read any of her books until this year, and now I’m hooked—currently halfway through BROKEN, and loving her voice and this world she’s created.

    She’s a perfect illustration of how word of mouth can work, too, because when I finished reading BITTEN I immediately handed it to my best friend and said, “You HAVE to read this book!” and she said, “Werewolves?” and I told her, “Trust me.” So she read it, and as soon as she had finished it (and loved it) she immediately told another woman that she works with, “Look, you HAVE to read this book!”

    What works for me, besides the fact that Kelley is just an Amazingly Good Writer, is that her world is built so solidly and believably I almost catch these glimpses of it from the corners of my eyes now when I’m walking through Toronto…

    Love it.

  16. 16
    senetra says:

    I want to be another to chime in and recommend Robin D. Owens, and if you haven’t read Wen Spencer’s Ukiah Oregon series, then that, too.  And Gail Dayton’s Compass Rose series.

  17. 17
    Ginny says:

    I understand the frustration… I’m ‘vampired’ out too!
    Shelly Laurenston writes a shifter series where there is no angsty internal conflict about being a shifter or their place in the world or even cross species mating (this is helped by shifters having normal lifespans).  The internal conflicts often resemble two non-paranormal characters – fear of commitment, etc.  No one is perfect… the men have flaws and often the women call them on it.  There are no ‘chosen by fate’ perfect soul mates – they chose whether or not to be together.  The books are light and enjoyable, filled with humor and lots of cussing (though she is not quite as inventive in her cussing as you are!).  Her shifter series all exist in the same modern day world – shifters exist, thrive even, right under our human noses.  There is an earlier series, the Magnus Pack, that is being reprinted.  However, while I enjoyed it, I recommend starting with the first book in the newer Pride series, The Mane Event.  (This is actually two stories in one)  Hope you give it a try and enjoy it!  But no matter what I hope you find something that will restore your faith in the paranormal romance!

  18. 18
    Cat Marsters says:

    I guess this is like when historicals were over a few years ago.  Of course they weren’t.  People are still writing, publishing, and reading them.

    Perhaps there’s a saturation point when it comes to Mighty Wang vampires, and weres for that point.  The I’m-Badass-‘Cos-I-Wear-Leather type hero, who calls his woman Baby and dresses like a gimp.  Those, I’m tired of.

    And I agree about the Deus ex Monstera (love that phrase BTW).  The trick is making the conflict rooted in character, something we can understand even if we’re not steeped in vampire lore, but also something that is intrinsically bound up in the otherness of the characters—else why did you bother giving them fangs?

    It just makes me laugh—in a not-entirely-funny kind of way—that in America you’ve had time to get tired of paranormal romance, when over in the UK there’s still such a, “Vampires?  In romance??” shocked reaction, as if you’d suggested erotica for children or something.  There is Sci-fi/Fantasy.  There is Romance.  And never the twain shall meet.  Every now and then are predictions that it’ll be the Next Big Thing, usually when something like Twilight comes along, but I believe those like I believe curvy will replace thin this season.

  19. 19
    Kelly C. says:

    I was over paranormals at least a year ago.  Stop the insanity that is the glut of paranormals.  Seriously. Please?  Pretty please.

      Anti-spam word :  position56     :-X   And that would be which position exactly?

  20. 20
    Amie Stuart says:

    I have to third, fourth and/or fifth the vote for Viehl’s Darkyn series.  And Briggs for all the reasons Joyce named (tho I haven’t read the Alpha/Omega books yet).  Also loved Graceling though it’s mostly definitely fantasy and might not be what you’re looking for!
    And the Morganville Vamps. 
    KMM’s Fever series though it’s more UF than ParaRom (and the heroine could annoy the sh*t out of you in the first book which makes her growth that much more fun). 
    Jaye Wells’ Redheaded Stepchild—the worldbuilding is as good as Viehl’s IMO…and I”m also a huge Carrie Vaughn fan and I have to give two HUGE thumbs up for Ann’s Blue Diablo.

    By and far, the stuff that wins me over has characters that fall under shades of gray so i lean much more toward the UF side of the fence.

  21. 21
    Barbara says:

    Mary Janice Davidson’s Betsy Taylor books are awesomely hilarious. A Vampire Queen who obsesses over Blahniks and Choos while the world is going to pieces around her, and the way the character finally breaks down and acts…

    I can’t recommend them enough.

  22. 22
    Becca says:

    while I’m sure there are some great paranormals out there, I’m just tired of the whole trope. It sometimes seems like the only romances being published these days are historicals and paranormals. I guess that’s why I’m mostly reading SF or mysteries/romantic suspense right now.

  23. 23
    Jeanette Johnson says:

    I’m glad Jennifer mentioned Elizabeth Vaughan, her Warland series was wonderful. I became addicted. It was a huge step away from what I usually read but the reviews of Warprize were too seductive, they just raved about it and I cracked. I bought a book that I figured I would skim and say “yeah ok” . Boy, was I wrong. Vaughn’s writing is so smooth that I swear she could just go blah, blah ,blah and I’d just keep reading. Luckily she tells a beautiful story in a time and place that well, I’m not sure of. Future? Middle ages? Of this world? of another? who cares? I am there in whatever the time and place is and I CARE about the people. All of them not just the Hero and Heroine.

    Her second series started off rocky for me. I have a hard time with total role reversal so Daggar Star was not my fave. The second book White Star has got me back to junkie status.

    Another big step for me is Briggs. I’ll just say WOW I love her books and I never would have tried her if it hadn’t been for Vaughan and that first venture out of my comfort zone.

  24. 24
    mearias says:

    I’m with Ginny, Shelly Laurenston’s series is a riot and my go-to when I’m feeling blah about books.  She also writes as G.A. Aiken (Dragon series).

    I did start the Robin D. Owen’s Celta series, but the latest book is still going for over $12 at the Sony bookstore, so I haven’t gotten it.  They are enjoyable, though.

    Elizabeth Vaughan is great too. 

    J.L. Langley has a shifter series ‘With or Without’ that are good too.  (FYI they’re MM Romance).

  25. 25
    Polly says:

    I’ll second (third, fourth) Patricia Briggs. I love the Mercy series and Alpha and Omega (in fact, I kind of love Alpha and Omega better, since it’s so much about choices you make, choices you don’t get to make, and living with all the consequences nonetheless).

    I’ve never gotten into the Owens books. I read the first, but I’m just so tired of the Celtic morphology in paranormals—hello authors, there are so many other cultures and mythologies to tap from, not just Celtic and European. Paranormals doesn’t have to mean vampires, werewolves, fairies etc (I’m especially tired of the weird weird vamp/were mixes, and another book about the seelie/unseelie).

    And, on the list of other things I’m over: first-person narrative, kick-ass heroines. Never thought I’d say it, but I’m tired of the kick-ass heroine. She’s to paranormals what the feisty heroine is to historicals. Enough! We need new and different layers.

  26. 26
    Heather says:

    I read the Nalini Singh books a couple weeks ago on the recommendation of my local bookstore (woo-hoo!  independents!) and have to ask, why hadn’t I heard of her before?  Those books are great!  (And she has two more coming out this year.  Yippee!)

    I think the best description I can come up with is, they are Feehan’s Game books done correctly.  With Feehan I always had this notion that it was a great idea that was kind of lost in execution, but with Singh the execution is great.  Everyone has their own unique issues (that are not magically resolved), the world is great, the repercussions of the world is awesome, and nothing seems to be pulled out of you know where in order to explain something.

    And Kelley Armstrong?  Great.  And you don’t lose that much by not starting at the beginning.  She has enough characters that you can pick the book you want (although Elena and Clay are the best, of course.)

  27. 27
    Mary B. says:

    Add me as another vote for Ilonia Andrews and The Magic Bites series.  It’s my crack now.

  28. 28
    JewelTones says:

    I have a fondness for paranormal BUT…  It’s losing me.  It isn’t so much that that’s so much of it, it’s that so much of it is the same and the one thing that really bugs me is that in paranormal romance there sure feels like a lack of romance to me.  The sex is there, absolutely, but when it comes to the Romance?  Not so much.  It’s insta-attractions build on insta-soulmates.  I feel ripped off when I read them because the hero and heroine don’t fall in love.  We’re *told* they belong together, that they’re soulmates, that it’s destiny and that’s supposed to be good enough to make me believe that they’ll last forever and ever and are perfectly matched when in the story?  I don’t necessarily see it.  And it’s really hard to invest in a couple if you don’t feel like they’re a couple with any connection.

    So in that aspect of paranormals?  Way over it.  *sigh*


  29. 29
    Sam says:

    Another vote for Nalini Singh! I’m tired of the paranormal too, but when I found her books a few months ago she went to the top of my auto-buy list.

  30. 30

    Although I’m also growing tired of the vampire tribe, I have to say I’m excited about Georgia Evan’s upcoming book, Bloody Good. It’s one of the few time periods I find fascinating, whether the story is a mystery, a romance, whatever.

    Another author you might want to try is my friend Marta Acosta’s books (if you haven’t already). She’s rather brilliant, witty, and her take on the entire vamp backstory is fresh. Reread the Casa Dracula series recently and had to wipe the tears of laughter from my eyes.

    Also must agree about Robin Owen’s books. Excellent storytelling. Love the term, Deus ex Monstera. LOL. It’s perfect. Nalini’s writing is hot, too. Oh, and lest I not forget, both Jim Butcher and Jacquelyn Frank deliver solid writing.

    Sheesh, didn’t mean to turn this into a love fest, but there are still so many great authors and books out there, more than I can list here, I’d hate to see you give up on the sub-genre.

    I believe that while paranormals may begin to wane in popularity, there will always be a die-hard fan base for them. I know I was a fan back when ‘paranormal romances’ first entered the market labeled ‘gothics.’ I’ll still be a fan once the trend has worn out and the bandwagon moved on.

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