Why I Broke Up With Paranormals

Book Anita Blake - Guilty Pleasures - a close up, I kid you not, of the business end of a screw Back in the mid-to-late nineties I picked ordered an Anita Blake omnibus from the Sci-Fi Book Club, and my teenage heart became hooked on paranormal romance.

I hope you're gleaning two things from that sentence: 1. my approximate age and 2. the fact that as a teenager I belonged to the Sci-Fi Book Club. I was beating those boys off with a stick, I was.

Anyway, Anita Blake represented this whole new genre I hadn't even thought of: sexy vampires. I was a teen, and therefore emo, and I adored the brooding, forbidden nature of the attraction between Anita and Jean Claude. I bought every book in the series and devoured them. I read them even when Richard, the werewolf, showed up to fuck things up and cry. While waiting for the next book I searched desperately for something else like Anita.

Now, this was before paranormal romance was really a thing (or before I knew about it anyway). It was not the dominant romance subgenre. There was very little YA fiction I could find on the vampire + teenage girl love thing we now know so well. This was also back when I went to a physical bookstore to buy books, not to a website, and I was not yet comfortable enough asking the sales clerk, “Do you have any sexy brooding vampires in your warehouse? Preferably books with sex in them? Thanks.” I had to take what I could find.

Book Embrace the Night  yellow words on a cover with a green sunset against some trees. I think. I'm not sure what's going on here. I found Amanda Ashley. Oh, how I loved her. She wrote books about depressed, lurking vampires who were really good men at heart but were ashamed of their latent violence and pastiness. There were your traditional vampires, folks. They couldn't go out in daylight. They didn't fucking sparkle. They longed for the warm embrace of a sweet human woman. I read Embrace the Night, Deeper Than the Night and A Darker Dream so many times the covers split. Ashley also included poetry in her books, and what more could appeal to a teenage girl than vampire lustypants and poetry? It was a fucking home run.

Amanda Ashley Sunlight Moonlight with Fabio arms crossed over his chest with long hair gleaming in the sunlightI even read Sunlight Moonlight, a really strange duology. The Sunlight portion featured a girl falling in love with an alien. I never really recovered from that story or forgot it. There was a terrifyingly lantern-jawed Fabio on the cover, which I guess is what aliens look like. Maybe Fabio is an alien. It bears thinking on.

I found Christine Feehan and read the first few of her books – Dark Prince, Dark Desire, and Dark Gold.

I liked the books, but I didn't love them. I think my naive virgin self was a little traumatized by the Carpathians gigantic peens and their penchant for doggy-style sex. I was still struggling with the idea of tampons; a hero hung like a table-leg made me shudder in imagined pain.

(SB Sarah adds: I had no input in this entry and the fact that we were both weirded by the doggy-style Carpathians is completely coincidental.)

I also read a lot of L.J. Smith. Smith was the one author I found who gave me the YA vampire feels. She wrote the Vampire Diaries that the CW show is based on. She had a series of books called Nightworld that featured romances between various paranormals (vampires and witches mostly) and humans. They were too short, but otherwise delicious. Every book had that forbidden, star-crossed lovers theme I was looking for. Smith's protagonists are soulmates, connected in some mystical supernatural way by a figurative silver chord. They sometimes get a shock or jolt when they first touch, just like Feehan's characters can see color. I loved the idea of a normal teenage girl being secretly connected to something bigger, darker and more powerful than she realized. It was my yearning to be recognized in the big, scary adult world put on paper. With vampires. And kissing. Secret Vampire features a girl with terminal pancreatic cancer and her best-friend, the boy next door, WHO IS ALSO SECRETLY A VAMPIRE. Of course he is. Of course an immortal creature would totally fucking go to high school. Why not? And of course he makes her a vampire to save her.

Things were great. I read Anne Rice and completely whiffed on the homo-erotic tensions. I read anything even remotely related to vampires and werewolves and witches. I devoured this stuff. And then…it just kind of fizzled.

I never totally let go of paranormal. I watched Buffy the Vampire Slayer like my life depended on it. I think that Buffy, a small blonde girl, taught me that, as a small blonde girl myself, it was okay to demand to sit at the grown up table despite other's preconceptions of you. Sometimes when I'm the youngest, smallest, only woman in the room I still think of Buffy and know that I've got this shit. But I no longer needed the tortured vampire love stories I craved before. Part of it was that I was no longer yearning to be part of that scary, secret adult world with all the sex and drugs and rock n' roll. I was being pushed there whether I liked it or not.

And the genre was changing too. I'm a traditionalist. I like my vampires to burst into ash in sunlight. All of a sudden there were books with incredibly complex rules and world building. There were vampire-were-panther-wicca hybrids. There were books about vampires who didn't drink blood and glittered. And my go-to girl, Anita Blake, changed too. Hamilton's books became all about exploring erotic fantasy and Anita justifying to herself why she needed to have a three-way with a vampire and a werewolf while another werewolf watched or something. It became ridiculous. I actually threw Incubus Dreams in the garbage when Anita female-ejaculated and Nathaniel reverently called her a “rainmaker.” I was down with the erotica, but not with erotica filled with navel gazing and prolonged explanations for what it was.

I gave up for awhile. Then I read Twilight. Twilight is my least favorite book ever. I hated it. I hated that Edward was an emotionally manipulative stalker. I hated that Bella fell down and cried for most of the book. I skimmed books two and three (because I so desperately wanted it to get better and some of my friends loved these books and I'm stupid like that), and I actually kind of liked four because it was fucking batshit insane. Vampire teeth c-sections. Crazy fast growing babies. Soul-bond-pairing with said babies. WTF. I think I can actually make a fairly good case for the Cullens being a cult and drawing Bella in. But that's a different post. If I had been ready to dive back into paranormals, Twilight killed it for me.

It's been a few years since we've talked, paranormals and I. But just recently I got a copy of Christine Feehan's Dark Wolf and it's got such a beautiful cover, and it's staring at me. It is taunting me, begging me to come back. It'll be better this time, baby. I won't sparkle or make rain, I promise. And Amanda Ashley has a new book out too. So I think we might try this again. We're just going to keep things casual. Stay tuned.

What about you? Were you a paranormal fan, too? Are you still? Which of the classic paranormals was your favorite?

Comments are Closed

  1. 1
    Sarita says:

    Man, remember when Anita used to face down big scary monsters with just her gun and her grit and her few usually-not-combat-applicable powers and there was actual tension and stuff? And she had this stuffed penguin she would cry with, to show the struggle with her own humanity? I gave up on that series when she became honorary queen of four different kinds of supernatural critters, plus the most powerfulest EVAR, plus obligated by magic to bang someone every other chapter. Sigh.

    I still like some paranormal. But I get picky. Paranormal seems prone to throwing every magic thing it can think of into the plot at once in a fit of over enthusiasm without actually developing the fantasic species/cultures enough to give them a sense of…it feels ridiculous to say ‘gravitas’ or ‘realism’ but dernit, that’s what I want. And it can be done. I’ve seen it done well.

  2. 2
    Michaela Grey says:

    Every other chapter?  Try every other PAGE!  Seriously, Anita Blake used to be so kickass and awesome.  I loved reading about her exploits and struggles.  She was human, vulnerable and imperfect.  But like y’all said, there’s only so much sex for the sake of sex that I can handle before I start rolling my eyes and skipping entire passages.

    Now she’s just a Mary Sue and I haven’t read any of Hamilton’s stuff in years.

    I do still love paranormal stuff, but I’m honestly pretty burned out on vampires and werewolves.  The recent angel trend is fun when done right, like Laini Taylor or Susan Ee’s stuff.  But nooooo more vampires, I’m begging you!

  3. 3
    SisterSadie says:

    I liked paranormal, but didn’t love it. I did read one thought that I still occasionally bust out when I need something sci-fi. It’s not a romance, but it is about a teenage girl and a vampire, and there’s some feelings between the two that were amazeballs to a girl who was probably about 12ish. Companions of the Night by Vivian Vande Velde was the first book I think I’d ever read about vampires, period, and it’s still a good one. I highly recommend it.

  4. 4
    ohhellsyeah says:

    I loved Anne Rice when I was a teenager and read a lot of other vampire books too, yet I cannot remember any of them.  Despite that, I have always LOATHED paranormal romances.  I think I’m like one of those who people who doesn’t like their foods to touch each other on the plate.  I liked(d) vampire books and I like romances.  I just didn’t want them in the same book!  I am kind of a traditionalist when it comes to romances, I guess.  I would rather read a meaty historical or a contemporary about adult-adults.  No New Adult.  No interspecies sex. No brooding billionaires or rockstars.  Preferably less Dukes.  I feel more and more out of touch with the genre by the day.

  5. 5
    Tam B. says:

    I LOVED the early Anita Blake, with the attitude and kick ass lines and the attitude.  But alas.

    Paranormal now, can really be a crapshoot.  I was on a forum recently where a poster was asking for good werewolf romances.  A couple of the recommendations were repeatedly glowing and seconded and thirded, so I tried one.  That was hours of my life I’m not getting back.  And it made me sad that these readers thought this was the best stuff there is. 

    The genre is so flooded that it seems writers think that they need to throw everything in there to stand out.  What they need to remember is that quality is what counts.  To paraphrase “If you write it WELL they will come”.

    I really enjoy the genre so I still try books and hope and read lots of reviews.  I find I’m more selective and less willing to waste my time on a bad book.  Moreover, if a series is taking a turn I’m not enjoying I’m less likely to continue with the series.  (LKH and C.Harris have scarred us all.)

    As for some fav’s: Currently I’ve got Ilona Andrews, GA Aiken/Shelly Laurenston, Chicagoland Vamp’s, Mercy Thompson, Debora Geary’s Witch Central, Secret McQueen (although the last book left me still thinking about buying the current one) and Thea Harrison’s Elder Races (love Dragos) on my kindle.  (And the recent-ish review of Stone Guardian had me buying and enjoying that book too.)

  6. 6
    Victoria says:

    I share the disappointment with the way the Anita Blake series went.  The one I still re-read is Obsidian Butterfly. 

    I’ve been a fan of romance novels ever since I was introduced to them by my grandmother and the Benedictine nuns at my high school.  That was 20+ years ago.  I started reading paranormals fairly recently.  I got very sick (breast cancer) two years ago and it was during the treatment (the full meal deal of surgery, chemo, radiotherapy and drugs) that I started devouring them.  There was the entire summer of that year where I could hardly walk from my bed to the couch and my head was so foggy from chemo brain that all I could do was read and write one post each day for my blog.  Those paranormals and other “bodice rippers” just worked for me and I owe an enormous debt to the authors I read at that time because their work made me happy, distracted me from the crapola that was raining down around me, and gave my brain just the right amount of stimulation. 

    Been a year now since I stopped active treatment.  I’m still reading paranormals but not at the same pace.  A little choosier now.  There is other stuff to read and so much to do now that my couch and I are no longer constant companions.  But Nalini Singh, Christine Warren and a few others continue to be my favs.

  7. 7
    denise says:

    I’ve tried to get into them, but they’re just not my thing

  8. 8
    Cate says:

    Am I the only person who’s still longing for LJ Smith to finally publish Nightworld 10 ?It’s got to be at least 12 years since the penultimate book came out, and I’ve been on the edge of my figurative seat ever since.
      As for paranormals, I’ve now reduced the number of authors that would have once been auto buys into single figures. I stopped with the Anita Blake love a looong time ago, Christine Feehan remains on the list & Larissa Ione is a relatively new addition. But I think I’d hit Paranormal overload about 5years ago…..but I’ll never give up my Nalini Singh adoration..Quality always tells & sells

  9. 9
    Miranda says:

    I’m trying to break down what is paranormal and what is paranormal romance:

    For example, I love Ilona Andrews’ Kate Daniels series, but is that paranormal with some romance? Or paranormal romance? Her Edge series is pretty definitely paranormal romance, but I like Kate Daniels better. The same for Patricia Briggs’ Mercy series, which I like OK, although Mercy is a little too wonderful for me ;) I like Carrie Vaughn’s Kitty series (or I did, but I kind of wondered off. I may wonder back.)

    A lot of times, I’ll like the paranormal but not the romance. I’m reading the first Darynda Jones, and I’m like Charlie, and her relationship with Garrett, but the way she just CAN’T RESIST REYES OMG despite that Reyes is wayyyy over the non-consensual line only it’s ok because he’s so hot, is not sitting well.

    I never could get into Anita Blake. I kept trying to read the first book and kept wanting her to stake Jean Claude.

  10. 10

    I’m another who couldn’t do Anita Blake.
    “Dracula” did it for me. Oh, the suppressed sexual tension in that book is amazing! All that Lucy stuff, and then creepy Renfield. I read and re-read it for years. “Frankenstein” not so much, because it’s a serious book trying to make a point. No guilty pleasures in that.
    My first “modern” paranormal romance was Christine Feehan’s “Dark Prince.” Loved it. It was so repetitive, but I didn’t care. Nearly gave up with “Dark Gold,” but I loved the crazy in “Dark Guardian” and “Dark Fire.” Heroines who try to fight back. A bit. I did read “Dark Lycan” but had to DNF it, and as I was reluctantly closing it, because I hate books that defeat me, I said, “Not another bloody ritual” which about summed it up. From the bonding ceremony that used to be quite sweet, we have healing ceremonies, a completely nuts and icky fertility ceremony that includes licking a flower, the fun has gone from this series. Still read (and write) paranormals, and all I can say is that someone, somewhere is still reading them because sales are still pretty good.

  11. 11
    Rebecca says:

    Amen. I stopped reading paranormals for awhile because of the sparkly revolution, too! I’m still very over cautious if there’s a vampire in a story. That being said, I did discover non-romance urban fantasy for my monster kicks. And I also discovered historical romance, so all was not lost when the paranormal romance genre went weird.

  12. 12

    Never read paranormal romances when I was young, but after returning to reading romances a few years ago (many intervening years of only reading literary fiction), I discovered Kresley Cole’s IAD series. Loved it immediately. There is a tongue-in-cheek quality to the books that keeps them from taking themselves too seriously. Dark, brooding vamps and hulking werewolves are, underneath it all, just guys who don’t “get” girls. I’ve reread the first book in the series multiple times (A Hunger Like No Other) and it still holds up. No sparkles and no walking in the sun, but one hell of a sexy werewolf.

  13. 13
    Vasha says:

    Any of you remember Chelsea Quinn Yarbro’s “St. Germain” series? That was vampires-with-romance about the same time as the “Vampire Chronicles” (late 70s) I read them as a teen, at which time they were unusually sexy by my standards; but gave up after a few, I don’t remember why.

  14. 14
    Anne says:

    It depends on my mood, honestly and the quality of the writing.  Not a total breakup—maybe friend with benefits??

    I read Dracula and Interview with a Vampire when I was a teenager (late 70s).  Goodness, I feel old…. but books weren’t categorized back then, the way they are now.  I’ve always been an omnivorous reader.  I also read Green Darkness (reincarnation) as a teenager and a whole bunch of Barbara Michaels, which helped to form my reading tastes with regard to supernatural/paranormal elements.  Then again, I was introduced to Georgette Heyer, the Aiken sisters and Agatha Christie as a teenager, and I developed a fondness for regency romance and mysteries. 

    For me, part of the joy of reading is the suspension or disbelief and escaping into other worlds.  If the story is good, I’ll read it, regardless of genre.

    I began reading more of Anne Rice in the late 1980’s (there was a big gap between the first and second books in the Vampire series) and also read Robertson Davies (some of his books have supernatural/paranormal elements).  I am and remain a big Davies fan. 

    I stopped reading Rice after the Witches trilogy, when I had difficulty finishing one of her books.  I can’t remember which one—it is so long ago. 

    I found Anita Blake in the late 1990’s, because the series was recommended by Diana Gabaldon in the Outlandish Companion.  I liked the first few books of the series, but got tired of the world after Obsidian Butterfly (which I really liked) and although I continue to read the Blake series, I don’t run out to buy them.  I never read Twilight (no interest) or the other books mentioned in your post.

    Most recently, I discovered the Harry Dresden series which was recommended by someone who was an enthusiastic Anita Blake reader, but like me, got tired of the world.  They aren’t romance books, but are definitely sci-fi or paranormal.  Jim Butcher is a great story teller.  I also enjoyed Discovery of Witches and its sequel—again, I would not describe either as a romance, but they are definitely sci-fi or paranormal. 

    I also like Vivian Arends’ books about werewolves (there are some novellas and some novels) as well as Shelley Laurenston and Christine Warren’s books about shifters and the worlds they live in.  These are lighter and quite funny.  I found all three authors based upon recommendations of one or more of the books in the series—either here or on some other book blog.

    I don’t actively look for paranormals, but if one comes highly recommended by a variety of sources, I’ll add it to the TBR list and check it out. 

  15. 15

    I still love paranormal romance but I’ve gotten pickier. Anita Blake really sort of burned me when she went supernatural porn queen but I love the comment about Buffy. A whole generation of us learned that when it was just us and a bunch of the big boys we could sit down at the table and think “I got this shit.”

  16. 16
    Amanda says:

    Preach, Elyse!

    I think the genre is a bit over-saturated at the moment and, for me, it’s becoming more and more difficult to pick out a book that I know I’m going to enjoy. I’m legitimately surprised I haven’t tired of Kresley Cole’s “Immortals After Dark” series yet.

  17. 17
    Ashlea says:

    I didn’t so much break up with paranormals as I did with specific plot lines:

    -person (usually female) discovers magical power that must be mastered immediately before it destroys the world or is required to save the world

    -heroine makes what would normally be a horrible decision about trusting man with multiple red flags but it’s okay because of his secret magical abilities that make him all broody.

    - love triangles between heroine and two magical beings (why can’t she ever choose between vampire and nice but slightly boring accountant or something?)

    I did read a Patricia Briggs recently and liked it fine.

  18. 18
    Lostshadows says:

    I never really got into paranormal romances. I’ve tried some, but I tend to give up on them fairly quickly, or just never quite get around to reading book two.

    I do like urban fantasy though, which is similar.

    I not only remember them, I’m still reading them. :) (She’s been putting out about one a year since the mid-90s.(And like any author doing that, the quality gets highly variable.)) While he tends to end up in relationships due to his nature, I’m not sure most of them really have much romance.

  19. 19
    harthad says:

    I found Interview with the Vampire in the late 80’s (yes, because of that song by Sting!)and was instantly in love, but by the time we hit Queen of the Damned, I was over it. I also had the misfortune of having encountered Anita Blake via Obsidian Butterfly, which is the only paperback I ever threw in the trash, so that I wouldn’t inflict it on anyone else. Maybe some day I’ll go back and read the first book, which everyone seems to love, but I’ll have to get the library’s copy, because I can’t stand the thought of throwing my money at the author.

    That said, I do enjoy paranormals that aren’t overflowing with crazysauce. I love the Harry Dresden series (although we’re starting to get some crazysauce in there after 14 books) and I’ve enjoyed most of Jeaniene Frost’s Night Huntress series. Recently I read Jordan Castillo Price’s PsyCop series, which is a m/m paranormal romance; the narrator is a smart alec like Harry Dresden.

  20. 20
    Laine says:

    I love urban fantasy but I’m very picky about paranormal romance. Mostly because PR too often centers on tropes that I dislike.

    A hugely powerful, very old, brooding man falls in love with a normal human.
    There’s instant lust or some kind of fated mating deal that bypasses the part where the couple should get to know each other.
    They immediately lose the ability to think with their brains.
    The human woman might have or develop some supernatural power of her own but all too often all the relationship just can’t be between equals.
    There’s usually a conflict of some kind fighting evil but the couple seems to be more interested in having wild monkey sex or running away from having wild monkey sex than solving the mystery and saving the world.

    Just no. I don’t like relationships where the partners are too unequal. I have a hard time seeing a centuries old vampire with loads of power and experience going all mushy about a college girl. And if the characters aren’t really stupid, they’d have enough self control to prioritize saving the world over torrid relationship discussions and wild sex.

    That said, I’d actually like to read a gender-flipped version of the cliche where an ancient vampire queen stalks a studly human guy.

    I enjoyed Anita Blake up to Obsidian Butterfly. I love Mercy Thompson and Kate Daniels but those are urban fantasy, not romance. I enjoyed Sookie Stackhouse right to the end but again, I didn’t read it as a romance so I didn’t have the same expectations that many of the disappointed readers seem to have had. I loved most of Meljean Brooks’ Guardian books, she did a good job of making her couples equal. I liked Kelley Armstrong but it’s been a long time since I read anything by her. I tried to read Nalini Singh, wanted to throw the book at the wall. I slightly prefer weres to vampires and will take fae over either in a hearbeat.

  21. 21
    Heather S says:

    I think that LKH burned a LOT of readers (like most people, I think “Obsidian Butterfly” was the last good book in the series). I hung in there all the way to “Bullet” – even made it past the HORRIBLE novella, “Flirt” – but after “Bullet”, I just couldn’t deal with it anymore. I’ve read the book flog on Amazon for “Affliction” and it was both hilarious, maddening, and shows that LKH has essentially copied and pasted the same stuff from early books – using zombies to kill people? “The Laughing Corpse”, anyone?

    LKH has run out of ideas, but if anyone tries to criticize the sameness and lack of plot in her books, she calls the critic a “prude” who just doesn’t “understand how speshul and edgy” she is. smh

    It makes me sad, because I *LOVED* the Anita Blake books for so many years. I also discovered LJ Smith’s “The Vampire Diaries” as a young teen and adored them. “The Last Vampire” series by Christopher Pike was also a favorite – there’s a romance, but it’s not the focal point of the story.

    I really enjoyed Rachel Vincent’s “werecats” series (starting with “Stray”). I remember devouring the first three books in a week. I should go reread them and get the last two books in the series (there are 8 books total). I also really liked the Kitty Norville series by Carrie Vaughn. My favorite of those is “Kitty’s House of Horrors”, which had some great spooky bits. The last one I read was “Kitty Goes To War” (ironically, this book came out as I was preparing to deploy to Afghanistan in 2010/11).

  22. 22
    Kaylee says:

    See, I’m just the opposite.  I am a historical romance girl from the word go.  I hate and despise all things vampires.  So, the irony is not lost on me that since October, I’ve managed to purchase every damned Kresley Cole book there is.  And I have the audiobooks because those are just works of art themselves—Robert Petkoff is stunning.

  23. 23
    Dot says:

    I actually started my interest in Paranormal Romance with the TWILIGHT series.  Then I found, Anita Blake, Black Dagger Brotherhood, Kenyon’s God’s and of course Sookie’s obsessed vamps.  But they all fell away and paled in comparison to D.B. Reynolds’ Vampires In America.  Now those vamps are HOT and dangerous.  I’m still in love with Reynolds’ vamps and look forward to each new book.  But the others have just lost me and I’ve switched my loyalties to HR.

  24. 24
    Kate says:

    OMG.  What you all said.  Been there, done that and long since donated the T-shirt.  From Anita Blake I veered into Lora Leigh (and we can’t even go there, because really, who has the time to waste on that FUBAR), and detoured for a round of Feehan.  There is just something ponderous and oppressive about all those Carpathians, but I do still read the series about the sisters.  I kinda liked Jane Yellowrock, and the books by Lilith Saintcrow, and a series by Alex Archer where the heroine has Joan of Arcs’ sword and knows how to use it.  Everything else seemed to get very generic, with the formulas everyone has mentioned.  I would frequently have to re-read James Schmitz’s Telsey and Trigger series, or Suzanne Hager Elgin’s Arkansas Trilogy, or even classic Ann McCaffery scifi to cleanse my palate.
    I am older and wiser and more secure in my choices.  My only paranormal autobuys these days are Patricia Briggs – love Mercy Thompson, but Charles and Anna in the Alpha and Omega series are my crack.  I have those in tattered paperback and on my kindle for instant pick-me-ups.  Also G. A. Aiken’s Dragon series.  And her books as Shelly Laurenston rock.  Something about the combination of kickass bad girls, with girly leanings toward fashion and bad boys, really works for me.  And, oh, Eileen Wilks.  Her world of the Lupi has heroines who go toe to toe with the monsters, and still have to work on their relationships.  And, I don’t care what anyone says, I will never, never break up with Thea Harrison’s Dragos.  He is the paranormal Roarke.  I feel like I am saying there is still gold out there among the dross.  It is just harder to find.  Or maybe it it personal evolution.  In my life I have been through gothic heroines, regency romance, alpha Seals and their ilk, shifters, and vamps and aliens, and that is just the romance genre.  So I am always waiting for the next BIG THING.  And you know what?  Sooner or later it always comes along.

  25. 25
    Nali says:

    Re: Alien Fabio.
    He’s now doing things like touring Whole Foods stores to passionately promote something called “Healthy Planet Whey Protein”. I think do not think there is any other possible explanation.

    Re: Twilight cult status.
    Mormons, actually. Google “Twilight sparkle peen” to find a write up (on livejournal, I believe).

    LKH pissed me off so much with what she did to the series, that I hold off reading any new supernatural series like that until a few books are out, in case it “goes all Anita Blake” on me. Spoiler: if there is sex in the series, they all go Anita Blake on you.

    I still read paranormal/supernatural romances for one reason: I am totally fascinated by what they reveal about the current gestalt of romantic fantasy. By creating a world where there are different rules and things are not bound by the limits of our reality, it sort of frees up the story from the confines of societal norms and expectations. Seriously, even Medieval romances now seem to have the most PC knights and liberated damsels, ever. Because, PC. But if you have a whole separate race/society with its own rules and a whole bunch of magical Plot Spackle, you can do anything you want. Want a really, really dominant alpha male who simply tells the female how it going to be, but don’t know how to make that work in a non-D/s standard romance? **Poof** Just add some magical Fate and Destiny, and you no longer have to worry about undoing years of liberation by having your modern heroine swept off her feet with little or no say so. Want to kind of explore some light D/s or kink, but don’t know how to venture into that without compromising your standard romance formula or stumbling all over the establishing-trust-even-though-she’d-never-do-this-normally thing? **Presto** All you need is a hero who can read her mind and knows her “darkest desires” that even she has never realized were there. And, as an alternative to that as a “hidden desire” trigger, you can also just give her heretofore unknown magical genes/traits/whatever, which are of course awakened upon meeting the hero.

    And the Supernatural Sexing helps solve a whole lot of other problems, too. Let’s face it, it has gotten a little difficult to come up with believable ways to truly make the whole “this sex is not like any sex ever before and proves this is True Love” thing. I mean, how many modern women are really running around being “near virgins” (the alternative to trying to come up with more excuses as to why this hot, grown woman somehow never got around to having sex) or having only had bad sex, ever. But hey, if they are fated to be with some sort of Other Type Being, then you can add anything you want about how different and meaningful and mind-blowing it was on Cosmic levels. Throw in a light show, or some tingling, or a little soul touching, or whatever. Plus, if they’re hung like no human will ever be, everyone gets to feel just like a virgin, and as a bonus, the fact that it somehow fits perfectly is just another sign that it is Meant To Be. And for anyone who is tired of trying to figure out how to work the “crinkle of a foil packet” into a sexy scene without losing stride, there is the fact that he’s probably immune to all diseases and possibly can even conveniently only procreate under very specific and speshul circumstances.

    It’s kind of fascinating when you really look at it this way. Also, sometimes a little disturbing, but then – so many things are.

  26. 26
    Dread Pirate Rachel says:

    Lynne Connolly said

    “Dracula” did it for me. Oh, the suppressed sexual tension in that book is amazing! All that Lucy stuff, and then creepy Renfield. I read and re-read it for years.

    Yep, yep, yep. Plus, all the foodporn. Seriously, there is so much food in that book that I’m pretty sure it started out as a cookbook. I like my vampires big and bad. Tortured, I can take or leave, but goddamnit, if you survive by drinking blood, then just fracking drink blood. Stop angsting over it. This is why I always preferred Spike to Angel. At least Spike knew who he was and embraced it (up until he started whining all the time, then that character was… er, dead to me. Pun totally intended).

    I like the idea of PNR, especially with vampires, but I’ve been disappointed so many times that I’ve kind of given up on it. I now seek it out in TV series like Supernatural, where I’m free to ship angsty demon hunters and fallen angels to my little heart’s content. Destiel 4eva, y’all.

  27. 27

    The thing to remember about the Anita Blake novels is that the series was first published as urban fantasy, by a fantasy/SF genre imprint (Ace Books).  When the series morphed, it more or less helped create the modern paranormal-romance genre, and in the process it went through a good deal of repackaging and was pulled out of the Ace genre stable—romance having a larger reading audience than genre fantasy.  [At least that’s been the conventional wisdom; the evolution of paranormals as a category has blurred this distinction somewhat over time.] 

    I actually reviewed the first couple of Anita Blake titles for the SF/F column I was writing at the time, but dropped the series when it took its sharp left turn into romance.  This was not out of any innate objection to romance as a genre; the books just weren’t what I’d originally signed on for any more.

    The series from the pre-paranormal era that arguably should have taken off but didn’t—to my mind, at least—was Mercedes Lackey’s trio of books about Diana Tregarde, beginning (in publishing order) with Burning Water (and see also her stand-alone book Sacred Ground).

    And yes, I’m still keeping an eye out for L. J. Smith’s next book(s); she maintains an active Web site these days, and is still working on new material, but it’s not clear when we’ll actually see a new release.  (There was evidently at least one long-term health and/or life crisis involved in her writing hiatus, but it’s also not entirely clear what the issues were—in addition, she and the packager behind her first few series had a parting of ways some while back, such that the last several Vampire Diaries books have been ghosted/written by other hands.  And her own new books have been getting longer and more complicated as she writes….)

  28. 28
    Allie says:

    Oh man, I am so happy to see that others ended up hating Anita Blake as much as I did!

    In 2006, I discovered paranormal romances, when a coworker (older and wiser than my teenaged self) gave me a stack of books to read so she’d have someone to talk about them with.  There were the first three Anita Blake books, and several of Kelley Armstrong’s books.  I devoured them.  I ended up rereading the Anita Blake books and Bitten more than once before my coworker demanded the books back a month later.

    I bought more Anita Blake stuff, and continued reading like some sort of ravenous monster.  If I wasn’t working, I was reading, obsessing, and recommending the books to anyone who would listen.  Then the books started getting weird.  It was a lot of sex for someone who was still too shy to say sex out loud.  By Incubus Dreams I stopped rereading any of LKH’s stuff, and after not even being able to finish Danse Macabre (the first book I ever DNF) I completely stopped reading LKH, and became incredibly wary of pretty much all paranormal romances.

    I still read Kelley Armstrong’s stuff (and reread it), and I tried Patricia Briggs.  I think it must have been a side effect of binge reading (I read everything she wrote in less than a week 2 years ago), but I could not get over Briggs’s use of adverbs.

    I pretty much only read Kelley Armstrong as far as paranormals go, but I’m cool with that.  LKH kind of destroyed the genre for me.

  29. 29
    Rebecca says:

    When the series morphed, it more or less helped create the modern paranormal-romance genre… ~John C. Bunell

    Um, no. Laura K. Hammel did not “help create the modern paranormal-romance genre.” She helped create urban fantasy and then, as her writting became more erotic in nature, she was merged with erotic paranormal romance. But make no mistake, the genre was alive and kicking well before she made the change. I remember reading vampire romance that was published back in the ‘70s. By the early ‘90s, the founders of paranormal romance were starting to gain ground. By 2000 (when Obsidian Butterfly came out), paranormal romance writters were hitting the best sellers lists. She didn’t help create it; she changed over when the founders of the genre made it acceptable to write in it.

  30. 30
    Xandi says:

    I’m on board with sooo many of the authors mentioned…Briggs, Butcher, LKH (early), Frost, Hunter, Harrison, etc…but no one has mentioned Karen Chance. If you want a really fun and sometimes ridiculous paranormal romance check out her Death’s Mistress books. They are spin off from her Cassie Palmer series and have vampires, dhampirs, trolls, fae and dragons. Dorina is a kick ass heroine like no other…and you can trust me on this because if there is a hint of a book having a kick ass heroine, I will read it…and I live, er, WORK in a library!

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