A Paranormal Resurrection?
Fourteen years after Twilight hit the shelves and with only A Discovery Of Witches left to satisfy our onscreen vampire lovin' needs, Holly March takes a closer at paranormal romance.
We are almost at the stage when we can use the word 'twilight', (meaning that time between dusk and dawn), without cringing or feeling defensive, and some people are already murmuring about paranormal romance “making a comeback”.
In the immortal words of William Shakespeare: “Say What?!”
Darlings, it has never left!
Paranormal romance is where we push our boundaries. The alpha attitudes of shapeshifters and werewolves are excused by their animal side. The magnetic pull of vampires is a justification for their shiftiness. It is where we use tropes we would never dare use in contemporary romance, and where the best authors can take those tropes and spin them like fine glass into a delicate thing of beauty.
In a paranormal romance the sex can be animalistic, with no limitations or inhibitions. We can play with notes of submission without the need for ropes and collars. The tools for paranormal are different: out comes the Big Spooky House, the Sympathetic Backgrounds, the faithful retainer/serjeant/bestie, and all the trappings of Gothic romance, but these days with less white nighties and more leather dusters. Modern authors have added ‘mating frenzies’ to vampiric compulsion, the fear of society replacing the traditional fear of the monster.
The best part of the new call for paranormal romance is it comes on the heels of the #OwnVoices movement. We have African authors writing about legends with their own cultural spin. Erhu Kobe Yellow’s Dawsk is a must read of urban fantasy romance with an atmosphere that would flow onscreen as well as it does on the page. Seressia Glass’ Shadow Chaser series is so good I am deliberately reading it slowly because I don’t want to get to the end (Ancient Egyptian mythology with a kickass biker heroine and a hot-and-stubborn romance with an ancient warrior whose sidekick is Anansi. Yes, Anansi!). And by now you’re all reading Michelle Osgood, right? Her werewolf romances are amazing! She has a way of conveying flawed characters with absolute realism without ever making you dislike them.
It is important - vital - that marginalised authors have their go at familiar tropes. We have no right to say that because Twilight killed the reputation of paranormal romance, the game is over before everyone has their chance to play with the building blocks we love. There is a tendency to reject stories because there have been many versions written by white authors. But there is always a place for the same beats told from a different paradigm. Always!
What I am personally most excited about, mind you, is the shift towards the Percy-Jackson-but-for-adults side of paranormal. Like Ms Glass’ series, I want more and more god romances. Either god on mortal action [insert Who Wants To Live Forever from Highlander] or mortals who have their lives messed up by those gods living their lives together with us. (I have beta’d two books with godly backgrounds and romances and ermagerd, people! So good!)
Other big hitters in the shapeshifter and werewolf genre include Anne Aguirre, Carly Chase, and Margo Bond Collins. I recommend all of them, but Aguirre’s Ars Numina series is required reading! Kiru Taye’s Sacred Amulet books touch on paranormal, but the romance is the main feature, for those who prefer a lighter touch.
But vampires? I admit, I require recommendations! Please stick them in the comments or recommend them to me @marcherwitch on Twitter. The thing is, yeah, I was massively put off what publishers were releasing after Twilight. I didn’t even make it to Edward Cullen’s entrance, I threw the book across the room before then when the ungrateful bint was whining about what kind of car her father had bought her. I didn’t get on with the Vampire Diaries books (though season two of the TV show is perfect TV start to finish). So I backed off vampires after a teenage-hood chock full of Buffy and Anne Rice. Please, give me some vampire romances to read with kickass heroines. The last one I read was Tall, Dark, and Dead by Tate Halloway.
Give me YA written for adult audiences, you know?
And give me Charmed but with Vodon or Ilmu Hitam as the magical background. Give me Siempre Bruja without the despicable Stockholm Syndrome beginning! Give me Supernatural but with two Hindi sisters. What if True Blood was set in a Japanese fishing village with ghosts instead of vampires?
The other best thing about paranormal is we tend to get a series where the romance evolves and shifts from book to book, evolving organically and realistically. There’s less of the THEY MEET NOW THEY LOVE THE END scramble of a 75,000 word novel, less of the ‘Is this realistic? Have they talked enough? Do I need more scenes of—no, I have no word count left…’ Paranormal is the closest we get to the experience of marathoning a series on Netflix or Hulu. It’s awesome! And it never went away, you just need to look for recommendations so we don’t get burned again!
So on that note, could everyone please read Dawsk? I need sequels!
Which paranormal romances have you fallen in love with recently? What myths, monsters and mysterious goings-on do you want to see more of in PNR? Let us know in the comments or join the discussion on our Social Media using #Resurrection.