In the battle for domination against comic serials, paranormal romance novels barely register. While TV and film studios have had some success translating paranormal romance novels like Twilight, Mortal Instruments, and Blood and Chocolate onto the screen, the genre has always remained a source of gendering among fandoms. The term “paranormal romance” may turn off some people, so we’re going to break down the myth that these books can only draw a heterosexual female fan base. They’re for guys too.
Paranormal romance novels (or PNR), much like other fantasy literature, often deal with demonarchies, witches, science fiction, horror, steampunk, and many other social mythoi. However, the genre also does what you’re assuming it does: primarily focus on the romance between two fated-to-be-together beings.
Many fans pass up on something they find to be outside the norms of their own worlds. Don’t allow stereotypes of a genre to lead you to miss out on an exciting genre; there may be an entirely unexplored world that could be just what you’re looking for.
So what is it about the PNR universe that might make it less attractive to men?
Myth: They Contain Clichéd Storylines
This is the biggest argument used against the genre. Boy meets girl, they fall in love at first sight, and then live happily ever after. However, the PNR world is separated into two very distinct molds:
1. Romance is Central
With novels like Twilight, neither the bad blood between the vampires and werewolves nor the dissent within the vampire faction is ever fully fleshed out. Instead, the novel is completely centered around the forbidden romance between a human and vampire and their extra special offspring. In this mold, the primary focus is on the romance and the happily ever after of the heroes.
While these types of stories still follow the usual and expected formula, their settings, paranormal characters, and other genre aspects go beyond the cliché.
2. Romance is Glue
These are among the most interesting of the genre. Novels of this type are not your typical romance. The novel’s world and characters are as complex as those of a well fleshed-out comic or fantasy novel. This type of PNR story skillfully crafts romance into its storytelling. Some stick to the age-old formula, while others deviate just enough to keep the reader engaged.
Myth: They Are Solely Written From the Feminine Perspective
PRNs are mostly written in the third person offering both female and male perspectives for one or all leading characters. For some series’, the point of view introduces new characters for each new book. This way, the audience gets to understand the thoughts and actions of each character, keeping the storyline fresh, and offering a deeper and less one-sided story.
For a genre that is typified by the gender it seeks, it is quite surprising that, according to fantasy publisher Tor Books (a subsidiary of McMillan Publishers) and the Romance Writers Association, men make up to 43% of writers and 18% of the readership. If the paranormal romance genre is meant only for females, that is a surprising amount.
We should also note that many male paranormal romance authors either write under various pseudonyms or co-write with female authors. For example, Gordon Andrews writes with his wife, Ilona Andrews, often publishing just under her name. Anna Zaires also frequently collaborates with her husband Dima on many of her novels.
Myth: Lack of Heroics
As the romance genre evolves, PNR novels are increasingly becoming more and more fast-paced, bloody, and dark. Nalini Singh’s Psy-Changeling novels explore the dark and twisted minds of the Psy race. Singh’s ability to create a world where psychopaths and serial killers wander as they play in the bloody remains of their victims is almost as captivating as the clash between the warring changeling species in the novel. Equipped with ancient assassins who can rip the physical and mental world apart with just a single thought and a girl who has to feed her blue fire into the earth just so she doesn’t go nuclear, Singh’s novels read so fast that you can end up with withdrawals.
Another great example is Singh’s Guild Hunter series which turns the story of angels on its head. Silver-haired, newly turned archangel/vampire hunter Elena Deveraux wars with the darkly sinister brethren of her ancient archangel boyfriend, beings so twisted that their blood creates vampires every few years.
Many PNR novels have become so successful that they’ve extended into 30 or more books in the series, such as Christine Feehan’s Carpathian Dark series and Sherrilyn Kenyon’s Dark Hunters. This gives the PNR universe a form of continuity and depth that is usually only seen in comics.
Myth: Paranormal Romance Novels Only Focus on Heterosexual Relationships
While some paranormal romance novels do look at cisgender heterosexual relationships, a lot of stories explore beyond these confines. Many novels look at relationships that cover the spectrum of sexuality with M/M, F/F, M/M/F, and sometimes non-gender-specific immortals.
Lisa Oliver is a great LGBTQ paranormal romance novel writer who sometimes collaborates with her son on her shifter or Angel/Demon PNR novels. The focus in each of her novels might not wholly be world building, but more about character building and motivation. Angels end up doing some very bad things while the demons themselves never fully live up to their hellish namesake.
I’m Convinced! But, Where Do I Begin?
A great place to start reading is Gena Showalter’s Alien Huntress series. If you like your Deadpool or Alucard type of characters, make sure to read this first. The series is set in New (alternate future) Chicago, a century after the ending of a huge human-alien war that resulted in a change in environment (scarcity of water, etc). The Earth is now populated by both mortals and Otherlanders — aliens from other planets and realms who travel through portals between their lands and ours. Each novel follows either an alien or hunter and their mates as they try to solve grisly murders and save mankind. A whole lot of snark and kick-assery awaits you.
With a rabid online following of PNR communities, it is obvious that the genre’s fandom will only grow. Whether it attracts men or women, the fact remains that the PNR universe offers something for everyone. And for any non-PNR reader or future fan out there, welcome aboard!