Beyond Sexy Vampires: SE-RART Discusses Paranormal Romance

The Southeastern Mass. Reader’s Advisory Roundtable met at the Norwell Public Library yesterday to discuss paranormal romance, before we move on to women’s fiction in April. Thank you to Becky Freer for providing the meeting space and great refreshments!

We began the meeting with announcements:

heart17MLS Readers’ Advisory LibGuide has links to RA-related webinars such as Genre Overviews:
Genres That Appeal to the Emotions by Joyce Saricks, and
Genre Blends by Megan McArdle, who wrote The Readers’ Advisory Guide to Genre Blends,the book that most of our readings for today came from.

heart17NoveList is offering a free webinar, Romancing the Book Club, Wednesday, Feb. 10, at 2 p.m. “Romance readers are among libraries’ greatest patrons, but the romance genre is often overlooked as a choice for book clubs.” Even if you can’t attend, register to receive an emailed link to the recorded webinar! (Thanks, Susan!)

heart17The Norwell Public Library invites everyone to their Norwell Reads 2016 events. (Note: The town of Norwell is reading The Martian by Andy Weir, not a paranormal romance.)


We talked about romance in general, in a discussion led by Miki, who asked how the group felt about the romance genre after reading contemporary, historical, and now paranormal romances, some for the first time.

Many felt that doing the genre study was an eye-opener and were surprised by how much they enjoyed exploring the genre. One confirmed romance-hater – whom we will call A. (or T.) – said that her feelings about romance being too much about the romance at the expense of plot were confirmed by all three of the benchmark titles, but that enjoyed exploring the subgenres through the second titles where she could find ones that appealed more to her. Gail mentioned that the genre study helped her with collection development, making her more familiar with romance authors and series. Miki brought up how popular romance ebooks of all types are in OverDrive.

Then we delved into paranormal romance in particular, and talked about how the fantasy element of romance in general is even more pronounced in paranormal romance. “Men understand you and you don’t even have to talk because you have this psychic connection. How much of a fantasy is that?” (Antonia)

We talked about the indistinct line between urban fantasy and paranormal romance (You can’t always tell by the cover which is which) and pored over this Genrefy chart by Megan McArdle placing popular titles where they fall on the paranormal romance/urban fantasy scale.

heart17 Click here for the February meeting agenda with the complete list of RA-related readings.

Moving on to talk about about Seize the Night by Sherrilyn Kenyon, our benchmark title, the group found it to be a good example of paranormal fiction, in that the main characters (Tabitha and Val) had that necessary instant and unique chemistry (Becky) – recognizable even before the amazing first kiss – and “more than their share of conflict” ((Maggie), while the book was fast-paced, action-packed, and fit the romance pattern in other ways also. Most of the group enjoyed the author’s use of humorous banter to lighten the overall dark tone.

Sieze the Night

From the author’s Web site:
“In the world of the Dark-Hunters nothing is ever as it seems. Life and death both take on a whole new meaning as this immortal cadre of warriors fight to protect mankind from those creatures and demons who would prey on us. It’s dark. It’s deadly and it’s a whole lot of fun and laughter.”

Seize the Night by Sherrilyn Kenyon

Tone/Mood – The tone in paranormal romance may be dark and dangerous, “even though the conclusion provides the requisite happy ending.” (Joyce Saricks) The dark tone in Seize the Night is somewhat lightened by humor –often dark humor.

Characters – Flawed/scarred main characters / Full cast of secondary characters / Characters fit the romance pattern: Strong, smart, independent women and strong, distant, dangerous men. (“Conquering a gentle, affectionate, mild-mannered, sensible hero simply is not as satisfying, either for the heroine or for the reader.” – Joyce Saricks)

“Paranormal romance is where the alpha males really tend to come out and play.” (Megan McArdle)

“Romance can also emphasize the humanity of any supernatural characters.” (Megan McArdle)

Story Line – Forbidden Love (Val – as a Dark-Hunter not allowed a relationship with a human, and even if it were, Tabitha last woman on the planet he could have, etc., Seize the Night, p. 63) Unique Love (Val has never experienced a woman like Tabitha in all of his 2,000 years, etc.), ongoing fight good vs. evil

Frame/Setting – Frame: Paranormal romances feature supernatural and magical elements. Setting: New Orleans

Pacing – Action-packed, fast-paced (except in bed)

Style/Language – The group felt that the prologue set the romantic tone for the book. “One can identify a Romance in the first few pages, just by observing the way a story is constructed and the language used.” (The Readers’ Advisory Guide to Genre Fiction, p. 137)

Seize the Night fell about midway on the chart of Urban Fantasy vs. Paranormal Romance. Despite the copious good vs. evil fight scenes and the numerous tragic deaths of innocents, true love – especially human Tabitha and Dark-Hunter Val – is definitely the main focus of the story.

Remember to add your second titles to the blog!

heart17 Paranormal romance titles we heard about at the meeting:

Susan – Heart of the Dragon (Atlantis, #1) by Gena Showalter

Paula – Unseen (Krewe of Hunters, #5) by Heather Graham

Amy – The Hot Zone (Rainshadow, #3) by Jayne Ann Castle

Maggie – HeartMate (Celta’s HeartMates, #1) by Robin Owens

Becky – Undead and Unwed (Undead, #1) by MaryJanice Davidson

Jessie – The Parasol Protectorate series (Soulless, #1) by Gail Carriger

Eileen – Succubus Blues (Georgia Kincaid, #1) by Richelle Mead

Laurie – Slave to Sensation (Psy-Changeling, #1) by Nalini Singh

Miki – Half-Moon Hollow books by Molly Harper
(Nice Girls series and Naked Werewolf series)

Miki – Night Huntress (Cat and Bones) series by Jeaniene Frost

Antonia – The Down Home Zombie Blues by Linnea Sinclair

Carol – Kiss of Midnight by Lara Adrian

Gail – Casting Spells (Sugar Maple, #1) by Barbara Bretton

heart17 Resources mentioned at the meeting:

NPR’s Happy Ever After: 100 Swoon-Worthy Romances (July 2015) – also the link to a spreadsheet created from this list by a librarian listener.

MLS Readers’ Advisory LibGuide

1) RA guides (Sign up for email updates for new guides tagged “reader’s advisory”)

2) 5 in 15 Booktalks on Historical (June 2015) and Contemporary Romance (March 2015)

Smart Bitches, Trashy Books

Romance Junkies

Print resources to borrow from the library:

Romantic Times (periodical)

Beyond Heaving Bosoms: The Smart Bitches’ Guide to Romance Novels by Sarah Wendell and Candy Tan

Thanks to all for your participation! Please sign up to receive an email when this blog is updated, if you haven’t already.

New members are always welcome!

Paranormal Romance Second Titles

pages of book folded into two heart shapesImage borrowed from Miss Literati. Click on it to see ideas for 8 DIY Bookmarks to Give on Valentine’s Day. There’s still time to make them!
If you haven’t submitted the second title that you read for our Paranormal Romance meeting, please click here to add it to the list!

cover imageTitle: The Down Home Zombie Blues
Linnea Sinclair
Atlantis, #1
Main Appeal Factors: 
Interesting premise, lots of action (fights, encounters), fast-paced plot
Romance Subgenre: Paranormal

The antagonists are not technically zombies but mutated cyborg-type entities, and the romantic protagonists are an alien zombie hunter and a Florida detective. The two meet when the aliens try to recover technology left on Earth after a zombie attack on a fellow alien “embedded” in south Florida, which is being treated as a murder by the Florida police. There is fairly instant attraction, but the protagonists hold of from consummating the relationship for quite some time, which makes sense considering everything they’re dealing with. There is quite a bit of humor, interesting secondary characters, a love-triangle and a kind of Catch-22 for the protagonists regarding the detective’s learning the truth about the female protagonist’s alien origin.

cover image

Title: Heart of the Dragon
Gena Showalter
Atlantis, #1
Main Appeal Factors:
character-driven, steamy, fast paced, action packed, romantic
Romance Subgenre: Paranormal
Annotation/Thoughts: The story features a human female – young and adventurous Grace Carlyle – and the shape-shifting Darius en Kragin – King of the dragons in Atlantis. Grace is strong-willed and not intimidated by Darius and his warriors. She finds ways to escape Atlantis but is immediately drawn to Darius physically and emotionally and he feels the same for her.
The story begins with Grace in the Brazilian jungle where she is searching for Alex, her archaeologist brother. She discovers the portal to Atlantis, meets Darius in human form and the romance is on.
Grace escapes Atlantis and returns to New York still looking for her brother. Darius follows her and they agree to work together to find Alex while defeating a team of archaeologists who have formed an alliance with vampires and are looting and killing the dragons of Atlantis. The reader must suspend belief to appreciate the story line that humans and dragons can have a physical and romantic relationship in both the “real world” of New York City and the paranormal world of Atlantis.

cover imageTitle: Heart Mate (Alternate title: HeartMate)
Robin D. Owens
Celta, #1
Main Appeal Factors:
cats, psychic bonds, alien world
Romance Subgenre: Paranormal
Annotation/Thoughts: Hot but not steamy. Setting: Humans who left Earth because they were persecuted for their special abilities and have settled a not completely hospitable world.
Paranormal element: special abilities such as healing, working with metal, seeing the future. The hook? Cats! The cats are telepathic and bond with the main humans in the book. Romantic hook: some of the people on the planet have a heartmate which is a lifetime bond (involving, of course, hot sex and psychic links.) Give to fans of Jayne Castle!

cover imageTitle: The Hot Zone
Jayne Castle
Rainshadow Island, #3
Main Appeal Factors:
romance, quick read
Romance Subgenre: Paranormal
Annotation/Thoughts: The Hot Zone is a classic romance with a paranormal world surrounding the love story. This title is one of a series of books written by Jayne Castle aka Jayne Ann Krentz that take place on the planet of Harmony. The book is in the third-person narrative and the chapters mostly bounce between the lovers Sedona and Cyrus. The bulk of the book takes place on Rainshadow Island and there is a bit of a learning curve with the background of the planet and its underground tunnels which were created by aliens. Many of the people in the book have special “talents” some of which include reading auras, opening and closing “gates,” and starting fires. The pacing is fairly quick although it is not a slow uphill to the end but several dramatic scenes which come and go before reaching the final dramatic conclusion. Sedona moves to Rainshadow Island after escaping the clutches of an evil scientist who had been using her for his experiments. Cyrus arrives on the island to oversee the management of the newly established Rainshadow Ghosthunters Guild which involves the alien tunnels. From their initial meeting, sparks fly between Cyrus and Sedona, and he immediately begins protecting Sedona from Dr. Blakenship’s efforts to recapture Sedona.  Sedona and Cyrus have several adventures together before the satisfying conclusion.

cover imageTitle: Slave to Sensation
Nalini Singh
Psy-Changeling, #1
Main Appeal Factors:
jaguar/leopard and wolf shapeshifters, cultural/societal misfit characters, futuristic world, hot and heavy sex scenes
Romance Subgenre: Paranormal
Annotation/Thoughts: A fast-paced, intriguing futuristic story of class conflict and forbidden love. The heroine, Sascha, has to hide her true self from everyone – even her own mother – because she is of the Psy class. The Psy are humans who have had emotions and sensations (especially sexual desire) bred out of them. Controlling/hiding her passions becomes almost impossible when Sascha is directed to work with Lucas, a sexy human/jaguar leader of the changelings, on a groundbreaking Psy/Changeling business partnership. Lucas has always hated and distrusted the Psy, but finds himself strangely drawn to Sascha, who seems different to his animal senses from other Psy. Much as they both struggle against their rising passions, their forbidden love cannot be stopped…even as they race against time to catch a serial killer suspected of being protected by the Psy before Sascha’s betrayal of her people is discovered and punished by slow torture and death.

cover imageTitle: Succubus Blues
Richelle Mead
Georgina Kincaid, #1
Main Appeal Factors:
strong, clever and beautiful heroine; fast paced; forbidden romance
Romance Subgenre: Paranormal
Annotation/Thoughts: This book was way more of a mix of genres than a straight romance. I’d consider this more of an urban fantasy and mystery than romance. The book was in first person and, while the ending was happy, it left things with the hero open ending. The readers weren’t sure if they would continue to have a happy ending into the next book. (This is the first book in a six-part series.) I would recommend this book to fantasy lovers who think they may be into a bit of sauciness. Also, if you think your reader may be up for more twists and turns than an ordinary, paint by numbers story, then this book is a good choice.

cover image of The UnseenTitle: The Unseen
 Author: Heather Graham
Krewe of Hunters, #5
Main Appeal Factors:
romance, some characters have power to speak to the dead, fast paced
Romance Subgenre: Paranormal
Annotation/Thoughts: Kelsey O’Brien a US Marshal in Florida is sent to San Antonio, Texas to join a special law enforcement unit. This unit is comprised of people who can “see” the dead. When Kelsey meets Logan Raintree a Texas Ranger who is part of the task force, the attraction is powerful. Logan and Kelsey quickly become partner and try to solve a string of murders in San Antonio. Kelsey is beautiful and a competent US Marshal. Logan is grieving over the death of his wife who died because Logan did not get to her in time. His wife was buried alive by a relative of a man that Logan had put in jail. Even with his powers, Logan could not save his wife. Logan has feelings for Kelsey. They keep the romance hidden from their co-workers. There is a happy ending.


One response to “Beyond Sexy Vampires: SE-RART Discusses Paranormal Romance

  1. Pingback: Paranormal Romance Wrap-Up @DoingDewey #ReluctantRomantic | Bay State Reader's Advisory

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