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The Paranormal Romance Genre

What is the Paranormal Romance Genre?

The “Paranormal” romance genre is one of the larger subgenres of the romance genre, and features a blend of paranormal elements with traditional romance. Sometimes the setting is an alternate reality, and sometimes the paranormal elements exist in the real world. The stories involve the mystical, mythical and/or supernatural. The genre used to be called “Fantasy Romance,” but now “Paranormal Romance” has replaced that term since the word “fantasy” has taken on so many different definitions (and connotations) in the romance genre.

At its core, the genre still has the traditional, identifiable elements of romance: character driven, sexy heroes, relatable heroines and a focus on the development of the relationship. However, there is no common time frame, the stories can be contemporary, historical or futuristic. There is no common character type– it always features humans, but can also feature angels, the devil, vampires, ghosts, shape shifters, fairies, etc. The flexibility of the subgenre is one of the reasons it is so popular.

It does seem that A LOT of these romance novels become a series, so once you read one, settle in for the ride!

What to Expect in the Paranormal Romance Genre

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  • Sexy characters dressed in leather (seriously, there is a LOT of leather clothing in this genre for some reason)

  • Despite having “out there” characters and plots, there is still some basis in reality

  • There is always the element of surprise and/or mystery

  • They don’t always have a traditional “happily ever after” ending

Paranormal Romance Characteristics

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  • Level of Angst

    The level of angst in this genre is almost always quite high. Since there are supernatural settings and characters, the reader usually has no idea how the relationship will develop, and there is often some doubt established in the storyline about whether the human character will even survive the encounter.

  • Character Development

    This genre features some of the most fully developed characters found in all romance novels. In order to make it “work” for the reader, the characters and situations still need to be identifiable and relatable. In general, the hero is the paranormal one, and the heroine is human, although this is not always the case. The “villain” is also almost always paranormal. Most of the time the characters do assume a human form, although occasionally they don’t.

  • Plot Strength

    The plot strength is also exceptionally high in this genre. It requires a lot of planning to make them work, and how the alternate world/universe/etc is developed is critical to how the story unfolds. It is essential that the paranormal world be both reasonable and explicable for the reader.

  • Romantic Tension

    The level of romantic tension is pretty high in this genre. We are never quite sure what will happen to the characters, and as mentioned above, there is often some concern about whether the human partner will be able to survive a physical relationship. If there *is* a concern about this, there is an even higher level of tension as the characters move toward getting together physically and one character inevitably moves away since (usually) he is afraid of hurting (usually) her.

  • Level of Eros

    Pretty high. Honestly it is intriguing to see how these novels develop the sex scenes, and when the characters find ways to come together the reader has been waiting, and rooting, for a good part of the novel.

  • Prose Quality

    The prose quality in this genre is usually very strong. It requires a lot of creativity, strong characters, strong plots and an interesting overall story in order to draw in the reader.

Related Romance Subgenres

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  • The main subgenres for this genre are time travel romance, science fiction romance and contemporary romance. Paranormal Romance is also part of the Fantasy genre and related to the Urban Fantasy subgenre.

Paranormal Romance isn't for you if

You like “real life” scenarios, a straightforward storyline, and you prefer traditional romance.

Paranormal Romance is totally for you if

You enjoy the supernatural/paranormal. You don’t need to have a traditional happy ending and you enjoy relationship development and unique situations.

Popular Paranormal Romance Books
  • 1 An Angel for Emily (1998)


    By Jude Deveraux. Tells the story of an angel who falls in love with his charge. He decides to return to Earth, but loses all memory of himself, and of her, when he does. Can they find their way to one another again? (Hint: YES!)

  • 2 New Moon (2006)


    By Stephenie Meyer. Is the follow up to the phenomenally successful Twilight which features the most human – and humane - set of vampires to ever grace the pages of romantic fiction, and created a whole new world for romance readers, and writers, everywhere. This novel introduces shapeshifting wolves to the mix, and as the human heroine is drawn to both men, there is inevitable conflict between the two natural enemies.

  • 3 Fantasy Lover (2006)


    By Sherrilyn Kenyon. Is the story of a “love slave” who was cursed and trapped in a book, brought to life to fulfill the sexual desires of women for the past two thousand years. He has always accepted his fate, until he meets her…can true love finally set him free to find happiness and fulfillment for himself?

  • 4 How to Marry a Millionaire Vampire (2006)


    By Kerrelyn Sparks. Is a funny quirky romance. It’s about a vampire who loses one of his fangs and only has one night to find a dentist to fix it. It’s about a dentist who is on the Russian mob’s hit list and who is afraid of blood. When he rescues her from a murder attempt they discover an immediate attraction and hope to help each other before it’s too late.

  • 5 Bloodrunner Dragon (2016)


    By T.S. Joyce. Is the story of two shapeshifters with not a lot of time before the danger which threatens finds them both. She’s a dragon and he’s a grizzly…watch out for teeth and claws!

  • 6 Kiss of Midnight (2007)


    By Lara Adrian. Tells the story of a woman who meets a man in a nightclub and is instantly drawn to him. However, after witnessing a murder outside and needing to be rescued by him, her world will change forever.

  • 7 Awaken Me Darkly (2006)


    By Gena Showalter. Is about an “alien huntress” who works for the Chicago police department. When her partner is injured in an other-worldly attack, she encounters another alien to whom she is deeply attracted, but who might be a murderer.

  • 8 Vampire Girl (2016)


    By Karpov Kinrade. Is about a young girl who becomes a vampire in order to save her mother. She thought it would be painful, consigning herself to the fires of hell, but what she discovered was magic, beauty and even love.

  • 9 Ghost Gifts (2016)


    By Laura Spinella. Is the story of a heroine who is tired of talking with ghosts. She finally finds some peace writing a real estate column for a local newspaper, until she is drawn into a murder mystery for a decades old murder. The investigative reporter on the case wants answers, and senses that she knows more than she is saying. She just wants a normal relationship for once, but it seems that the paranormal elements around her have other ideas.

  • 10 Changeling Dream (2011)


    By Dani Harper. Tells the story of a woman who has always dreamed of a great white wolf during stressful times. Little did she know that he is real, and now he is being hunted. Can she put aside her disbelief to believe in him and what their love might be able to become?