I love paranormal romance. I don’t have quite the breadth of experience with it as some friends of mine, but I do have a certain amount of depth; I tend to have friends recommend me a series, delve into it until I’ve read all of the books in the space of about a week, and then obsessively reread my favorites for about two weeks after that. I’ve found some really great books that way — fantastic worldbuilding, compelling characters with engaging relationships, fast-paced action and fight scenes, easy to read without feeling too simple.
But there are still some trends I wouldn’t mind seeing, beyond needing more well-done queer characters/characters of colour — and let’s be real, most books out there need more of that, especially fantasy/sci-fi.
1. More genre-savvy protagonists
Paranormal romance can be a genre with some very recognizable tropes. The most fun thing to do with something like that is to either subvert the tropes, or have the characters lampshade them by pointing them out. Chloe in Kelley Armstrong’s Darkest Powers trilogy is actually a good example of this; she’s not specifically savvy about fantasy tropes, but she’s a film buff, and she’s pretty quick to recognize some of the classic horror movie situations.
I have to admit that part of me really just wants a contemporary version of Northanger Abbey, though.
2. Fewer brooding love interests
Yeah, yeah, we know, you’re a creature of the night. You’re dangerous. But surely there have to be some supernatural dudes out there who don’t think that life is a total angst-fest; don’t they deserve some love, too?
Plus, the problem with the brooding love interest is that he can often become one of the dreaded love-interests-who-always-know-more-than-the-protagonist, which is insufferable, or — worse — one of the this-relationship-sure-has-a-lot-of-red-flags variety. Nobody needs that.
3. Fewer love triangles
I can’t lie, here; I’m sick of love triangles. Often they involve person A and person B fighting over person C, as if it’s an issue of winning rather than of person C making a choice. When A and B are girls, one of them generally ends up getting cast as “the bitch,” which I find annoying on a number of levels. Plus, there have to be more interesting ways to develop tension in a narrative. If there aren’t more interesting dynamics at play, or if it’s not going to end in a threesome, I don’t care.
(Seriously, more things should end in threesomes. It would solve so many problems.)
4. More female werewolves
It honestly seems like a crime that we don’t have a stronger fictional tradition of female werewolves. I can’t even say that the monthly lunar cycle parallels are begging to be drawn, because they’ve already been drawn. By male werewolves. I don’t need more jokes about it being “that time of the month,” where the punchline is supposed to be that the werewolf is like a girl; I’d rather just skip to having the werewolf actually be a girl.
5. Better covers
The predominant paranormal romance covers tend to fall into a handful of categories, which you can see just by skimming the paranormal romance shelf on Goodreads.
First, we have the covers with actual people: scantily-dressed men, scantily-dressed women, or scantily-dressed men and women in compromising positions. I think the idea behind these tends to be that readers will be more interested if the publishers display the goods upfront — “the goods” being in this case photos of nearly-naked people, in order to signify that the book has sex inside it. Since it’s paranormal, occasionally the models will be dressed in leather corsets, carrying swords, biting each other, or with spooky-looking castles in the background.
Second, we have the Twilight-inspired covers, which feature a single object —usually on a black background — that doesn’t particularly represent any actual content that may be within the book. It’s mysterious-looking! And hypothetically more discreet, although the dominant colour scheme of black, white, and red is occasionally a dead giveaway.
Don’t get me wrong, I think that these covers are hilarious, and I appreciate both the upfront nature of the first, and the second’s attempt at abstraction. A few more options couldn’t hurt, though; after all, variety is the spice of any bookshelf, right? What are some things you want to see more of in your paranormal romances? Are there tropes you enjoy? Ones you despise? Sound off in the comments!