Monday, January 25, 2010

It's never just one thing, it's almost always another too

Amy over at Romance Book Wyrm did a post with some great fantasy romance suggestions and talking with her got me thinking about my own bookshelves. A lot of the books I read would probably be considered paranormal romance or urban fantasy - but how firmly are any of us able to draw that line? Romance is a vehicle for all sorts of other genres, fantasy, science fiction, etc. Primarily, I would think, because romance is about love and no matter what environment or set of circumstances brings two characters together, love is the same in all of them. Trying to recommend just fantasy romances proved to a problem because what makes fantasy a fantasy and not a paranormal? Is one title exclusionary to the other? If I try to define it by saying certain elements like vampires or werewolves are what mark a paranormal, where do you then place books that have creatures that are similar to those but have them existing in another world entirely? Or do we need to go back to the root of the word paranormal - 'normal'. Is it only in comparison to the 'normal' world that we can define what is outside it? Are the general cultural assumptions that we as readers make about what is usual or acceptable what allow publishers and book stores to tell us what is paranormal? It's not an easy question, in fact it's probably that if I were still in school I would research and write a paper about. But it's something we can start thinking about - what defines our categories as readers for what we read? Who is going to be responsible for making those distinctions: ourselves or the people who provide us with the material?

Either way, we do at some point have to just agree to agree. To say that generally most people are able to distinguish between fantasy, paranormal, futuristic, and the many other types of romance. To actually get to point of this post, here are a few of the authors (and series) that I think are wonderful examples of paranormal romance and that you shouldn't miss!

Christine Feehan - Ghostwalker Series
Everyone talks about Feehan's Carpathian books but I think she does just as a good job, if not better, with this series that stars different men and women who've have their natural psychic powers increased through government experimentation.

JR Ward - Black Dagger Brotherhood

Ward's books star some of the best alpha males around. Bad-ass vampires who are completely in love with their mates, it makes me want to find one of my own!

Sunny - Monére, Children of the Moon Series
Sunny does an intriguing thing, because her books are really on that line between paranormal and fantasy. A lot of the stories take place in the 'human' world but at the same time her Monere characters travel to other dimensions, including a hell-like place. Whatever you want to call it, the world that she depicts is dark, sensual, and very intriguing - highly recommended.

Shelly Laurenston - Pride Series
I love Laurenston, she has some of the best laugh-out-loud romances I've ever read. Combine that with shapeshifters that she somehow manages to make seem completely normal and you've got a great read.

Patricia Briggs - Mercy Thompson Series
I feel like Patricia Briggs is one of those authors you just have to mention when you talk about paranormal romance. But romance is not always the main focus of the story - Briggs includes a lot of fantasy and mystery elements to keep her series both interesting and always changing.

Laurell K Hamilton - Anita Blake Vampire Hunter Series
People have a lot of mixed feelings concerning LKH's most well known series, mostly due to the fact that as the series goes on you get more and more of a focus on interpersonal relationships rather than on mystery (resulting in more sex in the books). I personally love them, and while she had me worried there with Blood Noir, Skin Trade showed that LKH still knows how to write a great horror/fantasy novel with enough romance elements to keep anyone happy.

Charlaine Harris - Sookie Stackhouse series
While Tru Blood made Sookie Stackhouse a household name, I've loved Harris through all of her incarnations - paranormal or not. She's always excelled at writing great romantic mysteries with characters that have incredible amounts of depth to keep the reader engrossed in the final outcome. Sookie is no different, because it doesn't matter what vampires, werewolves, or other nasties show up, the series has the intricacy of its characters at the heart.

Ok so those are my picks. What do you guys think? Are there some other series out there that deserve to be on my shelf that I'm missing out on? Let me know!