Many readers' knowledge of the paranormal romance genre is restricted to one series of books: the Twilight series by Stephanie Meyer. The books were a massive success, spawning a film franchise and a new generation's obsession with sexy paranormal creatures. Though some take issue with Meyer's work, the influence of Twilight upon YA literature and romance is undeniable. At the very least, Meyer's books made one thing very, very clear: people love paranormal romance.
I totally understand the swoon-factor of a hot supernatural character. I drooled over Spike, the vampire-meets-Billy Idol character from Buffy the Vampire Slayer , while my mother still pines for Barnabas Collins of Dark Shadows (the original, not the dreadful Johnny Depp reboot). So when a book gives us a dangerous monster of a character who also happens to be gorgeous and looking to get a little sexy with our protagonist...well, I'll definitely read about that.
But we can all agree that Edward, the undead Prince Charming of the Twilight series, was a pretty crummy guy, right? Overbearing, moody, and prone to treating Bella like she's an idiot child, you'll have to forgive me If I don't get the urge to fall into his cold and sparkly arms. That doesn't mean I let Twilight kill my love for supernatural romances, however. If anything, it invigorated my desire to read some truly good ones. Here are a few must-read paranormal romances:
1. Shadowland by Meg Cabot
Sixteen-year old Suze's sophomore year is not going as planned. After moving to California with her mother to live with her new stepfather, Suze finds that there's already someone occupying her new room: a very handsome, though very dead, 150-year-old ghost named Jesse. Suze is a mediator, and her goal is to help spirits move on to the Afterlife — often by any means necessary. Too bad Jesse refuses to move on, and the equally stubborn spirit of a recently-dead high school girl is making Suze's adjustment to her new school impossible... especially when that spirit decides she wants to kill Suze. Actually, maybe a ghostly potential love interest is a good ally against a jealous and homicidal spirit.
2. Dark Lover by J.R. Ward
You had me at "vampires versus slayers". Wrath is the leader of the Black Dagger Brotherhood, a group of powerful and deadly vampire warriors committed to protecting their race. When one of them is killed, however, Wrath vows to find and protect his fallen brother's daughter, a young and beautiful half-vampire who knows nothing about her father or her true identity. Did I mention that she is young and beautiful? As you can probably imagine, once Wrath finds her, vampire sexiness ensues.
3. Dead Until Dark by Charlaine Harris
I was a fan of the first few seasons of True Blood, and it's about time I pick up the original source material. Sookie Stackhouse is pretty happy living a simple life as a waitress in Louisiana. As simple of a life as possible when you can hear the thoughts of everyone around you, anyway. Thanks to her little "disability," Sookie finds it impossible to form a relationship with anyone until she meets Bill, a vampire whose mind is mercifully closed off to her. But dating a vampire isn't easy either, especially not when a bunch of girls start showing up dead and the signs either point to her boyfriend's vampire friends or, alternatively, her own promiscuous brother.
4. Soulless by Gail Carriger
Alexia Tarabotti really did not need to add "vampire attack" to her list of complaints. She's already a spinster, half-Italian (which makes her fall far below the beauty standard in London), and, oh yeah, she lacks a soul. No, seriously, she has no soul, which gives her the ability to take away the powers of other supernatural creatures. That doesn't give a vampire the right to attack her, though, and when she accidentally kills one, Alexia finds herself being investigated by Lord Maccon, a werewolf hired by Queen Victoria. A very sexy werewolf. Not that Alexia has time for that type of thing (yeah right). She has to figure out why vampires are appearing in London high society.
5. Halfway to the Grave by Jeaniene Frost
Cat might be half-vampire, but that doesn't mean she has to like it. Ever since Cat's mortal mother revealed that her vampire father raped her and left her pregnant with Cat, Cat has made it her mission to kill as many vampires she can in the hopes that one will turn out to be her father. Then she's captured by the vampire Bones, who promises to help her find her no-good dad in exchange for partnering up with him and hunting down other, more dangerous vampires. As you can imagine, not everyone loves her new gig, especially the creatures she's trying to kill. Luckily she has the extremely handsome Bones by her side...
6. You Slay Me by Katie McAlister
If you're getting tired of vampires, I'm sorry, but they're kind of a staple of paranormal romance. To give you a little breather, how do you feel about hunky dragons? Aisling tries to deliver a demon artifact to a buyer in Paris, but unfortunately finds that buyer dead upon arrival. The artifact she meant to deliver get stolen by Drake, the aforementioned hunky dragon, who is convinced that Aisling is actually his preordained mate. Now Aisling has to find out who killed her customer, keep Drake at bay, and deal with a demon in the shape of a Newfoundland that she accidentally conjured up.
7. Magic Bites by Ilona Andrews
The Atlanta that Kate lives in is constantly caught in a power struggle between magic and technology. It's also a town where necromancers, shape-shifters, and vampires rove the streets. Enter Kate, a girl with a sword who really enjoys using it on things that she doesn't like. When her guardian is killed by a creature even worse than the types she encounters daily, however, Kate knows its time to put that sword to good use. That might not sound super romance-y to you, but I forgot to mention that along the way she picks up the shape-shifting Beast Lord, Curran.
8. Darkfever by Karen Marie Moning
MacKayla's world is turned upside down when her little sister is killed in Ireland. With the police unable to find her killer, Mac decides to hop on a plane and do a little digging on her own. She soon meets Jericho Barrons, the owner of a bookshop and the only one with any clues to her sister's death. Barrons soon helps Mac realize that she can see the Fae, fairy creatures who are way more dangerous than your average Tinkerbell. Mac's sister could see them too, and if she ended up dead because of her power, Mac may be next.
9. A Discovery of Witches by Deborah Harkness
Diana Bishop would prefer not to talk about witchcraft. Despite being a descendant of an old and powerful witch family, Diana wants nothing to do with her powers and diligently tries to hide or ignore them. While trying to live out a normal life in academia at Oxford, however, she accidentally uncovers a manuscript that everyone in the magical world wants to get their hands on. Now she's fending off hordes of the supernatural with the help of handsome vampire geneticist Matthew Clairmont. A tale of supernatural academics falling in love over an old manuscript? It's like someone's been reading my diary and knew exactly what I wanted!
10. Cruel Beauty by Rosamund Hodge
Nyx was bargained away as a child when her father made a bad deal with Ignifex, the Gentle Lord. Now Nyx is preparing to be his bride, despite having trained all her life to kill the demon prince and save her village from him. No one expects her to survive the task, including Nyx. What she really doesn't expect, however, is to slowly begin falling in love with her reputably evil captor. When she begins to suspect that there are greater forces at work and that Ignifex is as much a prisoner as she is, Nyx becomes determined to save the man she loves and her release her kingdom from the evil forces watching over it.
Beginning on August 1, Bustle will host Romance Novel Month, a month-long celebration and examination of the romance novel genre. But don't worry, romance readers: the coverage won't end in August. We're proud to support romance novels, and we will continue to do so all year long.
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