In the last two years I’ve read a number of vampire and other paranormal-themed series. It’s hard to explain why I like paranormal romance but I’ll try.
The romance part is easy enough. Life is hard and has enough drama. If I have some time to relax with a book, a cup of tea and a blanket, I don’t want to get stressed out or depressed by what I’m reading. I’d rather have something light, fun and predictable that makes me smile or gives me butterflies. I’m a girl, after all. I do read other stuff when I’m in the right mood for it but romance is the perfect escapist genre for me. I describe it as bubble gum in book form. You chew it, spit it out when the flavor is gone and it requires little brain power.
As for the paranormal element, I don’t know exactly why I like it. Part of it is because it’s not real so anything is possible. I’ve always liked horror movies but can’t stand war movies. War is real and I can’t help thinking about the suffering all those people go through. Monsters are not real and I can detach myself from the violence a lot more. Plus, people with super powers are always cool and it’s fun to be able to see through the eyes of someone with abilities you’ll never have. It’s all about experiencing for a moment something that’s different from me.
OK, so let’s start the list. I’m not reviewing the books, just making a few notes on each series. I’ll go by author rather than theme because that’s how I usually read them.
Stephenie Meyer: Twilight series
As I mentioned in my previous post, I started with the Twilight series. I know everyone hates it because there’s so much hype and the actors are everywhere but I don’t care about that. If you look at the story and even the movies for what they are – teen romance – it’s precisely what it’s supposed to be. You may not like the genre but that’s a whole other issue. The one thing that bothered me was the forth book with Bella getting pregnant right away. I already disliked the preachy aspect of the ‘no sex before marriage’ angle that is way too American Christian for my taste, so the ‘sex leads to pregnancy, even with a vampires, girls beware’ thing gave me a bitter taste. The fact that the girl spends the book dying from the pregnancy may also have tapped into the horrible experience I had with my first pregnancy and I reacted badly.
Charlaine Harris: Sookie Stackhouse, Aurora Teagarden, Harper Connelly, Lily Bard series
Charlaine Harris and the Sookie series came next. I liked the mystery angle of the series and the fact that the characters have a sex life rather than spending their time fighting their natural urges seemed refreshing for a change. I couldn’t relate to Sookie much but the Viking vampire Erik is one of my favorite book characters (I always did have a thing for blonds). It goes from vampires to wherewolves, as all vampire series seem to, and then to fairies, and that I don’t get. Fairies? Seriously? Come on!
Still, the books aren’t bad so I decided to read the other series by the author. The Aurora Teagarden series is a muder mystery series rather than PR. Aurora is a librarian who keeps getting involved in murders. There’s a romantic element at some point but does not end well at all.
The Harper Connelly series has a paranormal element since the woman can speak to the spirit of the dead. The background to both main characters is pretty dark and so is the plot to a lot of the books and the series can get a little depressing at times. The romantic element is also a bit creepy since the characters are adoptive brother and sister, though not related by blood.
The Lily Bard series has no paranormal element but the character does pop up on a couple of Sookie’s books later on. This series is also very dark and brutal. Lily survived a brutal kidnapping and we eventually get to know in full detail exactly what she went though and it’s not pretty. If I hadn’t read American Psycho it might have bothered me a bit more than it did but I guess I’ve toughened up over the years. Once you get past the violence thing, the series has some interesting elements. It’s a mystery series as well but the character is different from other mysteries I’ve read because she’s a cleaning lady with no particular interest in crime except for not wanting to be a victim ever again. She ends up getting mixed up in lots of weird situations that tend to end badly for her, meets a private detective and figures that being a detective might be a good career change and at least does have a happy ending.
Laurell K. Hamilton: Anita Blake, Meredith Gentry series
Anita Blake raises zombies for a living. She lives in a world where vampires werewolves, zombies and other weird creatures are perfectly normal, day to day things. The books also fall under the mystery category and then there’s a romance angle when Anita finds herself interested in a werewolf while a vampire wants her for himself. I hated the werewolf, Richard, with a passion. He was the most arrogant, obnoxious character ever and I really couldn’t figure out why she kept wasting time on the guy. The vampire wasn’t much better but for different reasons – he was to effeminate. Still, the books start out pretty cool despite a tendency to over-describe to annoying detail lots of things that don’t really matter like what each and every single character is wearing in every scene. After a few volumes the tone changes a lot and it becomes about sex all the time to the point where you can’t see the plot anymore. In the second part of the series my favorite character was Nathaniel, who’s the sweetest guy, but I think the main character lost too much of her power. And to go from uptight virgin to ‘I must have sex once an hour or I die’ seems like a weird twist for the series and I lost interest.
The Meredith Gentry series is all about sex and violence from the beginning. It’s a fairy series. Meredith is the fairy princess forced to leave faerie to escape her sadistic aunt. She’s found and brought back and given the task to procreate to insure the next heir to the throne. It’s all very brutal and way over the top and it bored me quickly. There’s some BDSM and she has a harem of men and it’s different from other series because she falls in love not with one but two of them. Still, way too weird for me.
Sherrilyn Kenyon: Dark Hunter series
This was the first typical PNR series I read. Each book is the story of a different couple but they’re all set in the same world and lots of characters show up in each others books. Some stories are darker than others, some are better some are worse. They all end happily and the series leads up to the book about Acheron, the mysterious leader of the Dark Hunters. The series mixes vampires and Greek mythology with lots of sex. It’s not great but it’s actually pretty fun. I like the fact that she doesn’t pull punches when it comes to the darker stuff. Some of the other books I’ve read since seem too sugary by comparison when it comes to tortured characters with a supposed traumatic past.
Mari Mancusi: Blood Coven series
This series is as far from Dark Hunter as you can get. It’s a young teen vampire series, completely high school with sugar on top. The main characters are twins called Shunshine and Rayne and the wrong one gets turned into a vampire by accident. It’s funny at times and kinda sweet but maybe a bit young for me.
Richelle Mead: Vampire Academy, Georgina Kinkaid series
The vampire academy series is the closest I’ve read to the Twilight series, not in the plot but more in the target audience, the way the story has a beginning and end along five or six books, a mild love triangle at one point, a depressing middle and lots of fight scenes. I didn’t like the characters very much and had a hard time feeling enough empathy, but in the young adult PNR genre it’s a good enough series. There are good vampires, bad ones and half-vampires. The good vampires can turn bad and the setting is a school a bit like Harry Potter’s Hogwarts.
The Georgina Kinkaid series is very silly. She’s a succubus who wants to settle down and have a normal relationship. Unfortunately she sucks the life out of any man she sleeps with. It starts out kinda funny but soon enough all the character does is bitch about her life and it gets harder to care about what happens to her.
Ellen Schreiber: Vampire Kisses
Very light and bubbly teen vampire series with a perky goth girl and a teen vampire. I’d pair this with The Princess Diaries, the blood Coven series and other such young teen books.
L.J. Smith: The Vampire Diaries
I started reading this after watching a few episodes of the TV show. The show is far from great but Stefan is an interesting character. The two main leads, however, are not (the bad guys are always more fun, I guess). I got the books before I usually like them better than the screen adaptations – there’s more detail and character development. In this case that was not true. Elena is vain and shallow and Stefan didn’t seem any more likable than he does on TV. The second part of the series, written years after the first, is just plain weird and it makes me wonder what kind of drugs the author was taking at the time.
J.R.Ward: The Black Dagger Brotherhood
Now we’re talking! This is one of the best PNR series I’ve read. In style and theme it’s similar to Dark Hunters. It’s a vampire series, about a group of warrior vampires who protect their race from the Omega, an all-powerful evil. Each book is a couple’s story but there’s more stories developing in the background in all of them. I liked that a lot – not being limited to two main characters and being able to get to know the others bit by bit as the series progressed. The series is interesting also because it breaks some of the norms that romance novels tend to stick to, like the fact that the hero is not supposed to sleep with anyone else after he meets the girl. The names of the characters are kinda stupid (Zadist, Phury, Tohrment, Rhage, Vishous) but it does attempt to explain it at one point so I’m OK with that. What I didn’t like in the first few books was how much time was spent on the evil guys point of view. You know they’re going to die at some point so why waste time with their back-story and feelings? It should add another layer of interest but it just bored me most of the time.
Kresley Cole: Immortals after Dark
Another series in the same style as the BDB and DH. This one has all sorts of paranormal creatures, starting with Valkyries, females who feed on electricity. The relationships in these books are more about predestined couples than free will and the male tend to behave like cavemen with the whole ‘mine’ possessive thing toward the females that I don’t really find particularly attractive, but there are some really funny moments and dialogs that make up for it.
Cassandra Clare: The Mortal Instruments
An adventure series about part-angels called Shadowhunters who protect humans from demons. It is a teen series but more serious and darker than Blood Coven or Vampire Kisses. It fits better alongside the Vampire Diaries but the characters are easier to like, especially the female lead, Clary. It’s a trilogy that ends well but apparently the author felt the need to ruin it by writing a forth book that I’ve heard nothing but bad things about and don’t plan to read.
Jeaniene Frost: Night Huntress series
Cat is a half-vampire vampire slayer. Weird, right? And then she’s imprisoned by a vampire she tries to kill who falls in love with her and teaches her how to be a better fighter before they team up and eventually become a couple. They fight all the time – each other and other vampires, ghouls, ghosts and zombies. The series developed to include romance novels featuring other characters in the same world. I like the series but Cat can be a very annoying character and the main couple has some serious trust issues that are the basis for a lot of angst throughout the series and have a on-again-off-again kind of relationship. It fits alongside the Vamp Academy series but it’s a bit more grown up and has more sex in it.
Larissa Ione: Demonica, Lords of Deliverance series
At this point I had pretty much run out of vampire books but a lot of people who had read the same series I did highly recomended Larissa Ione so I gave her a try. The Demonica series seemed a pretty stupid idea: a demon hospital and a relationship between a slayer and an incubus. It took me a while to get past the ‘yeah, right, that’s not going to suck at all’ vibe and actually start reading. Turns out I really liked it. The characters are interesting, there’s a lot of humour in it and the author manages to draw you in somehow.
The fifth Demonica book introduces the Horsemen of the Apocalypse, the main characters in the Lords of Deliverance series. I found it just as enjoyable as the Demonica series and since it’s set in the same world, the characters from Demonica pop up from time to time (especially when someone gets badly hurt and needs medical attention, which happens a lot around these people.
Sydney Croft: ACRO series
This is the series I’m reading at the moment. Sydney Croft is actually a pseudonym for two authors – Larrissa Ione and Stephanie Tyler. The ACRO series is basically The X-Men with lots of sex. The characters all have some kind of special power – controlling storms, fire or ice, making earthquakes, super speed or strength, mind reading, etc. ACRO is a military organization that takes in, trains and protects these special people and then sends them on missions to save the world from ITOR, their evil rival. Apparently the agents seem to have a hard time separating business from pleasure and seem to come back with a mate pretty much all the time. It sounds pretty silly and it kinda is but it’s also funny at times. I don’t necessarily recommend reading them back to back, though, because I started falling asleep during the sex scenes after a while. There’s just so many of them and they’re so similar it gets a bit dull. But the books do have a plot (sometimes more than one) and they’ve made me laugh out loud a few times, so I can’t say they’re too bad.