The fastest-growing trend in science fiction and fantasy—if not in publishing—is one you may not have noticed.
According to Penguin Books (PDF Report) and USA Today, this trendy subgenre has increased its sales "14% in 2004" and "nearly 20%" this year, with "Borders report[ing] sales...up 30% over the past two years."
Yet the SF/F sections of Borders and other chain bookstores haven't expanded 20%-30% percent. And the percentage of this fast-growing subgenre hasn't greatly expanded within the unchanged rackspace of the bookstore SF/F section. That's because this subgenre is mostly marketed, shelved, and sold outside the SF/F category.
The name of this red-hot subgenre is "paranormal romance."
But you won't necessarily find it in the romance section of bookstores, either.
Paranormal Romance: What Is It?
The "paranormal" aspects of this subgenre are familiar to any SF, fantasy, or horror reader. In the paranormal romance, one or more of the main characters are aliens, ghosts, vampires, angels, demons, djinni, superhero(in)es, witches, wizards, faeries, goblins, god/desses, werewolves, other shapeshifters, and/or other science-fictional, fantastic, or supernatural creatures. Settings include our world, alternate histories, other dimensions, alien planets, Atlantis, Faerie, Mount Olympos, Heaven, Hell, the present, the past, and the future.
The term "romance" is more problematic.
If you shop in the bookstore's romance section, you know the category definition of "romance." If you don't buy or read category romance fiction, you're probably saying, "Okay, I don't read it, but I've read/seen Pride and Prejudice, When Harry Met Sally, Titanic, Gone With the Wind, Romeo and Juliet, and Brokeback Mountain. I know what a romance is."
But, by the standards of the Romance Writers of America and many romance readers, Titanic, Gone With the Wind, Romeo and Juliet, and Brokeback Mountain are not romance.
According to the Romance Writers of America, "[t]wo basic elements comprise every romance novel: a central love story and an emotionally satisfying and optimistic ending...Romance novels end in a way that makes the reader feel good. Romance novels are based on the idea of an innate emotional justice—the notion that good people in the world are rewarded and evil people are punished. In a romance, the lovers who risk and struggle for each other and their relationship are rewarded with emotional justice and unconditional love."
In the genre romance novel, the happy ending is so universal, its readers and editors often call it a "HEA," shorthand for "happily ever after." Gone With the Wind, Titanic, Romeo and Juliet, and Brokeback Mountain do not have HEAs. They have tragic endings. They are, in romance parlance, "love stories." They are not romances.
One of the many parents of paranormal romance is horror. Horror is dark and disturbing, intended to terrify. Horror is generally set in an unfair (if not downright malevolent) universe. And horror doesn't often end happily.
Like its horror parent, paranormal romance can be dark and disturbing, even terrifying. Paranormal romance can take place in an unfair or malevolent universe. And a paranormal romance novel or story can end unhappily.
So, if paranormal romance isn't romance, and mostly isn't found on SF/F shelves, where in the bookstore do you find paranormal romance?
We'll return with the answer after a magical history tour.
The SF/F Genealogy of a Genre-Blender
A common outsider's view of science fiction is that it's afraid of emotion, especially if the emotion is romantic and/or sexual. It's not hard to see where this cliche comes from when you read a hard-SF story in which the characters exist only to invent a gizmo or decipher a Big Dumb Object, or when you watch Star Wars: Episode II: Attack of the Clones and hear the worst romantic lines ever penned.
But, despite SF's century-old reputation for excluding emotion in favor of reason, romance has been here from the beginning. H.G. Wells's first novel, The Time Machine: An Invention (1895), details the relationship between The Time Traveler and Weena. In Edgar Rice Burroughs's first novel, A Princess of Mars (1912), the novel's romance is so central, it supplies the title. Romance was so important to Burroughs that it's tough to find a novel of his that doesn't have a boy-meets-girl plot or subplot. And, when you consider that H. Rider Haggard's lost-world fantasies are important influences on Burroughs in particular and SF in general, SF romance can be traced back to Haggard's classic fantasy novel, She (1886-87).
In the 1930s, Andre Norton began publishing her young-adult SF and fantasy. Several of her novels include romance, among them Year of the Unicorn (1965), Moon of Three Rings (1966), The Zero Stone (1968), The Crystal Gryphon (1972), and Horn Crown (1981). Her popularity became so great that, from the 1970s, her novels "crossed over" from YA to be published as SF/F. She has influenced generation after generation of SF, fantasy, horror, and romance writers and editors.
The next significant modern author of romantic SF began publishing in the mid-20th century. From her earliest novels—Restoree (her first novel, 1967), The Ship Who Sang (1969), and Dragonflight (1968) and its sequels—Anne McCaffrey has been introducing generations of readers to the pleasures of romantic SF. Some of the many writers she's inspired are Catherine Asaro, Susan Grant, Jayne Ann Krentz, and Wen Spencer.
At this point, readers unfamiliar with McCaffrey may be assuming her romantic SF is read only by females. But McCaffrey established herself as a Big Name SF writer in an era when most SF readers (and writers) were male. The first Pern novellas, "Weyr Search" and "Dragon Rider"—the works which became Dragonflight—were originally published in that most traditionally "male" of SF magazines, that touchstone and bastion of hard SF, John W. Campbell's Analog. "Weyr Search" won the 1968 Hugo Award, while "Dragon Rider" won the 1968 Nebula. A Pern book released a few years later, The White Dragon (1978), became the first (but hardly the last) McCaffrey novel to make the New York Times bestseller list.
The 1980s brought the SF/F genre's next significant contribution to paranormal romance: a spate of fantasy novels in which the supernatural shapeshifter became more lover than enemy. The critical novels in this development are R.A. MacAvoy's Tea With the Black Dragon (1983); Jennifer Roberson's Shapechangers (1984) and its sequels in the Chronicles of the Cheysuli; and, most influentially, Emma Bull's War For the Oaks (1987).
But paranormal romance's formative influences are not all found in the SF/F section of bookstores.
The Non-SF/F Roots of Paranormal Romance
In parallel with the decades of romantic SF/F published in-genre, romance figured prominently in fantasy or supernatural novels published outside of SF/F. Among the most interesting and most prominent of these works are the supernatural gothic novels of Daphne Du Maurier, Anya Seton, and Mary Stewart; Tryst (1939) by Elswyth Thane; The Passionate Witch (1941) by Thorne (Topper) Smith, which became the 1942 movie I Married a Witch; The Ghost and Mrs. Muir (1945) by Josephine Aimee Campbell Leslie; Time And Again (1970) by Jack Finney; The Princess Bride (1973) by William Goldman; Bid Time Return (1975) by Richard Matheson; and, most significantly, the first vampire romance novel, Hotel Transylvania: A Novel of Forbidden Love (1978), and its sequels, by Chelsea Quinn Yarbro.
And there are supernatural authors published outside SF/F who don't generally write romances, but whose influence on modern paranormal romance is undeniable. One of those authors is Bram Stoker, who wrote the archetypal vampire novel, Dracula (1897). Another is Anne Rice. Her first fantasy novel, Interview with the Vampire (1976), launched her revisionist and enormously popular Vampire Chronicles, which are one of the biggest print influences on paranormal romance.
Not all of paranormal romance's influences are prose. As the decades passed, Hollywood produced ever-larger numbers of SF/F movies and TV shows. And as these works proliferated, they increased their romantic content, to the point that romance is now near-mandatory in media SF/F. You'll find romance in everything from the comics Superman and Spider-Man to the movies The Day the Earth Stood Still and Somewhere in Time (the latter adapted from Matheson's Bid Time Return); from Captain Kirk's girl-an-episode Star Trek to both Star Wars trilogies; from Disney's Snow White and Beauty and the Beast to anime's Sailor Moon and Urusei Yatsura; from Dark Shadows to Buffy the Vampire Slayer; and from Farscape to the new Battlestar Galactica, with its various romantic triangles centering around Apollo and Starbuck. Even talking-animal fantasy The Muppet Show and its movie sequels have the romance of Kermit the Frog and Miss Piggy.
Media SF/F is particularly relevant to the development of paranormal romance. In print, SF has never been a popular genre: according to the Summer 2006 issue of The SFWA Bulletin, SF is read by 5% of the entire fiction readership. Compare that to romance, with an estimated 50% of fiction sales, or mystery, with an estimated 40%-50% of fiction sales (the readerships overlap). Whatever the reason, most fiction readers aren't drawn to SF.
Little did they know, those non-SF-reading readers! They were living in an increasingly science-fictional world, a world of personal computers and iPods and Gameboys and the Internet. And they were being submerged in an ever-rising flood of SF, fantasy, and supernatural-horror movies, TV shows, anime, manga, comic books, comic strips, and electronic games. These readers didn't necessarily notice. (An SF-hating friend told me, in all seriousness, that "Total Recall is not sci-fi.") But, whether they noticed or not, the majority of readers who disdained or ignored SF were becoming acclimated to SF.
This hasn't really benefited print SF.
But it has created a big readership for paranormal romance.
The SF/F/H Subgenre Rarely Found on SF/F/H Shelves
Paranormal romance has existed for more than a century—for millennia, if you include our oldest myths. But we don't know who first used the term "paranormal romance," or who wrote the first piece of fiction that was specifically labeled "paranormal romance." Looking back, a recent Publishers Weekly article states that "[t]he first paranormal romance read by many contemporary readers was Rita Clay Estrada's The Ivory Key, a Harlequin Temptation published in the early 1980s." The earliest publication date I've been able to locate for this title is 1987. If that's the book's original publication date, then it isn't the first paranormal romance published in the romance genre.
Though not identified as either at the time, the romance genre's first known paranormal romance is also its first "futuristic" (i.e., SF) romance. This novel is Sweet Starfire (1986), written by Jayne Ann Krentz, who's become the biggest and most influential name in futuristic romance, as well as a bestselling author of contemporary, non-paranormal romance. To distinguish her different types of fiction for different audiences, she writes under three different names: Jayne Castle (for the futuristics), Jayne Ann Krentz, and Amanda Quick. But she has published at least one paranormal romance novel under each byline.
In 1992, the Romance Writers of America added a "Futuristic/Fantasy/Paranormal" category to their RITA Awards, which they awarded to Justine Davis's Angel for Hire (1991). Interestingly, they awarded "Best Romance" to Diana Gabaldon's bestselling and highly influential time-travel romance, Outlander (1991). Outlander has been followed by several equally popular sequels.
Another widely read and influential paranormal romance is the futuristic novel Naked in Death (1995), which has several New York Times-bestselling sequels. They are written by J.D. Robb, a pseudonym for one of romance's biggest names, Nora Roberts.
However, nobody has done more to power the paranormal-romance phenomenon than Laurell K. Hamilton. Her second novel, Guilty Pleasures (1993), introduced the redoubtable private investigator/necromancer/vampire slayer, Anita Blake, and lit the fuse of the current explosion in paranormal-romance publishing. A productive and imaginative fantasist, Hamilton established herself as the most popular and most influential writer of paranormal romance. Nowadays, when you see a vampire hunter, private detective, cop, paranormal investigator, bounty hunter, or federal agent (and they are legion) in a paranormal romance, that character owes his/her existence less to The X-Files or Buffy the Vampire Slayer, than s/he does to Anita Blake.
But you shouldn't automatically look for Anita Blake, Naked In Death, or Outlander in the SF/F or horror sections of bookstores.
The spine of my copy of Outlander is labeled "His Rom" ("Historical Romance"); in bookstores, this series is usually found in the romance section or the general fiction section. The spine of Naked in Death reads "romantic suspense," and the series resided, quite appropriately, in the mystery section...until Robb was outed as Roberts. Then many bookstores marched the In Death books to the romance section, where—with their ongoing exploration of a couple's pre and post-wedding relationship, and Homicide Detective Eve Dallas's ongoing pursuit of serial killers—these near-future mysteries did not belong.
And Anita Blake, Vampire Hunter—where will you find her? I don't know. In some bookstores, the series is shelved in SF/F; in others, in horror. The series is one of the most enthusiastic genre-benders in a subgenre that inherently blends two or more. It would be just as appropriate to shelve Anita Blake novels in mystery/suspense (for Anita investigates murders), or in erotica (for, while the early novels have no sex, the recent novels break taboos as they thrust into explicit territory).
Now that paranormal romance is transforming the romance category (to the point that conservative Harlequin recently announced it's launching a new, "dark" paranormal romance line, Nocturne, and never mentioned a "HEA" in its guidelines), you might appropriately find the Anita Blake, Vampire Hunter series in the romance section of your bookstore.
And where will you find the rest of the paranormal romances? An ever-increasing number are being published and shelved as romance. But you can also find them labeled and/or shelved as science fiction, as fantasy, as mystery, as young adult, as erotica, as suspense, as historical fiction, as gay/lesbian, as horror, and as fiction. There are paranormal romances (like Sherry Lewis's Whispers Through Time and Susan Plunkett's Alaskan Trilogy and Heaven's Time) that are set in the Old West; I couldn't find one in a bookstore Western section, but I won't be surprised if paranormal romances start showing up on Western shelves. The spines of Charlaine Harris's bestselling Southern Vampire paranormal romances are labeled "Fantasy/Mystery." Once upon a time, such divergent cross-genre labeling would not only have seemed schizophrenic, but would have killed sales. Now, it brings Harris more readers than either label would alone.
I suspect that online bookstores are a major contributor to the booming sales of this multi-genre subgenre. On Amazon.com, readers looking for more books like Anne McCaffrey's romantic SF novels will be steered, by computer suggestion or reader recommendation, to works by J.D. Robb (suspense) or Susan Grant (romance) or Catherine Asaro (SF); and readers looking for more books like Laurell K. Hamilton's will be steered to Kim Harrison (SF) or Karen Taylor (horror) or Emma Bull (fantasy).
Certainly, the easiest way to find novels that can be shelved in several categories is online.
And, to be blunt, online bookstores allow paranormal romance to be purchased by readers who wouldn't be caught dead in the romance section, as it allows SF/F to be purchased by readers who wouldn't be caught dead in the SF/F section.
Online bookstores have another virtue: they offer the best way to find paranormal romance that suits your tastes. Paranormal romance novels range from saccharine to hardboiled, from humorous to horrifying, from heterosexual to homosexual, from soothing to shocking, from monogamous to polyamorous, from egalitarian to chauvinistic, from vanilla to S&M, from consensual sex to rape, and from sweetly chaste to graphically explicit. Too, paranormal-romance endings can—contrary to the romance HEA stereotype—be unhappy (the two most popular characters, Anita Blake and Sookie Stackhouse, have broken up with significant others). Readers' online-bookstore reviews are an enormous help in locating the endings, styles, and subjects you want.
An excellent (and free) resource for balanced, insightful reviews of paranormal romance published in all fiction genres is the Speculative Romance Online Newsletter,edited by Joyce Ellen Armond. The e'NL also provides market news for PR writers. Subscribe at specromonline.com.
One last note: Paranormal romance is not for straight girls only. Guys have been reading and writing paranormal romance since the heyday of H. Rider Haggard; lesbians are reading, editing, and writing straight paranormal romance; straight and lesbian women are writing gay paranormal romance; and at least one straight man has written a gay vampire romance. The biggest paranormal-romance fan I know is a lesbian, and she reads mostly the "straight stuff." Romance—whether mainstream or paranormal, homosexual or heterosexual—fulfills many needs that aren't tied to romance or sex.
And this brings us to a problem with the term "paranormal romance": it's misleading. In this context, the word "romance" doesn't only mean "new-found love." It also means "adventure."
The terms "interplanetary romance" and "planetary romance" are often used to describe the alien-worlds SF of Edgar Rice Burroughs, Leigh Brackett, Robert E. Howard, and others. In Critical Terms for Science Fiction and Fantasy (1986), Gary K. Wolfe defines "interplanetary romance" as, "broadly, an adventure tale set on another, usually primitive, planet." The interplanetary romance needn't have a boy-meets-girl plot or a happy ending. But it must always have adventure.
The same is true of the paranormal romance.
Paula Guran, editor of paranormal-romance imprint Juno Books, puts it best. In her editorial blog, she writes: "[Laurell K.] Hamilton mentioned that Robert E. Howard had inspired her writing...Her comment...[showed] me...just what it was about 'paranormal romance' that was making it so popular. Adventure—these books were adventure stories...Conan and Anita Blake have quite a bit in common."
The paranormal romance's primary genre is adventure. No wonder paranormal romance is shelved here, there, and everywhere.
Notes On a Reading List
There are two problems in making a list of "Essential/Recommended Reading" for a fast-growing subgenre that blends many fiction genres. The first problem is the sheer amount of material. I polled numerous individuals and two sizeable listservs for paranormal-romance recommendations, but I suspect I still missed a few important titles.
The second problem is that the boundaries of the paranormal-romance subgenre are inherently fluid. Armed with both definitions of paranormal romance ("boy/girl-meets-boy/girl" and "adventure"), I spent a lot of time deciding which books actually qualified as paranormal romance. Should I include Bram Stoker's Dracula (no, because it's about sexual anxiety more than romance); Ellen Kushner's Swordspoint (yes, because, while it doesn't have fantasy content, the sequel does); Annette Blair's The Kitchen Witch (no, because it has no actual magic); M. Christian's The Bachelor Machine (no, because it contains stories about sex, not romance)? And so forth, and so on.
Additionally, I've excluded individual stories, media tie-ins, manga, anime, movies, TV shows, and electronically-published-only fiction from the list, because otherwise I'd never finish researching this article.
But the great thing about publishing an article in The Internet Review of Science Fiction is that there's a forum for online discussion. You can point out all the books—and stories, comics, manga, anime, movies, TV shows, etc.—that you think I missed, dissed, or mislisted.
*Authors marked with an asterisk are essential paranormal romance authors, and much (sometimes all) of their fiction is relevant.
Authors are confined to one novel per byline. This means some authors have two or more novels on the essential/recommended reading list. Many authors write under different names, and it would be impossible to uncover them all, even if the authors all wanted to be uncovered. Also, essential authors like Sherrilyn Kenyon/Kinley MacGregor, Jayne Ann Krentz/Jayne Castle/Amanda Quick, and Nora Roberts/J.D. Robb have important works under more than one byline. Authors' noms de plume are identified where publicly acknowledged.
The list is alphabetical by title.
The following key is used to indicate a work's dominant SFnal and/or fantastic subgenre(s):
- FR = Futuristic, Interplanetary Romance, and/or Science Fiction
- PR = Paranormal, Fantasy, Dark Fantasy, Supernatural Horror, Magic Realism, Occult Fiction, and/or New Age Fiction
- TT = Time Travel
- YA = Young Adult
Notes: Some readers view futuristic romance and/or time travel romance as separate subgenre(s); some do not (the RWA RITA Award category which started life as "Best Futuristic/Fantasy/Paranormal Romance" is now "Best Paranormal Romance"). Futuristics may be set in the past, present, or future. Time travel may result from reincarnation, from dreams, or from scientific, fantastic, or supernatural causes.
- Absolutely Captivated et seq. by Kristine Grayson (PR)
- In this update of Sleeping Beauty, Alex Blackstone is torn between a modern lawyer and the newly-awakened woman he put in a thousand-year sleep. Book One of the Fates series. Kristine Grayson is a pseudonym of SF author Kristine Kathryn Rusch.
- Amaryllis et seq. by *Jayne Castle (FR)
- Private detective Amaryllis Lark is a prism, amplifying the powers of psychics. Book One of the St. Helens series, also known as the Flower series. Jayne Castle and Amanda Quick are pseudonyms for Jayne Ann Krentz.
- Aphrodite's Kiss et seq. by Julie Kenner (PR)
- Superhero Zoe Smith has powers like flight, X-ray vision, and a hypersensitivity so extreme, she can barely eat a chocolate bar.
- Archangel et seq. by *Sharon Shinn (FR/PR)
- On a distant world, the god Jovah orders the Archangel Gabriel to wed a slave. Book One of the Samaria trilogy.
- Archangel Protocol et seq. by Lyda Morehouse (FR/PR)
- A private investigator finds herself tangled in the schemes of angels. Published as science fiction, this novel was a Romantic Times Critics' Choice nominee and won the Shamus Award for Best Original Paperback Private Eye Novel.
- Beauty: A Retelling of the Story of Beauty and the Beast by Robin McKinley (PR)
- When her father makes a terrible promise, Beauty must live in an enchanted castle in the forest. McKinley also explored this fairy tale in the novel Rose Daughter.
- Bid Time Return (alternate title: Somewhere in Time) by Richard Matheson (TT)
- A dying man falls in love with the portrait of a stage actress of the previous century. Basis of the motion picture Somewhere in Time.
- Bitten et seq. by *Kelley Armstrong (PR)
- Elena is the only female werewolf in the world. Book One of the Women of the Otherworld series.
- Blood Price et seq. by Tanya Huff (PR)
- A private eye investigates murders that may be a vampire's. Book One of the Blood series, also known as the Victory Nelson, Private Investigator series (collected with its sequel in The Blood Books: Volume One).
- Blood Secrets et seq. by Karen Taylor (PR)
- Deirdre Griffin seeks the unknown vampire who turned her.
- Bloodsucking Fiends by Christopher Moore (PR)
- A newly turned vampire has no idea how to be one.
- Conflict of Honors et seq. by Sharon Lee and Steve Miller (FR)
- Priscilla Delacroix y Mendoza and Captain Shan yos'Galen unite to settle some scores (collected with sequels in Partners in Necessity). Book One of the Liaden series.
- The DarkAngel: The DarkAngel Trilogy: Volume 1 et seq. by Meredith Ann Pierce (PR/FR/YA)
- Aerial must decide between destroying and saving the darkangel vampyre who abducted her.
- Dark Prince et seq. by *Christine Feehan (PR)
- A near-immortal Carpathian's mind is touched by a mortal American psychic's. Book One of The Dark series, also known as the Carpathian series.
- Daughter of the Blood et seq. by Anne Bishop (PR)
- To fulfill her prophetic role, Jaenelle must be tutored in the Craft by Saetan. Book One of the Black Jewels Trilogy (collected with its sequels in The Black Jewels Trilogy).
- Dead Until Dark et seq. by *Charlaine Harris (PR)
- A waitress finally finds a man whose mind she can't read—because he's a vampire. Book One of the Southern Vampire Mysteries, also known as the Dead series and the Sookie Stackhouse series.
- Dead Witch Walking et seq. by *Kim Harrison (PR)
- A genetically-engineered tomato virus nearly wipes out humanity, revealing immune paranormal races. Book One of the Rachel Morgan series.
- Enchanted, Inc. et seq. by Shanna Swendon (PR)
- Immune to magic, country girl Katie Chandler lands a job at New York's Magic, Spells, and Illusion, Inc.
- Fledgling by Octavia Butler (FR)
- Shori looks like a child, but she's a fifty-three-year-old vampire: nonhuman, adult, and needing human men and women for sex and blood.
- The Ghost and Mrs. Muir by Josephine Aimee Campbell Leslie (PR)
- Fleeing oppressive in-laws, a woman finds herself sharing a residence with a sea-captain's ghost.
- A Girl's Guide to Vampires et seq. by Katie MacAlister (PR)
- The head of security at a Czech GothFaire may be Joy's true love—and a vampire. Book One of the Dark Ones series.
- Green Darkness by Anya Seton (TT)
- Celia relives a past life in 16th century England.
- Guilty Pleasures et seq. by *Laurell K. Hamilton (PR)
- Vampire hunter Anita Blake finds herself hunting another vampire slayer. Book One of the Anita Blake, Vampire Hunter series.
- Happy Hour at Casa Dracula et seq. by Marta Acosta (PR)
- A kiss may have infected Milagro de Los Santos with vampirism.
- HeartMate et seq. by Robin D. Owens (FR/PR)
- His family massacred, a lord must rebuild the House of Ash. Book One of the Celta series.
- Hotel Transylvania: A Novel of Forbidden Love et seq. by *Chelsea Quinn Yarbro (PR)
- The mysterious Comte de Saint-Germain is the newest member of Louis XV's court. Book One of the Saint-Germain cycle.
- The House on the Strand by Daphne Du Maurier (TT)
- A drug sends a man back to 14th century Cornwall.
- I Burn for You et seq. by *Susan Sizemore (PR)
- A bodyguard is either the soulmate of vampire Alec Reynard, or an undercover vampire slayer (collected with sequels in Crave the Night). Book One of the Primes series.
- The Ivory Key by Rita Clay Estrada (PR)
- Love transcends death.
- Killing Moon et seq. by Rebecca York (PR)
- Ross Marshall's werewolf senses make him an extraordinary private investigator. Book One of the Moon series.
- Kitty and the Midnight Hour et seq. by Carrie Vaughn (PR)
- A werewolf hosts a talk-show for paranormals. Book One of the Kitty Norville series.
- Knight of a Trillion Stars et seq. by Dara Joy (FR)
- An earthwoman travels with an alien man to many exotic destinations, among them ConFrancisco, the 1993 World Science Fiction Convention. Book One of the Matrix of Destiny series.
- Kushiel's Dart et seq. by *Jacqueline Carey (PR)
- Descended from the angel Kushiel, Phedre possesses a nature that both thrills and angers her. Book One of the Kushiel's Legacy series.
- Like Water for Chocolate by Laura Esquivel (PR)
- Tita's emotions affect all who eat her cooking...especially when she bakes the wedding cake for her beloved and her sister. Basis of the motion picture Like Water for Chocolate.
- Lords of Rainbow by Vera Nazarian (PR)
- In a monochrome world under a gray sun, rumors tell of a "rainbow" made of something known as "colors."
- Master of the Night et seq. Angela Knight (PR)
- The Camelot court is still with us, in unexpected forms. Book One of the Mageverse series.
- Minion: Book 1: The Dark Legends Begin: A Vampire Huntress Legend et seq. by *L.A. Banks (PR)
- Unbeknownst to her fans, a recording star is the most important vampire hunter in a millennium. Book One of the Vampire Huntress Legend. L.A. Banks also writes as Leslie Esdaile and Leslie E. Banks.
- Moon Called et seq. by Patricia Briggs (PR)
- A part-Native coyote shapeshifter is caught between werewolves and vampires.
- Naked in Death et seq. by *J.D. Robb (FR)
- A near-future homicide lieutenant finds herself disturbingly attracted to a suspect. J.D. Robb is a pseudonym for Nora Roberts. Book One of the In Death series.
- Night Pleasures et seq. by *Sherrilyn Kenyon (PR)
- Kyrian gave up his soul to become a Dark-Hunter, protecting humans against the vampiric Daimons. Book One of the Dark-Hunter series.
- Outlander et seq. by *Diana Gabaldon (TT)
- A World War II combat nurse finds herself in 16th century Scotland.
- Poison Study et seq. by Maria V. Snyder (PR)
- Yelena escapes death by risking it daily, as the Commander's food-taster.
- Practical Magic by Alice Hoffman (PR)
- Two sisters deal with men, murder, and magic-wielding aunts. The movie reportedly little resembles the book.
- Primary Inversion by *Catherine Asaro (FR)
- The Skolian heir finds herself psychically linked to her worst enemy. Book One of the Saga of the Skolian Empire.
- The Princess Bride: S. Morgenstern's Classic Tale of True Love and High Adventure (The 'Good Parts' Version) by William Goldman (PR)
- The classic revisionist fairy-tale about love, adventure, swordplay, Rodents of Unusual Size, and the most beautiful woman in the world. Basis of the motion picture The Princess Bride.
- A Princess of Mars et seq. by *Edgar Rice Burroughs (FR)
- Astral travel brings a Civil War veteran to Mars, and a fateful encounter with the Princess of Helium. Book One of the John Carter of Mars series.
- Prince of Wolves et seq. by *Susan Krinard (PR)
- A woman seeking her late parents' plane-crash site learns something unexpected about herself.
- Restoree by *Anne McCaffrey (FR)
- An earthwoman is mysteriously transported to another planet, where she finds herself with a new body and a major problem.
- The Ruby Tear by Rebecca Brand (PR)
- Nicolas Griffin resolves to end the curse that kills all the men in his family. Rebecca Brand is a pseudonym for Suzy McKee Charnas.
- Running Dry by M. Christian (PR)
- A vampire artist's paintings contain blood from every victim he's been forced to drain.
- The Serpent et seq. by Jane Gaskell (FR)
- To save Atlan, Princess Cija must seduce and murder a half-human general. Book One in the Atlan Saga, also known as the Cija series. (Originally published in 1966, The Serpent had a two-volume U.S. printing, The Serpent and The Dragon, in 1977.)
- Shards of Honor et seq. by *Lois McMaster Bujold (FR)
- An expedition to another planet is ambushed by the Butcher of Komarr. Book One in the Miles Vorkosigan series.
- Shapechangers et seq. by *Jennifer Roberson (PR)
- On the brink of extinction, the shapechanging Cheysuli fight for survival (collected with its sequel in Shapechanger's Song: Chronicles of the Cheysuli: Omnibus 1). Book One of the Chronicles of the Cheysuli.
- She et seq. by H. Rider Haggard (PR)
- A jungle explorer finds the immortal woman he loved in an earlier life.
- The Silver Metal Lover et seq. by Tanith Lee (FR)
- Is the perfect man a robot?
- Single White Vampire et seq. by Lynsay Sands (PR)
- Considered a paranormal romance author, family biographer Lucern Argeneau is hauled by his attractive editor to the Romantic Times convention. Book One of the Argeneau series.
- Son of the Morning by Linda Howard (TT)
- A woman uncovers the Templar Knights' long-hidden secret.
- Sorcery and Cecelia or The Enchanted Chocolate Pot: Being the Correspondence of Two Young Ladies of Quality Regarding Various Magical Scandals in London and the Country et seq. by Patricia C. Wrede and Caroline Stevemer (PR/YA)
- In this epistolary Regency fantasy romance, cousins Cecelia and Kate deal with evil wizards.
- The Star King et seq. by *Susan Grant (FR)
- Years after experiencing visions of each other, an Air Force pilot and a disowned alien prince finally meet. Book One of the Star series.
- Stranger in a Strange Land by Robert A. Heinlein (FR)
- Raised by Martians, Michael Valentine Smith brings Earth a physical new gospel of love. The book that introduced polyamory to many SF fans.
- Sweet Starfire by *Jayne Ann Krentz (FR)
- A quest takes Cidra to another planet, in the company of a disturbing man of the Wolf race. The romance genre's first futuristic romance. Jayne Ann Krentz also writes as Jayne Castle and Amanda Quick.
- Sword of Darkness et seq. by Kinley MacGregor (PR)
- Camelot's dark and ruthless new king is no Arthur—and no human. Book One of the Lords of Avalon series, the first paranormal romances to be released as graphic novels. Kinley MacGregor is a pseudonym for Sherrilyn Kenyon.
- Swordspoint et seq. by Ellen Kushner (PR)
- A notorious swordsman's involvement with a mysterious student may doom them both. The first book of the Riverside series.
- Tall, Dark and Dead et seq. by Tate Hallaway (PR)
- A woman fleeing Vatican witch-hunters is torn between two vampires who want her blood—and her body. Tate Hallaway is a pseudonym for Lyda Morehouse.
- Tea With the Black Dragon et seq. by R.A. MacAvoy (PR)
- A mysterious gentleman may be the reincarnation of a Chinese dragon.
- Touch Not the Cat by Mary Stewart (PR)
- A woman forms a telepathic link with an unknown cousin.
- Through a Brazen Mirror by Delia Sherman (PR)
- One's beloved may not be quite what one expects.
- Tiger Eye: A Dirk & Steele Adventure et seq. by Marjorie M. Liu (PR)
- In a Beijing market, Dela Reese buys a riddle box that contains an enchanted shapeshifter. Liu is a graduate of the Clarion Science Fiction Writers' Workshop.
- Time And Again et seq. by Jack Finney (TT)
- A secret government experiment transports a man back to 1880s New York.
- The Time Machine: An Invention by H.G. Wells (FR/TT)
- The Time Traveler journeys to the dying days of Earth.
- The Time Traveler's Wife by Audrey Niffenegger (TT)
- Afflicted by the rare genetic condition Chrono-Displacement Disorder, Henry first meets his wife, Clare, after they marry.
- Time Was et seq. by Nora Roberts (TT)
- A 23rd-century time traveler finds himself stranded in the 20th century (collected with its sequel in Time and Again).
- Trash Sex Magic by Jennifer Stevenson (PR)
- A trailer-trash priestess seeks to turn a construction worker into the replacement for her slain fertility god.
- Undead and Unwed et seq. by *MaryJanice Davidson (PR)
- In one of the first (if not the first) chick-lit paranormal romances, a former model wakes from the dead—in tacky shoes. Book One of the Undead series.
- War for the Oaks by Emma Bull (PR)
- Eddi McCandry finds herself in a rock band with a shapeshifting phouka—and in the middle of the ancient war between Faerie's Seelie and Unseelie Courts.
- Warprize et seq. by Elizabeth Vaughan (PR)
- A king's daughter is treacherously made the Warprize of the enemy Warlord. Book One of the War series.
- Year of the Unicorn et seq. by *Andre Norton (PR/YA)
- In this update of Beauty and the Beast, Gillian must wed a Were-rider.
Essential Anthologies and Collections
- After Twilight edited by Anonymous (PR)
- Three novellas of love, sex, werewolves, and vampires, from Amanda Ashley, Christine Feehan, and Ronda Thompson.
- The Amazing Spider-Man: The Wedding by David Michelinie, Stan Lee, Jim Shooter, Gary Freidrich, and Barry Dutter (FR/PR)
- In this collection, Peter (Spiderman) Parker and M.J. (Mary Jane) Watson marry at last. In graphic novel format.
- Best New Paranormal Romance 1 et seq. edited by Paula Guran (FR/PR) (forthcoming)
- The first-ever anthology of the year's best short paranormal-romance fiction.
- Bite edited by Anonymous (PR)
- Five vampire romances from MaryJanice Davidson, Laurell K. Hamilton, Charlaine Harris, Angela Knight, and Vickie Taylor.
- Bump in the Night edited by Anonymous (FR/PR)
- Four ethereal and otherworldly romances from J.D. Robb (Nora Roberts), Mary Blayney, Ruth Ryan Langan, and Mary Kay McComas.
- Cravings edited by Anonymous (PR)
- Sexy stories of vampires, shapeshifters, and succubi from MaryJanice Davidson, Laurell K. Hamilton, Eileen Wilks, and Rebecca York.
- A Dangerous Magic edited by Denise Little (PR)
- Thirteen romantic fantasies from romance and SF/F authors, among them Roberta Gellis, Mark Kreighbaum, Andre Norton, Susan Sizemore, Deb Stover, and Gary A. Braunbeck.
- Dates From Hell edited by Anonymous (PR)
- Disastrous dates are truly Hellish when your date is demonic, shape-changing, or undead. Contributors are Kim Harrison, Lynsay Sands, Kelley Armstrong, and Lori Handeland.
- Dead and Loving It by *MaryJanice Davidson (PR)
- Four novellas about Davidson's Undead Queen Betsy Taylor and her Wyndham werewolves.
- Ellora's Cavemen et seq. edited by various (FR/PR)
- These erotic anthology series from "romantica" publisher Ellora's Cave push paranormal romance into areas where Harlequin fears to tread.
- Four Ways to Forgiveness: Stories by Ursula K. Le Guin (FR)
- This collection of four novellas about an interplanetary rebellion includes the powerful SF romance "Forgiveness Day."
- Hot Blooded edited by Anonymous (PR)
- Four novellas of shapeshifters, vampires, and King Arthur's court, from Christine Feehan, Emma Holly, Angela Knight, and Maggie Shayne.
- Hot Spell (FR/PR)
- Four novellas about demons, vampires, angels, werewolves, and the genetically engineered, from Meljean Brook, Emma Holly, Lora Leigh, and Shiloh Walker.
- Irresistible Forces edited by *Catherine Asaro (FR/PR)
- A collection of six original SF/F romances from six bestselling SF/F and romance authors: Catherine Asaro (a Skolian story), Jo Beverley, Lois McMaster Bujold (a Vorkosigan story), Mary Jo Putney, Jennifer Roberson, and Deb Stover.
- The Journey Home edited by Mark Kirk (FR/PR)
- This benefit anthology contains nine original stories and one reprint about wounded warriors of the past, present, and future, from Catherine Asaro (an original Skolian story), Mary Jo Putney, Rebecca York, and seven others.
- Midnight Magic edited by Anonymous (per the copyright page, Anna Genoese) (PR)
- For three women, a magical painting is the gateway to other times, in three original novellas from Rebecca York, Susan Kearney, and Jeanie London.
- My Big Fat Supernatural Wedding edited by Anonymous (PR) (forthcoming)
- Tales of tying the knot with nonhuman lovers, from L.A. Banks, Jim Butcher, Rachel Caine, P.N. Elrod, Charlaine Harris, and others.
- Once Upon a Midnight et al. (Once Upon anthology series) edited by Anonymous (PR)
- Four original novellas of wizard-gods, healers, and curses, from Jill Gregory, Ruth Ryan Langan, Nora Roberts, and Marianne Williams.
- The Only One edited by Anonymous (FR/PR)
- Vampires and aliens seek the one woman who can complete them, in novellas from Christine Feehan, Susan Squires, and Susan Grant.
- Single White Vampire Seeks Same edited by Martin H. Greenberg and Brittany A. Koren (PR)
- You never know who—or what—might write or answer a personal ad.
- Superman: Wedding and Beyond by DC Comics (writer David Michelinie and various artists) (FR/PR)
- In this collection, history's longest-lasting paranormal romance ends, in the marriage of Lois Lane and Clark Kent. In graphic novel format.
- Swamp Thing: Love and Death et al. by Alan Moore, Stephen Bissette, John Totleben, and Shawn McManus (PR)
- Love transcends the animal kingdom. In graphic novel format.
- With Her Body by Nicola Griffith (FR/PR)
- In this collection you'll find "Touching Fire," about a woman who falls in love with an impossibly skilled dancer, and "Yaguara," a novella of romance between a repressed photographer and a werejaguar.
Other Recommended Works
- After Midnight et seq. by Teresa Medeiros (PR)
- A.K.A. Goddess et seq. by Evelyn Vaughn (PR)
- The Alexandrian Drachma by Don Harrison (PR)
- Alicia's Song et seq. (Alaskan Trilogy) by Susan Plunkett (TT)
- Almost a Goddess et seq. by Judi McCoy (PR)
- Awaiting the Moon by Donna Lea Simpson (PR)
- Be Mine Tonight by Kathryn Smith (PR)
- Bending the Landscape: Fantasy / Bending the Landscape: Science Fiction / Bending the Landscape: Horror edited by Nicola Griffith and Stephen Pagel (FR/PR/TT) (Disclaimer: I have a story in the Horror volume.)
- Beneath a Blood Red Moon by Shannon Drake (PR)
- Best Fantastic Erotica edited by Cecilia Tan (PR) (forthcoming)
- Bewitched, Bothered, and Bevampired et seq. edited by Anonymous (PR)
- Beyond the Highland Mist et seq. by Karen Marie Moning (TT)
- Beyond the Pale: The Darkwing Chronicles: Book One et seq. by Savannah Russe (PR)
- Bitten & Smitten et seq. by Michelle Rowen (PR)
- Bloodlist: Vampire Files: Volume 1 et seq. by P.N. Elrod (PR)
- Blood Ties: Book One: The Turning et seq. by Jennifer Armintrout (PR)
- Blue Moon et seq. by Lori Handeland (PR)
- The Bone Whistle by Eva Swan (PR) (forthcoming)
- A Brother's Price et seq. by Wen Spencer (PR)
- The Burning Times: A Novel of Medieval France by Jeanne Kalogridis (PR)
- Camelot's Destiny by Cynthia Breeding (PR)
- Canyons by P.D. Cacek (PR)
- Catching Midnight et seq. by Emma Holly (PR)
- The Chalice and the Blade et seq. by Glenna McReynolds (FR/PR/TT)
- The Challenge et seq. by Susan Kearney (FR/PR/TT)
- Charmed edited by Jayne Castle (Jayne Ann Krentz/Amanda Quick) (PR)
- Charmed & Dangerous et seq. by Candace Havens (PR)
- Charmed Destinies edited by Anonymous (PR)
- Companions of the Night by Vivian Vande Velde (PR/YA)
- Crown Duel et seq. by Sherwood Smith (PR/YA)
- The Dark Lord et seq. by Patricia Simpson (PR)
- Dark Lover: A Novel of the Black Dagger Brotherhood et seq. by J.R. Ward (PR)
- The Dark One et seq. by Ronda Thompson (PR)
- Date Me, Baby, One More Time et seq. by Stephanie Rowe (PR)
- Daughter of the Blood by Nancy Holder (PR)
- Dead End Dating: A Novel of Vampire Love by Kimberly Raye (PR)
- Dragon Lovers edited by Anonymous (PR)
- Echoes et seq. by Erin Grady (PR)
- Embracing Darkness et seq. by Margaret Carter (PR)
- The Empress' New Clothes et seq. by Jaid Black (FR)
- The Eternal Highlander edited by Anonymous (PR)
- Euryale by Kara Dalkey (PR)
- Ferney by James Long (TT)
- Fire Sanctuary et seq. (Nuala series) by Katharine Eliska Kimbriel (FR)
- Firethorn et (forthcoming) seq. by Sarah Micklem (PR)
- Forbidden Magic et seq. by Cheyenne McCray (PR)
- Forbidden Magic by Jo Beverley (PR)
- Full Moon Rising et seq. by Keri Arthur (PR)
- Gabriel's Ghost by Linnea Sinclair (FR/PR) (originally published under the name Megan Sybil Baker)
- Garden of the Perverse: Fairy Tales for Twisted Adults edited by Sage Vivant and M. Christian (PR) (Disclaimer: I have a story in this anthology.)
- Gil's All Fright Diner et seq. by A. Lee Martinez (PR)
- The Glass Dragon: The Dragon Nimbus 1 et seq. by Irene Radford (PR)
- Greywalker by Kat Richardson (PR) (forthcoming)
- Hell With the Ladies edited by Anonymous (PR) (forthcoming)
- Highland Vampire edited by Anonymous (PR)
- High Stakes: A Tale of Vegas Vampires by Erin McCarthy (PR)
- Hour of the Rose et seq. by Christina Skye (PR/TT)
- How to Marry a Millionaire Vampire et seq. by Kerrelyn Sparks (PR)
- The 100th Generation et seq. (The Ibis Trilogy) by Justine Saracen (PR)
- Hunters: The Beginning et seq. by Shiloh Walker (PR)
- Hunter's Moon et seq. by Cathy Clamp and C.T. Adams (PR)
- A Hunger Like No Other et seq. by Kresley Cole (PR)
- If Angels Burn: A Novel of the Darkyn et seq. by Lynn Viehl (PR)
- Ill Wind: Weather Warden: Book 1 et seq. by Rachel Caine (PR)
- I'm the Vampire, That's Why by Michele Bardsley (PR)
- In Camelot's Shadow et seq. by Sarah Zettel (PR)
- Journey Between Worlds et seq. by Sylvia Louise Engdahl (FR/YA)
- Journey to Yesterday et seq. by June Lund Shiplett (TT)
- Keeping It Real: Quantum Gravity Book One et seq. by Justina Robson (FR/PR)
- A Kiss of Fate et seq. by Mary Jo Putney (PR)
- A Knight in Shining Armor by Jude Deveraux (TT)
- Lady of the Knife by Janet Miller (PR)
- Lara et seq. by Bertrice Small (PR)
- The Last Viking et seq. by Sandra Hill (TT)
- The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen et seq. by Alan Moore and Kevin O'Neill (FR/PR) (in graphic novel format)
- Lord of the Storm et seq. by Justine Davis (FR)
- Love in Vein et seq. edited by Poppy Z. Brite (PR)
- Master of Shadows by Janet Lorimer (PR) (forthcoming)
- Matters of the Blood by Maria Lima (PR) (forthcoming)
- Midsummer Night's Madness edited by Anonymous (PR)
- The More I See You by Lynn Kurland (TT)
- Mysteria edited by Anonymous (PR)
- Nimuar's Loss: Book One of the Vildecaz Talents et seq. by Camille Gabor (PR) (pseudonym used by Chelsea Quinn Yarbro to prevent her Vildecaz Talents fantasy novels from being erroneously shelved as horror) (forthcoming)
- Once in Every Life by Kristin Hannah (PR)
- The Passion et seq. by Donna Boyd (PR)
- A Passionate Magic by Flora Speer (PR)
- The Passionate Witch by Thorne Smith (PR)
- The Penwyth Curse by Catherine Coulter (PR/TT)
- Primal Tears by Kelpie Wilson (FR)
- The Ravencliff Bride et seq. by Dawn Thompson (PR)
- Ravyn's Flight et seq. by Patty O'Shea (FR)
- Real Vampires Have Curves by Gerry Bartlett (PR)
- Run No More by Catherine Mulvany (TT)
- Sacrament et seq. by Susan Squires (PR)
- Second Sight by Amanda Quick (Jayne Ann Krentz/Jayne Castle) (PR)
- Shielder et seq. by Catherine Spangler (FR)
- Shades of Gray et seq. by Amanda Ashley (PR)
- Shattered Glass et seq. by Elaine Bergstrom (PR)
- Shifting Love by Constance O'Day-Flannery (PR) (This book launched the Tor Romance imprint.)
- The Silver Kiss by Annette Curtis Klause (PR/YA)
- The Silver Wolf et seq. by Alice Borchardt (PR)
- Son of Avonar et seq. by Carol Berg (PR)
- The Spirit of the Wolf by Karen Kay (PR)
- StarQuest: Lionheart, Night of the Cat, and Pride of Imar et seq. by Kate Douglas (FR/PR)
- Staying Dead: Book One of the Retrievers et seq. by Laura Anne Gilman (PR)
- The Strangeling by Saskia Walker (PR) (forthcoming)
- Tempting the Beast: Feline Breeds 1 et seq. by Lora Leigh (FR/PR)
- Tempting Danger et seq. by Eileen Wilks (PR)
- This Time For Keeps by Kathleen Kane (TT)
- The Thread that Binds the Bones et seq. by Nina Kiriki Hoffman (PR)
- Timeshadow Rider by Ann Maxwell (Elizabeth Lowell/A.E. Maxwell) (FR/TT)
- Tithe: A Modern Faerie Tale et seq. by Holly Black (PR/YA)
- Touch the Dark et seq. by Karen Chance (PR)
- Touch of Night et seq. by Susan Spencer Paul (PR)
- Traveler et seq. by Melanie Jackson (PR)
- Trickster et seq. by Kathleen Nance (PR)
- Tryst by Elswyth Thane (PR)
- Twilight et seq. by Stephanie Meyer (PR/YA)
- Twilight Phantasies et seq. by Maggie Shayne (PR)
- Under the Stone Paw by Theresa Crater (PR/TT)
- Unearthed et seq. by C.J. Barry (FR)
- Urban Shaman et seq. by C.E. Murphy (PR)
- The Vampire Next Door: The Outerworld et seq. by Barbara Price Galvan (PR)
- Vampire Viscount by Karen Harbaugh (PR)
- Vampire Vow et seq. by Michael Schiefelbein (PR)
- Wages of Sin et seq. by Jenna MacLaine (PR)
- Walk in Moonlight et seq. by Rosemary Laurey (PR)
- Warrior's Woman et seq. by Johanna Lindsey (FR)
- Watchers in the Night by Jenna Black (PR) (forthcoming)
- The Werewolf's Kiss et seq. by Cheri Scotch (PR)
- Whispers Through Time et seq. by Sherry Lewis (TT)
- Wicked Nights et seq. by Nina Bangs (PR)
- Windfollower by Carole McDonnell (PR) (forthcoming)
- Witchcraft edited by Anonymous (PR)
- The Wizard of Seattle by Kay Hooper (PR/TT)
- Wolf at the Door by Christine Warren (PR)
- Wolfkin et seq. by Elaine Corvidae (PR)
- Working for the Devil: A Dante Valentine Novel et seq. by Lillian Saintcrow (PR)
- Wrapped in Wishes by Olga Bicos (TT)