By Tina Folsom
When Laurie asked me to do a guest blog about the differences between Urban Fantasy and Paranormal Romance, I immediately said yes and started panicking. Because, frankly, I had no idea what Urban Fantasy really was. So I figured I’d analyze the issue and start with what I knew: Paranormal Romance.
Not only do I write Paranormal Romance (PNR for short), I also read a vast number of PNR novels. I did a little digging to figure out what my novels have in common with those of other PNR authors. It quickly became clear that there were a few components each PNR has to have:
1. A hero and a heroine who fall in love
2. A happy end
3. A conclusion / solution to the main conflict of the story (which in a PNR is generally how the two lovers will get together and stay together)
4. The focus in the story has to be on the romance, not the external conflict that threatens their world.
Well, #1 is pretty easy, and just to be politically correct here, in a gay PNR there would of course be two heroes. But couldn’t an Urban Fantasy (UF) also have a couple who fell in love? Absolutely. That’s why it’s so hard to keep the two genres apart.
For example, in HP Mallory’s “To Kill a Warlock” the main character, Dulcie, falls in love with Knight—over several books in the series. And I believe that is one of the important points that distinguish a UF from a PNR: the hero and the heroine’s relationship doesn’t culminate in a happy end at the end of book 1 or even book 2. Their relationship is continuing throughout the series and is in no way the focus of the story.
Which brings me to another difference between the two: #4 above—in a PNR the romance is the be all and end all, in a UF it is more likely a mystery to be solved, a threat to be defeated, or a world to be saved. While parts of these danger elements are certainly common in PNR, they don’t overshadow the romance.
But aren’t there PNR series that go on for six or eight or even twelve books? Of course, but if you read Lara Adrian’s Midnight Breed series, or Kerrelyn Sparks’ Love at Stake series, you’ll notice that each book has a new set of hero and heroine. The supporting cast remains essentially the same. That’s one of the fundamental differences: with each book in a PNR series you get a new love story and the promise of a happy end. And that’s what a romance reader expects.
A UF might also have more of a feel of a suspense than a romance. However, it’s hard to have a clear dividing line. When I read Gail Carriger’s “Soulless”, the book had the feel of a PNR to me, however, considering this is a series of four books with the same hero and heroine (who are married as of book 2 and whose central conflict centers more around suspense and mystery rather than their own relationship), I’m revising my opinion and would personally call it an Urban Fantasy.
You’ll be the judge.