There are people who think Paranormal Romance is a trend, but after running a paranormal romance blog for over 6 years, I am here to say it’s not. It’s here to stay. Will it slow down? Yes, it will. Why? Because the big 8 publishers will deem it was a trend and only take authors that have been bestsellers in the genre. I have already witnessed this. I have seen bestselling authors turn indie to publish their paranormal romance books. But never fear, as the indie authors keep growing, this genre will not die.
I have always considered Paranormal Romance as having an “identity crisis” because so many are confused with its identity. Reason being is because it’s really quite new, but so is romance itself as we know it today. Back in the day, Romance novels were quite different. Take for instance the first known US paperback published romance book (recorded by Avon in 1972) by Kathleen Woodiwiss, ‘The Flame and the Flower’. I’ve read this book and several others from that time and it’s nothing like the romance we know today. These types of books, known as Bodice Ripper Novels, carried such things as the hero raping the heroine and you won’t find many romance books like that now days. Pre-1980’s romance novels didn’t have rules set in place so they didn’t have to provide HEA’s, nor did they have a romance plot between a hero and a heroine.
Before we go on, I would like to ask that you please keep in mind that in the pre-1970’s and even in the 1980’s, women didn’t read romance like we do today; out in the open and by so many. Romance has always been considered taboo, even by other women. I know to most of us today, this is hard to fathom but times were very different.
During the 1970’s there were no recorded PNR’s. You would have to look under genres such as Sci-Fi, Fantasy, Futuristic, Horror, Goth and Time Travel to hopefully find some kind of a romance plot.
During the 1980’s romance started to become popular with millions of copies being sold and the creation for the RWA (Romance Writers of America). RWA stepped up and separated romance from your regular fiction. You see, you can have sex and some romance in fiction, but fiction doesn’t carry a HEA and nor does fiction focus mainly on a couple’s love affair. These two elements separate romance from regular fiction. Example of this is the book Outlander people wants to say it Romance but it’s not, there is not HEA therefore it’s a regular fiction series that has some romance elements which includes sex.
During the early 1980’s Romance started to blossom and take shape and in different genres. Historical Time Travel and Futuristic Romance were starting to take off. Authors such as, Jayne Ann Krentz, was the first romance author to get her book, ‘Sweet Starfire’, labeled Futuristic Romance in 1986. Still no PNR, so let’s keep going.
During the 1990’s, there is some movement in the Paranormal Romance genre. There are two known authors who were able to publish under the PNR label. The first labeled paranormal romance book was published in 1995 titled, Everlastin’ by Mickee Madden (Time Travel and a Ghost romance). Linda Lael Miller (Forever and the night Night) was published in 1993 but I have not confirmed if the book was labeled PNR. Kathleen Nance‘s, ‘Wishes Come True’ was published in 1998. Christine Feehan published, ‘Dark Prince’ (Vampire Romance) in 1999. Susan Krinard’s, ‘Prince of Wolves’ was also published in 1999. Other authors who were publishing Time Travel Romance and Futuristic Romance during this time were, Diana Gabaldon, Karen Marie Moning, Justine Davis, Dara Joy, Stobie Piel, Sandra Hill, and Lynn Kurland. Also, during the late 1990’s, the popular author Shannon Drake published a popular vampire series (Vampire) but it was labeled as Romantic Suspense.
The early 2000’s the PRN sub-genre started to take sprout. With authors such as Robin D. Owens (Heart Mate 2001), Sherrilyn Kenyon (Fantasy Lover 2002), Rebecca York (Killing Moon 2003), Susan Sizemore (I Burn for You 2003), Christine Warren (One Bite With A Stranger 2003), Lori Handeland (Blue Moon 2004), Angela Knight (Master of Wolves 2004), C.T. Adams & Cathy Clamp’s (Hunter's Moon 2004), Katie MacAlister (You Slay Me 2005), Ronda Thompson (Dark One 2005), J.R. Ward (Dark Lover 2005), Susan Squires (The Companion 2005), Lynsay Sands (A Quick Bite 2005), Kerrelyn Sparks (How to Marry a Millionaire Vampire 2005), Kresley Cole (Hunger Like No Other 2006), Jenna Black (Watchers in the Night 2006), Kathryn Smith (Be Mine Tonight 2006) and Patty O’Shea (In the Midnight Hour 2007). By this time, there was no stopping the Romance sub-genre. Authors such as, Allyson James, Susan Kearney, Gena Showalter, Anya Blast, Alyssa Day, Shannon K. Butcher, Pamela Palmer, Addison Fox, Annette McCleave…Hold on finger cramp… Okay, that’s better! I can keep going now…Jessica Andersen, Nalini Singh, Lara Adrian, Christina Dodd, Kathy Love, Michele Bardsley, Kim Lenox, Anna Windsor, Rhyannon Byrd, Larissa Ione, Jacquelyn Frank, Shayla Black, G.A. Aiken, Alexandra Ivy, Erin McCarthy, Annette Blair, Juliana Stone, Alexis Morgan, Jennifer St. Giles, Megan Hatfiled, Vicki Lewis Thompson all found themselves published during this time. Most with the PNR labels on their books, but some not. Even with all of these NY published authors named above, I haven’t touched the tip of the iceberg. There are even more NY authors and that’s not counting the small publisher, trade publisher and indie publishers. Look at it this way, if you look at my Goodreads shelf you will find over 800 books marked PNR (These are true PNR’s not UF) and I have over 400 books of them on my bookshelf that I haven’t even read yet. So, yes we can say in the 2000’s paranormal romance exploded.
When Paranormal Romance first started Sherrilyn Kenyon and J.R. Ward and other PNR authors struggled to get published. Still today, other PNR authors are finding themselves having to Indie Publish or go to Small Press publisher because of the strict rules from NY publishers. It’s not only the strict rules the NY publisher places on the stories, they also won’t look at an author’s manuscript unless they are already a big name in the PNR world. I had one NY Paranormal Romance author send me her book to review. She had to Indie Publish it because the Publisher wanted her heroine witch to land in Salem, Massachusetts instead of the destination the author felt inspired to write about. I for one was glad she stood up for her inspiration and told the Publisher to stuff it. As a reader, you would be amazed at what the publisher cuts out and adds to the author’s story.
Now let’s get back into the “identity crisis”. Since the PNR explosion, Publishers and Retailers want to add Gothic, Time Travel Romance, Fantasy Romance, Urban Fantasy and Futuristic Romance into this genre; therefore causing lots of confusion in the labeling of this genre. As a review blogger, I read them daily and I see a huge difference in each genre, but for some reason others don’t. Urban Fantasy gets confused with paranormal romance all the time and there is a huge difference between the two. Paranormal romance carries the love affair, HEA and its writing in third person POV, where Urban Fantasy doesn’t carry either a heavy love affair, HEA or its writing in the first person POV.
With the odds stacked up against Paranormal Romance due to its mislabeling identity crisis and people deeming it a trend, the sub-genre still keeps growing and growing. As a PNR reviewer/blogger/reader, I don’t see anything stopping it because readers love to get away from real life and lose themselves into a world that is nothing like what they are facing every day.