Happily Ever After: Paranormal Romance and Urban Fantasy by Beth Noland

From vampires to werewolves, extraterrestrials and ghosts, the possibilities are seemingly endless in the sea of Paranormal Romance.  A sub-genre that has gained momentum in the last few years, mostly due impart to the latest success of Stephanie Meyer’s Twilight series to the newly awakening of the Outlander series by Diana Gabaldon brought to TV, Paranormal Romance is making its way into contemporary literature with a howl so strong that it is reverberating off the book covers of Urban Fantasy.  But what is this genre that is causing such a stir, propelling people to veraciously devour these books with such a speed that leaves us wanting more?

Paranormal Romance, nestled tightly between Urban Fantasy and Romance, is a genre that allows for endless possibilities due mostly to the fact that there aren’t really any boundaries defining the genre other than…you guessed it, the main feature in the story is a romantic involvement and something of the ‘paranormal’. The ‘paranormal’ can be something as simple as a vampire, to the ability to travel through time, but make no mistake, anything is possible. Many of these novels have a little bit of everything, from action, to telepathy, horror to perhaps the best historical novel you will ever read, there is something to draw almost every type of reader. There is something for everyone, and just because it has Romance in its title, like any genre, it draws a varied readership.  But perhaps, one of the most important aspects of the Paranormal Romance genre is the happily ever after.  Unlike Urban Fantasy, where the happily ever after isn’t really guaranteed, it is different with a Paranormal Romance.  Readers can bank on the fact that eventually, the lovers will find their way back to each other, though it may take a few books, whereas, for Urban Fantasy there are a few ‘rules’ that must be maintained in order for the genre to remain true.

With Urban Fantasy, the first and most important aspect of the genre is that is must be urban in setting.  Timeline isn’t of upmost importance, though having aspects of the paranormal, magic, and whatever else of the ‘other’ is important to the genre along with the urban setting.  In Paranormal Romance, the plot is pushed forward by the same formula that every romance is pushed by:  some sort of attraction, but that attraction is fought, only to have the lovers brought together, then they are pushed apart, but in the end they live happily ever after.  Throw in some paranormal elements, and you have a Paranormal Romance. But that is at the core the simplest definition, and many of us who have read the genre know there are many other intricacies and complex problems laced throughout these stories. Vibrant and gifted authors create worlds, characters and events that are so complex and well thought out that it is no wonder why these books are flying off the shelves. Often written in the third person and from multiple points of view, we are given a larger scope of the plotline, but less of an idea of what is really going on due to the complexities of hearing so many different perspectives. In comparison, an Urban Fantasy plotline may have romantic aspects and strife between lovers, but the plot is not pushed by the romantic attraction.

But what makes it so popular?  I myself enjoy numerous genres, but I have always found myself drawn to Paranormal Romance. In the early ’90s I remember devouring numerous books that were Paranormal Romance. Reading as many as two a day, it was all I could do to come out to eat.  And even now, as an adult, I find that this genre has the ability to pull me in so deep that I can look up and it is 2 o’clock in the morning. How is it that they are able to do this? I have to admit, that for me personally, the worlds that these books create are so intriguing and filled with adventure, that the idea of living vicariously through the characters is exciting and exhilarating. I will never know what it is like to be five thousand years old, to possess the strength of ten men, or to discover cities at the deepest part of the ocean all because I can’t. But these characters can.  And the fact that the characters are so different makes it all the more thrilling.  That these characters  can be the only one, the other, the incredible, undefeatable is rousing and electrifying  Their world is ours but so different, like mine but not, and it is perhaps this idea, that maybe, just maybe, I can one day travel through time or meet a werewolf is what makes this genre that much more appealing.

Leave a Reply