Paranormal Romance 101: 10 Books You Need to Read


The Darkest Night by Gena Showalter // VBCWe’ve talked about the essential urban fantasy books and our favorite new UF books, so it’s about time we talked about the vampires, demons, and shifters that make paranormal romance.

This is not my list of the all-time best paranormal romances. These ten titles are the ones that have had significant influence on the subgenre and the ones every paranormal fan has read—whether they loved it or hated it—these are where our tropes come from and often epitomize what we expect from our paranormal love stories.

If someone were to teach a class on paranormal romance (call me!), these books would be core curriculum.


10. Dark Prince by Christine Feehan

Why? Dark vs. Light. Apart the hero and heroine are broken, but together they are able to come alive.

9. Bite Me If You Can by Lynsay Sands

Why? Lynsay Sands injects the fun in her paranormal romance. Bite Me If You Can has the pairing of a newbie vampire and a much older Argeneau vamp. He’s grumpy. She’s independent. The journey is, of course, sexy, but also peppered with humor.

8. The Darkest Night by Gena Showalter

Why? Love as a curse reigns in The Darkest Night. The will-they, won’t-they and the ‘we shouldn’t’ are what make this one worthy of the list. When sex with the one you love means destruction, it definitely ups the forbidden fruit game.

7. Kiss of Midnight by Lara Adrian

Why? Lara Adrian knows how to craft an immortal protector. In Lucan we see a hero who does the borderline-stalker thing in a way that comes off as damn sexy. When he finally gives in to his need to be with this mortal woman, things get even better.

6. Pleasure Unbound by Larissa Ione

Why? When it comes to the best way to do enemies-to-lovers with heaps of angst in paranormal, look to Larissa Ione. Pleasure Unbound in particular leverages the element of immediate, undeniable attraction (sex right away) and then the constant struggle to not do it again (and failing, a lot).

Slave to Sensation by Nalini Singh // VBC

5. One Foot in the Grave by Jeaniene Frost

Why? All your paranormal romance-reading friends are going to talk about Chapter 32. They’re going to say it knowingly. If you haven’t read One Foot in the Grave you have no idea about the awesome vampire sex scene they’re referencing. You want to know this. Promise.

4. Slave to Sensation by Nalini Singh

Why? You want to understand animalistic attraction? The Psy group tries to be stoic. The Changelings are all vibrant emotions. Now imagine when they get together and sparks ignite. Consider Slave to Sensation Shifter romance 101.

3. Lothaire by Kresley Cole

Why? Any of Kresley Cole’s Immortals After Dark books would be good picks, but what makes Lothaire special is Cole’s ability to make a villain into a hero. Not just he’s a bad guy who’s redeemed, but a legitimate villain that has done horrible things… and still finds love. It’s a remarkable feat and you can expect to have your stomach in emotional knots on this one.

2. Acheron by Sherrilyn Kenyon

Why? He’s a god. Literally. He has epic secrets and is trying to, you know, save the world. Acheron has managed to be this ruthless, badass leader and not give anything away. One woman can break that exterior. Their relationship and the war surrounding them makes for more than 700 pages of romance goodness.

Lover Awakened by J.R. Ward // VBC1. Lover Awakened by J.R. Ward

J.R. Ward’s Black Dagger Brotherhood books have become the archetype for so many romances, we could have selected just about any of her novels to make this list. She brings together a group of vampire warriors—they’re bigger, stronger and way more alpha than your average supernatural—and lets each broody male find his mate. The big tough guy becomes a protective softie for the right lady.

So, why Lover Awakened? While it’s my personal favorite, that’s not the only reason I’ve put it at the top of the list. In the third BDB book we discover the most volatile and scary member of the Brotherhood, Zsadist, has a dark past and discover his capacity for love. He does anything and everything to keep his female safe, even if he thinks that means trying to hook her up with his brother instead. The journey is emotional and twisted and so heady that Zsadist and Bella’s journey to a happily-ever-after is the dark version of a storybook romance. It’s the guy from the wrong side of the tracks meeting the girl who’s too good for him, and through her love everyone else realizing there’s so much more to this guy.

Also: Bite-y sex made into a much bigger deal than we’ve seen in other vampire books due to Zsadist’s past trauma.

How many of these essentials have you read? Which are your favorites? Which other books would you say are essential reading to understand the paranormal romance genre?

10 Responses to “Paranormal Romance 101: 10 Books You Need to Read”

  1. Tracy says:

    I’ve read six of them, and I’m a sucker for BDB (pun intended) and also love the Immortals After Dark series immensely! This list is great and will definitely share it with friends I’ve converted over the years!

  2. Jen says:

    Yep, I’ve read pretty much all of those. It’s tough though, because they aren’t all starts to series. Especially Ash’s book… you totally need to start before then! Nice list!

  3. Eva Millien says:

    I have read them all, and I love all those series. I agree that those are definitely the essentials to paranormal romance, although of course I read lots more because I am addicted

  4. Nicole Newman says:

    I have read several of these with the BDB series being one of my top three best vampire romance series of all time. A couple of books on the list I actually own and haven’t read yet. If I can’t get interested in a book by the end of the first chapter the we are wen I probably won’t ever like the back. To

  5. Diana says:

    Great list! I’ve read them all, and continue to follow almost all of the series that are still ongoing. BDB is my #1 favorite also – so rich in world building, characters larger than life, so deeply and darkly sexy, so much angst – can’t get enough and Ward can’t write them fast enough to suit me. When I began to feel that the books are a look inside real lives I knew that the author was doing something right. Your list made me realize that there was a time when none of the authors’ names were known to me, and now they’re like familiar friends. Discovering each of them for the first time was such an exciting experience. You never forget your “first time”, right?

  6. Margaret says:

    I feel like such a slacker! I’ve only read 6 of these. I have one more that I haven’t read. But when you’re a series reader, some of these long-running PNR franchises are kind of intimidating.

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