Paranormal Romance 101: JR Ward, Larissa Ione, Nalini Singh, Sherrilyn Kenyon and Jeaniene Frost


Dark Lover by JR Ward // VBCHave you stuck a toe in the paranormal romance waters and found yourself wanting to sink to its depths?

It’s understandable. There’s a brilliant escapism with paranormal romance. The swooning is there, as you expect, but most everything is on a grander scale. The alpha males are turned up to eleven, thanks to their non-human status. The black moments involve fighting against one’s nature and/or being forced to accept it. More often than not there’s blood.

And a whole lot of primal passion. Who doesn’t want that?

If you’re one the road to becoming a paranormal romance aficionado, let us show you where to start. Here are some of the quintessential PNR series; these are the books you’ll find fans reference all the time. The ones we compare new authors to and the ones we re-read.

(Yes, it’s more than just vampires.)

We’ll start with the big one: J.R. Ward’s Black Dagger Brotherhood. If you’re a regular VBC reader, then you know, everyone who works here gets into this series. We love the men, we love the women (mostly) and as the series progresses, we love the family drama. It has slang that will make you shake your head and names spelled extra special, but it’s all part of the charm.

The first several books are pure paranormal romance. The men in these books aren’t just vampires, but the warriors for their race. They’re bigger and extra lethal. Loyalty is paramount for the members of the Black Dagger Brotherhood. The nice twist here is that vampires only feed from other vampires. Human blood doesn’t do it for them. That means lots of vampire-on-vampire biting during sex.

The core of each story is the vampire male finding his love and trying to deal with it. The acceptance that someone is more important than himself and, at times, than the Brotherhood. Making the kind of life-altering decisions that come along with love. There’s less of a question about if she’s the one, here, because their mate emits a bonding scent. It’s a common PNR feature, and that scent only drives them further in to the romantic madness.

Fans of category romance will be pleased to know enemies-to-lovers is a popular paranormal romance trope, too. One of the must-read examples is Larissa Ione’s Demonica series. The first book Pleasure Unbound lays it out nicely. Demons and other supernatural types exist. There are half-brothers who are all part incubus, and they run a hospital for all kinds of ‘other.’ In the first book, we meet a woman whose job is to kill demons. And sure enough, she and one of those sexy demons find themselves drawn to one another. And hate it. They’re trying to kill each other while also frequently finding themselves naked together.

The trope doesn’t stop at the first book. The challenges of breaking down preconceived notions about various species (shifters, demons, etc.) and overcoming prejudice and past hurts to be able to love is key in the Demonica series. Also, the heat level is high in these books. Remember, you have demons who need sex. So expect a whole lot of it.

Slave to Sensation by Nalini Singh // VBCYou’ll find plenty of shifters in paranormal romance. If you think you might want to find out just how animalistic your tastes run, try Nalini Singh’s Psy-Changeling series. The Changeling part in that title means shifter—more than just wolves here, folks—and that means you’ll get to see them predatory and possessive. The pack mentality of animals crosses over into human dynamics when it comes to shifter books.

You like ‘em bossy? Try an alpha male. What’s nice about Nalini’s books is she makes sure the heroine can dish it out, too. Even if she isn’t experienced in romance, the Psy/Changeling heroines won’t let aggressive men push her around. As an added bonus: pack mentality also equals family sensibilities. You like a hero who likes kids? Find yourself a shifter.

Because being preternatural isn’t enough, we find so many PNR heroes immersed in war. The heroes of Sherrilyn Kenyon’s Dark-Hunter books stand guard to protect humanity from everyone who wants to take it down. Not an easy task. The series features lots of mythology—so many gods!—and great Southern styling. Each book features another ancient warrior protecting mankind and finding some serious HEA action in the process.

Finally, while the first book in Jeaniene Frost’s Night Huntress series might be classified as urban fantasy, from the second book onward it’s straight-up romance. It makes this list because if you’re going to be a paranormal romance reader you need to be familiar with Chapter 32. Friends will cite it just like that. To be in the know, you’ll need to read One Foot in the Grave, the second Night Huntress book.

The series features half-vampire Cat and Master vampire Bones as they struggle with vampire politics, ghosts and learning to be a couple amid all the chaos. In the famous Chapter 32, you’ll discover the powers of vampire venom during sex via some—ahem—strategic biting.

This list, of course, could go on and on. Other essential paranormal romance series include Kresley Cole’s Immortals After DarkGena Showalter’s Lords of the UnderworldLara Adrian’s Midnight Breed, and Lynsay Sands’ Argeneau.

Already a paranormal romance addict? Tell us which books you think are a must for any PNR fan.

Note: This post originally appeared on Heroes & Heartbreakers. It has been revised to remove references to H&H, but otherwise is the same because these authors are still our PNR queens. 

4 Responses to “Paranormal Romance 101: JR Ward, Larissa Ione, Nalini Singh, Sherrilyn Kenyon and Jeaniene Frost”

  1. Kimi5564 says:

    I have read ALL of the above, but my favorite is the Vampire Queen series by Joey Hill.

  2. Jen K says:

    Yes! I have read them all, except not all Adrian’s Midnight Breed. And I’d recommend them all!

  3. Diane says:

    Have enjoyed most of the above authors. My top favorites …are J.R.Ward, Lynsay Sands, Sherrilyn Kenyon, Karen Marie Moning, Laurell K Hamilton, Kerrelyn Sparks, Nikki Jefford, Genevieve Jack, Darynda Jones, Charlaine Harris,Mary Ann Mitchell, Casey Daniels, Patricia Briggs .. .just to name a few

  4. Lori A says:

    There are so many truly amazing authors appearing in PNR these days and it’s my favorite genre. I agree with your list but am really surprised that Laurell K Hamilton’s ‘Merry Gentry’ and ‘Anita Blake’ weren’t listed. If you’re just getting started in PNR, maybe we could say that Hamilton’s books are for when they’ve graduated from Freshmen and Sophomore to Junior? The PNR world can be a sweet and funny one or it can be deep, dark, sexy and dangerous. And I love it!

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